But later he testified Muhlenberg College is interested in using the second floor for an art studio. He added: “That being said, we are open to a variety of uses.”
Atty. Mark Malkames, who represented Russoli and grilled the developer, said Lund’s application stipulated the second floor primarily will be used for a book store.
Lund said some complementary service for the neighborhood will be on the second floor, mentioning dry goods as another possibility.
The building also has a lower level, accessed from 23rd Street. Lund proposes installing a fully automated mini-storage business in that level, with 60 small units tailored for college students and residents who need storage space. The storage lockers would range in size from 10 to 25 square feet.
Russoli argued people will drive, not walk, to take things to those storage units. And Malkames argued Allentown’s zoning does not permit storage units in that area of the city.
Lund was vague about some details. He mentioned the convenience market might include a coffee shop, which later was referred to as a 12-seat restaurant, with additional seating outside in nice weather. But he also said it’s still to be determined if any restaurant will be included in the renovated building.
Lund said no restaurant is in the place now, but testified he has seen the current owners prepare food there for several people. Malkames said the owners don’t have a license from the city health bureau to prepare food.
Malkames maintained no restaurant has operated on that property since at least 1991.
Two neighbors support plan
Lund’s plan got support from two men who live near the Campus Shop.
Trent Sear said Lund’s proposal will be an asset to the neighborhood. He said the current business primarily does only lottery ticket sales and most people buying those tickets drive there to buy them.
“I live a block away, but I haven’t walked into the Campus Store to buy anything in probably five years,” said Sear. “It’s not an asset to the neighborhood. It doesn’t increase the livability of the neighborhood.”
Sear predicted the new business will be largely pedestrian-oriented and good for the neighborhood.
Michael Drabenstott, another nearby neighbor who represents the West End Alliance, told zoners his organization unanimously supports Lund’s proposal. “It’s a well-conceived plan that takes an existing structure and re-energizes it.”
Drabenstott also maintained on-street parking is adequate for the establishment.
Atty. Richard Somach, who represented the developer, noted Russoli admitted he had spats in the past with the current Campus Shop property owner. And Somach maintained Russoli’s tavern across the street “is more burdensome to the neighborhood” than Lund’s proposed use for the Campus Shop will be.
Except for Russoli’s objections, said Somach, Lund’s plan “seemed to me to be the clearest thing to a slam dunk approval that I had ever presented to a zoning board.”
“If we’re going to apply the [zoning] code, it’s a slam dunk no-brainer, but they don’t get approval,” countered Malkames.“In every aspect of operation this use is more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing use.”
Lund is seeking approval for retail and restaurant uses as a continuation of a non-conforming use that is permitted by special exception.
Lund intends to change the name of the store, but has not yet selected a new name.
He hopes to take possession of the building from the current owners by next June and complete rehabilitation by September.
N. 16th Street mini-shopping center
No one objected to plans for the small shopping center that is proposed on the site of the old Penn Allen company along N. 16th Street between Allen and Liberty streets.
The proposed center will face Andrew Street, an alley along the north side of the property. It will have only six units, for retail or professional uses. One will be a 16-seat restaurant, described as a 1,500-square-foot sandwich shop. Other units may house doctor’s or dentist’s offices, an accounting firm, a hair salon, a print shop or a manicurist.
The property is directly across 16th Street from a CVS pharmacy, which has a small strip mall next to it.