Developer pitches plan for South Fourth Street Taco Bell


The already bustling South Fourth Street corridor is in line for another fast food option.

The Allentown Planning Commission on Tuesday reviewed sketch plans for a 2,753-square-foot Taco Bell planned for 1901 S. Fourth St. Planners took no action on the proposal.

The Taco Bell will be built on the same lot as the existing Wells Fargo Bank. Summerwood Corp. - the group that will develop and operate the chain - plans on subdividing the parcel near Cooper and South Third streets for the restaurant. Wells Fargo will maintain ownership of the remaining undeveloped portion of the property at Dixon and South Third streets.

Project engineer John Pettit said the staff review revealed no major issues, only minor items to discuss with staff such as the trash bins and bumpers in the parking spots.

Joe DePascale with Summerwood said there will access to the site from South Fourth, South Third, Cooper and Dixon streets, all of which already have curb cuts. The plans do not currently show a clear access from Dixon Street, but DePascale said preliminary plans will likely try to utilize the bank's internal drives.

DePascale told planning commissioners that about 65 percent of a Taco Bell's business comes from the drive-through, so the plan will maximize stacking in the drive-through lane. Commissioners reminded the developer to make sure no lights are shining into surrounding homes. Vehicles in the drive-through lane will begin lining up at the back of the building and eventually point toward South Fourth Street.

Once the developer submits formal plans for review and approval, DePascale estimates it will take up to 18 months for permitting and construction, noting construction typically takes 90 to 120 days.

The busy business corridor already features Wendy's, Burger King, Checkers, KFC and McDonald's along with gas stations and a strip mall. Board Chairman Oldrich Foucek noted that a left turn out of the property onto a busy South Fourth Street may prove difficult. Board members said they believed the existing South Fourth Street driveway may only be an entrance and that PennDOT will dictate the use of that driveway.

Pettit told planning commissioners that while the final number of parking spaces hasn't been finalized it will exceed the number of spaces required by city zoning regulations. Commissioner Christian Brown noted that the amount of parking for a bank and a fast food restaurant appeared to be far more than is necessary.

He suggested that the developer base parking on experience, considering so much of the restaurant's business comes via the drive-thru. Brown also commented that new bank developments include less and less parking.

"Pare it down to what you need," Brown said of the project's proposed parking.

A handful of South Third Street residents raised concerns over issues such as litter and delivery truck traffic along the residential streets surrounding the property. Foucek noted that the developer will need to prove to city staff and planning commissioners that delivery trucks can safely maneuver around the property. As for litter, that is a code issue, he said.

South Third Street resident Peter Carr bemoaned the prospect of another fast food restaurant in an area already rife with fast food restaurants.

"I don't think anyone would ever starve in that neighborhood," he said.