Thursday, January 3, 2019

Bethlehem for the win!

Congrats to the movers and shakers of Bethlehem for winning the 2018 “Commonwealth Awards” for Smart Growth development in Pennsylvania.  The Awards, given out annually by 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania (full disclosure: they have been a client of mine), showcase the best development in the state. 
Bethlehem is a real success story.  Stuck with the largest brownfield in the US in the aftermath of Bethlehem Steel’s closure, they have built on their strengths and turned around their weaknesses, now calling Bethlehem – with some justification – “the coolest small city in America.”
Some keys to their success: casino money (Sands) carefully targeted for redevelopment, a transformative mayor (John Callahan, one of the honorees), active colleges (Lehigh, Moravian), supportive business and civic groups.  As Callahan pointed out, there was no guarantee of success and many cities with similar challenges have failed to overcome then.
The old Bethlehem Steel brownfield site is now home to the Artsquest Center (website here), the Christkindlmarkt Christmas market, concerts, and more.  The impressive old Bethlehem blast furnace complex (“SteelStacks”) has been kept as a monument to the past and a focal point for the future.
Some of my favorite new projects:
·      Southside Commons – A new apartment complex for Lehigh upperclassmen and grad students, linking the university to the Southside business district (link here)
·      Five10Flats - Another new apartment complex on the Southside, this one offering “upscale urban living,” complete with a Starbucks, fitness center, rooftop terrace, and an indoor dog wash (here).
·      South Bethlehem Greenway – A rails-to-trails multi-use greenway connecting many of the Southside activity centers (here).
Congrats to the civic leaders of  Bethlehem for their efforts and congrats also to 10,000 Friends for their continued leadership for Smart Growth in Pennsylvania.