Since 2000, the RDA, local taxing bodies, private developers, and nonprofit organizations have invested millions of dollars to redevelop a formerly blighted 125-acre brownfield in a portion of where the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation once was located. This area is referred to as the Bethlehem TIF District. TIF is an acronym for Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District and is a financial tool to assist with the development of sites, such as this, using real estate tax dollars. The structure of a TIF within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is detailed in state law.
The BethWorks TIF District was created and is administered by the RDA in cooperation with the local taxing bodies, Bethlehem Area School District, City of Bethlehem and County of Northampton. These taxing bodies agreed to dedicate a portion of the real estate taxes received from those land parcels located within this designated TIF District to be used for public development of area within this TIF District. Real estate taxes received in excess of the 2000 base year assessment and millage rates were, and continued to be, transferred to the RDA for use in this manner. As development of this designated area increased so did the TIF revenues transmitted annually to the RDA.
In its earliest years, the TIF revenues led to infrastructure improvements, such as municipal streets, street lighting, water, sewer and electrical services, all of which were essential for the future development of this site. With the addition of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem on the eastern end of the district and the Steel Stacks Arts and Cultural Campus toward on the western end, interest in development within this TIF District increased. TIF revenues generated from these anchors allowed for greater development at the site in the form of the Levitt Pavilion, Bethlehem Landing Visitor Center, as well as multiple plazas and public space at the site. The most recent improvements to the site was the transformation of the original Hoover-Mason Trestle into a linear park overlooking much of TIF District site.
In more recent years, the RDA has created a Request for Proposal (RFP) allowing developers to apply for TIF revenue assistance on their projects. The use of these funds, when paired with any development, continues to remain restricted to public improvements at the development site. Two such projects requested and received TIF revenue assistance - the Five 10 Flats project and the National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) expansion projects. The Five 10 Flats project combined commercial and residential use at 510 East Third Street, Bethlehem, located within the designated TIF District. The NMIH expansion project nearly doubled the space the museum had to educate the public about Bethlehem Steel and the industrial past of the United States. The expansion involved the creation of an outdoor demonstration area and an Artifact Park, as well as the relocation of the Steelworkers Veterans Memorial. More information about these projects can be found on this website.
The RDA and all of its partners are proud of the destination site this TIF District has become. Multiple awards and recognition have been received for the redevelopment of this former brownfield site. But, most of all, this site has become an amazing example of what can be created when the public and private sectors of a community work together.