It was the Tavern on Liberty vs. the Campus Shop at Monday night’s meeting of the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board.
Plans to transform and revitalize the old store at 23rd and Liberty streets in the city’s West End met with strong opposition from the owner of the tavern, which is catty-corner from the store.
The proposal was debated before the city’s zoning hearing board for more than two hours, but the board did not make a decision.
It will review testimony and the applicable zoning law, then deliberate and render a decision at a future public meeting.
On another case, the zoning board approved plans to turn the former Penn Allen Glass Company into what one zoner called a mini-shopping center at 513 N. 16th St., another section of west Allentown.
One key issue surrounding the proposed renovation of the Campus Shop on the northwest corner of 23rd and Liberty streets is whether it will add to traffic and parking problems in that neighborhood.
Another is whether all the proposed uses for the place qualify as the continuation of existing and permitted non-conforming uses in that residentially-zoned area of the city.
Developer Jason Lund proposes turning the Campus Shop into a high-end convenience market, which will serve both the surrounding residential neighborhood and students at neighboring Muhlenberg College. He contends most of his customers will walk or ride bicycles to the store.
“Although the property does need to be developed, it’s an over-use of the property,” argued Gregory Russoli, owner of Liberty Tavern bar and restaurant, which is at 2246 Liberty St.-- on the same intersection as the Campus Shop.
“They’re proposing to use every square foot of this building for a commercial use. It’s got to have a substantial adverse impact on the neighborhood.”
“Parking is the biggest impact it will have on the area. The parking is just going to be outrageous. It’s terrible now.”
Lund testified he has observed no problems with parking in the neighborhood.
In addition to the convenience store, Lund is proposing renting 60 storage units in the basement of the building and incorporating some kind of restaurant, sandwich shop or coffee shop into that store.
“I’m very concerned there won’t be enough parking for both restaurants,” said Russoli.
Lund maintained his operation will not compete with any other business in the neighborhood.
When zoning board chairman Dan McCarthy asked Russoli if Lund’s proposed uses for the Campus Shop building will put him into competition with the Tavern on Liberty, Russoli said: “Not really. What I offer is nothing like a sandwich shop or a convenience store. We’re a neighborhood bar.”
Lund said the Campus Shop at 2301 Liberty St. is in disrepair and needs a lot of help.
He’s only seen people go to the store to buy lottery tickets or to use its postal substation. “I’ve seen numerous people walk in and walk out without buying anything.”
Lund plans to retain the lottery ticket sales and postal substation, as well as add an ATM machine.
His goal is to create a “boutique-style market that will complement the neighborhood.”
In addition to structural improvements inside, the building would get new and larger windows, awnings, rebuilt sidewalks along both streets, increased exterior lighting and a bike rack.
One small building at a time
Lund of Hoboken, N.J., said he is co-founder and managing partner of OSBAAT Development LLC. He explained that acronym stands for “One Small Building At A Time.”
He is a real estate broker in New York City who wants to redevelop properties near small college campuses around the country, starting with the Campus Shop.
Lund initially told zoners the new market he proposes for the Campus Shop might be on two levels, with an elevator added. (The building’s second floor is now an apartment.)