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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, April 01, 2016

Bethlehem's New Parking Deck

I was looking forward to relaxing a bit on Thursday night after three days of meetings in a row. But sometime yesterday afternoon, I got a call.

"You're going to the meeting in Bethlehem tonight, aren't you?"

"Wasn't planning on it."

I was coaxed into going, especially when this friend told me he had a super secret study that shows that the world as we know it will end if a parking deck goes up next to Dennis Benner's approved building at Third and New.

"Send me the study."

"You got it. It's on its way."

It never came.

"Send me the frickin' study."

"Rightyo. It's on its way."

It never came.

I decided to go to the meeting, mostly because I bought a digital voice recorder and wanted to try it out. A reporter I admire very much uses one, and I'm a copycat.

I walked in at town hall at 7 pm, and the meeting was already well underway. My friend had given me the wrong frickin' time.

Because I was late, no one could run from me, and I sat my fat ass right next to Alicia Miller Karner. She's in charge of the City's economic development and I like her very much.To be honest, I am a little bit afraid of her. But it seems that every time I write a story about Bethlehem, she gets in trouble. So I tried to make amends last night.

"Do you come here often?" I asked.

"Shut up, Bernie."

The Berkenstocks were there, too, in all their glory. The Marxist from South Side Initiative, Breena Holland,and Al Wurth, who reminded everyone about 15 times that he's a college professor.

They're in "the sky is falling" camp, along with most everyone else.

I'm in the "You better hope this plan succeeds or it will be a long time before there's any development in the South Side" camp. By myself.

I've already sat in on two meetings in which this project as discussed to death. At the Planning Commission, my little head finally exploded. I'm not a college professor, but a bottom-feeding blogger. But before that happened, I distinctly remember St. Luke's explaining that there had to be a parking deck next to the Benner building and there had to be an elevated walkway as well. This is because they would be seeing pre- and post-operative patients who are not exactly ready to run a marathon.

In spite of what was clearly said, Al Wurth and Breena Holland's solution is to shuttle everyone in from parking lots located 14 miles away. They must want to set up some sort of gurney express.

My head exploded again.

Incidentally, the super secret parking study was available as a handout. I picked up a copy. I'll be reading that over the weekend, and will give you a serious report on this matter on Monday.

But I was mostly screwing with my voice recorder.

The Council member who dominated discussion the most?

Shawn Martell. 19 minutes. He beat Bryan Callahan by four minutes. But Shawn can be forgiven because he ran a very good meeting. If someone went over the five minutes by thirty seconds or so, he did not freak out. Also, both Callahan and Willie Reynolds engaged members of the public from time to time, so people did not feel like they were talking to a wall.

One resident made some terrific points about these goofy Historic Commissions that seem to be like Big Brother in so many communities. I'll be writing about that, too.


Anonymous said...

Truly an ecological travesty which will increase both our carbon footprint and toxic runoff into the majestic waters of the Monacocy creek

Blue Badger

Anonymous said...

maybe, 450, because Karner's a good person who's good at her job.

Anonymous said...

That parking deck section is one of the most attractive of its type I've ever seen. Actually, the entire building looks to be a most appealing gateway to the South Side.

At my age and ability, living there in retirement is something I'll look at seriously.
But, I'll have to find proposed floor plans to consider. South Side Bethlehem is more inviting to me than what's developing in Allentown.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Who is this rising star Shawn Martell???? Didn't he play football for the Beca Golden Hawks and Moravian?
This " Breena Holland initiative" should be shut down by her current employer. She is using Lehigh for her own personal agenda.

Anonymous said...

Bernie I had a huge belly laugh when you mentioned Al Wurth. I've been to a couple meetings where he was there and he told the audience in both situations that he is a professor at Lehigh several times. I can not imagine sitting in this guys classes. His students must go out of their mind listening to this guy.

Anonymous said...

Breena was pushing for parking lots to be built out near 78 and 412 for the casino and Steelstacks, too. Her plan was to close South Bethlehem to traffic, and shuttle everyone in and out. And Wurth hates parking garages. He protested against the North Street garage back then, too. I had both of these "Professors" while at Lehigh 10 years ago. I kept my head down and my opinions to myself during their classes, both do not like students who think independently or different from them.

Frank Baran said...

Good report, Bernie. I think I've attended every recent meeting on this subject. Each time, the opposition comes up with new arguments. Sometimes the claims are invented on the spot. Whatever anyone thinks about the parking garage, the parking authority's case has been consistent.

I'm glad you mentioned that the Benner building will house a St. Luke's clinic for pre- and post-surgical patients. I underwent four months of physical and occupational therapy following major surgery. Ms. Holland prescribes that everybody should be able to walk a quarter of a mile between a parking space and the destination. I would have been dead on the street if I followed her advice.

Anonymous said...

Holland is out of her mind. She thinks the entire area will eventually go public transportation. I'm 28 years old and I will be dead before people in the valley give up their cars. Maybe Lehigh should donate a couple hundred million for a South Side trolley system!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Frank Baran not only attends these meetings but takes detailed notes.

That's the one thing these nutty professors seem to have missed. St. Luke's has needs for its patients, and those needs require parking be close by, with an elevated walkway from the deck to the building so that these folks can get in and out without keeling over. The only person from the Kremlin to address this, Don Miles, said his 93 yo grandmother would do just fine. We are talking about pre- and post-operative patients and people going through rehab.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" I had both of these "Professors" while at Lehigh 10 years ago. I kept my head down and my opinions to myself during their classes, both do not like students who think independently or different from them."

I figured as much, especially when Holland in particular would openly scoff at the presenter. Not much tolerance there. Hope they are more tolerant in class or have learned since you were under them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Who is this rising star Shawn Martell???? Didn't he play football for the Beca Golden Hawks and Moravian?
This " Breena Holland initiative" should be shut down by her current employer. She is using Lehigh for her own personal agenda."

Martell did a good job running the show and was a gifted athlete. Willie and Bryan were relaxed enough to engage in dialogue.

I believe Holland is exercising her First Amendment rights, and that LU will encourage this to promote academic freedom.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fred, there is something to be said for living in the middle of a city, especially if you know you'll have parking. Not sure that Benner's building will offer apartments. But Noble's project does, with underground parking, too.

Anonymous said...

Great project but if I'm the City, there is -no way- I pledge to back 100% of the cost of the deck. Parking decks are money losing albatrosses. It will take the City 40 years to pay it off on top of maintenance costs that increase with age.

If Benner wants it that bad he should pony up at least 1/4 of the cost.

Anonymous said...


The Noble building doesn't interest me. Using Cherokee at W.3rd will be problematic. I would like to walk to most everything and want to enter/exit my vehicle under roof when necessary. I've been a fan and patron of South Bethlehem for many years. Good vibe there.

The plan is to sell the big house and use the equity to pay rent the rest of our lives. Will be doable, but any apartment will need to be just right. No interest in condos either.

Bethlehem residents and current South Side merchants should be thrilled by what Mr. Benner has on the drawing board. I wish him success.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

12:25 Get your facts straight. The City isn't paying anything for the garage. They are just backing the bond, as is needed if the parking authority defaults. There is no way the parking authority is defaulting. The people who park in the garages and meters will be paying for it.

Anonymous said...


What about "pledging to back" is difficult?

Parking garages are largely financed with parking revenue bonds. While I agree the parking authority will most likely not go out of business nor be dissolved, both the authority and city must ask themselves - do they really want to finance 100% of another money-losing maintenance heavy project for 25-40 years?

It takes a lot to have a garage break even. You need it to do that not just five years after it's built but at least to the term of the bonds.


Anonymous said...

I have no dog in this fight, but parking garages are necessary in every urban area. Just like cities have water and sewer systems, they also need parking garages to alleviate metered parking areas in front of stores and businesses. I think for some reason this group is just dead set against the Benner project and will do anything to try to stop it or delay it. From what I see in the drawings and hear, it looks like a great project for a vacant lot.

Anonymous said...

Al Wurth's reviews on Ratemyprofessor are pretty much dead on with the guy he appears to be when speaking at council meetings.

Anonymous said...

Blue Badger @2:41AM,
Not sure where you buy your maps, but the Monocacy creek empties into the Lehigh river nowhere near this proposed structure. There will be no runoff into the Monocacy from this.

Anonymous said...

I believe the parking study said that this new parking deck will require a huge annual subsidy from people parking in other parts of the city.

Patriot2 said...

This parking deck will cost the taxpayers money because the $1.1 million bond payment reduces the parking authority NOI to a break even operation which means they will no longer be contributing $500,000/year to the city budget. Benner's tenants will be using at least half the spaces & maybe 100% if he tears down the church on 4th street & builds a 12 story building as shown on parking study. So he should be required to cover the bond payment for as much of this garage his tenants will be using. In addition they need to keep Graham Place open to relieve congestion on New Street. Either shrink the garage footprint or rebuild Graham St. South toward the Greenway.

millenialfalcon said...

What I find infuriating with this set of speakers is their general lack of courtesy. This small group received two opportunities to speak in this meeting using all 5 minutes and sometimes more of their time. I think it was great to have a very open conversation about this issue but when it was time to ACTUALLY listen to the proposed parking plan, gather the facts, figure out what exactly the opposing argument is for the building of it all, this same group talked through the entire presentation making it hard to hear and very disruptive. Not only did they talk but half the speakers AGAINST the deck just left right after their five minutes not even allowing the chance to constructively figure out what is proposed and really what they are against.

To review, when the whole meeting is set up to just HEAR/DISCUSS the proposed plan not vote, not finalize, not put shovel to ground, these people can’t even be bothered to just LISTEN to what the plan might be? Personally, I think they just like the sound of their own voices and a forum to display them in. They wrap every argument around this “speaking for the people” business and call anyone and everyone trying to make a difference or see economic development within the city corrupt and I’m tired of it. They may be trying to gain street credibility in the small select circles they run in while drinking wine and yupping it up with their friends, but I don’t believe for a second that they’re doing it for the people or speaking for the majority. I’m with the residents in not having this monstrosity take away their safety or diminish their property value but there’s a diplomatic way to address these issues and one starts by actually LISTENING to the plan.

Bethlehem is tested time and time again with how it will respond to any type of economic growth and as a whole we fail to cover ALL the relevant facts and opinions of both sides (not here at LV Ramblings but MCall, Express Times, etc.). These select few should not just be the people covered and they are because it pulls in the numbers and gives catchy headlines. I understand that no one likes change but it happens and we all need to adjust. I’m about thoughtful development and I hate parking decks more then anyone but if it means bringing more people into the city and giving/helping existing business owners, employees, patients, and residents a chance to benefit, I’m all for it if that’s what’s best for the MAJORITY who I never feel are properly covered. Thank goodness for this blog where the proper coverage can be heard.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe in the Sunshine Act and believe there is a right to speak, and if someone goes on a little beyond his allotted time, it's not the end of the world. But here's what bothers me. Every right has a corallary duty. The right to speak includes a duty to listen. Many of those who spoke got up and left without bothering to listen to what others had to say. That defeats the whole purpose.

Patriot2 said...

I think some had to leave for other meetings including the Taylor Gas station owner who made very legitimate points about bad traffic congestion at 3rd & New currently & his concern of deliveries & significantly more traffic there with Graham St closed backing up traffic from 4th St & garage entrance/exit. Garage should be paid for by developer & not city was his second point. Very valid points.

Patriot2 said...

Meant to say Graham St should be moved north towards greenway above.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Patriot @ 7:19, If you want to exercise the right to speak, you have a duty to listen. There were no other city or county meetings that night.

Patriot2 said...

He is a private business owner so there are other meeting obligations other then public meetings. If he stated he would have been more pussed off in what he heard from traffic engineer saying that magically all traffic problems in SS will be fixed with light actuation changes??? So what has the city been waiting for to fix this problem now???

Bernie O'Hare said...

Who the hell is he? Hey, you want you impart your wisdom without bothering to listen to others, that's on you. I consider that behavior extremely rude. If you are too busy or important to stick around and listen to others, then in my view you should not be wasting our time with your own remarks. Every right has a corollary duty. The Sunshine Act does not say that, but it should.