Archive for category Bethlehem

Check out the $1.3M skatepark planned for Allentown (VIDEO)

Plans are being finalized for the all-concrete facility at Jordan Park, with construction expected to begin in 2018.

Armed robbery, chase and crash — 1 suspect still at large

Two men held up a Wilson Borough convenience store and fled on Route 22.

One of two masked men who held up a Wilson Borough convenience store was captured after a pursuit Fr…

Court papers connect ‘armed, dangerous’ man to drug raid

A home in Palmer Township was searched Friday morning.

Tchella Bellamy, the 23-year-old violent felon who is being sought by Easton police on three drug delivery charges, was sel…

Take a fly over the West Bethlehem armory project (VIDEO)

The city planning commission approved Peron Development’s requests to vacate streets to support the property’s redevelopment.

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The city planning commission Thursday backed plans to narrow Second Avenue as part of the adaptive reuse of the West Bethlehem armory property into apartments and office space.

The commission unanimously voted to recommend Bethlehem City Council vacate portions of Second Avenue and Filbert Street to support the project’s 99 on-site parking spots. And it also voted to support the various parking and site coverage variances the developer is seeking from the zoning hearing board Oct. 25.

The approvals are all conditioned on complying with city feedback.

Peron Development is planning up to 78 apartments on the site at 301 Prospect Ave. by reusing two existing garages and then building a four-story, L-shaped addition off the back of the property. A courtyard will serve as a buffer between the apartments and the neighborhood’s existing residents, many of whom attended the meeting Thursday.

“We are going to build a product that does not currently exist in West Bethlehem,” said former Mayor John Callahan, who is director of business development for Peron.

Rents are expected to be about $1,300 to $1,650 a month, targeting millennials and empty nesters eager to be within walking distance of Bethlehem’s downtowns and many festivals, Callahan said.

“We are awfully excited about this particular neighborhood,” he said.

The armory itself, which has no tenant currently, will likely be redeveloped into office space. The historic elements of the Floyd Simmons Armory will be preserved while bringing the space to code in hopes of attracting a tech or maker tenant, Callahan said. 

Bethlehem armoryThis rendering shows the corner of Prospect and Second avenues in West Bethlehem. Plans call for narrowing Second Avenue to add parking and make the road safer.Courtesy USA Architects 

Resident Jeff Pooley praised Peron for working closely with residents and being responsive to concerns.

Everyone is excited that the armory is going to be redeveloped, but worries remain about the height of the apartment building, he said. Pooley asked Peron to consider a three-story building that could preserve neighbor’s views while also solving the parking issue.

“It strikes me that is it out of scale for the historical neighborhood,” he said. “It is just too tall.”

The property has a steep grade with an almost 30-foot difference in elevation, which is requiring some variances. Peron is also seeking parking variances because it does not have the 123 parking spots required in city zoning.

The developer scaled back a 23-spot parking lot on Rauch Street to 13 parking spaces in response to resident concerns, Callahan said, which tightened the parking situation. On-site parking for the apartments would be divided amongst three lots.

By narrowing Second Avenue — a boulevard dating back to the days when the road had a 378 on-ramp — Peron will be able to add 42-spaces in front of the building. Then a 44-space lot will be built on Filbert Street once the developer tears down the shuttered adjacent vacant sign company it bought.

Planning Commission member Tom Barker, a West Side resident himself, got Peron to commit to carrying historic acorn lighting along Broad Street onto Second Avenue.

Second Avenue is an important pedestrian road for residents and visitors heading to the city’s many festivals at the foot of Spring Street, Callahan said. The lighting will make it a safer and more attractive walk, he said.

Peron is looking to make Second Avenue an overall safer road while improving the existing street parking, Callahan said.  

Bethlehem Armory south viewThis rendering shows the view of the apartment building from the south end of the property.Courtesy USA Architects 

“It is little bit of a wild west on Second Avenue (in terms of parking now),” Callahan said, noting many residents now park in between the center median.

The developer worked with the city Public Works Department to redesign the road, realign the intersection with Prospect Avenue and then modeled its plans off of that, he said. Callahan noted that drivers often become confused at the intersection of Second and Prospect and end up driving the wrong way down the road.

“It’s amazing there hasn’t been a terrible accident there,” said Charlene Donchez Mowers, a lifelong neighboring resident, who is also president of Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites.

Mowers praised the safety improvements and reuse of the armory, but said she is worried about the parking needs of existing residents. She also has concerns about trucks and buses being able to turn onto a narrower Second Avenue. 

Plans call for adding 17 on-street, public parking spots along Second Avenue in front of the apartment’s lot and then 11 on-street, perpendicular spots at the bottom of Second where it intersects with Spring Street. Currently, there are no spots at the top of Second by the armory and only parallel parking spots at the bottom.

The parking on the other side of Second Avenue will not change. Peron plans to also paint 42 public parking spaces on the closed 378 on-ramp off of Second Avenue.

Many residents expressed concerns about losing on-street parking, noting it can already be tough to find spots when many don’t have driveways or parking pads. But residents were grateful that Peron has listened closely to their concerns and modified the parking along Rauch Street.

Project engineer Laura Eberly, of Penonni Associates, said plans currently call for 50 one-bedroom apartments and 20 two-bedroom apartments. While the one-bedroom units fall short of city zoning requirements, Peron is confident its sufficient parking, she said.

Peron was selected in July 2016 by the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority to tackle the rehab of the armory.

Peron plans to pay the authority $322,000 for the property. The city has a deal with the state to buy the 1930 Art Deco armory, which is on the National Historic Register, for $272,000. The authority must notify the state by December that it plans to purchase the armory, but it has six months to close, Hanna explained. 

The authority and Peron want all of the land development approvals in place before finalizing the simultaneous sale.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo and Facebook. Find on Facebook.

Sands Bethlehem sale looming? NYC investment firm wants to make offer

Keating & Associates LLC has made a $225 million bid for Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

A New York-based investment firm says it plans to make an offer to buy the S…

2 traffic lanes becoming 1 around Liberty High School

Elizabeth Avenue will be down to one lane in each direction.

After years of talking about pedestrian safety around Liberty High School, Bethlehem officials are gearing up to phys…

Bethlehem charter school to get 5 more years with enrollment cap

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School has agreed to limit the number of Bethlehem Area School District students it enrolls.

The Bethlehem Area School District plans to …

How’s Bethlehem’s public parking? Sound off in city survey

The Bethlehem Parking Authority’s consultant is holding two upcoming public meetings Oct. 24.

Bethlehem wants you to share all your gripes and kudos for the city’s public parking system.

The Bethlehem Parking Authority and the city have hired Desman Design Management to perform a comprehensive review and evaluation of the Christmas City’s public parking.

As part of the study, the city wants the public to weigh in on the state of the city’s parking system via an online survey found here.

“The authority will be incorporating your thoughts and comments into the analyses, which will assist them in making informed future decisions on managing and operating public parking in the city of Bethlehem,” Mayor Bob Donchez said in a press release.

Desman will be holding two public presentations on Tuesday, Oct. 24 to provide an update on the status of the study, initial findings from the data collection, outreach and a laying out a timeline.

Why Bethlehem might seize land from the Sands casino

The first meeting will be held at noon at Northampton Community College’s Fowler campus, 511 E. Third St., in room 623. Then at 6 p.m., Desman will make the same presentation in Bethlehem Town Hall. 

The authority is expected to wrap up construction of a 626-space new parking deck at Third and New Streets next month. The garage was controversial because some opponents argued there was plenty of parking in South Bethlehem already. Critics advocated for a comprehensive parking study.

Authority Executive Director Kevin Livingston was out of the office Wednesday afternoon and did not immediately respond to an email seeking details of the study.

The authority wants to build another garage at Third and Polk streets, which is seen as critical to the ongoing redevelopment of the Third Street corridor. The authority last month threatened the Sands casino with eminent domain if it does not consider selling the land to the authority.

It is also currently studying the future of its Walnut Street parking garage, which needs extensive repairs.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo and Facebook. Find on Facebook.

4-year-old is dead after a handgun is left unsecured, cops say

It was an accident, the boy’s mother and the coroner’s office say, and it was the area’s second such death in 6 months.

What does a U.S.-less World Cup mean for SteelStacks’ SoccerFest?

The U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986.

The plans were in place. The Lehigh Valley SoccerFest and Viewing Party, it was announced last week, will return to SteelStacks in 2018, screening all of the World Cup Russia matches on massive outdoor screens.

But while SoccerFest will be back for the World Cup, the U.S. men’s team will not.

Needing only a tie and confident of victory against the world’s 99th-ranked team, the U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that ended a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer’s showcase.

“We let down an entire nation today,” defender Omar Gonzalez said.

Trinidad and Tobago US World Cup SoccerUnited States’ Matt Besler squats on the pitch after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Couva, Trinidad, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

SoccerFest drew tens of thousands of people to the Bethlehem venue in 2014, its first year, for the men’s World Cup in Brazil. And thousands more for the women’s tournament the following year in Canada. And it aired the 2016 Copa America Centenario, hosted in cities around the United States.

But those all had U.S. teams making a run, and the women’s team winning the cup. That definitely drew large crowds, ArtsQuest COO Curt Mosel said Wednesday, but the event was always intended to be of a cultural nature.

With the Americans out of the running, the festival will shift to a more worldly focus. Other popular teams and players from Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and Germany have qualified for World Cup contention, and ArtsQuest wants to more heavily promote the cultures present within the Lehigh Valley, Mosel said.

Exact plans are in development, but there may be broadcasts in Spanish, or partnerships with cultural groups or Russian-owned restaurants — a nod to the tournament’s host country.

“All of the cultures have now been elevated to be a part of the main stage,” Mosel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Steve Novak may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @type2supernovak and Facebook. Find on Facebook.