Wal-Mart announced plans to open a one million square feet warehouse in Bethlehem, PA for the first quarter of 2014. The distribution center will reside in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII complex, a former Bethlehem Steel Corp property. The warehouse site will eventually employ over 350 workers and represent Wal-Mart’s largest presence in Pennsylvania.
Finding a tenant of that size and visibility to occupy the $50 million structure--as the project was undertaken on faith by Liberty Property Trust--is vital for the success of warehousing in the Valley. Liberty is finishing another 800,000 square feet building in the area, while Trammel Crow is completing a 600,000 square feet warehouse nearby, and Majestic Realty Co. recently opened the Crayola warehouse, which is nearly the same size as the Wal-Mart’s property , in the same general location.
Warehousing appears to be a major economic driver in the Lehigh Valley and large part of the continuing justification for redevelopment of the brownfields at the Bethlehem Steel site. Additionally the work added in an industry, that normally is not job intensive, makes up for the 400 jobs that will be lost when Walgreens decided to closing its distribution center in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett, hope that this partnership with Wal-Mart will lead to the company and many other larger retailers wanting to do more business in this area; potentially leading to the Lehigh Valley becoming a bigger warehousing hub.