City Council members must “try to learn more about ‘how it works'”

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

ref: Significant pushback against South Bethlehem Historical District planning study


It may be helpful for the taxpayers of the City if Council members — all of whom have shown or demonstrated little if any practical knowledge of business, economics, or development — at least try to learn more about “how it works.”

Council is made up of nice people who are teachers or social workers and have shown very little knowledge or interest in learning how development works.

They have superb insight into how to pander to those that scream the loudest and show very little interest in listening to those that may disagree with their “woke” perspective on so many issues.

Bud Hackett

Candidate input at the CDC meeting on the South Bethlehem Historic District plan

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

ref: On the Southside, size matters
ref: Maybe last chance Tuesday to control appropriate building height on the Southside
ref: Significant pushback against . . .
ref: Southsider Smith counsels the City . . .

We are, of course, in election time, and it turns out that 4 people running participated in the important Community Development Committee meeting last night.

So it would be especially interesting to focus on their reactions to the report and their contributions to the discussion.

Gadfly always asks you to make up your own minds, but Gadfly was disappointed in the participation by incumbents Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

They seemed distant from the specific resident concerns about height — the elephant in the room — and general dissatisfaction with developers that you have seen Gadfly chronicle over several posts.

Perhaps understandable for Councilman Reynolds who may not have been aware of past discussions, but all the more surprising about Councilwoman Crampsie Smith who was at the meeting 3-4 weeks ago when residents turned out in significant numbers to argue against the proposed heights in the proposal draft.

Reynolds and Crampsie Smith did not seem to be sharing the same urgent vibe that brought the callers to the meeting.


Not so Mayoral candidate Grubb and Council candidate Leon, who, of course, is a Southside resident.

Unfortunately, I missed Leon’s comment. I think she spoke after me, and I must have forgotten to turn on my recorder.

But Grubb and Leon melded with the significant number of other callers who expressed dissatisfaction with the report.


Councilwoman Crampsie Smith:

  • glad you are addressing affordable housing
  • should we put lower levels of building height in the zoning ordinance so that we have more leverage adding affordable housing — negotiate room with developer
  • developers have said that anything like this would be helpful in getting them to agree to an affordable housing element
  • developers have said it is a challenge to work with HCC, stringent
  • not as much collaboration with HCC as they would like
  • anything we can do to collaborate with developers in a better way would be helpful
  • what can we do about demolition by neglect?
  • how do other cities deal with blight?

Councilman Reynolds:

  • perception that our conversations are mainly about new buildings, big buildings is a problem
  • perception that “we” are driving these projects and that’s all we are interested in talking about
  • part of the frustration of people is that these projects take up so much of the time and energy
  • asks for fill in on decision of who to talk with and etc. — details of process
  • how many responses did we get to survey?
  • how many key interviews and who?
  • what are we looking at in terms of process?
  • implementation will be an ongoing public process
  • big document, lots of different ways to look at things
  • don’t want to create as many problems as solve
  • has as many questions after reading the report as he did before

Candidate Grubb:

  • Councilwoman Van Wirt nailed it
  • ignorant developers — shame on them
  • surprised that South Bethlehem Historical Society was not included — unconscionable
  • need better communication about meetings
  • City and consultant are ignoring survey results
  • and not listening to citizen commentary — tone deaf
  • some people see the Southside as ripe for plunder
  • inclusionary not being used, assess developers a fee to go into a fund for affordable housing
  • go block by block and measure height of buildings and then use that as your limit in that block
  • bothersome that public official who advocated for the creation of the district now support out of scale development
  • ignoring community vision for the district for the developer vision
  • blatant disrespect for public engagement
  • almost no conversation about environmental aspects
  • analysis in the study is flawed and incomplete

Southsider Smith counsels the City to “take some time to examine the data and develop a sustainable solution”

T he latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Continuing coverage of last night’s important Community Development Committee meeting on Southside Historic District regulation. Anna Smith is no stranger to Gadfly followers. Here are her comments at the meeting. More details to come.


Good evening, this is Anna Smith, homeowner at 631 Ridge St, born and raised on the Southside.

This work was born from the important recognition among members of the administration that inconsistencies between the zoning code and the historic conservation guidelines in the Southside Historic Conservation District create inefficiencies in the project development process and unclear instructions to prospective developers. Throughout this study process, building height has emerged as the primary issue to be addressed.

I’d like to address building height from a community planning perspective, and share why I think that regulating building height is such an important piece of our community’s future viability—and I do agree that it is in all of our best interest to lower the overall heights in the zoning code, although I have some concerns about the process of this study.

When we talk about allowable building heights, we’re really talking about what kind of density we want to see in our downtown. The higher we build, the more people we can house on a single parcel (since residential is now the exclusive new building terrain in a post-COVID world). I love the Southside because it is densely populated, making it a vibrant, walkable community where there are always folks out on the street. However, population density is a tricky thing, and most people would agree that it’s something that we need to balance—particularly in a community which is so car-dependent (87% of Southside residents work outside of Southside Bethlehem). There’s an ideal density that can be supported by a community’s infrastructure before density begins to cause problems—traffic, parking, pollution, social alienation/loss of “small town” feel. The Southside is the most densely populated area of the City, with a population-density in our residential and commercial neighborhoods (excluding the Lehigh campus and industrial redevelopment areas) of 13,175 people per square mile, comparable to the population density of Boston. If this were considered a city of its own, we would be the 52nd most densely-populated city in the US.

But the development pressure on our community is greater than ever, and the projects that would increase density in our downtown keep coming. Since 2014, 12 different developers have proposed 15 projects to add 652 new apartments to the Southside in our downtown areas. Of those, 464 units are not yet occupied (but many will soon be, as they are under construction). Assuming that those apartments (a majority of which will be 2 bedroom) house just an additional 750 people, our downtown and residential neighborhood population density will increase to 13,856 people per square mile—passing Boston, Elmwood Park in Chicago and Daly City in San Francisco. If we use the city’s current, accepted ratio of cars to apartments (1.1 vehicles per unit), we are looking at 510 more cars parking in our downtowns, daily. All of this is development that is either approved or is on its way to approval and would not be impacted by these changes. If we remove checks on building height at the HCC level, how many more high-rise projects will we see on the Southside? When will our community be “dense” enough? Traffic is already so bad on the Southside that I’ve changed my shopping destinations on weekdays, and now rarely shop for groceries or head to a pharmacy in the city, since it takes me so long to get across town. Once we pass Boston—which we surely will with the construction already planned for our neighborhood—we only have 2 major cities left that are denser: San Francisco and New York City. Is that where we are headed?

As I’m sure you agree, the HCC is not the commission that should be responsible for developing or enforcing a sustainable development plan for the Southside, but at the moment, they are the ONLY group that Southsiders can go to to express concerns about out of control development that threatens the qualities that make the Southside a desirable place to live. The HCC is the only place where we have a chance to be heard by individuals who live or own businesses in our neighborhoods, and who actually get it when we talk about the impact of a project on our day-to-day lives. If you remove the one check that we have on out of control development without a plan in place to promote sustainable development, then you risk making the Southside an unlivable, overbuilt, economic development engine for the rest of the city. Once again, this would suggest that quality-of-life concerns are only important if they happen on the Northside—not in the Southside’s “neighborhoods of no consequence,” as a developer recently referred to them in a Planning Commission meeting as he pitched his student housing tower.

I’m urging you to take a step back, and examine the actual data on development in South Bethlehem. This study asserts a need for new construction in south Bethlehem’s commercial core without providing any data other than opinions to support where and how it can be added to grow our community responsibly. We need a comprehensive planning effort that considers quality of life—not just tax revenue. We need to end the current extractive relationship between the two sides of town, where gentrification and displacement of Southside residents and businesses are justified through additional tax revenue to provide services that benefit the residents whose lives are untouched on the Northside.

I’m going to put on my economist hat for a moment (since I happen to have a degree in economics) and ask that you please remember one of the basic regulatory function of government in a market economy: to ensure that public goods–which are often underprovided in the free market–can be provided at the optimal level to everyone. In this case, quality of life in our neighborhoods without traffic congestion, parking problems, and pollution, and with walkable downtowns with ample green space, are public goods. There’s no incentive for developers to worry about these things. If we give them free reign to develop, then that’s what they’ll do. It’s your job to figure out how to regulate development to ensure an optimal outcome for our residents. So please listen to us tonight, and let’s take some time to examine the data and develop a sustainable solution that reflects an understanding of the complex role of building height in community planning. This is not just about old buildings vs. new, this is about the future livability of our neighborhoods—and it deserves a much deeper analysis.

Significant pushback against South Bethlehem Historic District planning study

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

South Bethlehem Historic District Planning Study

Design Guidelines . . . in the South Bethlehem Historic
Conservation District

Community Development Committee meeting May 11, 2021

“In the last five years, we’ve seen the development demand just skyrocket [on the Southside].”
City Planning Director Heller

“I don’t see any consolidated comments from the members of the Historic Conservation Commission themselves. I also don’t see any mention of the South
Bethlehem Historical Society.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“My viewpoint is that the HCC has been doing a great job.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“The tension isn’t between this big plot here and that big plot there, it’s capitalism. That’s what the tension is here. It’s capitalism.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“As a City Council person representing the public, I am not comfortable with the recommendations to raise the height.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“There’s not a whole lot of public comment at all supporting raising building’s heights.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“Some of my greatest concerns . . . have to do with shadows and the corridors which these heights would create.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“Sometimes in our push for development, we ruin the treasure that we have.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“I do not feel that inclusionary zoning produces the number that is needed to actually offset our shortage [of affordable housing]. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. and they are really not even affordable.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“I have grave concerns over the infringement of the pressure of capitalism.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

“I understand the benefits for our tax base, but I really think that following these guidelines of height are really going to end up destroying the thing
that we love the most.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt


The new reports (linked above) coming out of the City’s planning study of the South Bethlehem Historic District discussed last night at Council’s Community Development Committee are long, detailed, and admirable.

But what has been referred to many times in various discussions of Southside development lately as the “elephant in the room” — the building height proposals — was virtually the sole focus of last night’s meeting.

Gadfly followers have seen the height of recently proposed Southside projects dominate attention. A major purpose of the City study is to eliminate the tension between the City zoning ordinance and the much narrower Historic District guidelines administered by the volunteer Historic Conservation Commission (HCC).

Dedicated Southsiders have with one voice decried the various tall buildings proposed in violation of the Historic District guidelines.

The study proposes to drop the 150ft. height (approx 13-14 stories) now allowed by our zoning ordinance in the core of the Historic District to 90ft (approx 7-8 stories). The Zest/Benner building at 306 S. New, for instance, is 85ft., and thus, to take one example, buildings even slightly higher would be permitted all along the S. New St. corridor.

Many of those Southsiders showed up again last night to argue for reduction of the 90ft proposal, but this time they found a powerful ally in CDC chair Paige Van Wirt.

Gadfly will return to provide other details of the meeting, but to Gadfly the night belonged to Van Wirt, and it is she on whom he will focus here.

Councilwoman Van Wirt’s section of the discussion was about 25 mins. long. You can listen to the whole thing by going to the video link above and beginning at about min. 1:13:50.

But Gadfly has broken that section down into smaller chunks here for your listening convenience, with snippets of her words to whet your interest.

It’s always better to hear the person, Gadfly suggests, rather than skimming the text.

Gadfly, for one, found the Councilwoman’s questioning and straight talk enormously refreshing and reassuring.

No vote was planned or taken, and Gadfly is not sure exactly what the next step on consideration of the study will be.

He thinks the City was a bit taken aback at how the meeting unfolded.


“I don’t see any consolidated comments from the members of the Historic Conservation Commission themselves. . . . I am extremely interested in what they have to say.  I also don’t see any mention of the South Bethlehem Historical Society. . . . I think that these two entities have a reason for being, and they have a voice in this discussion. . . . That itself gave me a huge feeling of unease. . . . I think it’s really important that the people who have been volunteering and protecting South Bethlehem’s voice be heard.”


“How much did this [the study] cost? . . . I called up the representative from the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission. He told me that any changes in our requirements for these commissions had to be run through them. . . . Will we get a chance to see what their feedback is? . . . We are talking about an overlay district. . . . An overlay district trumps the local zoning. . . . The whole purpose is to give a different set of regulations. . . . That is a set of design guidelines that has been intentionally done . . . with the intent of trumping the existing zoning code. . . . Where does this leave the HCC? . . . The experts are the HCC. . . . Where is HCC’s role? . . . What we’ve done is essentially handicap the HCC. . . . We’re not building 150ft buildings for one reason: the HCC is there to stop it. . . . My viewpoint is that the HCC has been doing a great job. . . . The tension isn’t between this big plot here and big plot there, it’s capitalism. That’s what the tension is here. It’s capitalism. . . . Right now, they’ve been doing this job all along. . . . The friction is coming from the developers . . . . I do not see the data on this [raising building height]. . . . The premise of this whole study for me is troubling. . . . Me, as a City Council person representing the public, I am not comfortable with the recommendations to raise the height.


Only 30% of the respondents [to the survey] live in South Bethlehem. We need to do a much better job. . . . I read every single word of the survey, probably twice. Most of the comments were about too tall, too big, too new buildings downtown. There’s not a whole lot of public comment at all supporting raising building’s heights. . . . I’m concerned about that. . . . For the task force that you had, I was a little concerned that I couldn’t see who was on it. Is it a big secret?


Some of my greatest concerns about the increased density and height have to do with shadows and the corridors which these heights would create. I was really kind of confounded by the lines drawn for the 90ft area, particularly the area at the end of the Greenway right where it hits New St where there is a contentious building project. . . . It would cast permanent shadow on the Greenway, . . . I’m not saying I don’t want development. . . . Sometimes in our push for development, we ruin the treasure that we have. . . . We’re doing a really good job now protecting what we have to protect, and I have grave concerns over the infringement of the pressure of capitalism into this project. I understand always that development brings new taxes, but so does good smart development And I don’t think it’s if you don’t do these tall buildings, you don’t get, development, not at all, I think you get really good small builders, small storefronts, not ones that are empty for years on end. . . . You get what the community needs when you let the community in under the current recommendations.


The Planning Director and the head of the Department of Community and Economic Development took some time to explain that the purpose of this study and to make clear that the study and the recommendations are not to be understood as evidence that the HCC has not been doing a good job.


I think that’s a bone of contention that really needs to be clarified. . . . To the argument that [developers] do all this work and then come in and find out it’s a historic district, you know, buyer beware. That’s on them. If they have consistency . . . they are gong to follow the guidelines. . . . Refer those [developers] to [the Historic District guidelines]. This is a great document.


One of the other things that I wanted to be very clear about is there is a huge need for affordable housing. . . . I think that the most powerful thing you can do within the context of what we’re talking about is exactly what you have proposed in streamlining the process. . . . But I am not convinced and I am not comfortable with the idea that we would modify any zoning ordinances to allow greater density at the height that is being proposed in order to have inclusionary zoning. . . . I do not feel that inclusionary zoning produces the number that is needed to actually offset our shortage. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. and they are really not even affordable. They’re for moderate income people. I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that we may be considering even allowing greater height and density in order to encourage these developers to throw in some affordable units. The data is just not there. . . . We’ve had this embedded in our zoning codes since 2012, and when I asked you how many people had used it, the answer was zero. . . . We can’t build our way out of this affordable housing crisis. . . . The developers are the ones who want these changes happening, and I understand the benefits for our tax base, but I really think that following these guidelines of height are really going to end up destroying the thing that we love the most.”


ref: On the Southside, size matters
ref: Maybe last chance Tuesday to control appropriate building height on the Southside

Southside Planning Study goes to Community Development Committee Tuesday

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

ref: On the Southside, size matters
ref: S Beth Historic District Study 5 4 21
ref: SBHCC New Construction DG Final 05.04.21

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

6:00 PM – Town Hall
Community Development Committee Meeting
(1) HARB Eligibility Requirement Bill;
(2) South Side Planning Study

The attached documents are/will be located at the following link:



REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council Community Development Committee Meeting on May 11, 2021, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Committee Chair announces she will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office ( no later than 2:00 PM on May 11, 2021 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the Committee Chair will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Committee Chair will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963. NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:

Maybe last chance Tuesday to control appropriate building height on the Southside

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

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!

ref: On the Southside, size matters
ref: S Beth Historic District Study 5 4 21
ref: SBHCC New Construction DG Final 05.04.21

Dear Southside fans, this is a very last minute plea for you to “attend” the Tuesday 6pm YouTube Community Development meeting, which will review the consultants’ final recommendations for maximum building height in the Southside. As I understand it, the committee may make a recommendation to the full council after this meeting.

 Their proposal is to allow for a maximum 60 ft building height in the majority of the “commercial district,” (plus outer edges), with a set aside area in the vicinity of Comfort Suites and the Banana Factory, plus two sections of S. New St., where building heights of 90 ft. would be permitted! (Report and final recommendations both available at the link above)
Please look at the Southside map on page 8: aside from the 90 ft district, look at what could be changed with 60 ft buildings where there are mostly 1-4 stories now.
Think, for example,
*what it would be like to have a series of 60 ft buildings built along Morton Street where Tulum is?
*How about 60 ft buildings in the commercial core on 3rd Street, where there are now buildings that are no more than 40 ft?
**How curious is it that a small area has been cut out on New Street to include the 90 ft building height,  where there is a current proposal afoot for a high-rise on New Street?!
*How would the kind of increased traffic and number of cars that come with much taller, more densely packed buildings change quality of life (air quality, traffic congestion, evironmental effects of demolition, etc) here?
The HCC guideline change will be discussed Tuesday, too.
Since building height is probably the number one factor in maintaining the livable scale of a densely packed business area (and the even smaller scale areas that surround it), AS WELL AS a historic district’s appeal and integrity, we are pleading with you for support:
*Please attend the meeting on Tuesday
** Please add your voice to the already nearly unanimous public comment which has said that the proposed building heights are way too tall.
* Maybe even express your concern for environmental issues that come with demolition, highrises, and many more cars in our tightly packed business district and adjacent residential neighborhoods (and near several schools).
**Please ask our Council representatives to actually represent these voices of residents and those who regularly work and play on the Southside, and also those who live on the Southside
Demand/ask/tell them to reject the consultants’ height recommendations.
We get one chance to get this right, or we will be living with high-rises throughout our commercial core for decades to come, not to mention facing development of high-rises on the fringes of that core, which reach all the way west to Five Points, and east to Polk, and from the river up to Morton St.
Thanks for caring, and lifting voices of support for liveably scaled streetscapes and the integrity of our historic district, as well as other environmental aspects of quality of life for our Southside community.
In solidarity,
Kim Carrell-Smith

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: respect foresight of past city leaders on architectural conservation

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb at New St. and the Greenway:

  • symbolic epicenter for preservation v. development issues
  • can find the poster children here for out-of-scale development
  • make no mistake, we need development to grow our tax base
  • current developers and city leaders need to respect the vision of past leaders in establishing the historic district
  • canyon-like feel of massive structures has negatively impacted spirit of this multi-cultural arts district
  • no campaign donations from Bethlehem major developers so development proposals stand on their own merit
  • no payback for donations
  • able to judge projects objectively

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

Southside grocery will be “Ideal”

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

selections from Christina Tatu, “Former Ahart’s Market in Bethlehem to become Ideal Food Basket.” Morning Call, May 4, 2021.

Ahart’s Market in south Bethlehem will become an Ideal Food Basket after being purchased for $2.3 million last week by Juan Diaz, the owner of CTown supermarket.

The new market is slated to open this year. Renovations will take about six months.

Diaz will continue to operate CTown as a separate store on East Third Street, about a half mile from Ahart’s, 410 Montclair Ave.

Redevelopment plans for the full-service grocery store include exterior and roofing repairs; demolition of the interior space; new refrigeration, heating and cooling systems; changes to the store’s layout; and new store colors and logo.

The Bethlehem location was critical, however, for an area that is considered a food desert, without ready access to fresh fruit and vegetables. City officials sprung into action to identify a buyer for the property who would keep it a grocery store.

“Access to fresh food and healthy groceries at affordable prices is paramount to Southside neighborhood residents,” Mayor Robert Donchez said in Tuesday’s news release. “Maintaining and building sustainable neighborhoods remain a constant focus for city administration. I am thrilled Ideal Food Basket chose to locate here.”

Diaz said he’s excited to expand his footprint in the neighborhood.

“The opportunity to purchase this location was too good to pass up and I am pleased to be able to offer a full-service grocery store to the residents of South Bethlehem,” he said in Tuesday’s statement.

In the meantime, as residents wait for the store to open, the nonprofit Kellyn Foundation, based in Tatamy, will operate a Real Food Mobile Market 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday in Ahart’s parking lot.

The mobile market started last week and is expected to run until the new store is open.

Key Southside grocery site will live on

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Kudos to the Mayor, the Administration, Council members, and residents who sprang into action when Ahart’s folded.


selections from Christina Tatu, “Ahart’s Market in Bethlehem sold for $2.3 million with plan to keep it a grocery store.” Morning Call, April 30, 2021.

A buyer has closed on the former Ahart’s Market in south Bethlehem, paying for $2.3 million for the property with the intent of keeping it a grocery store, a listing agent and Bethlehem officials confirmed Friday evening.

The market, long considered a staple in south Bethlehem at 410 Montclair Ave., closed after 20 years last month. Steve Clipman, a real estate broker with TRUE Commercial in Lancaster, which listed Ahart’s, said a new buyer closed on the property Thursday, buying it for $2.3 million. It will take about six months before a grocery store is opened there again.

The Bethlehem location was critical, however, for an area that is considered a food desert, without ready access to fresh fruit and vegetables. City officials sprung into action working to identify a buyer for the property who would keep it a grocery store.

The 24,535-square-foot-building will undergo extensive renovations.

The property was only listed for two months before Thursday’s sale and attracted plenty of attention, he said.

Mayor Robert Donchez confirmed the sale Friday evening, though he also declined to identify the buyer. City officials have been in contact with the buyer for several weeks and they hope to make an official announcement soon, he said.

“I impressed upon this individual that it was very important to keep the facility as a full-fledged grocery store that serves a large clientele in Southside Bethlehem and Fountain Hill,” Donchez said. “He was very receptive. Over the last three weeks, our conversations were always positive and we knew they were getting very close to finalizing.”

Friday evening, Donchez said he was elated the deal finally went through and he looks forward to making an announcement.

“I grew up on the Southside and my mother shopped at that store until the day she died,” he said. “It’s one of the anchors of the Southside community.”

In the meantime, as residents await the re-opening of the market, the nonprofit Kellyn Foundation, based out of Tatamy, will operate a “Real Food Mobile Market” in Ahart’s parking lot every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The first mobile market is planned for this Saturday and will likely operate until the store re-opens, said Eric Ruth, head of the Tatamy-based Kellyn Foundation.

The nonprofit has a mission of bringing fresh and nutritious food to areas lacking reliable access. The mobile market will be filled with locally grown produce as well as healthy prepared foods, like plant-based cuisine, salads and breads.

City officials also partnered with Kellyn, providing $55,000 in Community Development Block Grant COVID funds to start a coupon program for eligible residents. Under that program, qualifying residents of the city can fill out an application to get a $20 coupon they can use weekly at the mobile market, explained Alicia Miller Karner, Bethlehem’s Director of Community and Economic Development.

Weigh in on Southside planning

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem

Lot’s going on on the Southside — weigh in!

selections from Charles Malinchak, “South Bethlehem’s 6-year neighborhood development plan proceeds to finalization.” Morning Call, April 28, 2021.

The next six years could see a south Bethlehem with improved playgrounds, more activities on the Greenway and rehabilitated housing in a plan discussed Tuesday night by representatives of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem.

The plan is called the Neighborhood Partnership Program, which works with city officials and resident input to design a six-year revitalization program to guide development of not only buildings but also amenities to neighborhoods.

The virtual discussion was designed to gain further input from residents and business owners on the plan, which has been in the creation phase since last year.

Besides what was discussed, Yari Colon-Lopez, director of the Community Action Development Corp of Bethlehem said the plan already includes several proposed projects.

“Keep in mind that this will be a plan and theme for the next six years … and what we want to know is, Does this address the community’s concerns?” Colon-Lopez said.

The concerns already provided from residents through surveys are: affordable housing, improving youth engagement in the community, having more events or festivals, small business development and retaining those businesses.

She said another element expressed by residents is, “A general concern is change is happening and they [residents] may not have a voice in this change.”

Emily Folenta, senior planner for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, said the plan will be available for public view on the CADCB website, but some examples contained  in the plan include:

    • Buying buildings to create landlords invested in the community.
    • Rehabilitating renter-occupied or private homes.
    • Improving playgrounds and other public places.
    • Expand the farmers market on the Greenway.
    • Arrange affordable family events on the Greenway and other public places.
    • Improve neighborhood walkability and lighting.
    • Improve streetscapes.
    • Develop a partnership with organizations to help resolve food insecurity.
    • Create youth education programs to develop workforce skills.
    • The public is encouraged to provide input to the plan on the CADCB website or in-person at its Bethlehem headquarters at 409 E. Fourth St., until May 4. The plan is expected to be finalized by May 12 or 13.

Plan on the table for Hill to Hill bridge renovation

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly wonders if a public meeting would be in order. Pretty complicated. See the virtual public meeting video embedded in Christina’s article


selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem’s Hill to Hill Bridge plan calls for $74.4 million in repairs and addition of a second span.” Morning Call, April 23, 2021.

A $74.4 million plan to fix Bethlehem’s Hill to Hill Bridge would add a new, two-lane bridge parallel to the 100-year-old span over the Lehigh River.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which is working with the Federal Highway Administration, is asking the public to weigh in on the proposed plan, which was the finalist among several PennDOT has been studying.

The public has until May 7 to comment on the plan, which is available on the PennDOT website.

It would rehabilitate the existing bridge and add a new parallel bridge on the southern side to provide additional width with two northbound travel lanes and a sidewalk. The new span would taper back and tie into the existing bridge just before the northern truss.

The proposal would also widen the left turn lane onto the 2nd Street ramp and add a right turn lane to westbound 3rd Street.

Other plans under consideration were to just rehabilitate the existing span, but that didn’t address significant traffic congestion issues.

Engineers also considered installing a new parallel bridge that runs the full length of the Hill to Hill Bridge, but that would inflate the cost to $100 million and require removal of the Fritch Fuel sign and its silos, which qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

Mike Alkhal, Bethlehem’s Director of Public Works, said city officials have been working closely with PennDOT to identify the main issues, which include the need for increased vehicular capacity and wider turning lanes. Other key issues include pedestrian access and increasing capacity on the 2nd Street ramp.

Morning and afternoon rush hours are always an issue in the area, and city and state officials have been trying to come up with solutions for years, Alkhal said, adding that he can remember traffic studies on the area from 10 or 15 years ago.

The project is complicated for many reasons.

Numerous utility lines, including fiber optic, telephone and cable lines, use the bridge to cross the Lehigh River, and four Norfolk Southern rail lines run underneath the bridge on the north and south sides of the Lehigh River.

The Delaware & Lehigh Canal Trail and planned Bethlehem Greenway are also near the bridge. The South Bethlehem Historic District must also be protected.

Officials also want to protect the Hill to Hill Bridge’s unique architecture, which qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places with its Hudson Trusses and closed-span arches.

The Hill to Hill Bridge provides a critical link for residents, businesses and services, and is important for the city’s many festivals, including Musikfest. PennDOT studies show that 300-350 pedestrians and 60-100 bicyclists use the bridge each day.

During Musikfest, up 150-250 pedestrians use the bridge per hour. The development of the Bethlehem Greenway trail is expected to increase pedestrian use.

Angela DelGrosso, senior vice president of the Bethlehem Chamber at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the biggest request she hears from North Side and South Side business owners is the desire to provide a pedestrian-friendly connection between the two downtowns.

Reducing traffic congestion when trying to get between the two downtowns is also crucial, she said.

DelGrosso was happy to see a six-foot-wide sidewalk included in the plan for the new, parallel span, but she and others in the business community want to see a dedicated pedestrian bridge. A pedestrian bridge is something city officials have been exploring for several years, but it would be separate from the PennDOT project.

Southside ruminations (2)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

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!

ref: [Anna] Smith’s Song of the South(side)
ref: You tell ’em, Kim!
ref: Southside ruminations (1)

continued . . .

Installment 2

I had a lot of questions last time, which I posed for folks who might be inclined to think of the Southside as a place that needs “saving.” I got caught up in the public, commercial areas last time, as I thought about the assets that might be unfamiliar, or invisible, to folks who don’t work, live or play on the Southside regularly — those who don’t really know the people, spaces, and connections that exist here. But then I thought: what about the people, and how they live as a community, as neighborhoods of connected residents (or not!)? What about the spaces beyond the commercial corridors? Which leads me to more questions…

To start with, have folks who are predisposed to think of the Southside as a place that needs saving actually explored the neighborhoods outside the commercial district? Could they decipher the historical clues that tell us about life here in the past, as they explore residential life in the present (the ethnic churches, the corner stores, the gorgeous views of the city and The Steel from St. Michael’s Cemetery?)? Do they know where the original synagogue on the Southside lies, hidden beneath the white brickcoat façade of what is now an apartment building? Have they walked down the 400 block of Montclair to see the impressive stone façade rowhomes built for merchants and professionals in the early twentieth century? Have they gone up Hayes Street, looking at CADCB-facilitated façade improvements that foreshadowed a 19% jump in homeownership on that block, to see the pride folks show in their homes (Flowers! gardens! Creative paint jobs! Porches with holiday displays all year long! Black Lives Matter flags! Trump flags! Pride flags! US and Puerto Rican flags!)?

Have they walked along the (very real) Southside street where you might notice the two mom’s with the Pride flag on their porch, who regularly call out to passing neighbors, living next door to the black family with three grade schoolers who race bikes up and down the hill, next to the older couple with the adult son with an intellectual disability who calls to neighbors whenever he sees them, living next to the Latinx man who likes to chat with everyone, next to the neighbor with four-year-old twins who was inspired to try her first flower garden because of the flowers she saw planted next door, who lives next to the young couple with a baby who are bilingual and talk with neighbors in both languages, sometimes in the same sentences? Do they know about these neighbors and neighborhoods, and do they think about the residents as people? Or do they think of “Southsiders” as a monolith wrapped in poverty, crime, and ill intentions?

Are they aware of the way small business flourishes in vibrant neighborhoods, as the handyman who installed a door for a landlord soon was working on the nearby house after chatting with the residents? The cement contractor who gets the next job, a few houses down? The radon abatement guy who gets the job up the block, the roofer who repairs the place next door when he’s done the big job at the neighbor’s house?

Do they know about neighbors who have a texting group so they can share family news, flag controversial new development proposals and city council activities, watch out for a neighbor who has mental health issues, and send requests to let one another’s dogs out?

Have they walked up State Street and met the Portuguese man who has two full lots of terraced gardens on the steep mountainside –full of vegetables, a grape arbor, a shrine to the Virgin Mary, and fruit trees –all immaculately kept?  Do they know about the extraordinary views up on First Terrace, and do they know that if you walk that street on the summer evening you will probably pass a young professional couple, he with dreadlocks to his waist, and she in professional attire, pushing a stroller as they walk from their home through Lehigh’s campus? Or perhaps they would see a senior resident with the amazing deer proof gardens who grows a remarkable number of diverse foods and flowers. (Have they seen the four-legged neighborhood watch patrols, the herds of deer that wander through our allegedly “urban” streets?!) Do they know about the pileated woodpeckers and other remarkable birds that swoop through our neighborhoods – even the occasional bald eagle high overhead — and the woods on our hillsides, with trails for mountain bikers and hikers?

I’d invite skeptical or curious folks to visit with some of us Southside boosters: take a walk with us, grab a coffee, eat a meal over here. Or just go shopping and talk with merchants, buy things! Stop in a corner market to get a drink. But also explore the neighborhoods. Greet people and look them in the eye. Admire the yard ornaments as well as the grand historic churches, the cool old Victorian buildings, and the comfortable, connected twins and rowhomes . . . the gardens, the trees. Appreciate the porch life, the stoop-sitting, the parks filled with people playing and talking, the music, and the peaceful coexistence of diverse long-term renters, homeowners, short-term residents, and the occasional college students; feel the neighborhood vibe. If you do this often enough, you might feel like you belong. And maybe you’ll begin to sense the assets — from our diverse residents to our historical and contemporary material surroundings, and from services and businesses to human connections — that make this such a positive place to live, work, and play.

Sure we have deficits, but let’s try to identify assets, and enhance them, and then figure out what local residents may think the deficits are for their quality of life and their stable neighborhoods, and work as a community to develop positive, community-engaged changes. Please don’t come here to save us; come here to join us. Then we can work on these things, together.

By the way, my apologies for repeatedly referring to folks who don’t know the Southside well as “they,” in my questions: it’s pretty “othering” (as sociologists say), isn’t it? We know a thing or two about that over here on the Southside. But we need to mutually rise above that polarization; I pledge to look for more asset-minded language to refer to folks who don’t know what they’re missing on the Southside. And assets-based reasoning suggests that if folks who are predisposed to be deficit-minded thinkers can get to know us and our part of town, Southsiders won’t always be “those people.” And then perhaps the Southside won’t seem to require saviors anymore . . .


Southside ruminations (1)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

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!

ref: [Anna] Smith’s Song of the South(side)
ref: You tell ’em, Kim!


I fervently hope your wastebasket thumping will continue, as we ALL work on seeking out and coming to understand our Bethlehem community assets, rather than getting stuck in a deficit-based mindset. As Kiera Wilhelm suggested, Bethlehem folks definitely need to actively work against the conscious and unconscious bias that sees the Southside as a place that needs “saving.”  In my experience, deficits-based thinking about the Southside arises when people don’t actually spend time in this part of town (other than for an occasional restaurant visit), nor have they really talked with the folks who live, play, and work here. I think those who live in or frequent the Southside might share a very different view of this place, based on our terrific assets, appealing quirkiness, eclectic historical architecture, great small businesses (we can always use/support more!), and generally very good quality of life. Pondering this gap has led me to a lot of questions. Lots. Apologies in advance.

Do the deficit-based-savior-thinkers know about the Greenway that runs like a ribbon across this side of town – I mean, really know what it is/does/means for the Southside and the city? Have they observed the folks walking, running, playing, chatting with one another, sitting on a bench and watching the world go by while greeting passersby, or have they stepped off at Bonn Place or Dinky’s for a quick beer or a snack? Do they say hello to the folks they pass, or do they put their heads down or clutch their wallets?

Have they shopped and observed the summer market that CADCB runs on the Greenway, where the director chats with passersby and gets to hear what’s going on in the neighborhoods, while folks hang out in the shade of the CADCB canopy and sip drinks and eat ice cream? Have they visited the fabulous new park area with great play structures that lie behind the former Holy Infancy School? Have they visited the community gardens behind Litzenberger House, where they might chat with the folks who sometimes sit beside them, admiring the plants, while chatting with the gardeners? Do they greet the friendly residents of Victory House who sit out in their garden, or do they turn their heads as they walk by?

Do they get their hair cut in a barbershop, because if they do there are myriad choices on the Southside, where you can get local news, talk with a barber-landlord with a million dollar portfolio, see children doing homework, maybe hear multiple languages at once, all while seeing Lehigh students and staff, as well as diverse residents, getting a shave, a trim, a shapeup.

Have they looked (really looked, and that means looking across streets and up at buildings!) at the eclectic streetscapes that tell the story of our city’s past? Do they see the potential to enhance those great buildings, to adaptively reuse those which are underutilized (especially above the retail spaces)? Or do they see “old” as outmoded, without really thinking about these structures? Do they only see one building or space at a time, disconnected from the human setting, or do they see the impact of buildings and eclectic historical architecture within the whole streetscape? Do they see the people in these places and on these streets, or do they imagine other people, in their place?

Do they hang out in the historically restored Deja Brew Coffee House and Deli, or at Lit with its nationally renowned baked goods, or Cafe the Lodge with its dynamite outdoor Serenity Garden (just off the Greenway!), or have they eaten at Casa de Campos with its bountiful, inexpensive food, or La Tia’s Dominican restaurant across from St. Michael’s, or maybe at Macchu Pichu, beside Peruvian families with children giggling and playing between tables? These are all places where so many Southside community members meet up. They are places where residents may meet with Lehigh folks, or perhaps they simply peacefully coexist in the same space, places where students descend after class for lunch, or where moms with babies meet to destress in the afternoon, where remote workers find quiet havens and free wifi, where friends connect.

Do the defict-based-savior-thinkers know where we buy groceries, or dance salsa? Do they know the fun of picking up a last-minute item, and winding up with far more, from the Dollar Max? Have they heard you can buy the most stylish glasses in the Lehigh Valley over here? Do they know where to get homemade sausages, whole octopus, or fresh wild caught salmon for $7.99 a pound? Have they stopped for fresh pan sobao, or impulsively picked up some tembleque or pineapple cheesecake when they’re in the Four Blocks International (Quatro Bloques) area? Do they perhaps buy that occasional three-course Dominican lunch for about $6?

Have they talked with the resident next to the great little park with the domino tables that was created by CADCB, about the facade grant that allowed her to fix up her house with an historically accurate porch roof that lends beauty and functionality to her home and the streetscape? Did they ever come to the annual tree lighting in that little park, where you hear Broughal singers and Three Kings sing carols in English and Spanish, and afterwards families walk down to the Southside library to make crafts and drink hot chocolate?

But I still have other questions, about what folks might be missing beyond our commercial areas and the Greenway. There’s so much more to understand about our people, our neighborhoods. But I’ll save those for the next post . . .


to be continued . . .

You tell ’em, Kim!

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

“It was recently brought to my attention, by a wise and insightful individual (who also happens to be a Southside resident, and one deeply involved in its community), that it is not uncommon for people to speak about the Southside, even subconsciously, as if it needs ‘saving’.”
Kiera Wilhelm, Gadfly Forum #5

You may not know this.

Gadfly does.

There is gang activity on the Southside.

I call them the Southside Warriors.

The membership includes Olga Negron, Stephen Antalics, and

Kim Carrell-Smith.

When it comes to slurs on the Southside, Kim showed at the April 8 Planning Committee meeting that she can be deliciously and politely feisty.

Finished with her professional comments on the proposed project at 404 E. 3rd., Kim put on her warrior hat:

  • the developer said something that got my hackles up
  • long-time resident, love the Southside
  • prefer not to hear developers say such things as “neighborhoods of no consequence”
  • because we live in those neighborhoods
  • and we value them
  • and we find them very safe
  • and secure
  • and our crime rate is lower than the north side
  • you are feeding an unfortunate perception
  • your perceptions are perceptions not reality
  • I hope you will not be feeding students (tenants at 404 E. 3rd) that same perception
  • I hope that you will give them a sense that they are in a great location
  • with a lot to do
  • and that those neighborhoods are not antagonistic toward them

It was a great moment, I tell you — Gadfly was hooting, hollering, and drumming on his wastebasket on his side of the Zoom!

Makin’ an utter fool of himself, he was.

In this vein and in this mood, Gadfly recommends that you re-read Kiera’s fine mini-essay on the Southside in Forum #5.

“Borinqueneers, venga lo que venga!”

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

selections from Andrew Scott, “Bethlehem honoring Borinqueneers, segregated Puerto Rican unit that fought in Korea, with memorial.” Morning Call, April 13, 2021.

“Borinqueneers, venga lo que venga!”

Army veterans Enrique Vasquez, 93, and Santiago Rosario, 95, both of Bethlehem, remember that battle cry, which in English means, “Borinqueneers, whatever it takes!”

Both men served with the Borinqueneers, or the 65th Infantry Regiment, a segregated Puerto Rican unit that fought in both world wars, Korea and the Global War on Terrorism.

The Borinqueneers were largely ignored for years until 2014, when former President Barack Obama awarded the unit the Congressional Gold Medal for serving with distinction. Individual members have received Purple Hearts and Silver Stars, some posthumously. The name Borinqueneer comes from Borinquen, the indigenous Puerto Rican native name for the island.

Vasquez, a Purple Heart recipient who served in the Korean War, and Rosario, who served in World War II and part of the Korean War, joined Bethlehem officials Tuesday at a groundbreaking for a memorial honoring the unit. The memorial, to be unveiled in September, will be a domino table mural surrounded by benches.

“I still have the scars from the shrapnel in my back,” said Vasquez, who arrived with a walker and sat on one side of Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron as Negron led the groundbreaking ceremony.

Vasquez fought with the Borinqueneers in Korea, where the unit was overwhelmed and repelled by enemy troops while defending the hill at Outpost Kelly in September 1952.

“I spent a month healing at a hospital and went right back out on the front lines,” he said, speaking through a translator.

Vasquez was with the unit in November 1953, when it successfully counterattacked enemy troops in the Numsong Valley and held its position until the war’s end.

“I joined the Army at 16 in 1943 and served 10 years in the Army and later in the Army Reserve,” Rosario said. “I helped the Borinqueneers defend the Panama Canal against the Germans. I served in Aruba, Trinidad and other places. Korea was a hard fight. A lot of the time, we were outnumbered with limited firepower.”

Vasquez and Rosario shared their memories with a diverse crowd of about 100 people, including local and state elected officials, waving Puerto Rican flags and gathered at the greenway at Taylor and Mechanic streets for the groundbreaking. The location is overlooked by a high-rise in the heart of Bethlehem’s diverse South Side community, not far from the Wind Creek casino.

“This is a testament to the centrality and import of Bethlehem’s Puerto Rican veterans and their families to our civic history,” said Mary Foltz, director of the South Side Initiative.

The groundbreaking comes after Congress passed legislation Jan. 1 designating April 13 as National Borinqueneers Day.

“I have had conversations with members of our community about creating some kind of monument to the Borinqueneers here in our city,” Negron said. “We decided on a domino table since the game of dominos is a Puerto Rican pastime and key part of our culture.”

On the Southside, size matters

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly hates himself for that title.

One reason he’s retiring.

Starting to cater to the prurient interest of his followers.

But there is, he must say, powerful concern about size of construction on the Southside.

The City, bless ’em, is trying to bring zoning ordinances more in line with the historic conservation district ordinances.

For instance, zoning now permits buildings in the Southside CB district (see map) 150ft. high, perhaps 14 stories, whereas, as we have seen abundantly even very recently, the historic guidelines and the HCC Commission are counseling 2-5 stories.

For a good point of reference, the Zest/Benner building at 3rd and New (306 S. New) is 88ft. high, 6 stories, and the Flatiron building is 75ft.

This draft plan proposes dropping the 150ft height allowance in the CB district to 90ft (6-8 stories, cf. the Zest/Benner building) in the section you see carved out by the dotted lines and to 60ft (4-5 stories) in the rest of the district. In addition, the draft plan proposes a “step back” of the top floor in the taller buildings.

Listen to the consultant outline the proposed zoning changes:

Though one developer spoke in favor of keeping the taller height and one resident made a strong case for doing so to create affordable housing, over a dozen residents spoke strongly against the proposed 90ft height allowance in the part of the CB district. Seth Moglen, for instance, spoke for Gadfly when he found the proposed 90ft height allowances “mystifying” from his sense of public opinion on the topic.

This was another one of Gadfly’s favorite occasions — the public spoke fairly and forthrightly against the 90ft part of the proposal, and the meeting ended with a promise that the city and the consultant would revisit the proposal on the basis of what they heard and that there would be further and with hope fuller dialog in the future.


“The latest edition of Southern Exposure which shows what South Bethlehem would look like with all these huge bigger buildings scares me.” (Roger Hudak)

“I really worry about the building heights . . . The more we develop South Bethlehem, the more we lose our little pockets of green space . . . I worry about putting up tall buildings by the really few green spaces that we have left.” (Rachel Leon)

“I would have thought if you interviewed people who live on the Southside, almost everybody would say 90ft is too tall.” (Seth Moglen)

“I wanted to ask about the eastern side of New St. It struck me as strange that that area was included in the 90ft height . . . was that cutout made specifically for the current proposal there?” (Anna Smith)

“It’s almost universal that everybody regrets [the Zest/Benner building] . . . 90ft is too much . . . environmental issues . . . cavern effect . . . will remove the character, the charm, the ambience. (Dana Grubb)

“The 90ft is really too big . . . vista down to the steelworks, an amazing gateway to Bethlehem, a remarkable way to experience the Southside as you come across that bridge, I would really hate to see a bunch of tall buildings thrown up in front of that vista.” (Kim Carrell-Smith)

“When looking at the 90ft proposal zone, it is directly in front of the two bridges that are coming in to the Southside, and so . . . you are going to enter in to a small city that is full of very generic looking tall buildings that hide all the beauty of all of the older, lower-rise buildings. (Joe Lule)

“I’d like to see the role of the Conservation Commission be stronger.” (Anne Evans)

“If you put 90ft across from [Lehigh Pizza and the Banana Factory], you will be in a huge shadow.” (Beth Starbuck)

“Would it not be more feasible and more appropriate to lower the height [to work with developers on density bonuses for affordable housing}.” Grace Crampsie Smith

” I worry if you have a 60ft height limit stacked up along the Greenway right where those parking lots are, which presumably could happen if the city sold those lots, it would really diminsh the quality of the Greenway. (Breena Holland)

“Approve one, it sets a precedent for others. If we let one builder do 90ft, well, then, the next builder is going to want to do the same. My other concern is the amount of additional traffic . . . going to take away the small town feel that Bethlehem is kinda noted for.” (Lou James)

“I really champion your cause for lowering the height of those buildings . . . you have an asset over there, and your architecture is part of it, and I think your future is in the smaller building area.” (Bruce Haines)

City presents draft report on Southside historic core

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Seems like a lot of Southside planning going on these days. Which is good. Your tax dollars at work.

Gadfly has tried to cover all the meetings. Click Southside on the right-hand sidebar and scroll backwards to come up to speed.

The City held a public meeting Thursday night April 1 to present the draft of a report on the historic core.

The meeting was well attended (c. 50), but, parenthetically, there were complaints about the meeting not being well publicized. Attendees complained of learning about the meeting late or by chance. Maybe some interested parties did not learn of the meeting at all. The City promised to work on better communication.

Here are a few of the slides from the beginning of the City presentation (sorry, bound to cause eye strain, I know): a summary of a resident survey, identifying concerns to balance, and culminating in the ever growing attention to affordable housing.

Gadfly will come back and focus on what he’s now hearing referred to at meeting after meeting as “the elephant in the room”: building height.

Notice that under consideration in addressing the “serious concerns” about affordable housing is offering the developer the incentive of increased building height.




to be continued . . .

On the Southside, how high is too high?

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly has nudged you a couple times about this meeting tomorrow night.

But he does so again after noting how Kim Carrell-Smith is promoting it: “How high is too high? Find out what the city is proposing for Southside building height limits this Thursday night. And let the city know your opinion!”

How high is too high?

Gadfly is more than ever intrigued now.

Do you suppose the consultant report will make a recommendation about the thorny question of heights?

We have tall buildings on the Southside — Rooney and Zest, etc. We have one approved but not built at 4th and Vine. We have at least 2 proposed. The historic guidelines talk of a 2-3 story kind of norm. Official discussions sometimes speak as if a 4-5 story is acceptable size. One tall building is used as an argument for another tall building. Developers talk of needing to feed their business models.

Such fun.

Got something to say? You know you probably do.

See you there?

Thursday, April 1, 5PM

Thursday, April 1, 5PM

Let’s view the draft consultant report on future of Southside downtown

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly covered the front half of this information gathering process in some detail (click here and look for several subsequent posts as well). Let’s see what fruits were borne.

from Anna Smith:

Thursday, April 1, 5PM

Thursday, April 1, 5PM

New additions to the Arts Trail!

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Urban Arts Trail

Two new murals will be unveiled on the Southside next Friday, First Friday April 2.

Click here for more info about the works, the artists, and where the murals will be located.

“Rebuilding & Remembering”
By: Devyn Briggs
“The piece celebrates the families that have joined our community after Hurricane Maria. It is also about growing up in two cultures, and the strength that comes from being rooted in family, community, and culture,”
By: Maltas Con Leche
“This image brings to life (with respect to) the SouthSide community, culture and spirit. We wanted to show diversity, and what we have in common. In the Valley – that’s food and our scenery.”

Keeping the Southside grocery store ball rolling

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Southside Grocery Store Survey / Encuesta

from Anna Smith:



Mayor Bob Donchez and Bethlehem City Council announced on Tuesday that they will do everything they can to secure a new grocery store for the Ahart’s location. The City government is currently in communication with the property owner and their real estate broker, and would like to provide input from Southside and Fountain Hill residents on what is most important for a new store at the Ahart’s location.

Following the closure of Ahart’s Market on April 30, the City of Bethlehem has arranged for Kellyn Mobile Market to provide access to fresh fruits, vegetables, pastas, beans, bread, and other products at a site near Ahart’s up to two times a week beginning May 1.

If you live in South Bethlehem or Fountain Hill and/or are a regular shopper at Ahart’s, please fill out the questions below to share your opinions about a possible new store and the Kellyn Mobile Market.


El alcalde Bob Donchez y el Concejo Municipal de Bethlehem anunciaron el martes que harán todo lo posible para conseguir un supermercado nuevo para la ubicación de Ahart’s. El gobierno de la ciudad está actualmente en comunicación con el dueño de la propiedad y le gustaría recibir información de los residentes de Southside y Fountain Hill sobre lo que es más importante para una nueva tienda en la ubicación de Ahart’s.

Tras el cierre de Ahart’s Market el 30 de abril, la ciudad de Bethlehem ha hecho arreglos para que Kellyn Mobile Market brinde acceso a frutas frescas, verduras, pastas, frijoles, pan y otros productos en un sitio cerca de Ahart’s hasta dos veces por semana a partir del 1 de mayo.

Si vives en South Bethlehem o Fountain Hill y/o eres un cliente de Ahart’s, favor de completar las preguntas a continuación para compartir tus opiniones sobre una posible nueva tienda y Kellyn Mobile Market.


Southside Grocery Store Survey / Encuesta

Move to replace Ahart’s off to a fast start

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

“We have 500 signatures and counting,”
Anna Smith

The Mayor and City Council president Waldron lead off Tuesday’s City Council meeting by immediately assuring everybody in the audience that everybody in the City power structure was already behind the “Ahart” resolution on the agenda and already working on a replacement grocery store.

Calling in were Fountain Hill Board member Will Rufe, Bethlehem Food Co-Op officer Heather Terrible, Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb (reminding that Covid relief funds might be applicable), petition co-organizer (with Veronica Moore) Anna Smith, resident Delia Morrero, resident and City Council candidate Rachel Leon, and resident and Lehigh staff member Carolina Hernandez.

Anna Smith announced that “We have 500 signatures and counting” on the petition letter to the Mayor and City Council.  (What a network!)

Followers will find Dana Grubb’s “Replacing Ahart’s Grocery Store” Facebook post quite interesting. Lots of relevant facts and info there.

The move to save a crucial grocery source in the west Southside is off and running nicely.

selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem officials searching for grocery to replace Ahart’s Market.” Morning Call, March 16, 2021.

Bethlehem officials are actively working to find a replacement for Ahart’s Market in south Bethlehem, an area already known as a “food desert” which will become even more starved for fresh fruit and vegetables should the community grocery store close its doors at the end of next month.

A resolution was introduced during Tuesday’s City Council meeting urging city administrators to investigate incentives that would keep a grocery store operating at Ahart’s 410 Montclair Ave. location. The resolution, sponsored by Councilman William Reynolds and Councilwoman Olga Negron, comes about a week after the store announced it will close its doors by April 30.

Mayor Robert Donchez said city officials have been investigating feasible incentives for continuing operation of a grocery store there since the closure was announced.

“I support council’s resolution and we are already investigating all options for incentivizing a new grocery store at this location. We are prepared to work with the right tenant to offer all the tools in the toolbox,” Donchez said.

He announced Tuesday that the city has arranged for the Kellyn Foundation to increase healthy food access in Bethlehem. With financial assistance from the city’s Community Development Block Grant COVID funds, the Kellyn Foundation will be adding another day or two to its current “Eat Real Food” Mobile Market, which already makes a stop in the South Side.

Since Ahart’s announced its closing, city officials have also connected with the property owner and put them in contact with potential grocery tenants, Donchez said. His administration is also working with LANTA to identify South Side bus routes that residents can use to access other grocers around the city.

They are also working with the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem and the SouthSide Arts District to map out existing fresh food options and publicize them to residents, Donchez said.

Residents Anna Smith and Veronica Moore started a petition that’s being circulated by the CADCB urging city officials to ensure a grocery store remains at the Montclair Avenue location. As of Tuesday evening, Smith said the petition had more than 500 signatures.

“This supermarket is an essential institution on the South Side and provides access to food for 25% of the South Side population that would not otherwise have walkable access to a supermarket,” says letter circulated with the petition.

“It’s a South Side thing. Everyone goes here,” but Ahart’s is closing — it’s time to act!

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Dear Friends of Southside Bethlehem,

As you may have heard, Ahart’s Market will be closing at the end of April. This supermarket is an essential institution on the Southside and provides access to food for 25% of the Southside population that would not otherwise have walkable access to a supermarket.

When Food Lane closed at the same location in 2001, the Bethlehem mayor used every incentive available to attract a new supermarket to the location. Please join us in encouraging Mayor Donchez and City Council to once again do all that they can to secure a new supermarket for the Ahart’s location by doing one or more of the following:

  1. Add your name to a letter from community members to the Mayor and Council
  2. Call in during public comment at a City Council Meeting. Next meeting is Tuesday, March 16 at 7 pm
  3. Email the Mayor and City Council at: and

Questions? Concerns? Ideas? Send me an email and let’s chat!

Please feel free to forward to any friends who might be interested.

In solidarity,

Anna Smith


selections from Christina Tatu and Ryan Kneller, “Longtime Bethlehem grocery store closing amid pandemic.” Morning Call, March 10, 2021.

The Bethlehem location of Ahart’s Market is closing at the end of April, a manager at the store confirmed Wednesday.

The South Side store at 410 Montclair Ave. has been a staple of the neighborhood for 20 years.

It will close April 30 because of slower sales caused by the coronavirus pandemic, manager Luis Morales said. Fewer students have been shopping at the store as Lehigh University switched to remote learning during the pandemic, which also affected sales, Morales said.

Customers at the store Wednesday afternoon were shocked and saddened by the news. The closure of Ahart’s leaves South Side residents, many of whom are low income and without transportation, with one major grocery store, C-Town, on Third Street.

“I hope they find someone to buy and keep it open. A lot of older people walk here,” said Donna Cardenas, who has been shopping at Ahart’s for eight years, ever since she moved to the area from New York.

Cardenas said she will miss the fresh baked bread that’s available every Sunday morning.

Jessica Bonilla, who lives one block from the market, said she’s been a shopper almost every day for seven years.

“It surprised me when I heard they were closing,” she said. “It’s a clean store and I like the bread.”

Latoya Murry has been shopping at the store since she was a child, when it was still a Food Lane. Now she shops there with her children.

“It’s a South Side thing. Everyone goes here,” she said. “It’s sad to see them close. I do hope someone does something with it. It’s just part of the South Side. Everyone kind of knows each other here.”

In discussing the imminent arrival of Ahart’s in October 2001, then-Bethlehem Mayor Don Cunningham noted that the former Food Lane was the only supermarket in South Bethlehem. It was heavily relied upon by residents and Lehigh University students.

So crucial was the store, Cunningham said, the city was provided low-interest loans and other financial incentives to lure Great Valu to south Bethlehem.

“In that neighborhood, it was critical for us to attract another supermarket,” Cunningham said, “So we created some incentives.”