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.

This project has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence. In February, March, April, and May RBA staff will begin site visits to each finalist project in preparation for the committee’s selection of the medal winners in June. A Metropolis magazine POV blog series will document these visits, giving readers close-up experiences with each of the sites. Findings and lessons learned will be relayed through detailed case studies and published on this site and in book form in 2018 as a resource for educators, practitioners, and students.