Demolition of the historic Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna could begin as early as Friday.
The building’s owner, Gateway Trade Center, has advised Lackawanna city officials that it has signed a contract with Zoladz Construction for demolition of the long-vacant Fuhrmann Boulevard site, according to City Attorney Norman A. LeBlanc Jr.
“They came in and got their permit. We anticipate the demolition will begin on or about Dec. 28,” LeBlanc told members of the City Council at their most recent meeting.
LeBlanc also informed the Council that Zoladz, which is based in Alden, has notified New York State of asbestos removal plans for the building.
The building originally was scheduled for demolition in May, when the city obtained a court order forcing Gateway to tear it down.
Erie County Court Judge Kenneth F. Case in August granted Gateway a 90-day stay of demolition, giving the company time to explore whether it was viable to save the front facade and original 1901 structure, as opposed to the entire site, which includes additions from the 1930s and 1940s. Gateway officials said they were talking with state preservation officials and needed more time to develop a plan and prepare a full structural analysis.
The stay was lifted last month when the company presented no alternatives for reusing the building.
Local preservationists are still working to save the building.
But Danielle Huber, founder of the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group, said this week that the group needs more time – as well as cooperation from both Gateway and city officials.
Huber has been trying to convince Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski that it is in the city’s best interest to save the Beaux Arts-style building, which could become a focal piece for future tourism.
The 1901 building was once the headquarters for the Lackawanna Iron & Steel Co. and, later, Bethlehem Steel Corp. It has been vacant since 1983, and city officials maintain that it is dangerous and unsalvageable.
But Huber said the city was overstating safety concerns.
“It’s not in harm’s way of citizens,” she said.
The preservation group has drafted potential re-use possibilities and has completed an application to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
However, the application must include an interior walk-through of the building, and Gateway has yet to allow preservationists access, said Huber.
“They need to let us in that building,” she said.