Peel-off mural-like signage approved
An unusual proposal for large short-term signage was granted a certificate of appropriateness by the Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission at the August meeting in the Rotunda. The approved contemporary design would be installed on the front and side façades of a late 20th century brick veneer structure in the historic district.
Representing Southside Commons apartments, manager Matthew Sessa and sales rep Chantel Nguyen received approval for temporary signage for their interim leasing office at 408 Adams St. According to Sessa, the textured vinyl “insta-wall” graphics are designed to be attached to the wall surface with an adhesive that enables them to be peeled off when no longer needed. Affiliated with Lehigh University, the SouthSide Commons student housing complex is currently under construction along Brodhead Avenue. The leasing office will move to the new building upon its completion in 2019.
Historic officer Jeff Long informed the board that the two-story commercial building, owned by Margaret Rubak, is a “non-contributing” structure. Since the lettering is to be applied directly to the wall, which is outside the guidelines for signage in the district, Long said, “Proposed signage could perhaps be interpreted as a temporary mural rather than as actual signage.” Approval was given by the board majority with the stipulation that the walls be lightly power washed to remove any adhesive residue once the graphics are removed.
“Every day is a new Adventure at Southside Commons apartments” in script and sans-serif font would be on the wall adjacent to the office entrance. The graphics for “LIVE SouthSide Commons apartments” would be displayed across the side wall that faces a parking lot.
Yellow and white vinyl signage with a clear background for the storefront window and glass panel of the yellow entrance door were allowed. All signage is to be in compliance with zoning requirements.
Expressing concern that the residue from the peel-off letters could potentially stain the bricks and attract dirt, Beth Starbuck voted no.
Accompanied by Evan Blose from Fast Signs, Marco Lu was okayed for a double-sided flag mounted wall sign for Lu’s Rakii Ramen Japanese noodle bar at 328 S. New St. The 20-inch by 20-inch carved high-density urethane (HDU) foam board sign would be mounted in the mortar joints above the entrance door. This is to be installed in addition to previously approved awning and wall signage. The applicants were instructed to add a pinstripe to the black sign to go around the off-white lettering. The painted brick commercial building is owned by Richard McCormick.
The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley’s proposal to tear down a frame building they own to make room for a new grassy plaza was tabled again by BHCC. Representing the Hispanic Center complex at 520 E. Fourth St. were Dale Kochard, architects Justin Tagg and Nathan Nace, and Elizabeth Srock from St. Luke’s Hospital. The proposal had been tabled at the July hearing.
Tagg provided estimates for renovating the circa-1935 parish house that sits across the lot from a gothic revival church. Both buildings are connected in back by a 1940s era brick addition. HCLV has offices in both the house and former one-story church. They operate a senior center and food pantry out of the connecting structure. He said the cost to renovate the run-down house would be around $275,000 for a structure that is valued at $116,000 to $165,000. Tagg argued that creating the open area and installing an ADA compliant ramp would make it safer for the nonprofit to serve 60 to 80 seniors daily. Financed by grants, the proposal includes renovating the historic stone and brick church.
The board was evenly divided on the proposed demolition, with some in favor of sacrificing the house to allow for enough room for the ADA ramp and restoration of the old church, while others opined that the guidelines for tearing down a “contributing structure” were not met. Chairman Philip Roeder, Gary Lader and Seth Cornish said they could possibly be in favor during an informal vote. Opposed were Arnold Trauptman, Beth Starbuck and Ken Loush.
The applicants were advised to return with more information, including a timeline for both renovations and funding for the project.
Representing Dallas Basha, owner of the vacant lot at 13 W. Morton St., Andrew Twiggar was instructed to come back with final drawings of his revisions to the previously approved four-story building. These should include board recommendations for the proposed additional door on the west side, screened garbage area in the rear, and an updated front elevation. The plans for the residential over retail Lehigh Properties, LLC building have undergone multiple design changes since first presented to the board in 2017.
Vice Chairman Gary Lader recused himself for this one agenda item.
Gene Mish was granted unanimous approval to remove the brickote stucco veneer and repair the rain-damaged brickwork on the façade of the 130-year-old storefront building he and Michael Mish own at 314 Brodhead Ave. The COA was issued on an emergency basis to allow Mish to stabilize the section of the front wall that had recently fallen away from the vacant structure.
The building is to be re-faced with real brick to match the original brick. The applicant was instructed to recreate the original architectural details, as well as devise a weather-tight solution for the lower cornice. With the building currently under an agreement of sale, the subsequent building owner would be responsible for additional repairs.