Thursday, April 20, 2006

Area's growth off the charts

Population predictions miss the mark. What experts thought would take decade achieved in five.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
The Express-Times

The Lehigh Valley is growing faster than expected, experts say, a fact that has led to changes in health care and transportation and, of course, new homes.

Ashley Development Corp. of Bethlehem built 172 condominiums at the Lehigh Riverport in the city, is a partner in plans for 945 homes at the Martin Tower and proposes 292 condos at the former Dixie Cup plant in Wilson Borough.

Peter Koehler is heading the 30-condominium Eastonian project at the former Hotel Easton. And Michael Perrucci, a partner in the BethWorks Now mixed-use proposal in South Bethlehem, is planning the 449-townhouse River View at Delaware Station in Phillipsburg.

Those are just some of the plans of three developers.

Statistics show enough people are coming to make their efforts worthwhile.

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission projected 32,395 more residents would move to the Lehigh Valley than leave the area from 2000 to 2010. A Pennsylvania State Data Center study released last month shows a 33,116 net population gain into the area in half that time.

Commission Executive Director Michael Kaiser said a big segment of the surge is out-of-state residents selling their higher-priced homes and moving in search of lower taxes and living costs. The tradeoff is longer commutes, he said, as new homes spring up within driving distance of major metropolitan areas.

Alan Jennings, executive director of the Bethlehem-based Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, said he is seeing a trend of local developers lagging behind the influx.

"The demand outstrips the supply and pulls prices up with it," he said.

The result is more and more working families finding homes out of their price range, Jennings said.

"If you're at the low end of the economic totem pole, you're in big trouble," he said.

The increase in population is one factor in St. Luke's Hospital's plans for the Riverside Outpatient Complex, a 2-million-square-foot center on 180 acres at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township, Pa., hospital spokeswoman Susan Schantz said.

"There's also an increase in the infamous baby boomers," she said. "And the older you are it's a documented fact that the more health care services you need."

The land's proximity to Route 22 and Interstate 78, accessed by the 4-year-old Route 33 extension, is a third cause for the hospital's expansion, Schantz said.

Maintaining the region's highway network is also proving to be a costly and difficult proposition. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is at the beginning of an eight- to 10-year effort to revamp Route 22 from Airport Road to 15th Street at a projected cost of $180 million and $250 million.

The final design and construction phases could extend through 2014, with other sections of the highway projected to be under construction until at least 2030

Article courtsey of The Express Times

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spring on 4th, What's on 3rd

This is the 11th annual celebration of the spirit of the Southside of Bethlehem and the coming of Spring. Each year merchants, non-profit organizations and neighbors have joined forces, with the support of the City of Bethlehem, in this celebration of community.

What: 9th Annual Chilli Taste-off

When: Saturday, April 22nd, 12-3pm

Where: South Side Bethlehem

Cost: 3/$1

4th Street Chilli Stations:
Tally Ho Tavern -Endorphin Rush
Dejá Brew - Anti-Chilli
Sands Tan - VIP Chili
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church - Old Fashioned Lutheran Chili
Blue Sky Café - Blue Sky Vegetarian Chili
Casa Mia Pizzeria & Pub - Italian Chili
Tulum - Beth-Mex Chili
Bridgeworks Irish Pub - Southside Chili
The Funhouse - Hot Diggity Dog Tex Mex Chili
Godfrey Daniels - Turkey Ancho Chili
Southampton Fish & Chips - Henry the VIII Chicken Chili
Southampton Boys & Girls Club - Matty’s Magic Chili

3rd Street Chilli Stations:
Looper’s Bar & Grill - Red, White & Blues Brotherhood Chili
Crystal Signatures - Flawless Full Lead Chili
Lehigh Valley Magazine - “Best in the Valley” Chili
St. Lukes Hospital - Healthy “Heart”y Hot Hot Hot Veg Chili
Northampton Community College - Spartan Southside Special Chili
Hess Healthcare Services - Hessterical Chili
J. P. MacGrady’s Pub - MacGrady’s Irish Chili
Spa Soleil - Cluckin Hot Chili
Comfort & Joy - Da Hotness
Fox Optical - Coulbion Chili
Home & Planet - Planet Chili
Cleo’s Silversmith Studio - Brokeback Bean
Tallarico’s Chocolates - Smoke Stack Lightening
Monsoon Gallery - The Hondu Stew
Rain Gallery - Rain’s No Pain Chili
Arts Quest/Simply Special - Black Bean/Vegetarian Chili

New Street Chilli Stations:
Wildflower Café - Wildflower Organic Vegan Chili
Comfort Suites - Over the Edge Chili
Homebase Skate Shop - Hungry Hobo
St. Bernard’s/Home of Good Samaritans - Hog’s Chili

Poll: Valley still a great place, but slipping

Respondents say traffic, crime, loss of open space concern them.
By John L. Micek
Call Harrisburg Bureau

Lehigh Valley residents find the region a great place to live and raise a family, but housing costs, sprawl and crime are sapping their contentment, a new poll shows.

Locals remain upbeat about big-picture questions such as the economy, job security and education, the fourth annual Morning Call/Muhlenberg College ''Lehigh Valley Quality of Life'' survey shows. But brows are furrowing over traffic and other day-to-day annoyances.

''They've got a positive view, but it's undermined by a nagging sense that all the things they like most are in a tenuous position,'' Christopher Borick, the director of Muhlenberg's Institute of Public Opinion, which conducted the poll, said of the mixed feedback.

Slightly more than half — 52 percent — of respondents from Lehigh and Northampton counties now rate life in the Valley as getting worse, the poll found. That's up from 43 percent last year and 39 percent in 2003, the first year of the survey.

With prices for an existing home hovering at $200,000, new homes approaching $400,000 and signs of construction almost everywhere, Valley residents are starting to worry about the region's traditionally rural character and essential costs.

Eighty-six percent of those surveyed are concerned about the loss of open space. One-quarter give ''not so good'' or ''poor'' marks to the Valley's current housing situation.

There's good reason for that unease.

More than 3 square miles of land a year are converted from open space to developed uses, according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, bringing new residents from New Jersey and New York seeking an escape from the increasingly unaffordable housing markets in those states.

By 2030, roughly 700,000 people will be residents of Lehigh and Northampton counties, officials have said. That means further encroachment into the counties' most rural precincts. Within 25 years, more than half the Valley will be considered urban, up from 40 percent now.

Meanwhile, the average price of an existing home in Lehigh and Northampton counties has risen 63 percent over the last six years to $207,000. The average price of a new home was $391,000 at the end of 2005, up 71 percent from the end of 2000.

''The [accurate] perspective is that it's not as affordable to live here as it once was,'' Borick said.

And Valley dwellers, a number of whom spend their morning commutes snarled in traffic on Route 22, say all that development and growth is taking its toll on the local transportation system. In fact, 35 percent rank area roads as ''not so good'' or ''poor,'' up from 29 percent three years ago.

A good place to live

But on key pocketbook and family issues, Valley residents remain upbeat.

More than nine out 10 Valley residents give the area ''good'' or ''excellent'' marks as a place to live. Just 7 percent rate is ''not so good'' or ''poor.''

Valley residents answered the same way when they were asked whether they thought the region was a good place to raise a family, with 9 out of 10 saying it was, compared with just 7 percent who gave it poor marks.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said the regional economy was ''excellent'' or ''good,'' up from 43 percent in 2003 and 55 percent last year. Thirty-six percent of respondents gave the regional economy failing marks.

Local confidence in keeping jobs also improved. Buoyed by a lower unemployment rate, nearly two-thirds of respondents are unconcerned about losing their jobs, down from 58 percent last year.

Eight in 10 Valley residents are happy with the size of their paychecks, unchanged from last year. And seven of 10 are satisfied with their current jobs; just 6 percent are not.

Pollsters interviewed 618 Lehigh or Northampton County residents March 22 to April 8. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The Morning Call and Muhlenberg College annually conduct regional and statewide polls on topics such as political, economic and quality of life issues.

Article courtsey of The Morning Call

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