I forget which blog I read this on the other day, but somebody made an argument that Northside Bethlehem is all built up. Not true! Go take a drive around Fairview and Goepp Streets, west of Main. That is a beautiful leafy neighborhood. But it also has a lot of underused surface parking lots that someone could build some new apartments or smaller single-family homes on. There are still a lot of infill opportunities.
For example, right next to the huge loft building at the end of Fairview there is a monster surface lot that takes up about the equivalent of a city block:
Somebody could build a building the same size on that lot, maybe with a shared parking garage in it for the neighborhood. The problem is that even under the new zoning code, you’d need to provide 2 off-street parking spaces per unit. If somebody wanted to build 300 apartments here, blocks away from the best part of Bethlehem, instead of out in some field near the Palmer Wal-mart, they’d need to also build a 600-space parking garage!
This neighborhood would also be an ideal place for the city to try to add more affordable rental housing, since lots of Moravian College students live around there, and keep the rents a little cheaper with their annoying parties.
Down on Union Blvd, you’ve got the Old Brewery Tavern, and next door is that cool long red brick building that could probably house some more shops and apartments. To the other side of the OBT is a large surface lot. Across the street there’s another massive street-facing surface parking lot for the senior tower that could be developed into some more mixed-use buildings.
That neighborhood could have a nice little strip of retail to walk to on Union Blvd, and if the city allowed some higher density structures like another loft-size buiding on some of those surface lots, there would definitely be a market large enough to support some neighborhood businesses like a coffee shop or a corner grocery. But the parking minimums are making infill housing and retail development more expensive than they have to be, and they’re also preventing you from getting enough residents living within sufficient walking distance to support neighborhood retail.