Archive for category hotel bethlehem

$35M Hotel Bethlehem expansion aims to bring 70K people to city

Mayor Bob Donchez recommended including the project in the city’s lucrative CRIZ.

Historic Hotel Bethlehem’s $35 million planned expansion brings so much to Bethlehem, Mayor Bob Donchez wants to add it into the city’s lucrative tax incentive zone.

Donchez announced Wednesday afternoon he backs adding the Main Street hotel’s massive project to the City Revitalization Improvement Zone. 

The expansion would make Hotel Bethlehem the largest conference center in the Lehigh Valley by doubling its meeting and events space and adding 73 guest rooms and suites.

“Our goal here is to make downtown Bethlehem the epicenter for meetings and conferences in the Lehigh Valley,” said Bruce A. Haines, Hotel Bethlehem managing partner.

The project would take the hotel from 110,000-square-feet to 213,695-square-feet, doubling its size. It is expected to draw 70,000 new visitors to the Christmas City and create 100 new jobs.

The hotel’s existing, private 100-spot parking deck would be razed to make way for a new 460-space parking garage with a four-story addition atop it. The new building would connect to the third floor of the hotel via a skywalk.

“The goal here is to really solidify Main Street with a bigger stronger anchor than we’ve been,” Haines said. “And to hopefully make it more attractive for other businesses to want to come to Main Street.”

Pa. hotel tax hike ‘puts entire industry at risk,’ official says

The mayor called it a wonderful project for the city.

“I view the hotel as the anchor of Main Street,” Donchez said.

Last November, the city put out a call for developers to submit new projects for inclusion in the zone after the Bethlehem Parking Authority asked to remove the CRIZ status from 1.3 acres of land it owned because its plans were no longer feasible.

This marks the third new project that Donchez has backed for inclusion into the 130-acre zone. The Bethlehem Revitalization and Improvement Authority last month approved two he’s already recommended, but set time limits for work to begin.

The authority will be asked to consider the hotel at its next meeting Oct. 19. Then the state must sign off on all CRIZ changes.

Bethlehem won the designation four years ago, but progress has been slow, leading the city and authority to push for shovel-ready projects. 

Big projects at 2 Bethlehem intersections get CRIZ boost

The mayor said he hopes Hotel Bethlehem could break ground within 18 months of approval. The hotel hopes to do so by the end of 2019 and open by the end of 2021, Haines said.

The CRIZ allows allows property owners to use certain future state and local taxes — including sales and liquor– created by CRIZ projects to pay off construction loans. For Hotel Bethlehem, it could slice its mortgage payment in half if business is strong, Haines said.

“(The CRIZ) helps to reduce the risk of a massive project like this,” he said.

The hotel has been planning the project since early 2016, Haines said, but without the CRIZ it wouldn’t happen.

The project is welcome news to Main Street merchants, who are eager to see more feet on the street and take advantage of the public parking the hotel promises to make available in its new parking deck. Many attended the press conference to support the hotel.

Hotel B has pledged to keep the garage open for paid, public parking at least 300 days a year, Haines said. The garage will exit onto Old York Road to minimize traffic onto Main Street and also include a walkway that will drop folks by the visitor’s center.

The addition will preserve the historic charm of the hotel inside and out with the same historic finishes down to the marble bathrooms, Haines pledged. Spillman Farmer is designing the project so it blends in with the existing Art Deco features.

The new large ballroom will be two-stories like the existing grand ballroom, but it will accomodate up to 400 wedding guests as opposed to the 200 now.

The design includes a new two-story terrace room with palladium windows modeled off of 1741 on the Terrace, so the hotel’s restaurant will not need to close for private events.

The hotel hopes the larger meeting space allows it to attract large conferences from New Jersey that currently bypass Bethlehem.

A proposal in Harrisburg to nearly double the state hotel tax to balance the state budget could complicate matters, Haines said.

“It could make it more difficult for us to attract that business,” Haines said.

Haines see the rise of Airbnb as an unregulated competitor to the hotel industry as a much bigger challenge on the horizon, he said.

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

Moravian Academy prom 2017 (PHOTOS)

Moravian Academy students celebrated their prom Friday night at Hotel Bethlehem.

Moravian Academy students celebrated their prom Friday night at Hotel Bethlehem.
Scroll through t…

Bethlehem Part IV: The Hotel Bethlehem Christmas Tree Display

Paul Epsom visits the Hotel Bethlehem to enjoy their amazing Christmas Tree display.

Christkindlmarkt attendance numbers show 2016 was a banner year

The German-themed holiday marketplace drew almost 70,000 people to the Christmas City this year.

Christkindlmarkt’s expansion paid off for Bethlehem this year. 
The German-…

See who’s with high society at Roaring ’20s Ball (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

Historic Hotel Bethlehem took a step back in time in a gala at the Main Street landmark.

Watch video

 Folks at Hotel Bethlehem on Friday night took a st…

Iconic Martin Tower could come down if zoning changes

Thursday the Bethlehem Planning Bureau made the case for switching the zoning to encourage a mixed-use development of the site.

The iconic and polarizing Martin Tower could …

Musikfest 2015: There’s a whole new platz this year

A new platz hasn’t been added to Musikfest grounds since 2011, when SteelStacks was created.

Musikfest has revealed a new platz for the 2015 festival.

Hotel Bethlehem, which has hosted live entertainment in front of the hotel for several years, will become the Hotel Bethlehem Platz, according to a news release.

It’s the first new platz to be added to Musikfest grounds since SteelStacks opened in 2011.

The platz at the 437 Main St. hotel will focus on jazz, singer-songwriters and acoustic musicians.

“We are very excited about this new venture with ArtsQuest,” Dennis Costello, general manager of Historic Hotel Bethlehem, said in the release. “ArtsQuest and Hotel Bethlehem have been mutually supportive of one another for many years and to be the first new venue since 2011 is an honor. ArtsQuest is an incredible community arts partner and we enjoy being the community hotel. Adding this Hotel Bethlehem Platz on Main Street is a wonderful way to keep the Historic District engaged in Musikfest and keep introducing Musikfest attendees to our museums, historic sites, shops and restaurants.”

hotel bethlehem musikfestFor several years, Hotel Bethlehem has hosted live entertainment in front of its hotel during Musikfest. This marks the first year that the area in front of the hotel will be designated as a platz. (Courtesy Photo)

Kelly Ronalds, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, says the performance space will be located on the sidewalk between the hotel’s main entrance and the hotel’s shop.

“We welcomed the opportunity to have that area become a part of Musikfest,” Ronalds says.

The release notes it as a “performance space” and it’s not clear whether a stage and chairs will be set up, as is the case with other Musikfest platzes. The platz will operate 5-9 p.m. throughout the festival and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Ronalds says street closures on Main Street will operate as they normally would during Musikfest. The typical route – which establishes a “chute” for hotel guests from Church street through Main street and out to Market street will remain, Ronalds says.

RELATED: The Flaming Lips to open 2015 festival

Ronalds notes ArtsQuest President and CEO Kassie Hilgert has great vision.

“She kept saying Hotel Bethlehem was like its own platz. And now we’re on our own platz,” Ronalds says. “I think this will be a great addition for Main street.”

Hotel Bethlehem Platz will host:

Aug. 7: Adam Web, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 8: Yancarlos Sanchez, 1-4 p.m. and Pocono Duo from 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 9: Blackbird Society Orchestra, 1-4 p.m. and Jayy Mannon Duo from 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 10: Hot Bijouxx, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 11: Josh Liberio Duo, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 12: Brian Fitzy, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 13: Adam Web, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 14: Jon Fadem, 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 15: Hot Club of Philadelphia, 1-4 p.m. and Breeze from 5-9 p.m.

Aug. 16: Lorenzo Branca, 1-4 p.m. and Nancy and Spencer Reed from 5-9 p.m.

Kelly Huth may be reached at Follow her on twitter @LVLfood. Find Lehigh Valley Food on Facebook.

Gallery preview 

Proposal to shorten Musikfest hours on Main Street panned at Bethlehem meeting

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez had said last month that he wanted to look into reopening Main Street to cars at 9 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. to dissipate teens who gather there but even he backed off the idea tonig…

Historic Bethlehem to soon have costumed docents walking the streets

The guides will be in Center City Bethlehem every day starting next year. A start date is not yet set.

Visitors to Center City Bethlehem will soon be greeted by costumed docents.

The guides will act as historic ambassadors for Bethlehem’s Moravian history and its shops and eateries.

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines has long dreamed of his
guests stepping out of the hotel and encountering a docent dressed in
Moravian garb.

“It sends the signal they are someplace special,”
Haines said. “When you go to Old Salem (in Winston Salem, N.C.) and
Williamsburg, you know you’re in a true historic community.”

city’s recent National Historic Landmark District designation made
Haines feel now was the right time to push for some of Northampton
County’s hotel tax to be returned to Main Street to help promote tourism.

Northampton County Council agreed and increased the Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s 2014 allocation by about $45,000, said Lori Sywensky, the county’s community development administrator. Hotel taxes were coming in higher than projected so there was extra money, she said.

Due to the timing of the designation, the partnership applied outside of the normal grant cycle and county council passed a late budget amendment to make it happen. They plan to apply during the normal cycle for 2015, Haines said.

The Historic Bethlehem Partnership will administer the grant, hire and train the docents, President Charlene Donchez Mowers said. She noted they are accepting applicants for new guides.

Haines, the partnership and the Downtown Bethlehem Association have long hoped to see this happen.

The goal is to have at least one docent walking around every day. Guides may double up during the holiday season and major events, Haines said.

Haines hopes reinvesting the hotel tax in Center City will improve tourists’ visits and that they’ll share that with friends, who will be inspired to see the Christmas City themselves.

“It will help increase the traffic to the businesses on Main
Street for the long-term, ensuring the vibrancy of historic Bethlehem,”
Haines said. “The shops have not recovered from the downturn.”

He noted there are no administrative costs to the grant because the partnership already staffs docents.

“We’re really excited about this,” he said.

The partnership is awaiting official notice of the grant award. Once the letter comes, the three groups will sit down and get to planning, Mowers said.

“We’d like to have them out as soon as possible,” Mowers said.

Anything that makes a visitor’s trip to Bethlehem more fulfilling will benefit the city’s restaurants and shops, said Neville Gardner, historic district chairman and Donegal Square owner.

Bethlehem offers history and locally owned retail and eateries, he said.

“We are a very unique town,” Gardner said. “There are really no chains here. … All the restaurants and shops are individuals. There is a story to be told and we are all about telling it.”

Holiday classics: A look behind the lights of Hotel Bethlehem and the Star of Bethlehem

Hotel Bethlehem strings 35,000 Christmas lights in their annual decorations.

Whether you’ve grown up here or grown your family here, there are certain Lehigh Valley holiday traditions that can’t be missed.

month, we’re taking a look behind the scenes at three city holiday
displays and all the work it takes to create and maintain them each

This is the final installment in our three-part series.

While guests slumber at Hotel Bethlehem, two “elves” work their magic transforming the hotel into a holiday destination — complete with 35,000 Christmas lights, 36 wreaths and a half-dozen 7-foot-tall toy soldiers.

Kelly Ronalds, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, says Gary Berger and Robert Averill decorate by night so they don’t disturb guests.

They start Nov. 1 and work tirelessly to ensure the hotel is ready for the community open house that follows the city’s tree-lighting ceremony on Black Friday. The public is invited for hot apple cider and cookies and self-guided tours of the hotel’s decorations, according to a news release.

“We take very seriously the fact that the hotel sits on the land of the first house where they (the Moravians) named Bethlehem, Bethlehem,” Ronalds says.

That was Christmas Eve 1741. And their traditions still flourish throughout the city today.

“The Moravians are still well known for their warm hospitality. We want to continue that tradition,” she says.

Which is why regardless of whether you’re a hotel guest or a lifelong resident of the Christmas City, the 437 Main St. hotel opens its doors to share its holiday spirit.

Labor of love

Ronalds says planning begins mid-October for the annual display. More than 1,000 man hours go into the decorations — 600 from the two decorators and an estimated 400 hours in assistance from the hotel’s engineering staff.

Berger is a bartender in the hotel’s Tap Room. Averill works for the hotel as a decorator. Ronalds says it’s a passion for both men, paid to do the work since 2006.

New this year are two 16-foot Christmas trees awaiting guests in the lobby and a gingerbread model of Hotel Bethlehem created by Averill.

But there are also constants, most notably the Nativity scene tucked away above the lobby’s main doors. It stands as a reminder of the Moravian putz the hotel was famous for in its early days.

Ronalds says the hotel has become a spot for locals to pose for their annual family Christmas photo. She jokes she becomes a professional photographer this time of year.

“For a lot of families, it’s their tradition (to come to Hotel Bethlehem), whether it’s for a Sunday brunch or a special dinner or to stay while visiting their family,” she says.

A tradition above the rest

Hotel Bethlehem’s holiday display is among many storied traditions in the Christmas City, among with its German markets, Christkindlmarkt and Weihnachtsmarkt, and its Christmas light displays and horse-drawn carriage rides.

But there’s one tradition that stands above all the rest: The Star of Bethlehem.

“Bethlehem is known as the Christmas City and the star is part of that,” says Michael Alkhal, director of public works and city engineer.

The star stands on a parcel of land owned by Bethlehem’s water authority, high above the city on South Mountain.

The 90-foot-tall structure is based off the Moravian star, which originated as a geometry project in Germany.

Alkhal says the original wooden structure created in 1937 was replaced by a steel frame in 1941, though he’s unsure if the new incarnation was made from Bethlehem Steel.

The star features 136 bulbs throughout its eight rays. Bulbs were upgraded to LEDs in 2010 for better quality and energy efficiency, Alkhal says.

The structure was last rehabbed in 2006, which involved sandblasting and repainting its base. The city covers the star’s maintenance and upkeep.

Alkhal says signs all throughout the city tell visitors to follow the star, visible throughout many parts of the city.

The star, though illuminated year-round from dusk until midnight, bears mention in any traditions story.

“It’s an important part of the Christmas holidays,” Alkhal says.

* * *

By the numbers

Hotel Bethlehem:

The Golden Eagle Hotel opened in 1794 and closed as The Eagle Hotel in 1919. Hotel Bethlehem opened in 1922.

The 2013 holiday display features:

  • Two 6-foot nutcrackers
  • 26 Christmas trees
  • More than 35,000 lights
  • 36 wreaths
  • Six 7-foot toy soldiers

Stop by the Hotel Bethlehem lobby for a self-guided tour booklet detailing the holiday decorations. The hotel estimates the decorations will be up through Jan. 13.

Star of Bethlehem:

90 feet tall

The original wooden structure debuted in 1937; upgraded to steel in 1941

Eight rays feature a total of 136 light bulbs

LED light upgrade in 2010

Illuminated dusk to midnight all year long

* * *

Did you know?

Driving through Bethlehem this time of year, you’ll find many candles in the windows. It’s symbolic that the candle plays so prominently into the city’s decorations, as Bethlehem holds the distinction of holding the first Moravian Christmas Eve candlelight service in the New World in 1756.

Source: “The Moravian”