(12th in a series of posts on 306 S. New St.)
So here are key excerpts from the audio recording with time stamp for further reference if you want.
In later posts, Gadfy will try to keep long quoting to a minimum but refer just to the excerpt number here.
Long foreplay by Gadfly — but the real thing begins next post.
Excerpt 1 – 0:20
HCC chair: “The denial for the porch addition [by HCC on Nov. 19] . . . . I think that our historic officer Jeff Long summed it up best by saying in his minutes that HCC members specifically recall the approval of a 6th floor of the already tall structure was predicated on a condition that the top floor be recessed 12 feet along West 3rd St and have a thin projecting roof to diminish its visibility from street level. When the building was originally designed the owner/developer came to us at least 4 times, 3-4 times. During that 4 times, we took a lot of information and distilled it down to the building that’s there today. I think one of the provisions we were looking for was a building that didn’t look as tall as a 6-story building. So what the architect came back with was, he would take the 6th floor, set it back 12 feet, and when you look at the building you would see the first 5 floors and the 6th floor would look almost maybe like a penthouse or a tall parapet in the background. And that’s what we achieved. That’s what everybody agreed upon. And . . . hence the denial.
Excerpt 2 – 3:25
CM Waldron: “I remember when this was originally approved and the COA came to us that was a real sticking point, recessing the 6th floor so to try to diminish the height of the building in its appearance.”
Excerpt 3 – 4:40
CM Waldron: “Clearly there was a miscommunication, because I don’t know what percentage done, but I would say more than half-way done with this construction “. . . HCC chair: “the construction did begin well before we asked them to bring it before the Board.”
Excerpt 4 – 8:30
CM Reynolds: “Was there a conversation [between the HCC and the contractor] about how there was supposed to be a remedy here?” HCC chair: “There wasn’t. Other than to stop any additional work outside. And my comment, actually prior to that, when I first asked the contractor to come in to have it reviewed, I understood that the building was open to weather, which is a term we use in the construction industry when you take a roof off a building or you open up a wall that you either have to close it in quickly because the weather’s going to come into the building or you leave it open and risk more damage to the building. I said at least get it weatherproofed, and that’s what they did?” . . . HCC chair: “Going backwards at that point because of all the structural steel involved would be very difficult.”
Excerpt 5 – 18:00
Developer: “I’m here tonight in a representative capacity to Grille 3502, it’s an LLC, with me tonight is ______, he’s the owner of that restaurant. I can tell you that _______ is not skilled in development work or building work. . . . It’s not like ______ just went out and did something wily-nily. . . . When I read the correspondence from HCC to City Council or whoever it was, I’m not exactly sure what the reason was. I suspect that a component of it was that way back in the day when this was built or approved as a 6 story building, one of the reasons that [HCC chair] suggested has to be set back was to make it appear like it was not 6 stories, but there is only place that you can even see this piece of construction and that’s coming over the bridge and when you come over the bridge you see the entirety of the 6th floor . . . when this is completed and when the tarps are off, it’s going to look like it’s been there forever. And you don’t see dimension when you look at it from the north coming to the south. It looks like it’s been designed right along with the building. . . . I think [the City] was right in doing what they did [in approving the plans].
Excerpt 6 – 21:00
Restaurateur: “We’re this close to opening up in about a month, and I’m asking you guys to approve this because again I have $2.5m in it and I’ll pretty much be ruined if it doesn’t happen. . . . There was no ill intent. We didn’t try to sneak anything by. I don’t know the difference between a fit-out or [garbled], we just wanted to build a restaurant with that enclosure, and I ask you guys to approve it, please.
Excerpt 7 – 22:35
CM Waldron: “Obviously it wasn’t known to you . . . that that 6th floor had a 12ft. set-back.” Restaurateur: “The only thing I knew was that that terrace up there was extremely attractive. . . . I just found out about this recently when the Historical Board told us . . . in the past few weeks.” CM Waldron: Unless you really know the rules of the HCC, it wouldn’t necessarily be on you, but it would be on the City and building owner to know what the HCC requires . . . . It was very clear that the HCC did not want this to protrude out to the edge. . . . This is a pretty difficult situation that Council’s been put in because multiple people missed the opportunity to get it right the first time.
Excerpt 8 – 25:00
Developer: “When ______ and my company entered a lease, the restaurant wasn’t even designed so we didn’t know.” CM Waldron: “The HCC would make the argument that you should have known that the 6th fl. couldn’t be expanded out because that was the point of contention. Several of us were on Council at the time when that came forward and they made that explicitly clear that . . . they wanted that set-back. . . . I would respectfully say that I understand the HCC’s perspective. . . . I would probably be in favor of supporting this addition. . . . It is a small impact. . . . My perspective is that we respectfully reverse the HCC.”
Excerpt 9 – 28:30
CM Reynolds: “If HCC denies something and not to have anybody offer a possible solution until it gets to this point between the Administration and the HCC puts City Council in an almost impossible position at which we are up here trying to decide what we think should be done with something that HCC voted no on but didn’t necessarily give any guidance about how it gets remediated. That’s an impossible position. I don’t think that we are in a position here from a practical point of view to uphold this after the work’s been done and no other solution has been provided. . . . I don’t think that there’s another choice, because what’s our other choice?
Excerpt 10 – 29:45
CM Waldron: “The other choice would be to tell them to tear it down, which obviously is not a small ask. And I don’t think anybody here would want that or ask that to do. The big question that hasn’t even been asked, ______, is what is the cost of this fit-out, this additional area that’s been constructed. . . . It wouldn’t be easy to cut that out and say this little area here cost x number of dollars.” Restaurateur: “I have no idea.” CM Waldron: “Ok, that’s fair, but it would be easy to say that to take that area out would be catastrophic.” Restaurateur: “That’s a very exact, perfect statement.” CM Waldron: “There you go.”
Excerpt 11 – 30:57
CW Van Wirt: “We’re in this terrible position . . . The setback on the 6th floor was done intentionally and with great thought and intent and to understand that there was a negotiation between you two that didn’t squarely cover what was allowed and what was not allowed, I have such a hard time with that. . . . I don’t understand how two good, strong, smart businessman can neglect to discuss the square footage of a big restaurant like this. Developer: “Well, I didn’t even negotiate it, my marketing people did.” CW Van Wirt: “Whoever is responsible.” Restaurateur: When I talked about it with the leasing agent, I said I definitely wanted to do that. The architect drew it up, put in for the building permit . . . CW Van Wirt: “I think the building owner has a role in overseeing . . . within the confines of the HCC.”
Excerpt 12 – 33:10
CW Negron: “There should have been a conversation . . . and I think there’s still an opportunity to have that conversation . . . and I think that it should still happen . . . they can still have a space in there with tables and chairs like many other restaurants in downtown Bethlehem, even Southside, have tables and chairs outside and when it snows or is cold or is raining . . . they put a heater, we can sit down . . . just have the tables and chairs and not that roof.”