The Arts in Bethlehem: another offer you can’t refuse!

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem logo

The weekend! Thank god! And a wonderful day it is!

Where are you spending your recreation and entertainment time and dollars this weekend?  touchstone 2

On the local arts and/or the local arts establishments?

Gadfly has told you in a previous post that he is making a commitment not only to patronize the local arts more but to promote them here when he can. Arts of all kinds.

So have you been to Touchstone Theatre?

Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre dedicated to the creation of original work.  At its center is a resident ensemble of theatre artists rooted in the local community of Bethlehem. . . . The Ensemble . . . transforms audiences through community-based theatrical productions and community-building projects.

On Sunday March 8, 2PM Gadfly’s going to Edith Piaf: Hymn to Love at Touchstone.

Piaf (1915-1963) was a famous French “chanteuse,” night-club singer, cabaret singer. She’s a cult figure, a legend, an influence.

Gadfly now has another two tickets to the Piaf show that he can’t use.

So he makes his offer again:

Gadfly would like to give the two tickets free to someone who has never attended Touchstone Theatre in return for a short post on Gadfly about the show or the experience of going to Touchstone.

Discover Touchstone.

Don’t let the post scare you — he’ll accept a selfie taken at the theatre!

What say? Contact Gadfly via the Contact link here on Gadfly or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

Let’s support the local arts and arts institutions!

Touchstone Theatre
321 E. 4th St.

Gadfly on gadflying

Whew, late Friday afternoon already? Where did that week go?

Not much original content from the Gadfly this week.

But not because the Gadfly followed Mrs. Gadfly’s suggestion to give up posting for Lent. (I think there was an “or else” tacked on there, but that might have been our 12 year-old clothes dryer signaling to be put out of its misery.)

Usual home stuff taking time. But also it’s Confirmation season. And school basketball playoff time (Grandkin’s St. Basil’s-Phoenixville team victorious). (A random family post-game video shows Gadfly swishing one from the foul line then bricking two 3-pointers. It will not go into the family archive.) Then there’s the time needed to worry about what effect coronavirus might have on physically weak seniors Gadfly knows and their retirement funds. Then time devoted to two wonderful extracurricular Bethlehem projects that Gadfly’s become involved in as a result of meeting two wonderful Bethlehem people while gadflying.

Sigh.

And it’s not like nothing was happening this week. Several noteworthy occurrences. Most especially, Gadfly got slapped upside the head. Something he always said he expected to happen and was willing to suffer for his ignorance. It happened. Ouch. I bet you can’t wait for the Parking Authority audio of Thursday’s meeting to be available. Gadfly will let you know.

Sigh.

But also on my mind and taking some time is preparation for a talk.

Gadfly will be speaking about gadflying at the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society meeting this Monday March 2, 7PM, at Seidersville Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem Gadfly has been flying for 18 months now, a goodly time, and he was just thinking that it was about time (before his contract is up — more on that later) that he stop and reflect on how and why he started and how things are going.

And right then came the invitation to speak. Thank you Karen and Ilhan.

Perfect timing.

Reflection is good.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Community workshop at First Pres

“Good conversations build community,” sayeth the Gadfly, who is pleased to pass on this info provided by follower Carol Burns.

First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem plans community workshop

ConsConvFirst Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center St., has announced a community presentation, “Constructive Conversations: Engaging Our Faith in Public Life” on Saturday, Feb. 29. Rev. J.C. Austin will lead an exploration of some basic commitments and tools that people of faith can use to be active citizens and good neighbors, especially in divisive times.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m.-noon in the church’s Kirk Center. It is free and open to the public; attendees are asked to register at fpc-bethlehem.org or call 610-867-5865.

Follower Ron Yoshida speaks at First Pres, Monday, March 9, time tbd.

Buckets of questions about the Packer Ave. closing

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

Kim Carrell-Smith is a 31-year resident of Bethlehem’s historic Southside, where she taught public history at Lehigh University for almost two decades. She is also an aspiring gadfly, buzzing in on issues of historic preservation, public education, city government, and other social justice issues. She tips her wings to the master gadflies who have served our community for so long!

[Gadfly would note that Kim’s substantial work was referred to approvingly several times in the February 18 City Council meeting. And rightly so! This is what it’s all about, good followers!]

Gadfly:

Re: Proposal to do a temporary closure of Packer Ave with an impact study

Many of us who attended the public meeting about the Packer Ave closure [Broughal Middle School January 23], and a number of my neighbors whom I’ve talked to about it since, have concerns about how any study of a temporary closure might be approached so that the most useful and accurate data would inform decision-making in the city, and so that pedestrians (and drivers) would be safe during the duration of the study. 

So this is what I asked city council and the mayor and his administration to consider before authorizing the temporary closure.

The questions are in two buckets: #1 is whether the city wants/needs to consider this closure (permanent or study period closure) at all, and if so, whether the time is appropriate now.  The #2 bucket is “if the city decides to do the temporary closure/study” questions. 

Bucket #1 –should the temporary closure/study be done and why?

1) What does the city hope to achieve with the proposed closure of Packer — not just with the short-term study time, but what is the city’s key objective for the proposed long-term closure of that section of Packer? Who will benefit? What will be gained? Who may lose? Do the gains outweigh the losses as we contemplate this closure?

2) [This was answered, mostly, or at least the accident data was. Without comparison to other locations it’s hard to know if this is a key dangerous intersection or one of many, or what . . . ]  One item we are still missing is data about how unsafe or safe that Packer Ave. crossing really is; no one has produced that data yet, despite Lehigh’s assertion that it appears to be an unsafe crossing. LU spokepersons have repeatedly and publicly said safety is part of what drives this closure idea. Can we learn more from existing safety data before diving into a study?

3) The other key reason cited by LU for the closure of Packer is that this would encourage students to feel the campus extends all the way to New, and could help them get closer to the commercial area and venture into it (on 4th and 3rd).  We already know that students tend to feel ill at ease going into the Southside, and that when they venture down they often go there by crossing (a) Morton, down New, and (b) across 4th St.  Isn’t it more likely that their Southside psychological boundaries/barriers are those streets rather than at Packer (hence the New Street revitalization plan to lure them past Morton and 4th, and down New)? How would the Packer closure affect Morton, in particular, with increased traffic and pedestrian movement? Will the closure adversely affect student movement north toward the commercial area, or will it encourage that foot traffic, as Lehigh asserts?

  • How and who will assess all of that — the study’s traffic consultants, a city business study, or another Lehigh study? If that student movement to the business district is a key objective in closing Packer, how will we know if the goal of increased pedestrian movement into the commercial area has been achieved, and when would we expect to know that?

4) Morton Street and the upper campus road are currently very congested due to university construction projects. Is this the best time to undertake a temporary or permanent closure, while those roads are narrowed, and there are flaggers, trucks, and equipment entering and exiting the construction sites all day long?

  • If the study goes forward, will the consultants measure pedestrian (and car) safety, not just at intersections but along that whole block of Morton where the street has been narrowed for construction, and the effect of the sidewalk closure on the south side of the street?
  • Will pedestrians really be safe during the study, while construction is ongoing?
  • Will the consultants measure the car traffic before and during the study to know the effects on the upper campus-E/W route across the Southside (including effects on the nearby neighborhoods)? [key issue of concern to my neighbors and me, over here!]

BUCKET #2 –if the temporary closure and study go forward

 But if one does think a temporary closure and study is a good idea, what is/will be written into that consulting contract? Is there language in the contract spelling out what the consultants must study: what exactly is to be studied, and how?  How will the results be made public, and will those results be shared before the decision is made to close Packer for good, or not? Will the public have an opportunity to provide their feedback on the temporary closure to Lehigh and the city? More specifically, then:

1) Will the consultants be studying the effects on pedestrians (and if so, is this something they know how to do, or do they need help from consultants who are more familiar with that kind of work)? We should be careful to use consultants who are experienced in pedestrian studies, and wary of using ones who may only specialize in vehicle traffic; I have no idea what these consultants are known for, but their performance in the public meeting at Broughal indicated to me that they had not thought about pedestrian studies much, if at all. It appeared that they only had focused their plans on the vehicle traffic.

Among the things we should know are

    • how do they plan to track Broughal student walking patterns and safety, and changes in those patterns and safety (if any)
    • and how do they account for safety issues as they study pedestrian movement in the extended area including Brodhead, Summit, over to Montclair and Carlton, down to 4th Street and perhaps 3rd as well; and eastward on Webster, 4th, 5th, and E.Packer.
    • What will Council learn about safety issues in the whole study area, by the end of the study?

2) [This was kind of answered, although it will be a shorter data collection period than folks first assumed when it was first announced.] How would the consultants plan to account for the traffic and pedestrian data in the earliest days of the study and closure, which will be done when Lehigh students and most faculty are on spring break: will that data be averaged in with the rest, thus skewing the results?  Studying traffic and pedestrians over spring break would definitely not provide representative data, although I see why Lehigh wants to start putting out blockades when students aren’t around and perhaps traffic is lighter. But that time should not be averaged into the data that is collected when the usual school year traffic (cars and pedestrians) is in full swing.

3) As my neighbors and I have shared with the mayor and the Lehigh Public Affairs VP, many of us suspect that W.8th to University Dr, and across campus, will become an even more appealing way to traverse the Southside (E-W and W-E) if/when Packer would be closed. Yet there will be even more construction up there on University Drive next year. The consultants should measure the before and after closure effects on that route, and also consider what could change when the next phase of dorm demolition and construction begins this summer through next year. Do we know if this is being considered in the study? I hope that the city will request a clear answer, and consider the following as well:

  •  Is the upper campus route going to be part of the city study, or would that be left to Lehigh to do separately from the consultant study? Would they include the surrounding neighborhood streets and what happens to traffic there? Will they share the data and seek community feedback?
  • Will the city be able to study the W.8th street entrance to campus and whether traffic is increased on that rather congested street that runs from Wyandotte into campus? What will be the impact on the streets to the east side of campus?
  • Would the data from a Lehigh campus road study be something accessible to the public, and would it be incorporated into city decision making?

4) Also, how will we know the effect of the closing when it snows? I mentioned at the public meeting that most of us over here are definitely aware that one doesn’t drive on Morton Street when it’s snowy; the city has never been able to maintain that street effectively; it is usually covered in slush, ice and/or snow for a number of days before things melt away- not ideal for Broughal kids and parents! That may be because of the way the buildings on the street shade the road surface, but I’m not sure.  Local folks just all try to avoid driving there when the weather gets bad. It’s a safety issue without any additional added traffic, whether for cars, buses or pedestrians; more traffic in snowy weather is a scary thought.

5) Finally, IF the trial closure and study are authorized by Council, you all, as well as residents and those who work in the area also should know how the final decision about long term closure would be made:

  • who besides the consultants will give or collect feedback
  • when
  • where
  • and how

…before the final decision is made?  What key issues will the mayor deem relevant to his recommendation?

I guess I don’t see all these questions as insurmountable, but as many of us see it, answering these questions in Bucket #2 (all of them) should mean that the planning for the traffic/pedestrian study would be quite careful, the study itself quite extensive, and both should include voices from the community.

  • Planning and contracting with consultants should also mean investigating their expertise in pedestrian studies.
  • And there should be a plan in place, before the study begins, to present the results of the study and hear from the public before any final decision is made.

Gadfly would note that Kim’s substantial work was referred to approvingly several times in the February 18 City Council meeting. And rightly so! This is what it’s all about, good followers!

Yet more construction updating: “why we are so bullish” on more residential on E. 3rd St.

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Southside logo

More and more apartments. 74 this time. Peron Development at 600-block E. 3rd St. Complementing the “sister” apartments in their 510 Flats bldg.

But are they the “affordable” kind we need?

The planned office use for this property is being changed because of the success filling the apartments at 510 Flats.

Particularly striking Gadfly’s ear were, for parking, the use of the Polk Street Garage, a parking lot on Evans St., and 61 new metered parking spaces on 3rd St.

That’s 61 new metered parking spaces on 3rd St.

Planning Commission February 13:

506-510,600-630 E. 3RD Street—Revised Land Development Plan (Bldg.B) and Waiver Requests, Ward4, Zoned IRR, Plan dated July 15, 2014 and last revised January 22, 2020. The applicant proposes the removal of a parking lot on Lot B (610Flats) and the construction of a 5 story building containing first floor retail/restaurants and 74 apartments on the upper floors. The prior approved use of the upper floors was offices. The waiver/modifications requested pertain to minimum lot area requirements and off street parking requirements.

Here’s Peron describing why their success with 510 Flats changed plans for 610:

Here’s more detail on the variances required:

And specific discussion of the parking arrangements:

Another Construction Update: the new Wind Creek Hotel, bonus for the City

logo Latest post in a series about Wind Creek Casino logo

Sara K. Satullo, “Wind Creek Bethlehem goes swanky with new hotel thanks to lucrative tax incentive.” lehighvalleylive.com., February 7, 2020.  — PHOTOS

Note: Wind Creek is giving a portion of $$$$ back to the City in untypical fashion. It’s getting harder for Gadfly to be cranky about their water park idea. Sigh.

The hotel is expected to generate up to $1.5 million in annual CRIZ increment once it opens and 20% of that — $300,000 — will come back to Bethlehem’s CRIZ authority, Donchez said. This will allow the city to start tackling important projects on its wish list, like new Christmas decorations, improvements to lighting on the Southside and buying land for South Bethlehem Greenway connections.

Here are the videos Gadfly promised a few days ago.

Brian Carr, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Wind Creek, describes the historic need for more hotel rooms and all the other advantages that the new construction of the second hotel will afford.

Here Carr shows off some of the design of the second hotel and how it links with the existing one.