Southside Vision

Latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem

Based on a belief in economic and social justice, Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB) improves the quality of life in south Bethlehem by fostering economic opportunity, promoting community development, and empowering residents to actively participate in the decision-making process regarding the future of our diverse community.

“Empowering people and transforming South Bethlehem”

———–

On February 18 the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem hosted a meeting in which director Dottie Yadira Colon-Lopez asked the assembled group the pregnant and poignant question, “What’s your vision for the Southside?”

The CADCB is formulating the next phase of its Southside Vision program.

Gadfly’s betting that most of you, like him, are not familiar with this remarkable organization. And we all should be. So he encourages you to listen at some length to Director Dottie describe CADCB’s productive and fruitful activities.

It’s truly a great story.

One that we all should know.

Please give a listen.

You can follow along on the slides below.

And then in subsequent posts Gadfly will capture for you a portion of the February 18 discussion that followed the vision question.

 

Resident suggests sending an “unambiguous message” to the developer

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New
ref: “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”
ref: “What we have in front of us is going to be a big stretch for us”
ref: “Going to 5-6 stories definitely wouldn’t work”
ref: Southside developer blows some smoke
ref: The developer plays hard ball

Historical Conservation Commission meeting on proposed new construction on South New St. February 22, 2021: chapter 3.

HCC chair Lader turned to public comment.

Which public comment — calling out the developer for a clearly improper proposal and calling on the Commission to do its sworn duty — made Gadfly proud and provided the coup de gras for the proposal in its current form.

The comments are all short, and Gadfly encourages you to at least listen to some.

Model public participation. Democracy in action.

Gadfly loves your voices. Take the opportunity to listen.

It’s difficult to choose between them, but if you have time to listen to only one clip, Gadfly would recommend Seth Moglen’s.

Hard, economical, no nonsense, bulls-eye words there.

They sum up the situation for Gadfly.

———-

Anna Smith: “You’re here to filter out the argument that things can only be done one way and that passing up a single development opportunity will doom our community forever after. . . . You know that the developers have learned how to play the game, ask for 12 stories when you want 8, which the evidence suggests is what the developer is aiming for.” A conclusion that Smith backs up very nicely by doing some math with the data about parking spaces.

Kim Carrell-Smith: “Compatibility, that is, being context-sensitive . . . is vital in historical areas.” Carrell-Smith draws on research studies such as we’ve seen in her “Historical preservation pays” posts, reminds the Commission of the guidelines, reminds them that height matters. She points out that there are no renderings of the streetscape from the north, which perspective would clearly show how out of scale the proposed building is. “I urge you to maintain the integrity of your guidelines.”

Dana Grubb: Grubb, who helped write the ordinance, wonders why we have guidelines when he sees this proposal. He worries about creating a canyon in this area of New St. “It’s almost disingenuous” for a developer to come in with this kind of proposal. What would happen if such a thing were to be proposed on the Northside. He questions the sincerity of the developer. Too many open questions. “Your charge is to help protect that district.”

Rachel Leon: “Affordable housing doesn’t always mean accessible housing.” The price of these apartments is double, triple the amount of a mortgage. Leon is also worried about the negative affect on the air quality from the construction, even if short-term.

Al Wurth: The historical district is a small place, and it’s not good to jam such an inappropriate structure in.  Worth is worried about the building looming over the street and encroaching over Graham Place and especially the Greenway. And how about air rights? “I’m depending on the Historic Commission to protect us from this overreach.”

Breena Holland: You must evaluate the building for its compatibility with predominant building size in the district between 1890s and 1950? Why is the developer and some of the public referencing more modern buildings. The size at the Zest building is the exception that tests the rule not the exception that proves the rule. The Zest building does not fit. We still need the rule. Imagine the sun being blocked on the New St. corridor. This proposal would create a dark canyon, a tunnel kind of feeling.

Seth Moglen: “This is a simple and straightforward situation.” The project is “grossly out of line” with the guidelines. The developer has indicated a “deep disrespect” for the Commission and the Southside. The people speaking here are deeply committed to the vitality of the Southside, people who would support “responsible development” at this location.  “This is simply a project which is entirely out of scale,” and the Commission should send an “unambiguous message” to the developer, who is trying to “strong arm” the Commission. Tell them they must bring a project which is in scale.

———-

So The HCC decided against voting on the developer’s request to approve demolition. They approved a motion to do nothing at this time.

What’s next?

Gadfly is not sure.

At the end of the meeting chair Lader offered to the developer that he had received “clarity.” The developer agreed. But said nothing more.

We’ll have to see what happens. Ball in the developer’s court again. HCC in the middle again.

Gadfly worries about the politics.

He hears the developer several times refer reassuringly to his several meetings with the Mayor, City Administrators, and even Council members.

Even Council members.

And wonders what signals he is getting from those sources.

The developer plays hard ball

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New
ref: “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”
ref: “What we have in front of us is going to be a big stretch for us”
ref: “Going to 5-6 stories definitely wouldn’t work”
ref: Southside developer blows some smoke

Proposed streetscape February 15 — HCC meeting February 22
showing Rooney Building***

Historical Conservation Commission meeting on proposed new construction on South New St. February 22, 2021: chapter 2.

Gadfly has said that the developer blew some smoke.

No malice intended. That’s what developers do. Just part of the dance.

But we expect our volunteer representatives to be street smart.

Listen in now as the Commission members engage with the developer during this second visit on the project.

Frankly, Gadfly feels a bit tentative about new HCC chair Gary Lader. Chair Lader felt at times a little too willing to compromise on the height guidelines for Gadfly’s liking. For instance, he suggested that the developer include the Zest building (306 S. New) as a point of reference and said that “we” were “hoping” the developer would come back with a proposal in the 8-story range. Maybe Gadfly is not being fair saying so. Maybe in his role as facilitating chair, Lader feels he needs to keep the conversation going with the developer on amicable terms, keep him hooked, as it were. But there’s a time or two in the meeting when Commission members speak back rather strongly to their chair. For instance, when chair Lader talks about the 8-story “building across the street” as point of reference for a “compromise,” he is immediately and rather dramatically met with a chorus of “Hold ons” from his committee, reminding him that the Zest building is 6-stories, was itself an exception to HCC guidelines, and is not considered a contributing factor to this proposal. “Right, ok,” he replies. As if awakened.

In any event, Commission members responded firmly to the developer. This “isn’t close to what I suggested,” says Seth Cornish. “I’m afraid I find it somewhat discouraging that it comes back one story taller,” says Beth Starbuck.

In response to a direct question about the new 13-story design from Commissioner Starbuck, the developer explains that it was added (“in haste” — an excuse? — since they had to submit new plans for this meeting) because of an adjustment made necessary to keep the facade on 321-323 that the HCC requested last meeting and that some details in the design would be “rectified” later.

Felt like more smoke to the Gadfly.

And for the second time Commissioner Cornish pointed out that “we’re avoiding the elephant in the room.”

Now it becomes really interesting. You have to listen to this.

The point in the dance when the developer plays hard ball.

Listen in.

We will continue to do our “homework” on such things as the size of the building (implying a belief that a size above HCC guidelines is negotiable), says the developer, but if the HCC doesn’t give approval now to demolish the building, “then the project goes away today.”

The project goes away today.

Badda-boom!

Do you have a “comfort level” to cut the size of the building in half, asks chair Lader pointedly? “Not yet” is the reply. But “we want you to vote tonight” on the demolition.

Watch what you ask for is always good advice.

At which time chair Lader turns to comment from the public, of whom there were a healthy 30 or so Zoomed in.

*** Even Gadfly knows the Rooney Building is grandfathered in and should not be part of the discussion. Including it is more smoke from the developer.

to be continued . . .

Southside developer blows some smoke

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

Proposed streetscape February 15 — HCC meeting February 22

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New
ref: “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”
ref: “What we have in front of us is going to be a big stretch for us”
ref: “Going to 5-6 stories definitely wouldn’t work”

You are wondering how last night’s meeting at the Historical Conservation Commission on the proposed development of 319-327 S. New turned out.

Gadfly was rather astonished at what occurred.

Remember that the ball was in the developer’s court.

The upshot of the January 25 HCC meeting on this project was the identification of several issues for the developer to address last night — especially the 12-story height of the building.

On January 25, Chair Gary Lader had called the 12-story height a “big stretch” for the HCC.

To a person, the Commissioners who spoke January 25, while recognizing appropriate stylistic elements in the facade design and positive aspects in the concept (apartments plus Food Court), had substantial concern about the height.

Commissioner Seth Cornish, for example, laid down a marker: a 5-story limit for the new project.

You will share Gadfly’s astonishment when you hear that the developer came back last night with the 13-story design that you can see in the rendering of the streetscape above.

13 stories. One more than last time.

WTH!

Without mentioning the height issue, the developer proposed dividing the issues. His desire for last night’s meeting was solely that HCC vote to approve demolition of the 3+ buildings (they would save the facade at the 4th building 321-323 S. New, as HCC had requested) with the understanding that the developer would not “pull the permit” for demolition nor actually perform the demolition till the issue of the size of the building was decided.

Gadfly likes to give you the flavor, the drama of the meetings he covers, not just the bottom line, so he invites you to listen to the developer make his pitch. You will recognize that, like on January 25, he again heaps up positive aspects of the project to obscure the height issue.

 

However true and good in what the developer says, it is all off-point, off the main point. He’s blowing smoke.

Commissioner Seth Cornish has a good smoke filter, though, for he immediately responded to the developer’s peroration with “I want to cut through, you know, to the elephant in the room, which is the height.”

to be continued . . .

Share your thoughts on the proposed 12-story building on south New!

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

TONIGHT
HISTORIC CONSERVATION COMMISSION
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2021 AT 6:00 PM
*THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING*
Members of the public may enter the meeting via GoToMeeting at
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/598085605
or via the phone at: +1 (571) 317-3122 Access Code: 598-085-605

This is the important meeting on the proposal for a 12-story building in the 300-block of south New St. that Gadfly has spent several recent posts describing. This is your chance to weigh in on the proposal and to see an important resident-run City ABC (Authorities, Boards, and Commissions) in operation.

Gadfly,

I’m writing to share information on a significant development project proposed for the Southside downtown area and an upcoming opportunity to share your thoughts on the project at a public meeting on Monday, February 22 at 6 pm.

New York-based chef Rafael Palomino and developer Jeffrey Quinn have proposed a 12-story mixed-use development project for South New Street that includes 82 one- and two-bedroom apartments and a first-floor food court made up of Palomino’s restaurants. The current proposal includes a roof-top terrace, basement fitness center, and two community rooms for residents. The project requires the demolition of four structures: 319-323 New Street, which includes a single-story retail property currently occupied by JC Jewelry and Gifts, and a three-story structure with Lara Bly Designs and Car Village Title and Notary on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors; 325 New Street, which is a three-story structure that was acquired several years ago by the developer’s local business partners, Juan Carlos and Cara Paredes, and has been left vacant ever since, but which previously housed a bar on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors; and 327 New Street, which is a single-story building which was home to Pat’s Newsstand. The project will also extend to cover Graham Street from the third floor upwards. The developer’s original plans and an update can be downloaded here: ORIGINAL and UPDATE.

Since the project is located with the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District, it must go through a review process to ensure that it aligns with the Design Guidelines for the district. The Historic Conservation Commission reviewed the developer’s application at their January meeting and will continue to discuss the project at this month’s meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, February 22 at 6 pm. The HCC is currently discussing the proposed demolition of the four properties as well as the proposed height of the structure. They have recommended incorporating the historically significant structure at 319-323 New Street into the project and they have asked the developer to look into reducing the height of the structure.

As community stakeholders, I encourage your followers to attend the meeting to learn more about the project and express their thoughts during public comment. At this point, the HCC will accept public comment on the appearance of the building, and in particular on the proposed height of twelve stories. HCC members have emphasized that the area is characterized by primarily four and five story historic buildings, and have mentioned that the City is currently working with a consultant to better align existing zoning regulations for the historic district with the historic guidelines interpreted by the commission. Restricting building height has been a major component of the public feedback provided to the consultant.

It is extremely important that residents and community stakeholders are involved in determining the future direction of our downtown and neighborhoods. I hope that your followers will take some time to review the proposed project and provide feedback on the building’s appearance at Monday’s meeting, which will be held virtually.

All the best,

Anna Smith

“Going to 5-6 stories definitely wouldn’t work”

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New
ref: “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”
ref: “What we have in front of us is going to be a big stretch for us”

With a focus on developer arguments now, we can finish our examination of the proposal for a 12-story building on the Southside presented to the Historical Conservation Commission January 25.

It’s valuable that we have a grip on the issues for this controversial project since it is again on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the HCC, where, perhaps, a vote will be taken.

Remember that chair Gary Lader called the proposal a “big stretch” for the HCC.

Indeed, for all of the Commissioners who spoke, the 12-story height of the building was a stab in the heart of the proposal.

How did the developer respond?

As you might expect, the developer shied away from the subject of height as much as possible in making his pitch and answering questions, though he did eventually clearly say “going to 5-6 stories definitely wouldn’t work.” Here is a climactic interchange between the developer and HCC chair Lader. Lader seems to suggest to the developer that in further discussion, in order to better make his case, he might talk of height in relation to the Zest building across the street and talk in terms of feet rather than stories.

Instead of focusing on the problem of the height, the developer stresses:

  • other decisions such as the tall building approved at 4th and Vine
  • they’ll save the facade of 321-323 (but not the inside of the building)
  • that the apartments will include affordable housing (details not specified)
  • they’ve already modified the height from a previous higher height design (nothing specific)
  • that it’s a great design, appropriate for the area, for the future (not specified — is this a look away from history?)
  • if you want to keep things as is, that’s up to you (ironic to say that in front of an “historic” body — is this a denigration of history?)
  • that there have been multiple meetings with the Mayor and DCED
  • they’re doing stuff for the community, for the Greenway
  • they have passion, they’ve worked hard

Gadfly can see that economics — which, remember, is not the purview of this committee — is the elephant in the room. The building will plunk lots of people smack on the New St. corridor, and the Food Court has the potential for creating a lot of energy, a lot of vibrancy in what the food guy implies is a sleepy Southside. Listen to the developer and his food guy in full court press mode throwing everything but the kitchen sink into their case for their project. “Everything is spot on,” says the developer with wonderful understatement, “except for the height a little bit.”

All good except for the height.

In the only “public” comment at the meeting, Missy Hartney — much respected head of the Southside Arts District — positively drooled at the economic security and stability that infusion of new bodies, patrons of business on the Southside would provide.

A compelling point, thought the Gadfly.

Ok, understand the positions?

The ball is in the developer’s court.

They will return with design revisions and/or arguments to sway the committee at the Zoom meeting tomorrow Monday February 22.

What’s in your mind so far?

“What we have in front of us is going to be a pretty big stretch for us”

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New
ref: “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”

We’re going slow (as usual for Gadfly!) trying to get a sense of the dynamics that played out when the proposal for a 12-story building (82 apartments!) on the Southside came before the Historic Conservation Commission on January 25.

In the last post we looked in detail at Historic Officer Jeff Long’s opening presentation, one in which, while finding good things in the proposal, Long advised against total demolition on the site and advised that the height of the building was inappropriate.

Now let’s look at the discussion that followed Long’s presentation: first by the Commissioners in this post, then by the developer in the next post.

To a person, the Commissioners who spoke, while recognizing appropriate stylistic elements in the facade design and positive aspects in the concept (apartments plus Food Court), had substantial concern about the height. One Commissioner stressed that economics was not part of this Commission’s purview.

HCC chair Gary Lader:

Lader, who has called the project “exciting,” here lays out the mission of the HCC for the developer. The HCC focuses on “maintaining the historic exteriors of the buildings . . . the streetscape . . . the scale and massing . . . maintaining the integrity of these neighborhoods . . . We’re in a challenging position . . . We want to see development . . . help enhance and protect the community . . . We want to encourage folks like you to come in and do great stuff, but we gotta preserve some of these buildings . . . Right now what we have in front of us is going to be a pretty big stretch for us.”

Craig Evans:

“The building is attractive . . . The problem I deal with is the 12 stories being beyond what’s anywhere around it, and I’m not sure how to deal with that, but that’s the challenge I have to grapple with first. Stylistically, I think it’s commendable. In terms of development, I think it’s important to do. But we have to do it right . . . How high is it?”

Roger Hudak:

“It’s high, high, way too high . . . It’s like a cavern . . . The size of that thing bothers me . . . It’s way too tall . . . I just think it’s too tall.”

Seth Cornish:

“As a real estate broker, I’m really fond of development . . . make money . . . revitalize areas . . . a Southside that is predominantly 2-3-4 stories high . . . couple notable exceptions . . . that rhythm of 2-3-4 story buildings is one of the most important keys to our historic district . . . We are a historic commission, and while we are supposed to be concerned with economics, the economics are not really what drives us . . . What really we are charged to do is preserve what is there, the vibrancy of the theme of the area . . . My opinion is that in that particular location, 5 stories is historically appropriate . . . Above 5 stories, I’m probably not going to agree that it’s historically appropriate.”

Beth Starbuck:

“Something’s coming down the pike . . . we will have some more restriction on height, and it’s certainly going to be quite a bit lower than 12 stories . . . We need to make this building a lot shorter . . . That being said, there is a lot about the building that is very nice, and I really appreciate the effort that has gone in trying to making it have some of the character the surrounding buildings do.”

“The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate”

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

video
Historic Conservation Commission meeting January 25
mins. 46:40-1:43:52

“The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate for the immediate streetscape and, more generally, for the overall historic conservation district.”
Jeff Long, HCC Historic Officer

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall
ref: The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New

The discussion at HCC on the proposed 12-story mixed-use building on the east side of the 300 block of New St. during their January 25 meeting took about an hour.

Let’s break the lengthy meeting down into parts in order to more easily grasp what went on.

Per usual practice, HCC Historic Officer Jeff Long sets the table for the discussion between the Commissioners and the developers (mins. 49:30-1:09:20):

  • Min. 49:30: Long describes each existing building to be demolished in physical detail and historical context. The buildings date from the period 1880s-1900. For the most part original architectural facade features have been lost in alterations and renovations over the years, so several of the buildings now lack a defining architectural style.
  • Min. 56:20: Long lists each of the guidelines used to render his judgment about the appropriateness of the proposal. This is an official “historic district,” and it is governed by a set of national and local guidelines.
  • Min. 58:04: Long summarizes the developer’s proposal. A report submitted by the developer justifies demolition on the poor condition of the buildings.
  • Min. 59:40: Long identifies the 3 components of his evaluation/analysis: the demolition, the size and scale, the facade construction itself.
    • Min. 1:00:20 demolition: Long’s judgment is that buildings 319, 325, and 327 warrant destruction, but the building that houses 321 and 323 does not.
    • Min. 1:04:04 size and scale and proportion: Long concludes, “The current proposal for a 12-story structure is inappropriate for the immediate streetscape and, more generally, for the overall historic conservation district.” He uses what I will call the 4-story “Subway” building to the south of the site as the point of reference to say that the proposed 12-story building is out of scale with its surroundings.
    • Min. 1:06:58 other guidelines: Long finds some positive elements here and makes suggestions for some other elements and resources to be further considered. There are things that the developer does well in aligning the facade with its neighborhood and historical context.

Ok, where do things stand after Jeff Long “set the table”?

As Gadfly sees it (and he’s ready for correction), Long’s role is to be objective. He stops short of a judgment on the entire project. He does not render an up or down.

In Gadfly’s experience going to HCC meetings, the Commissioners can choose to follow him or not, just as City Council in a future step in the process can choose to follow the HCC judgment or not. Council has the last word. And they have rejected HCC rejections in well known “hot” cases.

But let’s think about where we are at this point in the meeting.

  • Long’s split decision on demolition seems very awkward. What is the developer to do with his plan or any plan if it has to work around keeping a structure right in the middle of his site?
  • The height of buildings in the Historic District here has been a particular sore point in the past. Witness approval for a tall building at 4th and Vine that has not been acted on yet. Witness the “Zest” building at 306 S.New. Long is categorical in saying the height is not appropriate. But there are tall, though not as tall as the proposed building, buildings across the street.
  • In talking about his last point, Long seems to be giving positive advice if the proposed height is approved or for a revised proposal for a shorter building if not.

The Commissioners must consider what Long has laid out, but experience would show that they are not bound to it.

Which has not set well in many quarters in the past.

Gadfly can remember a City Council meeting in which Councilwoman Negron bitterly decried the lack of attention to rules and guidelines.

And look at how follower Peter Crownfield responded to Gadfly’s previous post: “It is the HCC’s responsibility to enforce the historic district guidelines. This building does not fit the guidelines, so the developer should simply be told to come back with a proposal that does. The HCC is making itself completely irrelevant if it spends its time on the details of signs while ignoring glaring non-compliance with the guidelines.”

So, should a developer who proposes a 12-story building in an area predominately made up of 2-3-4-story buildings simply be told straight out that it won’t fly?

Let’s go on in the next post to see how the discussion went.

How would this situation play out in the north side Historic District?

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

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. He is currently a candidate for the office of Mayor.

Gadfly,

I’ve been reading the commentary provided by Kim Carrell-Smith concerning development in general and in the Conservation District in South Bethlehem. As always, Kim’s analyses are spot on in my opinion and on point with the amazing research she completes. In fact it agrees with everything I’ve felt and learned as a former city administrator.

The other thing that should be reviewed when considering demolition of the existing structures is whether any of them were recognized by both the City and Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission as contributing resources for the creation of this district. If so, and I suspect they may have been (I just can’t recall since it has been about twenty years since I helped to craft the Conservation District Ordinance as a city administrator), then the erosion of the base line through this proposed demolition should be of grave concern.

Finally, one has to wonder how this situation would play out in the Bethlehem Historic District on the City’s north side. Is there less concern because it’s just the south side? Old attitudes towards the “other side of the tracks and river” may still be at play, and I firmly believe that it is time to draw a line in the sand when it comes to development anywhere in Bethlehem, and specifically on the south side.

Development in any city is organic to a city’s progress forward, but that development must respect the existing built environment, be appropriate, and not destroy the charm that gives a community its essence to begin with.

Dana

The HCC discusses the proposal for 319-327 S. New

Latest in a series of posts on 319-327 S. New St.

“It’s way too high.”
Roger Hudak

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall

Apropos of what Kim Carrell-Smith has us thinking about, let’s begin to examine the recent proposal for a 12-story building at 319-327 S. New St. on the Southside.

Gadfly was mistaken when he posted about this last time. Then he said the whole block from the Subway on down to the Greenway was involved.

Not so. Only the 4 buildings, 5 addresses marked here: 319-327 S. New St.

It is proposed that these 4 buildings, 5 addresses will be replaced by the 12-story rendering below.

This proposal was discussed at the Historical Conservation Commission on January 25. HCC members are Gary Lader, Craig Evans, Seth Cornish, Roger Hudak, Mike Simonson, Beth Starbuck, Jeff Long.

The scale of the proposal was a significant issue.

No vote was taken.

Get oriented to the proposed project, and Gadfly will return a time or two and go into more detail about the meeting.

selections from Ed Courrier, “Board gets new leadership.” Bethlehem Press, February 16, 2021.

Gary Lader and  were unanimously elected president and vice president respectively at the Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission’s first meeting of 2021 on Jan. 25. New member Mike Simonson replaced Phil Roeder, who retired in December 2020.

Lader and Evans presided over an agenda that included discussion of proposed demolition of a row of vintage buildings that comprise 319, 321, 323, 325, and 327 S. New St. to make way for a 12-story mixed use apartment building.

The team representing the ambitious project included developers Rafael Palomino and Jeffrey Quinn, architect Jordan G. Clark and Anthony Scarcia Jr. from Allied Building Corporation. They sought consent from the board to tear down all four buildings and replace them with a structure with a 6,500-square-foot ground floor. As the new building’s height increases, the structure would span the existing alley at E. Graham Place to increase the footprint of each story to approximately 8,000 square feet. The support columns and upper stories would include a strip of land at 317 S. New St. which abuts the South Bethlehem Greenway.

The single story wood frame building at 319 dates from circa 1900. The painted brick Italianate building at 321-323 is three stories, with residential over retail. It dates from 1885 and rear additions were built during the 20th century. Its neighbor is a heavily altered 3-story vacant stuccoed building also built around 1885. A single story retail building at 327 and its rear addition are circa 1900. According to historic officer Jeff Long, defining architectural details for this building and two others have been lost over the years. He recommended retaining the existing building at 321-323, as it contains original architectural details.

Long argued the proposed 12-story structure “is inappropriate for the immediate streetscape and more generally, for the overall historic conservation district.”

The applicants produced an engineering report that pointed out various code violations and structural deficiencies found in the row of buildings, in an effort to support demolition.

When asked, Quinn said they could look at saving the façade of the building at 321-323 S. New St., but emphasized that, “everything inside the building is a public safety hazard and finished its useful life.”

According to Quinn, the design and materials for the new construction would reflect the historic nature of the surrounding district.

“The building is attractive,” said Craig Evans. But its 12-story height was a problem for him.

“It’s way too high,” exclaimed Roger Hudak.

Seth Cornish noted the structures on the Southside were predominantly two to four stories high, “with some notable exceptions.” He said this rhythm was key to the district’s identity and he was not willing to approve anything over five stories.

With his restaurant business background, Palomino described his vision for a food court on the first floor of the project.

The applicants explained that post-COVID technology for occupants would be built into the project to make it safer. There was an affordable housing component, as well.

When Lader called for public comment, Downtown Manager Missy Hartney spoke in favor of adding the “beautiful looking building” to the “heart of the downtown.”

The board agreed to table the proposal, with the applicants to return with a revised design. Ken Loush recused himself from this one agenda item.

Southside Community Meeting: What’s your vision for the Southside?

Latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Community Action Development Corp. of Bethlehem
Southside Community Meeting: What’s your vision for the Southside?
February 18 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Register

We are inviting South Bethlehem’s residents and the business community to join us online for a community meeting to discuss the future of Southside.

Your unique perspective on the current strengths and challenges of the Southside, and your vision for improvements to be made in the coming years, would be very helpful in the development of the new south Bethlehem Neighborhood Plan.

As we approach almost 20 years of Southside Vision*, our current neighborhood plan and the focus of much of our work in the community. Your input gathered during these meetings, surveys or interviews will assist in the creation of a new neighborhood Plan.

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*Southside Vision 20/20, a 6-year revitalization program of Community Action Development Corp. of Bethlehem (www.cadcb.org) and the City of Bethlehem, and with support from Provident Bank, Peoples Security Bank & Trust, and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.

Dana Grubb: proposed South New St. project “an insult to the people of this community”

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

ref: Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall

Dana Grubb is a candidate for mayor. This post on his Facebook page yesterday about a proposed new project at New St. and the Greenway drew a substantial number of comments. Right now virtually all of the comments are negative about the project, though Mark Iampietro suggests that 12 stories is an opening gambit and the developer fully expects to scale down.

———-

DG’s original FB post:
Proposed for South New Street, a 12 story building where 1-2 story structures currently exist (Pat’s Newsstand).

MY THOUGHTS:

Why any developer would propose something of this scale and mass in the South Bethlehem National Register Historic District is an insult to the people of this community. It demonstrates sheer contempt for Bethlehem’s history and its ordinances, and is completely defiant of the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines.

Furthermore, the City is currently undertaking a study of what residents want to see happening in this district!

Finally, gutting existing business districts a la our neighbor Allentown has done further erodes quality of life for all residents due to the gentrification it creates.

While the architectural design has some appeal, this 12 story building overwhelms the streetscape and insults the efforts of prior city administrations and councils to preserve the single most marketable asset Bethlehem has, its history.

———

Two of DG’s replies to posters enhance his view of the Southside project:

don’t try to paint me as anti-development. I’m for respectful, appropriate scaled development. I also helped write the historic district ordinance that applies to that area working with then Council President Mike Schweder, PHMC’s Michele LeFevre, and City Historic Officer Christine Ussler to craft something that would allow for future development at a scale that respects the historic resources and architecture in that area. I understand growth very well, but Bethlehem does not need to become Allentown east where you completely gut a downtown ala 1950s-1970s urban renewal and remove its character.

the South Bethlehem Historic District was created about twenty years ago. Properties like the Rooney Building, Litzenberger House and Flatiron Building are therefore grandfathered into that district because they were built prior to its creation. Their existence is not justification to do the same thing.The parking garage and Zest building were built larger than should have been permitted under the city ordinance and Secretary of the Interior’s Standards that apply. There was a lot of politics at work during that process and when several Members of Council (Reynolds, Callahan to name two) and Mayors accept very large campaign contributions from developers, well developers expect results. It’s why I won’t be accepting those kinds of contribution to my mayoral campaign fund. I’m running to represent the residents of Bethlehem, who far too often have been kicked to the curb. As you drive across the Fahy Bridge notice how the Zest and city garage completely obliterated the stepped up streetscape to the point where you can’t even see a hint of the West 4th Street building skyline.

Another developer thinking big . . . er, tall

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Historic Conservation Commission meeting January 25, 2020

Ok, now this one caught Gadfly by surprise.

His own fault.

Since the pandemic, he has had to give up his rounds of attending the City ABC’s, like the historic commissions, in person.

And, old technology-challenged dawg that he is, he hasn’t come up to speed on attending these meetings via Zoom.

So Gadfly was surprised at City Council Tuesday night to hear Councilman Callahan-Planning Director Heller exchange a few words about a 12-story building at New St. and the Greenway.

Sure ’nuff.

See the part of the January 25 HCC agenda on 317-327 S. New.

Picture it: that’s from the Subway down to the jewelry store at the Greenway.

If you good followers will click on the link above and choose the 317-327 S. New supporting documents and then choose file “06 . . . New St. Renderings,” you will find several more delightful pictures like the one above.

And if you browse files “01” and “03,” you will find info about a 12-story building, with 82 apartments, first-floor commercial, Palomino Food Court, and parking at the New St. garage.

The building will interact with the existing surrounding buildings and Greenway. The new building will be designed to compliment the historical charm of the area as well as nearby new developments. The building will be situated as such that it appears to be multiple buildings from the facade as to not create an overstatement within the neighborhood.

Clark+Quinn Development completed a comprehensive marketing/Demographics study of the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Housing Market Area (Allentown HMA) and specifically, the downtown Bethlehem area. We believe there is a strong need for market rate apartment housing for workforce individuals, healthcare providers, young professionals, life science and university communities, and graduate students. Amenities such as a gymnasium, a food court, and a roof top patio are being proposed to accommodate the inhabitants of the project. We believe our development will encourage other area residents to visit new and existing downtown retail venues, growing the downtown and growing the tax base.

As the population of the Bethlehem area continues to grow and evolve, so must the structures that house its community and residents. The proposed development will do just that. Our hope is that by providing a housing development to serve the growing population, it will further activate the existing retail and restaurants in the Southside as well as engage the existing Greenway to further stimulate community life.

Wow!

The Southside has been receiving much attention.

The plan to perk up the New St. corridor from the bridge to Lehigh goes back several years.

There was a lively Zoom meeting November 19.

Right now there’s a Historic Southside Bethlehem Citizen Survey.

Etcetera.

At Council on Tuesday Planner Heller said that the developers got some ideas to think about from HCC and will return to HCC at a later date. No action taken. The video of that January 25 meeting is not available yet. Gadfly will be on the lookout for it and report on the meeting. He is very curious what the conversation was like.

A 12-story building?

The survey mentioned above had a specific question about the issue of height in the Southside historical district.

We know height has been a hot button.

Gadfly wonders if it was an issue for the HCC at the meeting.

More later.

Any thoughts at this time?

Last step before the voting on the ordinance to regulate student housing

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

An important ordinance aimed at regulating student housing especially around Lehigh University is working its way through the City bureaucracy.

The genesis of this ordinance probably goes back twenty, maybe even thirty years and is associated with Gadfly #1 Stephen Antalic’s grim depictions of the manifestly deleterious effect that the uncontrolled growth of student housing is having on traditional neighborhoods on the Southside around Lehigh University.

In recent years the chant for taking action to protect those neighborhoods and the quality of resident life therein is associated with Councilwoman Negron.

And see powerful recent statements supporting this ordinance by Anna Smith here and here.

In recent years DCED director Alicia Karner and Planning Director Darlene Heller have worked with all parties involved to bring the “Student Housing Overlay District” ordinance to the brink of a Council vote.

This student overlay ordinance proscribes a regulated geographical district of student housing. Current student housing outside that district is “grandfathered” as long as it continues to be licensed and inspected. New student housing outside the district is permissible but with fewer students allowed than housing inside the district.

Here from the ordinance itself is the statement of purpose:

The proposed ordinance has received substantial recent attention: at a Community Development Committee meeting October 22 (many resident voices for the ordinance, a few opposed), at a Planning Commission Meeting, at City Council December 15.

And now substantial attention at a Public Hearing before the City Council meeting February 2, where landlord voices opposed to the ordinance predominated (Council video mins 28:00-1:01:50), questioning such things as the inadequately narrow size of the overlay, parking, and the nature of grandfathering. Here is an example of a landlord comment.

The familiar voices of Southside long-time residents Anne Evans and Seth Moglen were heard after the landlord calls. Gadfly always like to point you to models of effective resident commentary, and he suggests that you listen to these calls by Evans and Moglen countering the landlords by honing in on the important intention of the ordinance. Evans speaks of the need to protect the availability of affordable housing on the Southside, and Moglen urges Council to see that the landlord arguments to expand the overlay boundaries are precisely the reason the ordinance is needed.

As far as Gadfly can tell, Council sentiment has unanimously favored this ordinance at every step. Landlord questions were explored with the City representatives Tuesday night, especially by Councilman Callahan, and all seemed to be resolved.

The ordinance will now appear on the City Council agenda for first reading and vote February 16.

Frankly, this feels like one of the most important actions by Council in the time that Gadfly has been Council-watching, and he hopes the ordinance succeeds as it seems destined to.

Public hearing on regulating student housing coming up Tuesday

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly has slightly edited this letter from Anna Smith.

Gadfly suggests you refresh yourself on this issue by looking at the letter petitioning Council to regulate student housing that many residents signed.

————

Gadfly:

I’m writing to provide a brief update on the Student Housing Overlay and accompanying regulations that are under consideration by Bethlehem City Council. The approval process has entered the final stages, and with [continued] support, we can ensure that Student Housing is appropriately regulated throughout the City, preserving and protecting affordable housing for families outside of the overlay zone. A Public Hearing on the zoning changes will be held on Tuesday, February 2 at 7 pm, prior to the regular City Council meeting. Following the hearing, Council will vote on the proposed changes at their February 16 and March 2 meetings.

If you would like to share your support for the zoning changes, we encourage you to speak at the February 2nd Hearing.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to send me an email.

Thanks for your ongoing support for Southside neighborhoods! Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who might be interested.

Anna

See powerful past statements supporting this ordinance by Anna here and here.

Find the official Overlay documents here

Don’t miss this Historic Southside Bethlehem Citizen Survey

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

This post from City Hall seems easy to miss, no fanfare, but seems quite important!

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Bethlehem City Hall

January 28

The City hopes to gain some input from residents, business owners and visitors regarding their views and preferences related to future development in south Bethlehem. Below are 2 links for the quick survey related to the south side planning study.

English version https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SouthBethlehem

Spanish version https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SurBethlehem

Please take a look and complete the survey when you have time. We’d also appreciate it if you can share this link with others that may be interested in the future development of South Bethlehem.

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Here’s the important rationale for the survey!

The City of Bethlehem is preparing a plan to address historic preservation and development issues within the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District.  This area is generally along the Third and Fourth Street corridors, west of Hayes Street and east of Wyandote Street.  The Plan will recommend revisions to the City’s Historic Conservation District regulations that currently regulate demolition of older buildings, changes to the fronts of buildings, and the exterior design of new buildings and additions.  There also are expected to be recommended adjustments to the City’s Zoning Ordinance.  There will be public meetings held in the upcoming months.

Riverport starting to whet our appetites!

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Such good news! (Reminds Gadfly to wonder what’s happening lately on the Banana Factory renovation front.) The Morning Call online article linked below has a great image gallery at which you should look.

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selections from Ryan Kneller, “First four vendors, including a brewery and Mexican eatery, announced for Bethlehem’s Riverport Public Market.” Morning Call, January 19, 2021.

The first four vendors of a highly anticipated public market on Bethlehem’s South Side have been announced, and they are likely to make your mouth water.

A start-up brewery, a local winery, a Mexican restaurant and a micro creamery have signed on to occupy the Riverport Public Market. The center is set to open later this year at the site of the former Starters Riverport restaurant at 17 W. Second St., the market and principals of Ashley Development Corporation announced in a Tuesday news release.

Before the pandemic, experiential concepts were among the strongest performers in both the retail and [food and beverage] world,” Natalia Stezenko, the market’s design and project manager, said in the release. “The pandemic has put those concepts on hold, and many experiential players that were thriving will simply not make it through the crisis without help. But, we see the public market model as the vehicle which can lead a resurgence of the experiential retail and F&B economy.”

In terms of a tentative opening date, the development team is “optimistic for November,” Stezenko added.

The forthcoming market’s vendors include:

Soaked Winery: Soaked Winery aims to create an environment “where everyone is welcome and where the stuffy heirs of wine snobbery fall by the wayside.”

Jealous Star Brewing Co.: Jealous Star Brewing Co. is the brainchild of restaurateur Ramiro Bravo, brewer Brendon Velasquez and Tim Kiss. The brewery, whose name is derived from Norse mythology, will focus attention on hand-picking ingredients catering to each style of beer.

TYT Lite: TYT Lite will be a new fast-casual Mexican concept from Ramiro Bravo, owner of Tacos Y Tequila in downtown Allentown and Palmer Township. TYT Lite will have street tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas and nachos on the menu for your on-the-go authentic Mexican cuisine fix.

Batch Microcreamery: Established in 2019, Batch will open a third location at the upcoming Riverport Market in Bethlehem. The micro creamery, which also has locations at the Downtown Allentown Market and newly opened Trolley Barn Public Market in Quakertown, offers super premium, hand-crafted ice cream that is made on-site.

Riverport Public Market, occupying a two-story, 24,000-square-foot space, will feature 24 food and beverage vendors and create “a vibrant new place to celebrate local food and craft culture,” according to the release.

In addition to showcasing unique, freshly made food and other high-quality selections from artisans, the market will host a variety of cooking classes and events featuring instructors ranging from in-house vendors and local chefs to nationally known cookbook authors in a demonstration kitchen.

Smith’s Song of the South(side)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

At the December 15 City Council meeting Anna Smith called in to support the “pending ordinance” resolution regarding the new ordinance regulating student housing, especially around Lehigh University.

This is a long-awaited ordinance designed, among other things, to protect Southside residential neighborhoods around Lehigh.

Anna devoted most of her supporting statement on the ordinance to her “personal perspective” as a Southside native and resident.

And in doing so Anna provided what Gadfly finds to be a wonderful definition of “neighborhood” and of “Southside” neighborhood.

You may have seen and heard her words yesterday in a business context, but now Gadfly encourages you to luxuriate solely in this vision of a residential quality of life separate from restaurants and parking garages and casinos and waterparks — a Southside many of us need to know exists and that must be preserved.

Listen to Anna’s excitement (4 mins.):

———–

 

I’d like to contextualize this policy change from my personal perspective.

I want to talk to you as someone who loves everything about South Bethlehem and who has spent the majority of my life living and working on its streets. I moved back here after 8 years away and decided to invest in the neighborhood that made me who I am, much in the way that my parents decided to invest in the Southside 33 years ago. Not because of ArtsQuest, or the Southside Arts District, or Lehigh, although those are all important aspects of our neighborhood’s character that make the Southside a great place to live. I moved back here because I want to raise my Latina daughter in a neighborhood where she won’t be the only kid speaking Spanish, and where she’ll hear Spanish on the street just as often as she will hear English. I invested in my neighborhood because I want my daughter to grow up like I did, with friends and neighbors of all racial backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. I came back because I believe in our public schools and want my daughter to be able to walk to Donegan Elementary in a few years. I moved back because I wanted to live within a five-minute walk of a playground, a pool, and the Greenway, restaurants, mini-markets, and the woods. I moved back because South Bethlehem represents the best of what it means to live in a true community. Sure, we have some challenges, like any community, but we have so much to be proud of.

And it is so important for our elected officials to understand that—not just at a surface level, or based on their own experiences on the Southside as outsiders, or from conversations with representatives of institutions… We need our elected officials and their staff to make an effort to listen and spend time with residents of all backgrounds that make up the vibrant, dynamic community at work in our Southside neighborhoods. To walk around, like I do, and chat with my next-door neighbor, a single Grandma who gives my daughter a little present for every holiday, and the young Puerto Rican couple with twins next door who always offer us food from the barbecue. The young married couple of women with the pit bulls who hang out on the porch every evening with their next-door neighbors, a black family with kids who race their scooters in front of my house and always ask to pet my dog. The older white man with a disabled son who always keeps the front of his house impeccably maintained and watches over the street. The Mexican family who just moved in this year but have already shown us all up with their holiday decorations. This is what my ideal neighborhood looks like, and where I chose to invest. We need you to understand why this is worth protecting and thinking about, not just today but each time you are asked to consider a policy change that will impact us.

The neighborhoods of the Southside have always had a certain reputation, and most of those who live here have rarely had a say in decisions that are made about it. We don’t have many elected representatives or appointed ones who live on our streets, and we often assume that no one from the other side of town cares about our neighborhoods. But things are changing, and folks from outside the Southside are now paying attention. New folks want to move here, to live or open businesses. Developers want to build, and others see opportunities to make a profit. And I want to be clear: I appreciate the energy and the fact that folks are getting excited about the neighborhoods that I love so much. But we can’t forget what is attracting these folks in the first place—the essential character of our community that has been here for a lot longer than I have. And we owe that to the people who defined these neighborhoods, who invested their time and livelihoods into these streets and homes, who send their kids to local schools, who watch over neighborhood parks and walk the Greenway to work every day. The families who opened businesses decades ago in a different economic climate, and who have won the love and support of generations of residents. Please remember them. As our Southside evolves into the future, we need to plan for the long-term and be proactive, lest we risk losing the very heart of our community and what makes it truly unique, and irreplaceable.

***That’s Anna and family at Saucon Park.

———-

Anna and her mother are dual “Sirens of the Southside.” Remember that her mother Kim Carrell-Smith has exhorted us to keep South Bethlehem funky!

Council acts “to protect and preserve Southside neighborhoods for everyone” (the Antalics ordinance)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Anna Smith is a Southside resident, full-time parent, and community activist with a background in community development and education.

Early in the coming new year, the important and long-awaited ordinance regulating student housing, much discussed here in previous posts (click Southside on the sidebar), will have a public hearing and go through the normal first and second reading process.

However, at their December 15 meeting, City Council passed a resolution making it a “pending ordinance” as of December 31, which, if Gadfly understands correctly, means that in a sense it is in effect as of that date.

Anna Smith tee’d up the vote superbly.

———–

Comment delivered to City Council December 15, 2020.

Good evening, my name is Anna Smith, and I live at 631 Ridge St in south Bethlehem. I’d like to thank the members of Council who took the time to attend the Community Development Committee meeting in October to hear from residents and other South Bethlehem stakeholders about their support for the regulation of student housing. In addition to the over 20 people who spoke at the meeting, over 100 additional stakeholders signed their names to a letter in support of the zoning overlay. Tonight, you finally have the opportunity to take action to protect and preserve Southside neighborhoods for everyone. For families, renters, homeowners, boarding house and group home residents, and, yes, students.

Why is this so important? You’ve heard from a lot of us, and we’ve given a lot of reasons – preserve affordable homeownership and rental opportunities, protect quality of life, encourage Lehigh students to live closer to campus to reduce the numbers of cars brought to campus, and encourage students to live in or near the business district so that they can easily patronize locally-owned businesses. Restrict haphazard development on steep slopes. Reduce evictions and displacement of long-time residents when properties are converted to student housing. Concentrate student housing in neighborhoods where it already dominates, making it easier for colleges and universities to keep tabs on issues of safety and social life.

Now, if those aren’t enough reasons, I’d like to contextualize this policy change from my personal perspective.

I want to talk to you as someone who loves everything about South Bethlehem and who has spent the majority of my life living and working on its streets. I moved back here after 8 years away and decided to invest in the neighborhood that made me who I am, much in the way that my parents decided to invest in the Southside 33 years ago. Not because of ArtsQuest, or the Southside Arts District, or Lehigh, although those are all important aspects of our neighborhood’s character that make the Southside a great place to live. I moved back here because I want to raise my Latina daughter in a neighborhood where she won’t be the only kid speaking Spanish, and where she’ll hear Spanish on the street just as often as she will hear English. I invested in my neighborhood because I want my daughter to grow up like I did, with friends and neighbors of all racial backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. I came back because I believe in our public schools and want my daughter to be able to walk to Donegan Elementary in a few years. I moved back because I wanted to live within a five-minute walk of a playground, a pool, and the Greenway, restaurants, mini-markets, and the woods. I moved back because South Bethlehem represents the best of what it means to live in a true community. Sure, we have some challenges, like any community, but we have so much to be proud of.

And it is so important for our elected officials to understand that—not just at a surface level, or based on their own experiences on the Southside as outsiders, or from conversations with representatives of institutions… We need our elected officials and their staff to make an effort to listen and spend time with residents of all backgrounds that make up the vibrant, dynamic community at work in our Southside neighborhoods. To walk around, like I do, and chat with my next-door neighbor, a single Grandma who gives my daughter a little present for every holiday, and the young Puerto Rican couple with twins next door who always offer us food from the barbecue. The young married couple of women with the pit bulls who hang out on the porch every evening with their next-door neighbors, a black family with kids who race their scooters in front of my house and always ask to pet my dog. The older white man with a disabled son who always keeps the front of his house impeccably maintained and watches over the street. The Mexican family who just moved in this year but have already shown us all up with their holiday decorations. This is what my ideal neighborhood looks like, and where I chose to invest. We need you to understand why this is worth protecting and thinking about, not just today but each time you are asked to consider a policy change that will impact us.

The neighborhoods of the Southside have always had a certain reputation, and most of those who live here have rarely had a say in decisions that are made about it. We don’t have many elected representatives or appointed ones who live on our streets, and we often assume that no one from the other side of town cares about our neighborhoods. But things are changing, and folks from outside the Southside are now paying attention. New folks want to move here, to live or open businesses. Developers want to build, and others see opportunities to make a profit. And I want to be clear: I appreciate the energy and the fact that folks are getting excited about the neighborhoods that I love so much. But we can’t forget what is attracting these folks in the first place—the essential character of our community that has been here for a lot longer than I have. And we owe that to the people who defined these neighborhoods, who invested their time and livelihoods into these streets and homes, who send their kids to local schools, who watch over neighborhood parks and walk the Greenway to work every day. The families who opened businesses decades ago in a different economic climate, and who have won the love and support of generations of residents. Please remember them. As our Southside evolves into the future, we need to plan for the long-term and be proactive, lest we risk losing the very heart of our community and what makes it truly unique, and irreplaceable.

I’m speaking tonight because I think that the policy change you are considering is the product of that very type of consideration that I just mentioned. The Mayor and his Administration have listened—truly listened—and committed themselves to a long, exceedingly thorough process to proactively protect and preserve the essential character of our diverse neighborhoods. They understand why this is important for the future of our Southside as whole—how strong neighborhoods are a necessary condition for a viable City. And you have listened. You’ve attended meetings, read emails, talked with residents, and informed yourselves about the issues. This is, perhaps, the most thorough, well-informed proposal that I’ve seen this current administration put forward, and I’m proud to have been a part of the coalition that consulted with the administration over the last several years as the policy was developed. Tonight, you finally have a chance to stand with the residents of South Bethlehem who have implored you to act. Please vote to cut off all new authorizations of student housing development outside the student housing overlay as of December 31. Our neighborhoods depend on it.

Thank you.

Anna Smith

———–

Councilwoman Negron was kind enough to remember the years of toil that Stephen Antalics put in both in print and at the Town Hall podium in support of such an ordinance.

With due respect to the yeoman work of Anna and many others, in Gadville we’ll think of this as the “Antalics Ordinance.”

So we follow the Councilwoman’s lead and give a tip o’ the hat to Gadfly #1.

Proactive changes regarding student housing around Lehigh approved

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Selections from Louis Gombocz, “Planners approve changes to regulate off-campus student housing in South Side Bethlehem.” WFMZ, December 10, 2020.

A zoning amendment to regulate off-campus housing for college students in Bethlehem is one step closer to becoming adopted.

The Bethlehem Planning Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday afternoon to recommend to city council changes it made regarding the creation of two student housing overlay zoning districts at the edges of Lehigh University’s Asa Packer Campus in South Side Bethlehem.

It grandfathers in existing housing in the zoning areas with a maximum of five students per residence.

Newly-built student housing with a maximum of three occupants per unit would be permitted in most commercial neighborhoods located farther north near the Lehigh River.

“This is not an attempt to create affordable housing or to reduce the number of students on the South Side, but an overall way to manage housing better,” Heller commented.

She explained the changes are “proactive” in regard to the future development of student housing and ensuring it is compatible with the surrounding community.

Casting the only dissenting vote to the changes, planning member Matt Malozzi said the student housing overlay zoning districts are merely an extension of Lehigh’s campus, and the few homeowners still living in the area will be gone eventually.

James Byszewski, managing partner of Fifth Street Properties, said the boundaries proposed in the ordinance are not indicative of where students actually live off campus. He also questioned how the city plans on enforcing who lives where, depending upon whether or not a resident is a student.

South Side resident Anna Smith applauded the city’s three-year-long planning effort to stabilize the area’s housing stock, especially as there are increasingly more developers and property buyers investigating opportunities near the university.

Fund the funky on “Giving Tuesday”!

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

“it’s a cool and eclectic and kind of funky place. So keep South Bethlehem funky.”
Kim Carrell-Smith

Southside Arts District Public Art project

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

“To me, I love the eclectic, diverse, family that we are in the South Side. It is the kiddos from Broughal practicing on their field, it is the Lehigh student sitting in the UC front lawn, it is the incredible skate park and both the kids and adults practicing some gnarly moves, it is the Roger Hudaks, Marianne Napravniks, Winston Alozies that are the heart and soul of our community. To me it’s the local businesses that consistently show up and give to our community and work tirelessly to make our community the best it could possibly be . . . it is our local non-profit leaders that continue to fight the good fight and meet our community needs. Southside is resilient. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Carolina Hernandez

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

On “Giving Tuesday” support public art on the Southside

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

“it’s a cool and eclectic and kind of funky place. So keep South Bethlehem funky.”
Kim Carrell-Smith

Southside Arts District Public Art project

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

Each year we work tirelessly to create opportunities for local artists to transform the streetscape of South Bethlehem into their canvas. Over the last three years the Southside Arts District has completed the following projects:

  • artistic designed flowerpots
  • downtown murals
  • Greenway ArtsWalk
  • artistic designed bike racks
  • public piano

 

 

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

 

 

 

 

Southside voices (5): Kim (Think “funky”)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Kim Carrell-Smith (9 mins.)

We want a vibe that’s not just generic every place. Steel and glass is a lack of identity. History is how Bethlehem has branded itself already. History is a great way to create a sense of place. 30-year resident, I have a lot of feelings about this Southside stuff. We have a great stock of historical buildings, and I would encourage you to figure out some way to enhance those historical streetscapes. Historical guidelines don’t square with the zoning ordinance. Need to start with changing the zoning ordinance. Can’t have towering buildings that overshadow the sidewalks. For many folks darkness is perceived as unwelcoming. We need to think about things like height and shadow. We have great streetscapes, we just need to tweak the buildings we have. The other thing we need to think about is historical vistas. Vistas provide a validation for life and work. Gives us identity. Distinctive. No franchises. Cultivate small businesses. We want smaller locally owned businesses that can serve local folks. Places to buy socks and underwear. What about sports facilities. Like Iron Lakes — drop off kids, then go shop. We don’t often serve youth in South Bethlehem. More places for kids to stay occupied. Need well marked walking paths and well marked parking to bring people in to the core. Greenway is starting to show us that that works. Need affordable housing, not just luxury apartments. We don’t need to serve student population, but empty-nesters and people like that. We need affordable housing for families, for young people. Arts District people working hard. Please help us keep what makes this distinctive. And don’t turn us into every other place in the United States. No franchises, anonymous glass. We’ve got cool stuff now to improve upon. Cool, eclectic, and kind of funky place. Keep South Bethlehem funky.*

* We need a vision for South Bethlehem, something we can define in a word or phrase on which we can focus our thinking. Kim has used that term “funky” before in presentation at Council. It’s vision that resonates. What does “funky” mean to you? Interestingly odd. Unconventionally stylish. What place comes to mind as an example of a funky place? Gadfly thinks we should pursue this vision.

———-

Gadfly says try to keep your body still while listening. That’s what I’m talking about.

“Funky Town”

Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me
Town to keep me movin’
Keep me groovin’ with some energy
Wont you take me to
funky town

Southside voices (4): Larry and Roger

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Larry Eighmy (5 mins.)

We want to have some new overlay, new development, on top of the old while preserving it. Zoning codes are regressive, we want to think about being progressive. [History of plans over last 20 years.] Wonderful things. What we have now is a position of strength. We have created a success. Parking. Commercial. We’re trying to create vibrancy. What we need to do going forward is celebrate our successes, continue to do the things that we have done, and then think a little bit differently about the component Esther Lee talked about [the Black strip on buildings on Brodhead]. Need to push out the industrial base by Perkins. Critical. Change of Hill to Hill bridge. Lehigh-New St corridor. Big things. Lets say what can do. Instead of dictating what we can’t do, let market take care of what we wnt to do. We have “great” problems. This is critical time for this conversation.

Roger Simon (3 mins.)

Allow higher buildings closer to Lehigh campus. Might relieve pressure of students living farther afield and developers outbidding homeowners. Preserve scale of 3rd and 4th Sts. as much as possible. Keep taller buildings uphill.

Southside voices (3): Carolina and Margarita

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Carolina Hernandez (3 mins.)

Bethlehem is chosen home. Keep South Bethlehem “funky” (Kim Carrell-Smith’s line that we’ll post later). Don’t make it like Miami. Relatives and friends who visit all love it. Incredible diversity, history, beautiful facades. This is what people fall in love with. South Side Proud. What makes us unique should be amplified not shut down. Walkability. Greenway. Don’t bring in what makes us sterile. Enforce historic nature. Take care like we did the North side. Amplify the beauty of this community. Recognize the power, the privilege, the history, the prestige that it is to be a part of this wonderful community.

Margarita (5 mins.)

Bethlehem reminded her of her small town in Puerto Rico. Wants to continue to have that kind of feeling. Realizes too that we need to move forward and progress. Detriment holding on to the past. Can build places that resemble other places but that are modern on the inside. Can architects keep it at a reasonable height and build facade to be historical. As opposed to all glass and metal. Keep facade of how the buildings were way back. Attract even more tourists. Parking garage with businesses on first floor but park appeal open with hanging plants and trees on second floor. No high rises. Not like New York. Parking here is terrible. Join parking and nature.