Martin Tower Bethlehem implosion site 1 year later

Martin Tower site in Bethlehem on May 19, 2020, one year after the building was imploded

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bethlehem City Council conducted two public hearings on zoning request changes during its Tuesday night meeting.

One involved the former Martin Tower site, located at 1170 Eighth Ave., which is a significant redevelopment site and one of the most accessible locations in the city. The zoning changes are related to the Office Mixed Use, or OMU, district, which was created in December 2015 where the former tower stood. The developer — SWB LR Ltd. 8th & Eaton Holdings LP — proposed three changes.

The first amendment involves deleting a current provision which states that "parking spaces placed between a principal commerce building and the curb line of an arterial street along the front of the lot shall be limited to one driving aisle and one row of parking spaces."

Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith questioned the ramifications of such a move.

"I want to see this developed, but one thing we have to worry about is traffic," she said. "… Another concern is affordable housing."

The second proposed change involves parking and driveways entering and exiting onto an arterial street. Currently the code states "no new vehicle driveway shall enter or exit onto an arterial street, unless the applicant proves that no feasible alternative exists, such as the use of alleys or a side street." The developer has asked for this requirement to be dropped in the OMU district.

The third request involves a setback change. The code requires a 30-foot rear yard setback. The applicant proposes a 20-foot rear yard setback.

"You are making something a little more complicated than it should be," Councilwoman Olga Negron told the developer in summarizing the changes.

"This may be council's only opportunity to weigh in on this large project," said President Adam Waldron. "The reason people want to live in cities and spend time in cities is walkability."

Council did not take any action Tuesday night. The ordinance's first reading is scheduled for May 4.

Other business

The evening's other hearing involved the owner of Austin's Auto Service, located at 1843 W. Broad St. The company's owner — Tavarez Real Estate Investments LLC — is in the process of acquiring a portion of the parcel located 1852 W. Market St. from the City of Bethlehem. The zoning map change before council Tuesday night would change the 1852 W. Market St. from Limited Commercial (CL) to Light Industrial (LI).

"This seems like a pretty straightforward request," said Waldron. "This intersection is one of the gateways to West Bethlehem...I look forward to seeing more progress on this corner."

The request will also receive its first reading next month.

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