Overheard in the check-out line at the hardware store . . .

It didn’t take long for Gadfly’s snarky to come back!

And Clairton has a coke works.

They still make coke?

Yeah.

I didn’t know they still made coke.

Yeah.

That’s somethin’.

We used to have a coke works here.

Yeah?

Yeah.

And now we’re goin’ to have a water park.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Just what every town needs.

Just what every town needs.

——-

Wind Creek has been quoted as saying they see a water park in the old #2 Machine Shop as helping create the “the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

Irony you could taste flowed at the end of this above fragment of overheard conversation.

Gadfly must admit — despite Anna’s caution — that a huge indoor water park gives him the night sweats.

Gadfly has already shuddered publicly in a daytime post at the image of the Southside as a community of “Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides.”

Can’t they find a use for #2 Machine shop that blends with the town’s history and character?

Or has the presence of the Casino changed everything?

A design that blends.

Gadfly’s been thinking about that verb a lot lately.

Kim Carrell-Smith planted it in his consciousness in a post a while back.

More on blended development soon.

Fair play across the board needed (9)

(9th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Steve Melnick has had a career in economic development for over 35 years in several states, with the last 20 years here in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

It seems to me that Mr Callahan is trying to set an very acrimonious tone with Wind Creek. Politically, it would appear that the mayoral race is already underway, and Mr. Callahan is trying to present himself as the advocate for the common man rather than the big corporate donors that have funded his campaigns in the past. It is beyond comprehension to expect Wind Creek to willingly overpay their taxes just to make life easier for city council during their budget negotiations. In an attempt to position himself as the financial watchdog for the city, and in the interest of transparency, I would presume that he chastised the Benner building owners when they did the same thing and asked the city to backstop a $17 million dollar garage for their primary use. I presume that Mr Callahan has also had this discussion with the owners of the Martin Tower site as well as with Jeff Parks and his group over their project. Fair play across the board.

Steve

The Mayor definitely has the right approach (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

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.

Gadfly:

Some elected officials really need to put on their big boy pants and stop whining about how little deed transfer tax Bethlehem will receive. Yes, it was even less than I expected after consultation with a few in the business world who have been involved in similar kinds of business transactions, and the Mayor is taking the right approach. It’s a bigger picture issue. After all, the Sands and now Wind Creek Casinos are in business to make money, not lose it. The proposed development by Wind Creek will bring a nice boost to Bethlehem’s tax coffers over time. The TIF will be expired so the benefit will be immediate when construction is completed. Yes, the Mayor definitely has the right approach.

Dana

CM Callahan: “Tell Wind Creek I’m very disappointed” (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

“The role of a developer is to make money. Harsh but true. They don’t care about anything except the goal of making money.”
Kate McVey

Well, those items on the “wish list” from the Casino Transfer Tax on the City 2019 budget p. 278 — some very dear to the heart of Gadfly followers — ain’t gonna happen. As foretold by follower Dana Grubb a few posts back, the windfall for the City was nowhere near what the City was hoping for and tentatively planning for. Nowhere near. Noooowhere near.

CM Callahan previewed the official bad news at Council on Tuesday. Listen to his tight-lipped tone:

“Tell Wind Creek I’m very disappointed in their start in the City of Bethlehem. It’s their legal right to use loopholes to lower the tax . . . [but] you can tell the representatives from Wind Creek that that’s not a neighborly thing to do. . . . [They said] they wanted to come in here as good community partners . . . I’m very disappointed in what I’m hearing.”

The good thing is the proceeds from the CTT were not built into the City budget. They are “extra.” They are a “windfall.” So in that sense at least, no harm has been done. Just that no extra good is being done either.

Mayor Donchez looks on the good side. The very major development that is the next step in Wind Creek’s plan. That’s what mayors have to do.

Jon Harris and Nicole Radzievich, “A bad beat for Bethlehem: Tax on Sands casino sale far less than dreamed of.” Morning Call, June 5, 2019.

Seeing a price tag of $1.3 billion when the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem sale was announced in March 2018, Bethlehem’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree with what it thought could be a realty transfer tax jackpot of up to $13 million — as much as $6.5 million to the city and $6.5 million to Bethlehem Area School District. But it turns out, it appears to have been dealt a bad hand.

They indicate the city and school district are each in line for about $246,580, while the state is slated to collect about $493,160 in transfer tax, according to a review of public documents by The Morning Call. Mayor Robert Donchez said he has not received official word as to what the amount will be but is aware it could fall far short of the $6.5 million his administration once discussed.

While the casino transfer tax wasn’t budgeted, the city planned to spend the money on a list of deferred projects, such as street maintenance and City Hall improvements, that have been on its wish list for a decade.

The difference between the city’s initial projections and the expected transfer tax boils down to how the deal was structured, which allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation. To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, Bethworks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords, said Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek’s vice president of business development.

Bethlehem City Councilman Bryan Callahan conveyed his disappointment in the tax total at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. From what he was hearing, Callahan said at the meeting, the city could expect in the ballpark of $150,000 in transfer tax, which he took as a disappointing start to Wind Creek’s tenure in Bethlehem. “To use loopholes in the law, to say you’re leasing property versus owning it, that’s one thing,” he said, looking at the mayor. “But they want to come in here as good community partners. I was hearing great things. I hope the No. 2 Machine Shop goes through, but I’m very disappointed in what I’m hearing, and I hope you could relay that to the officials at Wind Creek.”

“It’s more important to develop that [property] as a destination site, which will bring more jobs and [property] taxes to the city. We can’t lose sight of that.” It’s that type of investment, Donchez said, that will have a longer lasting impact on Bethlehem than the one-time revenue that comes from a transfer tax.

 

“plans for the site are likely to change” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Anna Smith is a life-long Southside resident and Director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, a non-profit dedicated to improving 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

Gadfly:

Feelings on the water park aside, I think having a plan for the Number 2 Machine Shop was seen as important for gaining State and City support for the sale. But as today’s article in The Morning Call mentions, they only have $150 million of the $250 million available to commit to the project. I have a feeling the plans for the site are likely to change before long, now that the sale has been approved. . . . Unless there is someone sitting around with $100 million to invest in partial ownership of an indoor water park . . .

Anna

Southside Bethlehem — a community of Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Gadfly needs help.

He feels a CAVE*** coming on.

He may need an intervention. Or an exorcism.

He felt the onset writing this post headline yesterday: “A step closer to the windfall from Wind Creek.”

He coo’d over the idea of a “windfall” there, and as he did he heard a faraway sound of nails or chalk screeching on a blackboard.

Windfall . . . dollar signs . . . big bucks . . . mucho dinero

“Windfall” temporarily blinded him.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

Gadfly wants the money, but he doesn’t really want a waterpark.

Feels like a pact with the Devil.

Before he was struck from his horse like Paul on the road to Tarsis, Gadfly-to-be was just passively negative to the idea of a casino.

He thought of the Sesame Street game: “Which of these things doesn’t belong?” Religion, industry, gambling.

How does gambling fit with a lineage of piety and hard-work, of people fleeing from persecution and poverty, of contributions to spiritual and physical well-being?

What does gambling contribute to the good of mankind?

Rah, rah! Ok, Gadfly, get off the soapbox, get out of the pulpit.

So, something had to be done with that wreck of a site, and, frankly, the casino has been barely a blip on Gadfly’s radar. He accepted it, hardly even notices it, thinks not much about it. It’s become part of “us” to him. And we have not become Sodom and Gomorrah.

But — now struck by lightning and converted to Gadfly — he feels uneasy about Wind Creek’s plans.

He recognizes that they seem to be good people. The plan designed seems to “fit in” architecturally. They aren’t chopping heads of employees, and, in fact, are bringing jobs — lots of them. Yes, yes.

Gadfly hears Mayor Donchez’s affirmations that the Wind Creek plans are people-oriented, community-oriented (Gadfly’s aphrodisiac word!), fun-oriented. Yes, yes.

And there will be a windfall. Visions of firetrucks, pedestrian bridges, and Rose Gardens dance in his head. Yes. yes.

But yet something sticks in Gadfly’s thin throat.

A waterpark in Machine Shop #2. A waterpark in South Bethlehem.

It just doesn’t “feel” right. (CAVERS suffer from this a lot.)

Gadfly’s not sure that he wants Bethlehem to be “the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

There, he’s said it.

Southside Bethlehem — a community of Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides.

Gadfly guesses a good PR person will make something out of that.

Gadfly guesses he should get over this feeling.

Especially since there’s nothing to be done.

And especially since he has no constructive alternative.

And especially since he hears no one else whimpering.

Gadfly, maybe a true, lone CAVER on this one.


***CAVE: “citizen against virtually everything,” famously attributed to Councilman Callahan, recently self-described as “a gentle teddy-bear,” in a moment of impatience with citizen criticism.

Gadfly wonders if his funk is triggered by Lou James’s letter on the Southside.

Wind Creek Bethlehem: “Our expectation for this property is it will be the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast” (4)

(4th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Jon Harris, “With state’s approval, Wind Creek Bethlehem plans to become ‘No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast’.” Morning Call, May 29, 2019.

  • More than 14 months after the deal was announced, the $1.3 billion sale of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to an affiliate of an Alabama Indian tribe is almost across the finish line.
  • With state approval now in hand, the sale of arguably Pennsylvania’s most successful casino is expected to close as early as Friday, Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris said.
  • Wind Creek is planning a hotel and meeting space expansion, a $90 million project that will take about two years to build a 276-room hotel along with another 42,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Then there’s the head-turner proposal for the No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site. Wind Creek is planning to transform the crumbling structure into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also will include a roughly 400-room hotel.
  • “Our expectation for this property is it will be the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast,” Dorris told the board.
  • With the hotel expansion, Wind Creek believes it will be able to unlock revenue and earnings potential by growing lodging, meeting space and food-and-beverage offerings to meet existing demand. The Machine Shop redevelopment, meanwhile, offers diversification for revenue growth and could bring an estimated 1.4 million new site visits.
  • Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said he was pleased with what he heard from Wind Creek at the hearing: that it would develop family-friendly attractions to augment the gaming operation as it prepares to compete with gambling expansions in the Northeast. “They really emphasized that they were community-oriented and that they would be making investments that would bring jobs,” Donchez said. “That’s what they’ve told me from the beginning, and I’m encouraged that’s what they are continuing to say today.”
  • Wind Creek, in its presentation, said the Sands Bethlehem management would be retained, including all nine members of the senior team, who are signed to three-year employment contracts that begin once the transaction closes. Wind Creek also plans to keep all of the facility’s 2,500 employees.