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‘Microhospital’ Could Be Built on Champion Property in Hellertown

A landmark industrial property at the northern gateway to Hellertown will be dramatically repurposed if proposed plans to build a small hospital there are ultimately approved.

Est. Read Time: 6 mins

Plans for a proposed medical office building and “microhospital” are on display at Hellertown Borough Hall. The Lehigh Valley Health Network facility would be built on the site of the former Champion spark plug factory on Main Street near the borough’s northern boundary with the city of Bethlehem. The building’s main entrance would be located on the side facing south, perpendicular to Main Street.

A landmark industrial property at the northern gateway to Hellertown will be dramatically repurposed if proposed plans to build a small hospital there are ultimately approved.

According to plans submitted to borough officials by Peron Development, the combined “microhospital” and medical office building would be part of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

The plans show a three-story, 90,000 square foot building with a hospital facility located on the first floor, and medical office space on the second and third floors.

They also include parking for 359 cars to the south and west of the building, which would be set further back from Rt. 412 (Main Street) than the former Champion factory is now.

A one-way driveway would allow southbound 412 traffic to enter and exit the parking lot near the southeast corner of the property.

Northbound traffic would turn off Main Street at the light at Kichline Avenue, where a second proposed driveway would connect with Kichline just west of Rt. 412.

Ultimately, PennDOT officials will have to sign off on any proposed changes to traffic patterns along Rt. 412, which is a state highway.

At one time hundreds of people worked at the Hellertown Manufacturing Company–colloquially known as the Champion spark plug factory–in Hellertown. Due to contamination caused by the dumping of toxic materials used in the manufacturing process, the property became a Superfund site in the late 1980s and was subject to an extensive environmental cleanup effort overseen by the federal government.

Nearly invisible today in the shadow of Interstate 78 and under vegetation that has overgrown much of the site, the Champion Spark Plug factory has been vacant for nearly 50 years, but in its heyday employed hundreds of people.

After the factory closed, the property was the focus of an extensive environmental cleanup effort as part of the federal Superfund program, due to groundwater and other contamination that had occurred.

“From 1930 to 1975, the Hellertown Manufacturing Company manufactured spark plugs at the site,” a description at EPA.gov states. “Site operators disposed of manufacturing wastes, including trichloroethylene (TCE), zinc plating waste, chrome dip waste, cleaners and cutting oils, in unlined lagoons. These activities contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. The Site was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) on March 31, 1989. Following cleanup, operation and maintenance activities are ongoing.”

The property was deemed remediated–or “protective of human health and the environment in the short-term”–in 2020, and was listed for sale.

According to the Superfund site, the remediation is re-evaluated every five years, with the next review scheduled for 2025.

Northampton County property records show that the 7.35 acre property is still owned by Paikes Enterprises of Quakertown, which purchased it for $800,000 in June 1988.

Borough manager Cathy Hartranft said Monday that the plans are preliminary and that borough officials are working to address concerns by nearby residents about lighting and traffic, some of which would be entering and exiting the parking lot via Franklin Street after turning off Main Street onto Kichline Avenue.

Franklin Street is an alley running parallel to Rt. 412 behind the Star Pre-owned truck lot.

Hartranft said the borough wants there to be adequate screening to help prevent headlights from shining into people’s homes along those streets.

An aerial view of the proposed facility prepared by Bohler Engineering shows the orientation of the hospital/medical office building in relation to the surrounding streets and I-78, which is directly to its north. More than 350 parking spaces would occupy much of the 7.5 acre property, which has been the subject of speculation over the years due to its location at the northern gateway to Hellertown borough.

She commented that the redevelopment plans are superior to others the borough has received, which have included proposals for truck and bus depots due to the property’s proximity to the I-78 interchange.

The addition of landscaping around the new building would help make the first glimpse southbound motorists have of Hellertown a more attractive one, Hartranft added.

The plans that were submitted for review last month are currently on display in the vestibule outside the second-floor council meeting room in Hellertown Borough Hall.

Video from the July 11 Hellertown Planning Commission meeting–at which the building proposal was discussed–may be viewed on the Hellertown borough Facebook page.

The proposal to build a microhospital is in line with other expansion efforts already under way by Lehigh Valley Health Network, which is currently building a 22,000 square-foot “neighborhood hospital” on Rt. 100 in Lower Macungie Township.

According to reporting by LehighValleyNews.com, the facility’s estimated cost is more than $20 million and it is expected to open by the end of this year.

Renderings on display at Hellertown Borough Hall depict the proposed microhospital/medical office building that could be built on the site of the long-vacant Champion spark plug factory.

A Peron Development document on display in Hellertown Borough Hall features a rendering of the front of the proposed three-story, 90,000 square foot medical office/microhospital building, which would be located at 1770 Main Street on the site of the former Champion spark plug factory.

A closeup of an engineering plan for the proposed building shows it in relation to Rt. 412, which can be seen at right, above. An entrance/exit for southbound Rt. 412 traffic would be located southeast of the building, with another driveway providing access via Franklin Street and Kichline Avenue. Northbound traffic would turn left at the light at Kichline and Main Street in order to reach the Franklin Street driveway.

A detail from a Bohler Engineering site plan document depicts the outline of the Champion property, which is located along I-78 and the border between the city of Bethlehem and Hellertown. Businesses located nearby include Star Pre-owned of Hellertown, Waffle House, Vassi’s Drive-in and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Bethlehem on Cherry Lane.

Hellertown borough manager Cathy Hartranft said officials want to ensure there is adequate screening along a proposed driveway entrance (above) to prevent headlights from projecting into nearby homes.

Viewed from Main Street, the Champion property looks to be of relatively modest size. However, the 7.35 acre lot is deep, extending nearly to Clauser Street in the northwestern corner of Hellertown.

The Champion sign on the front of the building is nearly hidden from view by overgrown shrubbery along Main Street. Tens of thousands of vehicles pass by the building daily, on both Rt. 412 and I-78.

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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