Martin Tower: the EAC wanted “a showpiece of sustainable design” (17)

(17th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Gadfly would like to stay on the Martin Tower beat a little longer. Lots of good stuff here.

Let’s back up a moment.

Gadfly caught the “City bug” in January 2018 and started going to meetings, not only the Council meetings but many of the citizen-based committees and commissions that most of us, frankly, don’t know much about.

Take a look at the list of the City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Quite extensive, no? Lots of residents volunteering their services.

He found that one of the most impressive and enjoyable groups is the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by Lynn Rothman, with members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, (ubiquitous) Kathy Fox, Brian Hillard, and Mike Topping — in addition to a cluster of regular attendees known for their environmental knowledge and activism and Councilman Reynolds often present as well.

Think EAC and think CAP and PBO. That’s Climate Action Plan and the Plastic Bag Ordinance. Not only nice people but productive people.

So the EAC has weighed in significantly on Martin Tower, both past and present, and Gadfly would like to highlight their “public sapience” – the nerdy term you saw him coin recently and which he must use a few times to wash it out of his system!

In a phrase designed to make Gadfly’s palms sweat, blood race, breath heave, and loins leap, the EAC dreamed of the Martin Tower site as “a showpiece of sustainable design”!

As a prime location for a landmark redevelopment, this site could showcase cutting-edge green design, respect open space and utilize smart growth principles. Such a design could encompass transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, with mixed-use development. Many long-range sustainability and environmental goals articulated in the City’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan could be explored.  EAC-Martin Tower-2016

Think of it! “A showpiece of sustainable design”!

Gadfly imagines the Town Hall lights dimmed (except for that one damn light that seems to have a mind of its own! You know the one I mean.) and a crescendo of pencils tapping on chair arms leading up to the dramatic unveiling of Bethlehem’s SHOWPIECE OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN!

Followed by a collective gasp so strong it would suck the panels off the ceiling.

Be still my heart!

But – sigh – we live in a fallen world.

Common wisdom in the cheap seats is that the design for the Martin Tower site fell well short of a showcase.

In addition to submitting a detailed letter (EAC-Martin Tower-2019), EAC members Brian Hillard and Mike Topping attended the Planning Commission meeting April 11.

Listen to their different voices.

074Brian, the younger guy, calm, diplomatic, showing just a trace of wry impatience at developer shortsightedness (“Looking at that pocket park, it’s like in the pocket”), even-temperedly calling attention to things you would think the developer would certainly have highlighted (Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, solar, etc.),  and ending with an echo of the “showcase” dream: “This site was an icon to our city and our region, and we would be well served to continue with that thought. This could be an icon to the future as we remove the icon from the past.”

079Mike, the older guy, experienced (“I used to sit on the other side of that table”), a bit gruff-voiced, tough talking, finding student designs better, forcefully invoking the specter of Levittown coming to Bethlehem, speaking definitively, authoritatively, for instance, about parking and subdividing (“It’s just wrong. It’s just not the way things are done”), attributing the design to an unimaginative engineer when real planning (by someone capable of creating a “showcase”) should be done.

A marvelous 1-2 presentation from these EACers.

Gadfly is not sure what impact these public voices can have on the Martin Tower project at this point. He doesn’t know as much as he needs to about the process of development. Such comments almost seem too late once the developer has presented a plan. Maybe not.

Gadfly is sure, though, that we’d all like a “showcase.”

And this isn’t it. Yet.

How do we get such ideas in on the “ground floor,” as it were – at the beginning of the design process?

Gadfly will be trying to learn and think more.

Candidates – are you listening? Are you thinking?

Martin Tower response: the friction that makes the machine run smooth (16)

(16th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Writing in haste in case the recordings and my rushed thoughts
can be of any use tonight.

Nobody has asked me who my Gadfly heroes are. I give a nod to Socrates in the very first words of the Gadfly “About” page. Obvious choice. He’s a given.

But Thoreau too — Henry David Thoreau. The guy who lived by himself in a cabin for a year or two and wrote the classic Walden; or Life in the Woods.

He was a fierce social critic. Read “Civil Disobedience.” Or “Slavery in Massachusetts.”

Quite a guy.

Thoreau talks of the necessary friction that makes the machine (of government) run smooth.

I like that idea. It’s a Gadflying idea.

The 11 people who spoke to the Planning Commission might be seen by some as friction-filled.

In fact, the ugly term CAVE people rattled around in my mind. Remember that unhappy episode from last year? The unfortunate notion from a source or two on Council that “Citizens against virtually everything” show up to sour City projects.

But I saw these people as the necessary friction that makes the machinery of government run smooth.

Or try to.

Gadfly was very proud of what he saw and heard on last Thursday and which he archives here below — hoping that you’ll listen.

In a comment to a previous post, follower Al Bernotas thanked Gadfly for relaying “public sentient.” I thought at first that was a misprint. But I liked the unusual phrase.

Then the sound of it led me to “public sapience.”

Kind of nerdy, I know — sorry — but what Gadfly sees here is “public sapience.”

They who have ears to hear, let them hear.


Here are the full recordings of the presentations I clipped in my previous post Martin Tower: “Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel” (15). The presentations are all short. If you are being selective, take a look at the clips in the previous post for speakers you might be especially interested in.

Brian Hillard

Diane Backus

Ed Deluva

Steve Melnick

Paige Van Wirt

Mike Topping

Stephen Antalics

Dana Grubb

Steve Glickman

Bruce Haines’s proxy

Charlene Donchez Mowers

Second thoughts about the City Council meeting tonight!


City Council tonight 7pm, Town Hall

A new follower asked Gadfly a simple question: “Should I attend the meeting tonight?”

It made me think of something I should have thought of before.

Gadfly plans to post the impressive public comment recordings from Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting on Martin Tower.

As well as some personal commentary.

But he is in a bit of a time-bind right now.

Though the Mayor and most of City Council might follow the blog, might have followed the last several posts on Martin Tower, and might have the opportunity to hear the recordings when I post them in the near future —

it would have more impact for them to hear such views as were presented last week in the immediacy of the Council meeting tonight.

As is, only one Councilperson attended the meeting and heard the excellent public response.

For maximum impact — for maximum pressure — the Mayor and all City Council must be confronted with those views and ideas — in person.

So Gadfly is suggesting that Thursday presenters present again tonight.

So Gadfly is suggesting that people not at the Planning Commission who were able to follow it through the recent Gadfly posts also come tonight and contribute their views.

Use the time at the beginning of the meeting for “comments on matters not being voted on tonight.”

If, for instance, a member of the EAC will be present tonight, he or she could synopsize their excellent letter to the Planning Commission.

Sorry for the late notice in suggesting this, but this would be a ripe time to be heard on matters Martin Tower.


Public expertise “basically ignored” by the majority vote of the PC (16)

(16th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

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.


Steve Melnick is the individual who commented about the hotel location. Steve has 40 years or so of economic development experience.

I think when you look at the quality of the speakers it behooves one to question the qualifications of some on the Planning Commission. The public speakers offered a broad background of expertise that was basically ignored by the majority vote of the PC.

That is why the quality of how development takes place in Bethlehem is regularly under fire by members of the community. They’re not anti development, they just want it to be right for the City of Bethlehem. There is no profit motive, just social, environmental and physical integration at stake for the public.


(sorry, Steve!)

Martin Tower: “Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel” (15)

(15th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

We come now to Gadfly’s favorite part of the Martin Tower marathon postings.

Public comment.

Followers might remember that one motivation for the Gadfly project is to more widely distribute and archive public commentary.

When he began attending City meetings in January 2018, one of the first things that struck him was the high quality of public comments.

And how much of a shame it was that such good commentary simply disappeared into the Town Hall ceiling.

Gadfly loves to hear “the people” talk, and he hopes that the Gadfly blog will even encourage more such commentary.

The hour and more of public commentary at the Planning Commission last week more than met Gadfly’s high expectations.

And the nature of the commentary was different than it was four years ago in 2015 (as examined a few posts back) – even the Planning Commission chair made a big point of that. Only one comment referenced the dreaded creation of a “3rd downtown” that was so much on people’s minds – especially the merchants – at that time.

Not at all surprising, the public commentary this time criticized details of the Master Plan: the size-location-nature of the park, the shamelessly low percentage of open space, the lack of diverse housing, subdividing the property, lack of solar, light pollution, potential gridlock, location of the hotel, parking, the destination of our tax dollars, the mysterious owner, and so forth.

But surprising, pleasantly surprising, was the concerted attack on the quality of the Master Plan. Our commentators to a person wanted the absolute best design and didn’t find it here.

The Master Plan was dull, unimaginative, routine, lacking creativity – the work of an engineer not a planner, much less an artist.

Speakers found the plan underwhelming, something only someone with a Franklinian penchant for right angles could love.

The plan was rather vanilla, with a Levittown look, and better could be found in introductory College design courses.

The Martin Tower site is a gem, a jewel, an icon – it is unique – nothing these people saw in the design rose to the transcendent level it deserves – and which the City must have.

Why not a public market? Why not a big park? Why not a central park/fountain with the iconic I-beam?

Where is the root in the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan? Have they not heard of the Bethlehem Climate Action Plan? No evidence of either.

So the developer’s Master Plan meets the technical requirements – ok, but ho-hum — can’t we expect more than that!

What here is to be really proud of?

People were asking for more than just technical competence and increased tax dollars.

They yearned for a design that matched their exalted sense of their hometown.

They wanted excitement. They wanted to be enthused — “turned on”!

They wanted something to love.

There was not enough “spark.”

Simply good enough is not good enough.

Strong stuff!

Our people were demanding imagination, creativity, specialness, excellence. They worried that the City would just “settle” with what was presented.

This could be an icon to the future.

There’s more than a hint of desperation in this haunting plea:

“Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel, not another missed opportunity.”


074Looking at that pocket park, it’s like in the pocket, it’s like something you might forget . . . having something centralized, having something with more of a focus on it would be a better served opportunity for this site. (Brian Hillard)

Disappointed that there is no opportunity for owner-occupied housing.  (Dana Grubb)

We are concerned about the effect of so many people in such close proximity to the Burnside Plantation. (Charlene Donchez Mowers)

I’m certainly underwhelmed currently by what’s proposed here. (Diane Backus)

Don’t rush to say let’s just get this thing over with. (Edward Deluva)

CRIZ is 53 acres, now imploding the 5-acre asset the CRIZ was designed to preserve. 48 076acres should be returned to the state. (Bruce Haines proxy)

I’ve seen plans like this submitted by Lehigh students in my office when they were just starting out in some kind of urban design program at Lehigh, their plans were better than this. (Mike Topping)

Missing individuality and some of the precepts of modern planning. (Steve Melnick)

You never mentioned the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan. (Steven Glickman)

The plan is a design only Ben Franklin would love . . . straight lines are not friendly. (Diane Backus)

077Mr. Herrick is a multi-billionaire, owning over 5 billion dollars of real estate, thoroughbred horses, he owns companies doing movies and Broadway shows, he owns athletic groups and a massive art collection. Now with a background like that . . . crying poverty in terms of getting rid of asbestos. (Stephen Antalics)

I would encourage us to seek out development of that property in a remarkable way to really make something the City will be proud of just as what Bethlehem Steel had done for this City and this Valley and the world.  (Edward Deluva)

Who’s going to enjoy the space [of the park] – facing the thruway? (Diane Backus)

What we’ve heard so far is this plan meets the ordinance, this plan is good enough, but good enough is not good enough for this piece of land, and good enough is not good 079enough for Bethlehem. (Paige Van Wirt)

The idea of subdividing this land is a mistake. (Mike Topping)

Why is there no low-income housing? (Diane Backus)

On social media the gas station has been panned big time. (Dana Grubb)

Mixed use does not mean housing over here, and office over there. That is not how cities grow. That is how developers generally think.  (Steven Glickman)

083The lack of a major corporate tenant is a huge disappointment. (Bruce Haines proxy)

The man said it meets requirements – is that the best we get? (Diane Backus)

I think it’s incumbent upon the City to follow these policies [e.g., the Climate Action Plan]. (Edward Deluva)

This site was an icon to our city and our region, and we would be well served to continue with that thought. This could be an icon to the future as we remove the icon from the past. (Brian Hillard)

A park there only to meet the requirements of the ordinance not to become useful not necessarily to become useful to the people who are living there. (Steve Melnick) 091

This was drawn by an engineer who had a straight edge and a scale, and that’s about it. (Mike Topping)

The open space percentage is a shame, an absolute shame. (Diane Backus)

Where is the park? I don’t see the park. (Anon.)

This is a rather vanilla development plan. (Charlene Donchez Mowers)

Why the deception? Why the misrepresentation? . . . So in essence Mr. Herrick owns 62.5% of Martin Towers. Has anyone here ever heard or seen of Mr. Herrick? So where will the profits be going? . . . That site is in a CRIZ zone that will get developmental help by tax dollars, tax dollars generated by citizens of Bethlehem and the state of 094Pennsylvania. (Stephen Antalics)

Why is the hotel not on the street where there is the most traffic and visibility? (Steve Melnick)

I think it would speak very well for these developers if they understood how valuable that remaining land is for the City and to give it back to the City to determine where is the best place for it to be used not by a private entity. I’m speaking to you guys, and I’m hoping you will take that into consideration as a good faith gesture to the City. (Paige Van Wirt)

A pocket park – why not a big park? (Diane Backus)

There’s something here that is truly unique . . . and to just settle for something good is 097not good enough. (Edward Deluva)

Disappointed that we’re not providing housing for all social and economic strata . . . almost every development that comes in nowadays is upscale rental, and gentrification is a real issue. (Dana Grubb)

Why not a public market like Easton has? (Diane Backus)

Competitive disadvantage over the existing hotels and draws customers away from downtown shops and restaurants. (Bruce Haines proxy)

Sort of the look of Levittown coming to Bethlehem, and that is not what Bethlehem planning has been about. (Mike Topping)

098Hire a planner not an engineer and develop your plan using the goals and guidelines outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. (Steven Glickman)

Where are the solar roofs?  Where are the grass roofs? (Diane Backus)

If this is only using 5 acres of the CRIZ, my overriding question is what is going to happen to that very valuable remaining CRIZ land?  (Paige Van Wirt)

This is truly a gem project. . . . It’s incumbent upon the City to take a really hard look at this.  (Edward Deluva)

Light pollution is [will be] real [for people in the townhouses]. (Steve Melnick)

Is it fair for a multi-billionaire to take Pennsylvania tax dollars with no interest and 099redeveloping down in Florida? (Stephen Antalics)

Going to be a fair amount of gridlock. (Steve Melnick)

Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel, not another missed opportunity. (Diane Backus)


Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical
2 – medical
3 – retail
4 – gas/convenience
8 – Offices
7 – Hotel (132 rooms)
6 – Restaurant
5 – Retail
9 –528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom


Rt. 378 south


Martin Tower: The City’s review response (15)

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

(15th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical

2 – medical

3 – retail

4 – gas/convenience


8 – Offices

7 – Hotel (132 rooms)

6 – Restaurant

5 – Retail


9 –

528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom


Rt. 378 south

Gadfly is taking the April 11 Planning Commission meeting on the Martin Tower Master Plan one step at a time.

After Mr. Wagner presented the Master Plan for the developer, the City hit the high points of its detailed April 5 review of the plan, the “Martin Tower Complex Master Plan Review. “

Now’s the time we should spend some time reviewing the review.

Audio of this section of the meeting is here:

The highlights the City highlighted (Gadfly needs a rest!) “in a big picture kind of way” include:

  • minimizing parking
  • minimizing impervious coverage
  • allowing shared parking
  • increasing green space
  • moving buildings up to the street
  • mixed-use
  • residential uses on upper floors
  • greater variety of housing types
  • mixed use = more sustainable
  • active or passive outdoor recreational use
  • flat areas are developed for parking, beyond parking ground slopes off
  • pond and park on sloped area and wooded area, not good
  • trees removed must be replaced
  • need to retain as many trees as possible
  • thus more recreational space on interior of the lot
  • phasing of development
  • public roads? public utilities?
  • trail system is beautiful asset, has some funding, looking for other funding
  • connector to network of trails, very important
  • Burnside
  • sightlines
  • pedestrian and bicycle safety
  • connectivity to exterior sites as well as interior
  • need tree inventory
  • traffic numbers compared to Martin Tower unsure
  • but traffic patterns now will be much different for sure
  • variety of parking
  • matching street lighting

The City concluded highlighting (yuck) as important points: variety of uses (?), variety of housing types, cutting back on impervious uses.

Subsequent short discussion with Commissioners focused on parking, with the developer indicating that shared parking is not desired by tenants and thus is not acceptable, realistic, practical.

This is the first time Gadfly has had any concrete sense of the preliminary interaction between the City and a developer.


My sense is that the City is on to several concerns voiced by Gadfly followers.


Want to add anything else before we actually look at what people like “us” said during public comment?

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

Martin Tower: the developer’s presentation (14)

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

(14th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical

2 – medical

3 – retail

4 – gas/convenience


8 – Offices

7 – Hotel (132 rooms)

6 – Restaurant

5 – Retail



9 –

528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom



Rt. 378 south

Gadfly’s going to work through the Martin Tower meeting at the Planning Commission April 11 in several posts

Beginning at the beginning.

Duane Wagner presented the developer Master Plan, taking about 1/2hr. We have the full audio of his presentation below.

Gadfly thought his presentation was clear and thorough.

But Gadfly particularly noted how in his prefatory remarks Wagner was careful to frame the presentation of the Master Plan squarely in the 2015 debates.

Listen to the deference to concerns about a “3rd downtown” and specific injunctions from 2015 City Council in this pertinent interchange between Wagner and PC Commissioner Malozi:

Mr. Malozi: “What was driving how you came up with those mixes, what’s shown on the plan, the different uses there?”

Mr. Wagner: “The biggest thing that drove us was the direction from the zoning ordinance, the City Council, what we heard from them. It was important to create some residences that support the downtown and create a base, find office type uses that create employees, and also to provide some retail on site to support both the employees and the residents. . . . We tried to be cognizant of all the comments and all the direction we got. . . . not to put too much there to drain the downtown or put forth fuel to the concern that that could happen. . . . We feel it’s a good mix that accomplishes what the ordinance wanted as well as what we heard from City Council.”

Wagner clearly lists and discusses the take-aways from the 2015 debates that were considered in the formulation of the Master Plan:


And he also clearly addresses where the Master Plan stands in relation to the operative zoning ordinance:


In short, Gadfly felt that Wagner was “politic” in the way he approached his presentation. Gadfly felt a direct connection between his review of 2-3 dozen documents from the hot mess in 2015 in Wagner’s opening words.

The developers were roundly criticized in 2015 for their silence. Wagner here tries to show that they were “listening.”

So let’s get into the details of Wagner’s presentation, though, except for this example of what the apartments might look like, my pictures of his additional slides of the site are not useful.


Ok, now here’s the full audio of Wagner’s presentation with some pertinent time marks.

14:10: parking
19:30: access
21:41: walkability
23:10: sidewalks
24:28: the pocket park
25:23: sightlines
27:10: employment
28:06: tax revenue

Lots to chew on here. Comments welcome. But Gadfly will continue on especially to public commentary.

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?