Wind Creek hotel, water park plans remain on hold
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force moved indoors for their monthly gathering Oct. 27 to the cozy community room at Five10 Flats. The Sept. 29 meeting had been held outdoors at the Bethlehem Skateplaza, while dodging spotted lanternflies.
The October gathering was hosted by former Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who is currently director of business development for Peron Development.
Callahan presented circa 1940s photos of the neighborhood to discuss the challenges of developing urban areas and former brownfields. To illustrate this, he produced an aerial view of the block Five10 Flats is built on. Among the structures that had previously occupied the block before Bethlehem Steel razed them and paved it over for parking, was a large fuel storage tank. Callahan explained the bottom portion of that tank, containing sludge, still lurked under the asphalt lot when construction began on the new residential-over-retail complex.
A short tour of the Five10 Flats was offered by Callahan following the meeting.
Mayor’s South Side Task Force Chairman Roger Hudak opined that lack of parking south of the Lehigh River may stifle future development. He said that before the city can begin to build the planned Polk Street garage, maintenance issues need to be addressed first at the Walnut Street Garage.
Plans for Wind Creek to erect a new hotel and construction on a new water park are still “on hold,” according to Hudak.
The chairman brought up that the former saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church property on East Fifth Street appears to be in the process of being converted into a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.
Adrienne McNeil from Lehigh University said the college is partially open now. Access to the libraries is available to all university students, but not yet for the general public. She added Lehigh will close the week before Thanksgiving and not reopen for the spring term until Feb. 1, 2021.
According to Stephanie Augello from the mayor’s office, the Bethlehem Health Bureau will be offering free drive-thru flu shots Nov. 14 at East Hills MS and Dec. 8 at Riverport.
She talked about how the city spent $150,000 helping businesses stay open. Augello announced that newly-appointed Police Chief Michelle Kott will be meeting soon with members of the public to help build trust between officers and those they serve.
While praising the city and local civic organizations for effectively preparing for the 2020 U.S. Census, Augello lamented the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end it early. She reported that 71.1 percent of Bethlehem residents self-responded, which is a higher percentage than the Pennsylvania state average of 69.6 percent and the national average of 67 percent. The pandemic had delayed door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods by three months.
Augello said the Bethlehem Service Center can be reached at 610-865-7000 or via email at email@example.com for residents who wish to report non-emergency issues.
State Rep. Steve Samuelson (D) mentioned his office is still processing state rent and property tax rebates. He announced the state legislature will be working on the budget in November, as only a partial one had been worked out during the summer, with funding running out Nov. 30. “Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate until November,” said Samuelson. If the U.S. Senate doesn’t come to an agreement for a second round of stimulus funding by the end of November, the state legislature may need to pass yet another temporary budget, Samuelson speculated.
He also mentioned that he had earlier voted against legislation that would have “suppressed the vote,” including the elimination of mail-in ballot drop off boxes.
Lehigh Patrol Officer Lora Martin said the campus police still plan to continue their “Shop with a Lehigh Cop” program this year. To adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, the gifts will be dropped off at the recipients’ homes.
“We keep things calm,” said Lehigh University Police Captain Rich McGarr as he spoke about ongoing patrols around the off-campus student housing areas near the university. The university police work closely with city police in a program to keep parties under control. This is funded by a state liquor control grant.
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force meets regularly on the last Tuesday of the month.