Erie County adds parts of Bethlehem Steel to map

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- In its prime, Fuhrmann Boulevard in Lackawanna was a land of opportunity. But over the decades, the buildings that once housed more than 20,000 workers have been torn down, leaving weeds to take over the lots.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on Tuesday though a $5.5 million deal to buy 148 acres of the Bethlehem Steel site. The county and its residents hold the title to 60 of those acres as well.

So why just 60 acres? It's due to something called 'capping,' and it has to be done to every piece of acreage before county residents can own all the land. In order to get the any tax breaks, clean dirt has to be the top layer. It's a requirement since the land is part of a Brownfield site.

It might mean getting land in phases, but Poloncarz says it’s a step in the right direction and there are already takers.

"And I guarantee you in a very short period of time, you're going to be seeing economic development here and the jobs that come with it," Poloncarz (D) said.

On the land, the county plans to have 80,000 square feet of mixed use manufacturing and commercial space. It will be a Net Zero Energy manufacturing building, meaning it will power itself with wind, solar and geothermal energy. Also part of the current project is extending the Shoreline Trail Project to eventually connect the Outer Harbor to Woodlawn Beach State Park in Hamburg.

"The county is preparing infrastructure. We will be building a new road, we will be moving rail lines in the front that cut off the site," Poloncarz said.

Poloncarz says the county will eventually sell all other land to developers wanting in on what he calls 'prime land.' It's bridging the gap between old and new generations who want to bring the Steel City back to life.

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