In an implosion that produced a boom heard in New Jersey, the erstwhile home of one of the world’s great steelmakers recently passed into wreckage and dust. Onlookers lined the streets of Bethlehem, Pa., May 19, some of them crying, as explosives contractor Controlled Demolition Inc. (CDI) imploded the the 21-story Martin Tower, built in 1972 at the height of Bethlehem Steel’s prowess.

CDI, based in Phoenix, Md. (a unit of the Loizeaux Group), produced an artful video.

Designed by architect Haines Lundberg Waehler and completed by the George A. Fuller Construction Co., the building was named for Bethlehem Steel's chairman at the time, Edmund Martin. At 21 stories, it was the tallest structure in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. In 2010 the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More recently, it came to symbolize the decline of the U.S. steel industry and what a Pennsylvania newspaper said was the mismanagement of the that contributed to the decline.

The implosion literally and figuratively paves the way for development of the former industrial site. The concrete from the building—70,000 tons of it—will be crushed and recycled and used onsite as clean fill, says Duane Wagner, director of development for HRP Management, LLC, developer of the property. About 15,000 tons of steel from the building will be recycled through steel recyclers and used for new steel products.

Mixed-Use Development Will Be Built

Owned by Lewis Ronca of Bethlehem-based Wind-Drift Real Estate and Norton Herrick of The Herrick Company, the site is being turned into a mixed-use development. The residential portion will include 578 rental units, while the 125,000 square feet of office space to be built. The retail portion of the development will be 100,000 square feet.

“The city wanted to get a mixed-use development of the site—retail, office and residential,” Wagner said. “It’s a great location—close to some older, established neighborhoods, and centrally located in the Lehigh Valley. It’s where I grew up.”

There is no ambition for the site to become a retail “power center” for retail. No large, looming building will serve as a citywide landmark, as the Tower once did.

The developers will be submitting a master plan for the site to Bethlehem City officials and other government officials this summer, Wagner says.

Bethlehem Steel, which eventually filed for bankruptcy protection, last used part of the demolished structure in 2003.