Friday, November 17, 2006

Bethlehem City scores grant for Elm Street District revitalization

Bethlehem announced the receipt of a state grant worth $150,000 on Thursday that will enable the city to hire a full-time manager to lead redevelopment in the mostly residential neighborhoods north and west of the downtown historic district.

The grant denotes the official recognition of a state-designated Elm Street district in Bethlehem, something city officials and neighborhood volunteers have been working toward for more than two years.

The grant was announced by Kenneth Klothen, deputy director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, at a news conference at Ambre Studio, 310 W. Broad St. The new art gallery's director, Evelyn Beckman, was recently awarded the grand prize by Bethlehem Properties of Merit, for the successful restoration of the 120-plus-year-old building that was originally a pharmacy and home.

''This renovated gallery is the kind of place that bridges business districts and residential areas,'' Klothen said. ''We want the neighborhoods adjacent to downtowns to become the kind of places that people want to live in.''

The Elm Street program was launched by the state to help small cities and large boroughs revitalize mixed use neighborhoods adjacent to commercial downtowns.

The state had already committed a $250,000 transportation enhancement grant that will be used to improve the appearance of W. Broad Street from Main Street west to Third Avenue, the gateway to downtown from Route 378.

The city has also committed $100,000 of its federal Community Development Block Grant money to the project, which will include trees, landscaping, new street lights, new widened sidewalks and patterned cement crosswalks.

The state made an initial investment in 2004 of $25,000, which paid for the development of an Elm Street plan. A group of neighborhood volunteers was assembled to watch over the plan's evolution. City Council adopted the 100-page plan in December.

The plan specifically targets Fairview and Friendship parks — now large, unattractive macadam lots — for improvements such as trees, lighting, benches and decorative signs.

The city also could add police substations, organize a farmers market on the north side, print maps with tourist destinations and hang ''Welcome to Bethlehem'' signs.

Mayor John Callahan, who presided at the news conference, said he hopes to establish a facade loan program for homeowners in the district.

The district's boundaries are Fairview and Spruce streets on the north; Prospect Avenue and Broad and Raspberry streets on the south; Pulaski Street on the east; and Sixth Avenue on the west.


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