Project continues accepting feedback
Rarely does anyone ask you to help them spend $1 million.
But designers of the South New Street Enhancement Streetscape Project did Oct. 17. The WRT engineering firm – which is leading the effort – held two public meetings about how the revitalized street corridor would best serve the public. The open house took place at 306 S. New St.
Bethlehem received a $1 million state grant last year to refurbish South New Street, from the Fahy Bridge to Lehigh University’s Farrington Square.
“We have already completed a basic analysis of may of the issue and challenges facing the street,” Keiko Cramer, a principal with WRT, told the assembled crowd during the afternoon session of the open house.
The firm’s conceptual design was devised over a three-month period and constitutes about 30 percent of the entire project’s timeline. During a power point presentation, Cramer presented an overview of WRT’s plan. The goal is to create increased accessibility to the street and corridor, while maintaining safety. A successful project would “develop an identity” for this gateway into the city’s South side, she said. In addition, it would connect the street, sidewalk and the city’s South Bethlehem Greenway.
“We are now really interested in hearing what the public has to say about what can be improved or changed,” Cramer said.
Some of the public input gathered Oct. 17 will be implemented into the project’s preliminary design, which will be done over the next few months.
The method used for public feedback was informal, although many in attendance wrote or used stickers to share their thoughts on large banners taped to the walls. Most of the banners posed specific questions, and were divided into general categories that represented WRT project goals.
One section sought feedback about how people use the street currently, while another section focused on what activities and programs those who attended wanted to see.
For example, one of the questions centered around safety and accessibility, and specifically, what would make a “pedestrian-friendly street?” Four categories were contained on the sheet and respondents then placed an orange “sticky dot” in one of four answer blocks. The answers included bump-outs, crosswalk art, lighting and planting. An empty space was also designated where respondents could supply any answer they wished.
In this category, a slight majority of respondents thought bump-outs would be most effective with cross walk art a close second.
Another section of questions were termed the “character section,” which sought attendees’ vision for the street. Those questions included what would make an “iconic gateway to Southside?” Of the four listed responses, a majority of people indicated a plaza area would be the best option. In second place was adding art structures, with a bus shelter and additional lighting receiving fewer votes.
Another question asked what “would make a cohesive streetscape?” Responses to this question received a virtual tie between two answers – street furniture and graphics – with two other responses – lighting and special paving – coming in third and fourth respectively.
A final question asked what would make the project successful. While there were no prompted responses, the majority of respondents would be to create an environment that would be arts-centric, with more pedestrian and lighting and access to help keep the area safe.