Sunrise on the SouthSide (4): Commercial Vitality

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

Sunrise on the Southside

Chapter 2: Commercial Vitality

We continue to look at the Southside through Lehigh University’s promotional “Sunrise” video. Their project came to Gadfly’s attention just as we have been spending a lot of time on the Southside, a focus especially stimulated by the moving letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and the formation of Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development.

Images of Domaci, Godfrey Daniels, Joe’s Barber Shop, Color Me Mine, Lit, Banana Factory, etc.

  • The Domaci owners aren’t alone in their belief in South Bethlehem. While there are still empty storefronts to be filled, the South Side in recent years has attracted numerous entrepreneurs who have staked their success on a neighborhood they believe to be on the rebound.
  • Peron Development opened Five10Flats, an apartment and retail building, in 2018 on Third Street between Fillmore and Buchanan streets, across from Northampton Community College. The six-story Gateway at Greenway Park building was developed at Third and New streets, offering offices and retail space, including the top-floor restaurant Zest with its panoramic views.
  • Lehigh is an anchor tenant in the Gateway building, along with St. Luke’s University Health Network. The university relocated about 145 employees there from several campus locations, including its controller’s office, real estate services and the development and alumni relations offices. Additional Lehigh staff work a few blocks away in the Flatiron Building on Broadway.
  • You could look at it as moving Lehigh’s staff off campus, or you could view it as blurring the borders between campus and the town,” says Lehigh President Simon. “If you go into a lot of urban universities, [the borders are] blurred, and there are some buildings that have a lot of university employees and some that have businesses, and yet the campus still has an identity. But both can coexist in a very productive way.”
  • “I love being a part of this community,” [Color Me Mine owner Tara Nagabhyru] says. “I saw so much potential here.”
  • Like other business owners, Nagabhyru praised the efforts of the SouthSide Arts District, which pumped up the events calendar in its efforts to attract people to South Bethlehem. Also, Nagabhyru says, people like longtime business owner John Saraceno, who owns the building across the street and operates Saraceno Designs on the second floor there, offered practical advice and extended support when she opened her doors.

 

The Garrison St. neighbors respond (1)

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(3rd in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Five Garrison St. neighbors affected by the zoning change proposal testified against it. Let’s look at the first two here: Lauren Miller and Mark Wood.

Gadfly hopes you will take full advantage of the video and not just browse the excerpts. You know Gadfly loves and respects the way Bethlehem residents comport themselves in these situations. Good examples here.

Lauren is emotional and speaks to ideals. Mark is straightforward and practical.

Put yourself in the position of the Councilmembers receiving this testimony. We always must remember that the developer has rights too. He doesn’t act or sound like a devil with horns. Tough decision. That’s why they get the big money (joke, remember Council is a part-time job and not especially well paid given the time and responsibility).

Think about what you would do. And why.

But wait a couple posts till you hear all the testimony. That’s the Gadfly way.

Lauren Miller (11 W. Garrison)

Lauren had a written text (Miller Re-Zoning Council Meeting), but she spoke forcefully and extemporaneously as well. Gadfly’s excerpts below come from both her prepared and extemporaneous words. There are several potential t-shirt slogans here!

  • I’m here for the best thing for our community.
  • If I would get what I wanted, I would say no to the changing of the zoning of my house.
  • I don’t want to live for what I want, I want to live for what is best for everybody.
  • Beautiful brick homes — just to build something new, I’m against that. I’m against tearing down something old to make something new for economical prosperity.
  • The house that I live in has beautiful windows that will probably never be made again in our time.
  • The brick building next to me . . . there’s a hidden door for when servants . . . used to take care of the household . . . a historical beautiful building.
  • My heart is to preserve what is old and to take care of it.
  • LOVE has been a part of transforming our block. Loving your neighbor as yourself transforms a block. It doesn’t matter what you build on a corner, if love isn’t there. It doesn’t matter how many businesses come in that raises the economy growth.
  • Loving one neighbor at a time will change our community, America and the world.
  • I don’t know what is best for our town and our growth in regards to what we decide to build.
  • The second leading cause of death in America is suicide, and it’s the highest in our teens. The neighborhood kids come over to my house, and I help them with their homework. Can we be a community that does that for our neighbors.
  • I know that when I live in the City in Philadelphia and there was a big building, nobody had time for each other, people just went from left to right, and no one had time just to have dinner with each other. This community has been starting to do that. And I hope to grow it more.
  • I want to live there, and I want to be a part of building this to be a family community.
  • Something special is happening on Garrison St. It’s just the beginning of something beautiful.
  • The community on Garrison St. is a family community. It’s a place where we have time to sit on our front porches and see how our neighbors are doing. That is something worth preserving. That is something worth caring about.
  • Great things are happening in this neighborhood, and bringing forth more housing to overpopulate this neighborhood will change the culture completely.
  • If you visit our community on Garrison St., you will find that it’s a place like the show ‘Cheers.’ It’s a place where everyone knows your name and sadly that’s a rare thing to find anymore.
  • Building a huge apartment complex on this corner will completely change what this community is about.
  • My question for this City is what matters most to them? Does the community and the people that reside here matter, or does ‘economical prosperity’ matter more?

Mark Wood (14 W. Garrison)

  • You’re looking at 120ft. as opposed to regular 2-story houses.
  • And the other problem I have is parking.
  • [The building is] not going to fit in that neighborhood. It’s going to look out of place.
  • If there’s a way that you can guarantee that the parking won’t suffer . . .

So chew on these testimonies. We’ll listen to several more neighbors next.

Festival UnBound

The developer plans for Garrison St.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(2nd in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Garrison St.

The developer seeks rezoning of two residences on Garrison St. as part of a proposal for a 5-floor mixed use building with first-floor commercial + 70-some apartments along New St. between Garrison and North.

Gadfly likes to have an image of the developer (a devil with horns?). The developer’s name is not familiar, but he must have been “at work” for a good while to accumulate that concentrated block of properties. Let’s take a look as he makes his brief presentation at Tuesday night’s Council hearing.

The developer owns the entire 700 block (sigh! makes you feel insignificant, doesn’t it? Gadfly’s house is 20ft. wide) of west New St and the two houses 11 and 15 W. Garrison.

The houses on New are zoned Central Business District, the Garrison houses residential.

The Garrison houses were CB but changed to residential in 2005. The developer’s asking to change them back.


Most of us have not witnessed a public hearing on a Zoning proposal, so let’s take a look at the interaction between Council and the developer to get a sense of the kind of questions that are asked and the kind of concerns there might be.

Especially regarding impact on the existing neighborhood.

We learn that the first floor must be “retail, restaurant, or personal services.”

Though there is the rendering of the project shown above, no specific plan has yet been officially submitted.

As the developer says, he is “early on” in a project — a “journey” — of many steps. He’s at “the very first step.”

So he was a bit vague about some details. For instance, the height of the building.

Parking (a reasonable amount of parking as a convenience) and a certain type of construction (reasonable cost) will limit the height, he said in response to concerns.

He has looked at the City Comprehensive Plan (nice!) and is following a desired use found there in the Center City area: high-density residential.

What kind of tenants does he seek? He’s working with a marketing and financing group doing a demographic study, but he did mention the possibility of federal government programs for veteran housing (some visible signs of sympathy for that).

See approx. minute 10 for Councilwoman Van Wirt raising concern for the integrity of the Garrison St. block.

Yes, that’s what we should think about next.

Festival UnBound

 

Celebrate Bethlehem’s great native artist Hilda Doolittle in this new play, part of Touchstone Theatre’s “Festival UnBound”

(27th in a series of posts on H.D.)

Finding H.D.:
A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

dollar sign

Contributions to fund the museum-quality portrait of H. D. by local artist Angela Fraleigh that will hang prominently in the library are REALLY lagging. Can you please help? Visit http://www.bapl.org/hd/

 

Doug Roysdon’s marionettes are fabulous — don’t miss!

H. D. marionette
World Premiere!
“The Secret”
A New Mixed-Media Play about H.D.
by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater
Sat Oct 5, 5 pm with talkback at 6:30 pm
Sun Oct 6, 1 pm with panel discussion at 2:30 pm
Mon Oct 7 @ 7:30 pm
Tues Oct 8 @ 7:30 pm

Touchstone TheatreFestival UnBound
321 East 4th Street, Bethlehem
From artistic director of Mock Turtle Marionette
Theater and chief writer Doug Roysdon, featuring
narrative, song, and puppetry. Directed by 

The Play:  The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise.” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public.

So begins The Secret, our community-inspired and community-produced celebration of Bethlehem’s great native artist, Hilda Doolittle. It is a play that follows H.D.’s poetic adventure to London, Greece and Vienna. Yet, the lessons and events of her Moravian childhood, memories that dramatically shaped her life and writings, fill the play as they did H.D.’s life and work. And so, as The Secret moves from myth and ritual to the devastating realities of the London air raids . . . it never entirely leaves Church Street.

The Project:  Over the past year, a partnership including The Bethlehem Area Public Library, the Lehigh University English Department, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, and Mock Turtle Marionette Theater has fostered a wide-ranging community initiative with a single unified goal. That is to assert poet and feminist visionary, Hilda Doolittle’s place as the most important and accomplished artist to hail from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In this, we strive to join other American communities who understand the importance of celebrating their gifted daughters just as they have always recognized their native sons. The Secret represents the culmination of the Finding H.D. Project, a year of programs featuring the many facets of H.D.’s artistic work.

 

Finding H.D.:
A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

Festival UnBound

Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Unfortunately, a familiar story-line: “Tension between development and history dominated Tuesday night’s Bethlehem City Council meeting”

(1st in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

It’s deja-vu all over again, as someone said at last night’s Council meeting. Gadfly can hardly get a thread on one of these development situations finished before another one pops up. Use the news stories as a starting point for thinking about the Garrison St. matter.

Garrison St.a five-story, mixed-use building with 72 apts along the 700 block of N. New Street,
between North and Garrison

Sara Satullo, “Bethlehem neighbors want their block’s small-town feel to prevail over big-city apartment plan.” lehighvalleylive.com., September 17, 2019.

The residents of West Garrison Street have built a tight-knit community where kids are sent outside to play. They get homework help on neighbors’ porches and folks open their homes for dinner.

On Tuesday evening, the residents of the street implored Bethlehem City Council not to disrupt their way of life by rezoning two properties — 11 and 15 W. Garrison St. — from high-density residential to the central business district designation they held prior to a 2005 zoning change.

[Lauren Miller] asked city council what matters most to them: the community and people that reside in the city or economic development.

[Developer] Connell envisions commercial retail space fronting on North New Street along with the apartments and 74 parking spaces to the rear. While zoning does not require he provide parking, Connell said, he thinks it is crucial to market the project to tenants.

Councilwoman Dr. Paige Van Wirt said she’s concerned about the intrusion of development on a vibrant residential street.

“I really feel for these neighbors and I’m going to stand up for them,” [Bruce Haines] said. . . . This is all about integrity.”

[The properties] sit within the city’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, or LERTA, tax abatement zone as well as a qualified opportunity zone, a capital gains tax incentive, created in the 2017 tax reform law. It is meant to encourage investment and development in targeted economically distressed neighborhoods. With LERTA, taxes on a property’s higher assessment, resulting from improvements, are phased in over 10 years rather than all at once.

Charles Malinchak, “Bethlehem residents say Garrison Street complex would ruin ‘wonderful’ neighborhood.” Morning Call, September 18, 2019.

The picture painted was of a tight, friendly neighborhood that would be lost forever if two properties on a street in Bethlehem were rezoned to allow for construction of a five-story apartment and retail complex.

“I’m someone who cares deeply about this neighborhood. … Everyone knows everyone’s name. It is something special, something beautiful. Kids sit on my porch and color. Say ‘no’ to changing the zoning,” an emotional Lauren Miller, a West Garrison Street resident, told council.

Miller rents one of the West Garrison Street homes owned by Connell and praised the historic character of the home she has lived in for more than three years. She questioned why there’s such a need to “tear down the old for the new. I want to live here and be a part of building this community.” Others from the neighborhood echoed Miller’s sentiments. “I don’t want this. It will bring a lot more people and we won’t feel safe anymore. Our block is like a big family,” West Garrison Street resident Cindy Toledo said.

“This is commercial intrusion into a wonderful neighborhood. This is about integrity of our zoning codes, our neighborhoods and government,” Hotel Bethlehem managing owner Bruce Haines said.

Stephen Althouse, “Potential downtown development causes tension in Bethlehem.” September 17, 2019.

Tension between development and history dominated Tuesday night’s Bethlehem City Council meeting.

The two properties are part of nine contiguous properties [Developer] Connell has acquired over several years on West North, North New and Garrison streets. The acquisitions are required to eventually implement his vision of an important urban redevelopment project.

During Tuesday night’s hearing, Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt said it should come at no surprise that she is “concerned about the loss of residential” properties. She directly asked Connell what would he do if the zoning was denied? Connell attempted to answer, pausing several times before eventually giving up. “I don’t think I could honestly answer that question,” given the situation, he said.

It was a question neighbors who attended the hearing Tuesday night hope becomes more than hypothetical. Speaker after speaker lamented the changes with various themes centering around how it would negatively transform a Bethlehem neighborhood. “This is a commercial intrusion into a neighborhood,” Bethlehem resident Bruce Haines said. “… Ultimately this decision is about integrity.”

Bethlehem Moment: Henrietta Benigna opens a girl’s seminary, 1742

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 12
City Council
September 17, 2019

Jim Petrucci
President, J. G. Petrucci Company, Inc., Asbury, N.J.

Read by Joseph Petrucci
 video

Bethlehem Moment: May 4, 1742

On May 4th, 1742, 16-year old Countess Henrietta Benigna, daughter of Count Zinzendorf, opened a girl’s seminary school in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Initially, the school taught 25 pupils and focused on reading, writing, religion, and the household arts. Seven weeks after the school was founded, it was moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Three years later, it was moved to Nazareth and then returned permanently to Bethlehem in 1749.

In 1785, the school expanded its charter, began accepting girls from outside the Moravian Church, and changed its name to Moravian Female Seminary. The school itself built a tremendous reputation. In fact, as president, George Washington personally petitioned for the admission of his great-nieces.  Eventually, in 1945, the Seminary was merged with a local boy’s school to form the coeducational institution we now know today as Moravian College.

As the first all-girls boarding school in the New World, the Moravian Female Seminary holds a special place in the history of education in America. Not only was it a school founded by women and for the benefit of women, but it was also one of the first schools in the New World to open itself to Native American children. This is the legacy of Henrietta Benigna. Henrietta founded the school on the basis that all deserve a quality education, and she did it in a time when that wasn’t a popular opinion. As various stakeholders in the City of Bethlehem today, we should feel proud of this moment in history and look to replicate the principles that Henrietta Benigna displayed back in 1742.

The J. G. Petrucci Company has been working in Bethlehem since the early 90’s, completing such projects as the Perkins on the Southside, the Moravian Health and Science Center, and ten projects in LVIPVII – including Curtiss Wright, Cigars International, and Synchronoss.

Resources

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044089399828&view=1up&seq=38

https://books.google.com/books?id=0gc1AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=Countess%20Benigna&f=false

https://www.mcall.com/news/local/bethlehem/mc-pictures-timeline-bethlehem-pa-history-20160610-photogallery.html

https://www.bapl.org/local-history/local-history-timeline/bellhouseschool/

https://www.moravianacademy.org/Our-Story/Our-History

https://www.geni.com/people/Countess-Benigna-von-Zinzendorf/6000000038018709862

Follow-up to and fallout from the Zoning Board nomination controversy (3)

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

Council meeting tonight.

Two meetings ago — August 20 — we had the long “debate” over the Zoning Board nomination. Gadfly spent 9 posts on that, beginning here.

One meeting ago — September 3 — we had the follow-up to that “debate.” Gadfly devoted 2 posts to that, beginning here.

But he left that second post with a “to be continued,” a promise that should be fulfilled before the meeting tonight.

Gadfly wants to say something about Councilman Callahan and about President Waldron, but mostly about President Waldron.

Gadfly has said one of the purposes of his project is helping you know your elected officials better, especially so that you will be better informed when it comes time to vote (some Council members, you can be sure, will run for re-election, and, you know, some might even think of running for Mayor! Be prepared!).

Gadfly did not like the August 20 performance. He felt guilty, like a gaper at a car wreck. Stephen Antalics felt “deeply embarrassed.” People who reported to President Waldron found it “cringe-worthy.” Gadfly faulted BC. Not everyone did, of course.

But, though faulting BC, Gadfly has to admit that his “defense” at the September 3 meeting (as outlined by Gadfly here) was masterful. He began with testimonies approving his behavior; he made the solicitor acknowledge that the rules were on his side; he used direct audio evidence (stunning! ballsy!) to make his central point; and he APOLOGIZED. Gadfly was in awe of BC’s technique. And remembered that he has seen BC do the “Perry Mason” (look it up, young ‘uns!) thing before, especially leading Robert Novatnack down a path of one-word yes/no answers to make a point that supported his position in an aspect of the Martin Tower controversy. Gadfly must point out, however, that BC’s apology was framed by blaming Councilman Reynolds for starting the nastiness (BC was only reacting to provocation), and he not only did not back off but reiterated his unspecified charge on JWR. So we might put “apology” in quotes just to get us to think about it some more.

But it’s the punctuation (sorry, ever the English prof) that President Waldron put on this Zoning Board episode on which Gadfly would like to focus most attention.

The trials of leadership.

Here again is the “period” AW put on the episode (see the video here):

“I’m gonna try to enforce the rules moving forward fairly and consistently. That becomes challenging when rules are habitually broken, and I’m trying to give guidance and my guidance is pushed aside. I think everyone has a right to be heard, and I think they have a right to speak, from members of the public to members of Council. I’ve been criticized for having a light gavel in the past, and I can promise you I will continue to have a light gavel. I don’t think silencing people’s thoughts and opinions is a productive way to continue a conversation. With that being said, I do think there should be a level of decorum and respect for each other in the room. And I think at times at the last Council meeting that was not there. I did not get any feedback publicly that that was a positive conversation. In fact, many people reached out to me that I saw and said that it was cringe-worthy and it was embarrassing. I think the tone of that conversation wasn’t helpful, and it’s my opinion that I think we can do better and we must do better when we get in to the dangerous territory of accusing people of things on Council, whether that’s members of Council accusing each other of something or members of the public accusing, because that happens quite a lot, and I don’t gavel that down much the same way people go over the 5-minute time limit and I don’t gavel that down. I think people should be heard. Whether you agree with that opinion or not, the First Amendment is wide-ranging and it supersedes Roberts’ Rules of Order. But I would hope that we would have the respect for each other to adhere to those, so that the conversation can be productive. I hear a lot different kind of tone than I did last week, Mr. Callahan, and I appreciate that you were reflective on that, and I think open debate is a good thing. I think we should hold each other accountable for our thoughts and actions as well, and I think moving forward taking a little time to consider how our words are affecting other people in the room, it’s going to be beneficial. So I look forward to continuing this conversation publicly. Whether it’s warranted that people think the rules are being violated — Roberts’ Rules — which I think they are — I’m going to enforce them pretty liberally because I think the conversation should be open and fair, and I’m going to take remarks from members of Council if they want to give a little course correction and think that I should enforce the rules a little differently. I’ll listen to the majority of Council if they have a strong opinion that the rules should be enforced differently. Although I’m currently president of Council, I would welcome feedback from members of Council if they think I should have a different approach. And I’ll try to balance those in the future as we continue these conversations under new business.”

Gadfly is sympathetic. He administered a department of 60-some people for a decade.

All individualists, as professionals in the humanities, and especially the field of English are wont to be.

What kind of a leader is AW, at least as revealed in this episode?

AW realizes that he’s been criticized for being soft.

Gadfly has seen AW extend a long leash at times during public comment even when the audience is visibly restive.

Gadfly has benefited from that softness as he yacks on and on over his 5 minutes during public comment . He has even called AW Mr. SoftGavel in these pages.

He’s patient. Gadfly loved AW’s quip August 20 about potty-training twins.

But AW’s patience did reach a limit August 20, and Gadfly thinks Council might benefit from some rules — as suggested by Mr. Antalics and even invited by AW.

Hence, a modest proposal — actually a version of rules Gadfly has seen in Robert’s Rules.

  • a limit of 10 minutes, then others are given an opportunity to speak
  • after others have spoken or passed on the opportunity to speak, another 10 minutes
  • any further 10-minute time after that only with majority vote of the other Council members

Gadfly believes that AW’s instinct toward openness is right — if you are going to err, do it on the side of more communication rather than less — but August 20 showed that some broad rules are necessary when unpleasantness occurs.