Board rejects ‘pencil-like structure’
It’s back to the drawing board for young entrepreneur Dallas Basha of Lehigh Properties, LLC. The Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission again tabled his proposed new residential over retail building during the Nov. 20 hearing at City Hall in room B504.
Basha, a Lehigh University graduate currently living in Florida, made several revisions to his previously rejected construction proposal for a vacant lot he owns at 13 W. Morton St. Although Basha’s resubmitted proposal eliminated an originally planned seventh story and visible roof pent, the height of the building in relation to its footprint was still a major issue with BHCC.
Dallas Basha argued that some of the buildings in the South Bethlehem Downtown Historic District were taller than his proposed project. Chairman Philip Roeder pointed out that nearly all of the them had been built before the historic district guidelines were established. Roeder added that the New Street Parking Garage and other buildings that had been approved by the board were located on streets wider than W. Morton St. and the lots for those structures were considerably larger. Several people who live or work near the site were each given time to address the board with their views. Gail Domalakes said, “I just think the building’s too tall,” She and the others opined that a three or four-story building would be more appropriate.
Breena Holland said that she still has the same concerns about the project that she had at the Aug. 7 hearing, saying, “I think it is bad for the historic district.”
Kim Cartell-Smith, who had referred to the project as a “pencil-like structure” at the previous hearing, continued her opposition to the now six-story building proposal. She stressed that adhering to the district’s guidelines was critical to revitalizing the SouthSide.
Dana Grubb spoke of how he, as the acting director of Community & Economic Development for the city, and others crafted the historic district ordinance in 1999. “We don’t want to change what works in Bethlehem,” Grubb said.
Bill Scheirer, who had served on the Mayor’s Task Force for the Revised Zoning Ordinance, said of the taller buildings that had sprouted up over the years, “Mistakes should not be replicated.”
The BHCC advised Basha to simplify the building design and reduce the structure’s height, then return with a site plan, and elevations for all four sides of the building, including how they relate in scale to the surrounding structures.
Disappointed, but not deterred, Dallas Basha accepted the advice from the board and neighborhood residents, saying, “I’m here to listen.”
Seth Cornish and Chris Ussler recused themselves from this agenda item for potential conflicts of interest. George Donovan took over for Ussler as historic officer for this one agenda item.
Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley, represented by Justin Tagg and Nathan Nace of BDA Architects, along with Elizabeth DeCarlo from St. Luke’s University Health Network, was granted a certificate of appropriateness for installation of a new exterior canopy, ADA ramp, and stairs for 502 E. Fourth St. The former St. John’s Windish Hall was also approved for exterior façade restoration in selected areas and new aluminum frame windows throughout to replace old vinyl and glass block windows that were not original to the building. All hollow flush metal entry doors will be replaced with more historically acceptable doors. Phil Roeder and Chris Ussler suggested that the architect submit an application for a state variance to allow for the installation of double doors for the main entrance. Currently, the doorway would be considered too narrow for them as defined by code. Approval was granted pending submission of scale shop drawings that clarify window, door and railing details to Roeder and Ussler for review.
Storefront and window signage for the Hot Plate Soul Kitchen at 201 E. Third St. was unanimously approved. Terrence Burns, the proprietor of the soul food restaurant, agreed to the board’s recommendation of adding a color band around the blue and orange storefront sign. His logo for the vinyl window signage was approved as submitted, as long as he follows city zoning guidelines regarding size.
Greek Meat Guy at 129 E. Third St., represented by ethnic eatery owner Nicholas Malitsis, received a COA for a new pin-mounted sign with 12 inch blue PVC letters. The business logo, “Eat In, Takeout & Delivery,” and phone number in white vinyl letters for the window were approved. The commercial property is owned by Joseph Pearl.
BHCC granted approval to Ashley Matlock’s proposal to install a window sign for her Rise Above Hair Studio at 333-335 S. New St. The white letters of her logo form a circle around a keystone with “RA” in the center. D & P Management own the building.
Mark Plosa was approved by the board to replace the existing roof at a row house he owns at 323 W. Fourth St. with shingles similar to what had been previously installed.
Obtaining a certificate of appropriateness is only a first step for business owners and residents in a designated historic district who wish to make alterations to a building’s exterior. The BHCC’s recommendations are later reviewed, then voted on by city council before any project is allowed to proceed.