(the latest in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)
Bruce Haines is a Lehigh graduate who returned to Bethlehem after a 35-year career at USSteel. He put together a 12-member Partnership to rescue the Hotel Bethlehem from bankruptcy in 1998 and lives in the historic district.
I watched the May22 meeting on video, & I didn’t hear the Southside Historic District gentleman upset about any issue with the Northside. Rather what I heard is that the city is letting developers walk all over the SSHistoric Commission recommendations for the sake of growth.
As a Northside Historic District Champion, I don’t really believe there is any issue between the 2 sides of the river.
I think it is healthy that each side has its own identity & the city itself has divided it into the SS Arts & Entertainment District & Moravian Historic District. The marketing of each separately is healthy & trying to meld it into some amorphous blob to make us the same is a huge mistake IMO.
Each district marketing its strength is very healthy, & white Christmas lights on the Northside & color on the SS is part of our unique identity & heritage.
No animosity between North & Southside today IMO—that is old news!
I reviewed the potential Christmas light examples at city hall on Thursday, May 23rd. I expressed my opinion to those most concerned that the key to the entire project should be uniformity over the entire city., thereby duplicating “Unity,” the original theme of the lights in 1937. People viewing the lights north and south of the city should have the sense of a continuum, a sense of equality of display. To repeat or to somewhat duplicate the present scheme of white lights north of and colored lights south of the river would be an unconscious insult, as Peter Crownfield and others have suggested. White citizens on the north and minority groups on the south, a subtle example, but unintended, of a a racial divide. Carefully avoid this trap. The contrary subjective opinions of any individual groups must be ignored. It is a total city effort!
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.
I couldn’t attend because I had a concert to photograph last night, so I can only comment on the photos included in today’s news coverage. I agree with Peter that some of it looked gaudy. It seems overkill. I’m very tradition oriented, so I’d like to see some of the current decorations re-imagined with the use of newer technology and enhanced lighting. What I really liked was the use of red and green lighting on the Hill to Hill Bridge, and the truth be told, I wouldn’t mind seeing all 3 bridges lighted architecturally all year round, much like bridges elsewhere in the world. The 3D stars located at certain intersections looked interesting, yet the stars on the end of the Main Street ramp looked overwhelming. I think the use of projection lighting on buildings, such as at Comenius Hall at Moravian College, has some potential as well. Peter’s question about using city money (if it is public money) and staffing time is very valid in my opinion.
I only saw the images via an article on LehighValleyLive, and while I think some of the proposed designs are somewhat attractive, they don’t seem very imaginative or creative—and I’d describe some of them as almost gaudy.
They might have gotten much better results at a much lower cost by soliciting local ideas—including from students. At the end, I have to ask whether this is an appropriate use of city money & time.
I agree with Barbara — it was very festive and cheery. I particularly liked the proposed placement of oversized Bethlehem stars at Five Points and elsewhere. I was relieved to see that the iconic 4 advent candles were still featured, and I appreciated the designer’s attention to the original Christmas designs from the 20s and 30s.
Across the Fahy bridge, the design shows colored lights leading north and then switching to white lights as the lights cross the bridge. This is unfortunate and, as I said in my notes on the design, does not provide the unity that they planned for.
All in all though, a very nice design, sensitive to Bethlehem and the commercial value of the season to the city.
None of the changes are set in stone, and nothing is changing for this coming season. The earliest the new decor may appear would be in Christmas 2020, with a five-year phase-in, said Allyson Lehr, city housing and community development planner. “Major, major fundraising” with community partners will be needed to make the proposals into reality, Lehr said. “This is about feedback,” said Alicia Miller Karner, city director of community and economic development. “We are very much trying to provoke conversation.”
The city in January hired New York City-based David Weiner Design for $35,000 to brainstorm ways to freshen up the Christmas City’s holiday look. Weiner said he drew inspiration from the city’s holiday icons, like the Bethlehem star and Moravian candles. Moravians named their settlement that would become Bethlehem after Jesus’ birthplace, on Christmas Eve 1741. And during the Great Depression, city business leaders tried to cash in on that holiday heritage and began marketing Bethlehem as the Christmas City in 1937. “The idea was to create something both unifying from an iconography perspective but could be modulated in a way that could be unique to each neighborhood,” Weiner said Thursday.
Lots of questions remain, like whether to go with a singular unifying look using all Bethlehem stars or mix in Moravian stars on the city’s north side; Bethlehem stars have a longer tail, while Moravian stars are more symmetrical. Another unresolved point is whether to go with all white lights, or continue South Side’s tradition of colored lights. The city will be soliciting additional feedback on its website and through its social media channels.
One idea shared Thursday is to use projectors to turn building facades, such as Moravian College’s Comenius Hall, into light shows for people to view at scheduled times.
John Halleman, Sandra’s husband, said he thought the designs were well presented to residents. “It was nice we had a little bit of voice into it, as citizens,” he said.
Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.
I walked over this afternoon to view the photo facsimiles of what the decorations would look like. The plan proposes unified decorations on the major gateways to the city (Rt. 378, New St Bridge, 5 Points, 4th Street) , Main Street, and a focus on Payrow Plaza. The proposed decorations have a consistent theme of garlands with multicolored lights and a central white star. There are different iterations of this along with trees wrapped in lights and the rotunda and library wrapped in lights and snowflakes projected on the plaza pavement and walls of the plaza buildings “painted” in projected light, along with the tree & creche.The design was very festive, and I can imagine that it would enhance downtown Bethlehem for the Christmas season as a destination benefiting our downtown merchants. Not sure what the cost is of all of this, so that is a different discussion. Interestingly, the design included some giant candles where the menorah usually is situated. I asked the designer, David Wiener, where they planned to put the menorah, and he said that no one had mentioned a menorah to him so he planned to follow-up with that.
Thanks, Barbara. Hey, Judy, did you get to go? Your email is not working for me.
So we know how important the Christmas season is for the City — for a number of reasons.
And the Mayor has employed a consultant to present recommendations for lighting and decoration.
The follow-up to April’s meeting is an open-house this Thursday 5-7 in Town Hall.
See this announcement below that went up on the City web site on Friday.
Now Gadfly is not really a “Christmas-person” — he’s been known to be a bit grinchy.
Nor is he adept at or attuned to matters of style and decoration. (You’ve seen the way he dresses.)
But, given the importance of the decorations to the City and wide interest among the citizenry, Gadfly would appreciate followers who are “in” to these matters attending the open-house and reporting back to us.
We could use several perspectives. What say?
RENDERINGS OF SUGGESTED IMPROVMENTS TO CHRISTMAS DÉCOR ON DISPLAY FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2019 FROM 5:00-7:00 PM
CITY OF BETHLEHEM TOWN HALL
The City of Bethlehem will have the proposed improvements to the City’s Christmas lighting and décor on display for the public to view on May 30 from 5:00-7:00 PM. These renderings are a result of the public meeting held in April and the various stakeholder meetings held with David Weiner Lighting Design, LLC, the consultant for the project.
“The City relies on a robust Christmas season to support our small businesses and to provide a terrific experience for our residents”, said Mayor Robert J. Donchez. “The enhancement of our décor program is a necessary step in making sure Bethlehem remains a destination for the holiday season.”
The public is invited to stop by the open-house format anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 PM in Town Hall at 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem.
(3rd in a series of posts on Christmas lights)
Agree with Steve. The all white scheme on the north with colored lights on the SS may have been well intended, several people have interpreted it as having a racial overtone. (north side=white only; SouthSide=colored). This alone is enough reason to return to the original intent, with white-only on the Moravian buildings, festive colored lights everywhere else.
And someone needs to rethink the desirability of spending hundreds of hours of time & many $$ attaching trees to all those light poles — especially plastic trees!
(Can anybody go to that open-house Thursday 5-7 at Town Hall and report to us?)