State funds further Northside and Southside development projects

(Latest post in a series about Neighborhoods)

Gadfly has been snarky about certain aspects of development lately — like on the Southside and around Lehigh University — but this development news feels like very good news — financial support for apartments in the Northside downtown, a public market on the Southside, and expanding the Banana Factory.

Gadfly is facing the downsizing decision, and the idea of an apartment in center city has its appeal. The question is will he be able to afford one there. Or are we talking totally “luxury” apartments out of reach? Let’s hear it for housing affordable in his middle range bracket. And huzza for finally some activity on a key downtown section. Do we know anything about developer Jefferson — has he done work in the City before?

Gadfly hasn’t heard any details about the public market yet, but his first impulse is to think that’s a good use for that space and a good idea for the City.

And we’ve reported extensively here (see the Banana Factory thread on the sidebar) on the ArtsQuest project as it moved through City committees. There was some disagreement about demolishing a house on the property, but ArtsQuest seems to have worked with committee suggestions well, and their plans seemed to have met with generally high approval. See pictures and plans on previous posts on the Banana Factory thread.

Nicole Radzievich, “Storied Bethlehem projects just got a $2 million jump start.” Morning Call, August 2, 2019.

Bethlehem has landed $2 million in state grants to jump start a trio of key economic development projects: The redevelopment of the shuttered Boyd Theatre, a new public market at Lehigh Riverport and the expansion of the Banana Factory, according to state Sen. Lisa Boscola.

Boyd Theater:

Project details: The long-shuttered Boyd Theatre, once a beloved 98-year-old vaudeville and movie house in Center City Bethlehem, will be demolished to make way for a $22 million apartment and retail project under a proposal owner Charles Jefferson plans to submit to the city. The 120-apartment project would bring residents to a sleepy block just around the corner from historic Main Street, injecting more vibrancy into a downtown that grew up around the city’s original Moravian settlement. The first-floor retail would augment a stretch known as Restaurant Row.

Public Market at Lehigh Riverport:

Project details: A $3 million public market, building on the success of others like the one that Easton debuted in 2016, would replace the former Starters Riverport, where the Lehigh Valley’s largest restaurant once operated. The space would be home to 30 vendors and businesses.

ArtsQuest Community Cultural Center (Banana Factory)

Details: ArtsQuest, the nonprofit behind Musikfest, is planning an expansion to the Banana Factory, an arts and education center it launched in 1999 in south Bethlehem. The 80,000-square-foot expansion will include an arts-based preschool program, more classes for people of all ages, a black box theater and more.

Gadfly is interested to hear if followers see any pitfalls surrounding these developments.

One thought on “State funds further Northside and Southside development projects

  1. Gadfly, Each of these is a worthwhile project, but as I was constantly reminded by Members of Council and others during my 16 years managing all grants received by the City of Bethlehem, it’s still taxpayers’ money that’s being doled out to private entities. In the case of RCAP, bonds are floated that need to be repaid by Pennsylvania taxpayers, so the gift of grants also triggers a responsibility to repay. In the case of housing at the Boyd Theater location I absolutely agree that “affordable” units should be in the mix especially since public $$ are subsidizing it. A blend of rental ranges must be a priority. Dana


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