Saturday, November 04, 2006

Martin Tower for sale, but redevelopment plan still intact

Lou Pektor says his partners, media mogul Norton Herrick and Bethlehem developer Lewis Ronca, have quietly put the 21-story Lehigh Valley landmark up for sale, but Pektor said he refuses to give up on the project. While he can't keep his partners from trying to sell it for $29.8 million, Pektor said he has veto power over any sale and will not allow the Lehigh Valley's tallest building to go to any buyer not willing to join with him and renovate it.

Pektor said he plans to transform the former Bethlehem Steel headquarters into upscale condominiums, whether it's with his current partners or new ones. Bethlehem City Council earlier this year, by a 4-3 vote, granted a zoning change that allows developers to transform the office complex into 170 high-priced, high-rise condominiums, surrounded by up to 775 townhouse-style residences and six restaurants or retail shops.

Mayor John Callahan said Pektor is the city's best hope to get the building redeveloped and yet another sale doesn't worry him.''Lou [Pektor] is in this for the long haul. Unfortunately, his partners don't share that philosophy,'' Callahan said Friday. ''Based on Lou's track record, I'm not worried.''

Pektor said a possible sale creates three options. In one, the building is sold to developers willing to join with Pektor. In another, the building doesn't sell and the project proceeds with the same owners. In a third, the price dips enough for Pektor to buy out his partners and proceed with the project himself, he said.

Pektor said leaving the project is not an option.''I understand Herrick's reasoning, but I live here and my reputation is on the line,'' Pektor said. ''I said I would stay with this project, and that's what I'm doing. It's a good project. ''Whatever option happens, the end result is a redeveloped Martin Tower complex," Pektor said.

In fact, Pektor said redevelopment is not only moving forward, but is ahead of the original schedule. VLBJR Architects Inc. of Norristown has been hired to design the project, and most of the 1,600 employees still in the building are scheduled to move to new locations in the Stabler Business Center and LVIP VII by the end of January. Asbestos removal will begin in February or March, followed by interior demolition and some renovation work that will take until the spring 2008, Pektor said. From there, final renovations will be done and, by Pektor's projections, tenants will be paying $400,000 to $1.4 million to move into the new condos by September 2008.

Total buildout of Martin Tower and the surrounding homes is expected to take at least five years.

More here.

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