Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

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“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Now a tip o’ the hat to the early 2020 Bethlehem Momentors

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The Bethlehem Moment — a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s — is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Click “Bethlehem Moments” under Topics on the right-hand sidebar to see what we’ve done so far.

Gadfly thanks the following residents for stepping up to fill slots in the first quarter of 2020.

Welcome, camaradoes!


Jan 6: Johanna Brams

Jan 21: Ken Raniere/Dana Grubb

Feb 4:

Feb 18: Martha Larkin

Mar 3: Carol Burns

Mar 17: Grace Crampsie Smith

Gadfly is accepting bookings for later in the year.

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Tip o’ the hat to the 2019 Bethlehem Momentors

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

End of the year approaching.

Time to thank those who did Bethlehem Moments in 2019.

We now have done 17 Moments.

2019 was the year that wonderful volunteers took the podium away from the Gadfly.

The Honor Roll for 2019 includes Lynn Rothman, John Smith, Kate McVey, Olga Negron, Jim Petrucci, Joe Petrucci, Barbara Diamond, Stasia Browne Pallrand, Steve Repasch, Rayah Levy, Robert Bilheimer, Alan Lowcher.

Well done, camaradoes!

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

More on creative placemaking in Bethlehem

As another example of SteelStacks’ position as a model creative placemaking project, Tony Hanna pointed Gadfly to this “how-to” 2017 article (the precursor of the “how-to” manual we mentioned last time), “Five Steps toward Implementing Creative Placemaking.

SteelStacks is cited under step #3, the business case. “demonstrating the stakeholder benefits.”

Look at the distinguished company SteelStacks is keeping in the article — The Parks at Walter Reed, D.C.’s Monroe Street Market, the 303 Artway In Denver, the Union Market District in Northeast D.C.

Tony also provided a link to a 2012 article — “Smokestack Lightning: The Rebirth of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” — that enables us to take a trip down Memory Lane, all the way back to 2004, when Mayor John Callahan presented ” Bethlehem’s design challenge” to the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Chicago, a group Gadfly first heard about reading Jeff Speck this summer.

“Among the most memorable — and prescient — feedback [Callahan] received” at MICD  “was to leave the blast furnaces as they were.”

And the rest is history, as they say.

So cute is Mayor Callahan’s dream future recounted in the article: “I always had this dream, when I first made the decision to run for mayor, that there was going to be a time in my life when I could load up the grandkids into the car and drive around Bethlehem 30, 40 years later and point to a few things that happened while I was mayor.”

At SteelStack the kids will have to look up.

These two brief articles are worth your perusal.

And worth thinking about how Wind Creek seems to be taking another path to making place.

Which is where Gadfly started this thread yesterday.

SteelStacks the result of creative placemaking

“SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city.”

Gadfly doesn’t know much besides nine uses of the comma.

And even that is fading. He’s forgotten what an appositive is.

But he loves to learn new things.

And once again the student teaches the professor.

Gadfly mentioned his intrigue with “creative placemaking” in the context of Wind Creek a post or two ago.

And Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority executive director Tony Hanna — a memorable student of Gadfly’s at Lehigh — immediately jumped in to say that “one of America’s prime examples of [creative placemaking] is right here in Bethlehem — the SteelStacks campus and development.”

Tony said that he has “been working with the Urban Land Institute and their Creative Placemaking project for several years,” that “ULI is getting ready to publish a ‘How-To’ Manual on Creative Placemaking in 2020, and that Bethlehem and SteelStacks will be one of the major examples of successful planning and placemaking.”

In this new ULI publication, SteelStacks will be referenced in three areas: creative financing, operating strategies, and case studies.

Here’s the kind of thing we’ll find in the case studies section:

Bethlehem SteelStacks transformed the 124-acre site of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. manufacturing plant into an arts and culture campus that helped to revitalize and heal the city of Bethlehem. Operating for a century, the plant had produced steel for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Chrysler Building in New York City, but it was shuttered when the steel industry moved overseas. The city debated whether to tear down the steel stacks and create something new but decided to restore the treasured historic assets. Residents who mourned the loss of the plant and the jobs it provided embraced the new complex with a sense of pride. The complex’s design now incorporates the steel stacks–a natural gas flame burns along the spine of the 230-foot-high steel sculptures. Financing included a TIF district approved in 2000, which generated over $100 million in TIF revenues through 2018, with over $60 million for infrastructure, amenities, construction, and maintenance, including a visitor center, performance plazas, a trestle restored as a pedestrian walkway and park, and public parking. Over $35 million funded debt service and principal payments for several bond issues and borrowings that will be paid off by 2020. Another $18 million in TIF revenues is anticipated by 2020 from a casino resort. SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city. On-going programming is key to attracting visitors and enhancing economic benefits. The project was recognized with a ULI Global Award for Excellence in 2015.

And SteelStacks won a prestigious placemaking-type award, not only acclaim but a $50,000 prize: the Rudy Bruner Gold Award for Urban Excellence.

Thanks for the info, Tony, and more from him on the Stacks and placemaking in the next post.

Bethlehem’s Catch-22: what attracts can also erode

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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.


It’s a “Catch 22” situation in Bethlehem, maybe more than ever before. What is attracting visitors, new residents, and development to Bethlehem is a city with many opportunities and amenities. However, with each of those advances it begins to erode the very quality of life and aura that Bethlehem offers. When will enough be enough? Individually an AirBnB, an out-of-context development, non-compliance may not seem that intrusive. But, when you start looking at the sum total of what is happening, the very characteristics that people find attractive become tarnished, and that sought-after quality of life is no longer maintained. Bethlehem has to be better by establishing standards so that those that come respect those that are already in place in Bethlehem. That is often not happening and is why residents are showing up to defend what they want and like about this town. Unfortunately, greed is often overwhelming what makes sense and builds a sound community, and some politicians are weak-kneed and often influenced by campaign contributions. We who are already here deserve better.