Thursday, January 11, 2007

City of Bethlehem invests in downtown, maintaining walkable communities for young professionals

On Tuesday, the Bethlehem launched a two-week initiative to fix cast-iron grates which are meant to decorate the streetscape and provide a level surface for pedestrians. It trim back the roots and weed out all the leaves and other junk caught underneath the 544 tree wells throughout the city.

''If we don't pay attention to the little things, then those little things become big problems,'' Callahan said. ''This is all about trying to make a high quality of life in the downtowns and create a general impression that Bethlehem is a great place to go.''

In a time with the city's downtown is competing with other shopping destinations like the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, Callahan said, attention to detail is crucial.

While the city may not be able to attract — yet — the national chains that the suburban malls do, Callahan wants to focus on the old-town charm and character that he says can't be replicated on a cornfield.

The tree wells are just one of a several maintenance items that the city has addressed over the years. A couple years ago, the city accepted the donation of a sidewalk sweeper to pick up cigarette butts, gum wrappers and other debris on the sidewalks. Last year, the city repainted the bollards and Victorian lights.

The streets targeted for the street well initiative are: Main, Broad, New, Guetter, North, Walnut, Vine, Adams, Webster, Packer, Fourth, Third, Broadway, Brodhead and Morton. In a test run of the project Friday, it took a three-man crew a half-hour to clean and level three wells.

While the city is fixing the wells, Public Works Director Michael Alkhal said it is the property owners' responsibility to take care of the street trees, just as it is their duty to maintain sidewalks. The city hasn't cracked down on broken tree wells except when residents complained. In addition to aesthetics, he said, the grates serve as a safety mechanism — it ensures a level walking area so people won't turn their ankles.

Now that the task will be done, he suggested that more owners take care of the grates, and in some case, decorate it with flowers or some other pleasing way.

While not all of the merchants share the mayor's displeasure with the tree wells, some say that they appreciate the city's attention.

Lucy Lennon, chairwoman of the Downtown Bethlehem Association, thanked the city for its attention to detail.

''I'm glad that the city is taking this on before it becomes a major problem,'' said Lennon, owner of the Dancing Fish restaurant. ''It's preventative maintenance.''

More here.

No comments: