And the 2017 Winner of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Is…

This year’s award goes to the SteelStacks campus, an abandoned steel mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania turned mixed-use cultural and entertainment district.

SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus includes the transformation of historic Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces.
Courtesy Halkin Mason Photography

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA), which celebrates places of exceptional physical design that contribute to the vitality of American cities, has just announced this year’s Gold Medalist.

The winner of the biennial award—the SteelStacks campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—was chosen by a committee of urban experts from among four other finalists located across the contiguous U.S.

Designed by WRT of Philadelphia and developed by a consortium led by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem, the 9.5-acre mixed-use cultural and entertainment campus was completed in 2016. The $93.5 million project transformed the abandoned Bethlehem Steel mill, which once employed 31,000 people, into a civic anchor for the town.

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RBA founder Simeon Bruner praised the project for its inventiveness: “Gold Medalist SteelStacks speaks to the very essence of the Rudy Bruner Award. The City of Bethlehem turned an irretrievable loss into a positive cultural asset, honoring its history and all those who worked there while fostering a compelling public place and economic future. It is an outstanding model for post-industrial cities nationwide.”

The four other finalists—a community-oriented mixed-use development in Boston, the Chicago Riverwalk phases II and III, an innovation campus and arts district in Los Angeles, and the rehabilitation of historic homes for low-income families in New Orleans—received Silver Medals and $10,000 each.

Finalists and medalists are chosen through an in-depth evaluation process that includes site visits, interviews, and committee discussions. The RBA also produces detailed case studies on its winning projects; you can find more information on the RBA website.

The historic blast furnaces have been integrated into a new cultural campus and gathering place that hosts 1.5 million visitors annually for a variety of events.
Before image courtesy Redevelopment Authority of the City of Bethlehem; After – Christenson Photography for WRT

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