Bethlehem: Council denies diocese request
Bethlehem City Council denied permission for the Diocese of Allentown to tear down a home in the Mount Airy Historic District at its Feb. 20 meeting.
The home at 1304 Spring St. was owned by the gardener of former Bethlehem Steel President Eugene Grace and was built around the turn of the 20th Century. The Diocese of Allentown currently owns the home and wants to tear it down because repairs are estimated to cost $230,000.
Several residents from the Mount Airy Historic District came to City Hall to show their support for the building, including Mount Airy Historic District Association President Mary Toulouse.
Toulouse said that the Mount Airy Historic District Association felt that Holy Family Manor, which is run by the Diocese of Allentown, is neglecting the home on Spring Street.
"Like any other member of the community, Holy Family Manor should bear the responsibility of properly maintaining the properties," Toulouse said. "Holy Family Manor has at least four of our Westside historic buildings. They are the caretakers of a large part of our community's heritage and allowing them to tear down one building would be a terrible precedent."
According Joseph Leeson, attorney for the Diocese of Allentown, Bethlehem's Historic Officer said "there would be no negative impact on the historic conservation district" if demolition is approved.
Leeson also said repairing the building is a cost-prohibitive issue for Holy Family Manor.
"My client is in the health care business; it is not in the business of leasing single family homes," Leeson said.
Councilwoman Karen Dolan, who led the renovation efforts at Illick's Mill, said there was "so much potential" for the home and added that she wouldn't knock it down even if it wasn't a historic building.
"It's a beautiful structure and fits in perfectly with the neighborhood," Dolan said. "Exterior, from a historic perspective, is almost all that matters when it comes to neighborhood structural preservation, and it's in great shape."
Councilman David DiGiacinto said he supported the preservation of the building, but questioned what the next step would be.
"What happens next?" DiGiacinto asked. "The building still sits there. The building doesn't get fixed."
DiGiacinto proposed a motion to postpone the vote until March 19 so people on both sides of the issue would get more time to meet up and discuss what needs to be done. He eventually pulled his motion after he thought it would not get enough support from the rest of council.
Council's decision to deny the demolition of the Spring Street home was unanimous.
The next city council meeting is March 5 in City Hall.