Germany grocery chain sinks Lehigh Valley roots
German discount grocer Lidl (pronounced like needle) is coming to the Lehigh Valley. It has plans for both Whitehall Township and Wilson Borough. And as Bethlehem Township Commissioners learned during their Aug. 21 meeting, a 36,000 square-foot store has been proposed at Freemansburg Square. That’s directly across the street from the recently constructed Shoprite Supermarket. Lidl engineer Mike Jeitner stated that the company’s strategy is to “entrench ourselves in corridors that already have traffic.” He hopes to have all approvals in place so that construction can begin next year.
Lidl has humble beginnings. It was first established in 1973, at Ludwigshafen, Germany, with three employees. Today, there are over 10,000 stores in Europe. This expansion has spread to The United States. Although the stores here are chiefly located in Virginia and the Carolinas, Business Insider reports that it plans to open as many as 600 stores in the U.S.
Jeitner describes Lidl as a “specialty store. It will be something that definitely appeals to the American customer.” Its chief competitor is Aldi, another discount grocer that is coincidentally also a German company. Like Aldi, Lidl is known for low prices and much smaller stores than at most supermarkets.
In other business, Commissioners tabled a $1.3 million contract for the exterior renovation of the Archibald Johnston mansion at Housenick Park. Bracy Contracting was the sole bidder, and its price is nearly twice the $675,000-750,000. This may be because many items were added during the bidding process, like alterations to the elevator shaft and removal of lead-based paint. But rejecting the bid would certainly delay the project and might actually add to the cost.
Work on this mansion has been paid from grants and a $2 million trust fund established by Janet Housenick, Archibald Johnston’s granddaughter. Trustees Bill Leeson, Steve Baratta and Tim Brady advised Commissioners in writing that they want to see the exterior stabilization project started by September. “We reserve the right to review and change the annual contribution amounts if the exterior stabilization project is not commenced in earnest and on a continuous basis before September.”
Trustee Bill Leeson, who is also Bethlehem’s city solicitor, was in the audience. He made no comments, and left after commissioners decided to table their decision.
Commissioner Pat Breslin was absent, meaning that a decision on re-bidding this project would have to be made by four Commissioners. They opted to wait two weeks instead.
In an effort to be more transparent and enable the public to see the same documents they are reviewing, Commissioners approved a $21,600 expenditure to Entertainment Services Group so that several screens can be set up in the meeting room. “It’s about time!” said Howard Kutzler. Malissa Davis added she was pleased to see this enhancement after sitting for five years in the audience, often with little idea what was being discussed.
Finally, commissioner heard a brief presentation from T and M’s Greg Duncan. He was hired as the township’s stormwater engineer a year ago. He was He was charged with analyzing the existing system, creating a stormwater improvement plan, developing a stormwater operation and maintenance plan and identifying funding mechanisms to pay for the work.
Duncan appears be nearing the completion of his analysis, and will be reporting monthly.