Preservationists Hope to Keep Steel Site Alive
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LACKAWANNA, N.Y.- "I love this building,” said Judy Kogut. “My father worked at the steel plant and my aunt lived down the road there, and since I was a little girl we'd go past this building and every time we passed it I though how beautiful it was.”
Kogut is talking about the old Bethlehem Steel Office Building just off Route 5 in Lackawanna. Ever since the plant closed back in 1983, the building has been dormant. Now vacant and in disrepair, the building is slated for demolition.
The current owners Gateway Trade Center were ordered by a Lackawanna judge to demolish the building over the summer, but a 90 day stay of demolition was issued by an Erie County judge in August. That stay is set to expire Thanksgiving Day.
Now, the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group is hoping for an eleventh hour reprieve.
"We're here to save it today and to draw awareness to it because it's privately owned and it's slated for demolition if someone doesn't step forward to reuse it. So we want to make sure people understand the possibilities and the economic viability of adaptively reusing the structure," said Dana Saylor.
Preservationists believe that the century old Beaux Arts style building, if used right, could be an important part of a revitalized waterfront.
“We could see a boutique hotel, we could see an employment center with technology, we could see an aquarium, we could see an historic museum,” said Saylor. “All of these things create jobs for people.”
“I've heard they want to use the area for a warehouse,” said Michael Hanna. “Why can't they just save the facade and use the back as a warehouse or something?"
A date has not been set for demolition. Preservationists are collecting petitions signatures they plan to present to the Mayor of Lackawanna by the end of the month, but it may be too little too late to save this piece of history.
"If it gets torn down, a big part of this area's going to be missing, and I know I'll feel really bad," said Kogut.