Transformation of an abandoned steel plant into a mixed-use cultural and entertainment district

SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus repurposed an abandoned industrial site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to create an arts and entertainment district. Embracing the city’s past, SteelStacks integrates historic steel-making structures – including five 20-story-high blast furnaces – with new construction to tell the story of steel-making in America while stimulating an economy devastated by the closure of the 1,800-acre Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1995. Built on a 9.5-acre former brownfield, SteelStacks includes parks and plazas, an outdoor performing arts pavilion, a visitor center with a theater and community space in the restored historic Stock House building, new buildings for its nonprofit partners ArtsQuest and PBS39, a festival center, and an elevated trestle that gives the 1.5 million visitors each year an up-close look at the plant and its iconic blast furnaces. Its design focuses on connection, linking visitors to the city’s past, connecting the various activities and amenities within the campus, and merging the campus with the South Side neighborhood and the adjacent Sands Casino Resort.

Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence staff are developing case studies on the 2017 Medalists that will be published online and in a book in 2018. Each detailed case study will include information about the project’s history, community partners, design and development, financing, and impact, along with highlights from the selection committee discussion. RBA publications and case studies are a great resource for educators, practitioners, and students. In the meantime, to learn more about SteelStacks and Cultural Campus read the blog post about our site visit.