(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside and Neighborhoods)
Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.
The Councilman’s memory is rather selective. The rectory to the church (still standing thankfully) in the unit block of West 4th Street was demolished at least 5, possibly 10 years ago. Residential units (affordable?) were demolished so that the New Street parking garage could be built. A row of retail structures was demolished so the 6-story office building could be constructed at Third and S. New Streets. The former Bethlehem Steel Hammer Shop was demolished so that SteelStacks and the ArtsQuest Center could be developed. Several structures including the former Laufer’s Hardware Store were demolished to make way for a suburban designed CVS drugstore. A developer has plans to construct a high-rise building at West 4th and Vine Streets that will require demolition of 2 buildings. So, demolition has taken place and is projected to take place. The former Boys & Girls Club building on East 3rd Street seems to be in jeopardy based on the rumor mill.
Let there be debate about whether or not demolition needs to or should take place, but make no mistake about it that demolition has taken place.
The Councilman’s offer to find developers who will build affordable housing seems commendable on the surface, but affordable housing is generally not built by for-profit developers. It’s built by non-profits who in many cases receive public subsidies to develop.
I’m not quite sure how teaching in a middle school with students from low/moderate income families who reside in public housing really correlates to the issue. They are already residing in affordable, albeit public housing.
Nearly every rental housing development completed, underway, or in planning stages has been described as upscale in the last few years. A recent rollout for affordable housing projected a handful of units, although it is hope that a revolving loan fund can be established to continue that initiative.
I welcome City Hall’s involvement, and particularly any elected official’s commitment, but until public entities and private developers work hand-in-hand and commit to create a broad range of ownership and rental housing opportunities, it’s my opinion that gentrification will continue in certain areas of Bethlehem.