E. Fourth St. demolition approved
The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley finally scored a certificate of appropriateness for its project for 520 E. Fourth St. during the Sept. 17 meeting of the Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission.
Representing the Hispanic Center were Dale Kochard, BDA Healthcare Architects Justin Tagg and Nathan Nace, and Elizabeth Srock from St. Luke’s Hospital. The proposal had been tabled at two previous hearings. The board had been reluctant to approve the demolition of a former parish house that sits across a small driveway from a gothic revival brick church with a stone façade. 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.
BHCC came to its near unanimous decision to approve the demolition after studying additional information Tagg had furnished to bolster his argument for it. It showed that the wooden structure had been altered to the point that it was not feasible to convert it back to a residence and too expensive to maintain for offices. The extra room gained from the demolition would allow enough space for the planned ADA compliant ramp and stairs. A “grassy plaza” fronted by a wall would occupy the rest of the vacant space. Two bollards would be installed to prevent the area from becoming a parking lot. An exterior canopy and signage on the rear building was also permitted, as well as façade restoration of the former church.
HCLV was instructed to have its funding in place before proceeding with the demolition work.
Voting for the COA under the “unusual circumstances” were Chairman Philip Roeder, Ken Loush, Craig Evans, Beth Starbuck, Anthony Silvoy and Roger Hudak. Seth Cornish voted against, “reluctantly.”
Alloy5 architect Michael Metzger, representing 30-32 E. 3rd St., was granted a COA for the design concept for new construction adjacent to the former Goodman Furniture store. Incorporating BHCC advice gained at a previous hearing, a proposed five-story masonry-clad building for the adjoining vacant lot at 32 W. Third St. was reduced to four stories. The massing and scale of the design were adjusted to complement the existing structure at 30 E. Third that is currently undergoing extensive rehabilitation.
The circa 1910 building there was originally built for the C.P. Hoffman & Co. department store. It was later occupied by Sears, Roebuck & Co. previous to its tenure as Goodman Furniture. The city gained custody of the blighted structure and appointed Metzger as conservator. The vote was unanimous.
The Bethlehem HCC is charged with the task of determining if new signs or other alterations to a building’s exterior would be an appropriate fit for the neighborhood in one of three designated historic districts. Hearings are regularly scheduled on the third Monday of the month.
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.