Friday, December 21, 2007

Future looks bleak for Riverwalk project in Easton

From the Morning Call:

The Easton Parking Authority wants to see a redesign of the controversial $50 million Riverwalk condominium/parking garage, or else the project might die.

To save the project, the authority board voted 5-0 Thursday night for its partner -- Arcadia Properties of Hanover Township, Northampton County -- to provide specific details on revising Riverwalk at the authority's next meeting Jan. 17.

Arcadia proposes to build 140 condominiums and commercial space in seven stories above a parking garage, which the authority would manage. The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority would use a transportation center in the garage.
The building would be constructed along Riverside Drive across from the Delaware River and behind the Governor Wolf Building on N. Second Street.

But the estimated price tag for the authority's portion is nearly $30 million, which makes the project impossible to produce.

''It is just not something we can do, based on our financing,'' said authority member Drew Lewis.

Meanwhile, a federal judge may soon decide whether to grant the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's request to at least temporarily halt the project.

Delaware Riverkeeper and other opponents have said the project is wrong for the city, mainly because of its size and because it is planned in an area prone to flooding.

Judge Petrese B. Tucker must decide whether the court should intervene before the Federal Transit Administration offers a ruling on the findings of an environmental assessment study conducted by LANTA.

The suit filed jointly by the Delaware Riverkeeper and the American Littoral Society was discussed last week in Philadelphia.

Authority solicitor S. Graham Simmons said Thursday legal fees and litigation toward the more than one-year project are estimated at nearly $123,000.

Simmons said $56,000 of those fees accumulated since June, when the suit was filed against the Riverwalk plan.

Authority Chairman Lou Ferrone read a nearly five-page statement criticizing opponents who believed the project would ruin recreational activities, increase vandalism and harm the environment.

''I believe this has been a sad day for the city of Easton,'' he said. ''Riverwalk was promoted as the ideal multi-use development for the city and would have contributed tremendously to the vitality and pulse of the city.''

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