Thursday, November 15, 2007

New light design unveiled for Southside Bethlehem

Most people know that Bethlehem's historic downtown as the Christmas City -- horse-drawn carriage rides, the Live Christmas Pageant, Christkindlmarkt and candlelit tours past some of the city's oldest Moravian buildings.

But community leaders are about to add a burst of that festive spirit in the Christmas City's downtown south of the Lehigh River.

Starbursts, that is.

Holiday lights will wrap around the streetlights along Third and New streets. The shape shape mimics a star.

''This will draw more attention to the South Side, which sometimes gets overlooked this [holiday] season,'' Mayor John Callahan said at a news conference Wednesday.

The lights are the result of a $10,000 partnership of Lehigh University, Northampton Community College and the Citizens Christmas City Committee, which comes under the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The new lights are the latest decoration that community leaders have added to Bethlehem since it was dubbed Christmas City USA 70 years ago.

The large tree for Payrow Plaza, 10 E. Church St., will have 3,500 lights. In addition, 900 pine trees are being hung around the city's downtown. There are 20 other large trees secured in places such as the Hill-to-Hill bridge. Large advent candles will be set up.

Some of the cost is supported by the Christmas Seal. First introduced in 1964, it features an image picked from an art competition. This year's theme is the Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant which depicts the biblical Mary and Joseph.

The seal was designed by Sandra J. Hager of Phillipsburg. Seal packets are available at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, City Hall, Westgate Mall and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Casino building now underway

After months of tearing down old Bethlehem Steel buildings, the project to build a $600 million casino project in Bethlehem moved into the building phase today.

Despite a steady rain, city and company officials gathered to watch the pouring of concrete for the casino.

Not only did it mean that the $600 million Sands BethWorks casino was finally under construction, but it means crews would allow nothing to knock them off their schedule to have people dropping money into slot machines by the spring of 2009.

It also means Sands BethWorks remains on schedule to begin erecting 16,000 tons of steel on Feb. 15.

"You better believe we're pouring concrete today," said Sands BethWorks President Robert DeSalvio, who traveled from Las Vegas. "We're not messing around."

Breath easy Lehigh Valley: NET joins local Air Quality Partnership

NET has joined with a bi-partisan nonprofit concerning air quality in our area: Air Quality Partnership Lehigh Valley-Berks. What the group is best known for is Ozone Action Days. Ozone Action Days are days when the ozone level meets a red, or dangerous level, and all Lehigh Valley residents may ride LANTA Bus for free.

Today I attended their annual luncheon to learn more. What I learned was that the Lehigh Valley has a very low particulate matter (bad stuff) in the air in relation to our population. We have the second densest population in the state, as well as second largest industry and manufacturing concentration however we only had 3 ozone action days this year, compared to Philadelphia (first in both categories) which had 23. This is all good news. But to keep with such good numbers, we need to do our part. You can help in a number of ways.
  1. Buy locally. Think about how long it takes for an item you purchased at the store the other day to get into your home or on your dinner table. By buying local, we can cut down on emissions, especially when it comes to food, and we can help support the local economy.
  2. Carpool. Us young professionals like to live in dense populated areas. Get to know your neighbors. You may not be the only one traveling to a downtown area, or that industrial park.
  3. Use alternative transportation. Utilize LANTA, or better yet, use pedal power and bike. Walk if you can.
Together we can keep the Lehigh Valley's air clean!

Vanessa Williams

The Association of International Cultural Exchange

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit down with members of The Association of International Cultural Exchange. AICE hosts diversity and cultural programming throughout the Lehigh Valley. They are of particular interest to young professionals, because the group is primarily made up of younger business individuals. They host business mixers as well as roundtable discussion on hot button topics. The goal of the AICE is that its where you can turn with your tough or taboo questions about diversity. Their next program will be held Nov. 26th.

What: A Turkey, A Token, or A Treasure? - How dynamic, capable people of color evaluate their contribution in spheres of influence where they are minority.
When: Monday, Nov. 26th from 7 - 9:30 p.m.
Where: Borders, 1937 MacArthur Rd., Whitehall
Cost: Free

New Coordinator Revitalizes Brownfields ReUse Program

In less than three months on the job as the Coordinator of the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), Holly Wilde Edinger has revitalized the program by refocusing attention on the potential of brownfield sites across the Valley.

From the Riverfront project along the Lehigh River in Allentown to the Coca-Cola Stadium at the former Agere site to a proposed new recycling and composting facility in East Allen Township, LVLRI and Edinger have been working to bring renewed attention to the potential of former industrial sites throughout the Lehigh Valley.

LVLRI is assisting the DunnTwiggar Company in the redevelopment of the Lehigh Steel Property along the Allentown waterfront. By utilizing EPA Grant dollars for assessment work LVLRI has funded over $25,000 for environmental investigation on the 26-acre site. LVLRI recently secured from the EPA through the Targeted Brownfield Assessment Program. This additional work with provide the necessary site characterization data to pursue site closure under Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program (Act 2).

“Helping a developer identify environmental impacts before the purchase the property gives a project clarity that moves it forward,” Edinger said. “Developers can be put off by the history of a property. Our initiative uses the EPA Assessment Grant to perform Phase I and II investigations on a site. This gives a developer a clear idea of what they are getting into. It can also provide the peace of mind to a lending institution involved in the project.”

LVLRI is also working with East Allen Township. Partnering with East Allen and The First Regional Compost Authority the group has identified an old dairy farm, owned by the township, to be redeveloped into a multi-municipality compost and possible recycling center. LVLRI will be providing Phase I and II assessment of this property and will assist the township and the First Regional Compost Authority in identifying resources to clean up the site and get it ready for the recycling center.

“This is a terrific project because it taking a brownfield and using it for something green, like recycling,” said Edinger.

LVLRI also worked with the City of Allentown and Lehigh County to secure insurance for the new Iron Pigs baseball stadium that will open in April 2008.

An Allentown resident with a Bachelor of Science degree from Philadelphia University, Edinger was hired in August to work with LVEDC and Lehigh and Northampton County economic development leaders to encourage the redevelopment of industrial and commercial buildings and sites – commonly known as brownfields -- that are underutilized, abandoned or in need of rehabilitation. The position is funded through grants from Lehigh and Northampton counties and the LVLRI program is managed by LVEDC.

LVLRI is financially supported by Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

Edinger said the potential to redevelop unused or underutilized commercial and industrial sites presents a variety of opportunities for the Lehigh Valley.

“We can protect taxpayers by putting these properties back into productive use and back on the tax rolls, we can preserve open space by redirecting appropriate development to our urban cores, and we can save money for the developers by giving them access to sites that in most cases already have the infrastructure to support their plans,” Edinger said.