Why Beth­le­hem is spend­ing $550K on a park­ing garage that may be razed

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Nicole Radzievich

The Beth­le­hem Park­ing Author­ity will spend $552,880 over the next year on fix­ing the Wal­nut Street garage, a 43-year-old struc­ture that could be de­mol­ished in the com­ing years.

The money is needed to keep the pop­u­lar but aging garage be­hind his­toric Main Street open un­til city of­fi­cials de­cide what to do with it. A park­ing study last year in­di­cated the garage needs to be re­placed for $20 mil­lion or re­paired for $9.5 mil­lion to $11 mil­lion over the next 20 years.

If it’s de­cided to re­build the garage, park­ing of­fi­cials have said, that likely wouldn’t hap­pen un­til 2023. That would make it a pro­ject un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Mayor Robert Donchez’s suc­ces­sor.

The short-term work to be done on the 777-spot garage in­cludes re­in­forc­ing beams, seal­ing cracks and con­struc­tion joints, and fix­ing the brick fa­cade, col­umns and over­head con­crete. It would bring to $652,800 the to­tal amount spent on re­pairs and pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance at the fa­cil­ity over the last three years. The re­pairs were rec­om­mended in a re­cent study the author­ity com­mis­sioned.

The lat­est round of re­pairs at Wal­nut is part of a $1.4 mil­lion con­tract that the author­ity on Wed­nes­day awarded to South Shore Con­struc­tion LLC of New Jersey. The bid came in about a $1.2 mil­lion less than the high­est bid and $10,000 less than the clos­est bid sub­mit­ted. Nearly $710,000 of the con­tract will in­clude work on the 800space North Street garage, and nearly $154,000 on the 412-space Le­high River­port garage.

The Wal­nut Street garage opened in 1976 over sev­eral store­fronts that were pri­vately owned. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of re­pair­ing or re­plac­ing it, the city has been buy­ing those store­front prop­er­ties be­neath the garage. Last month, the author­ity ap­proved the pur­chase of the par­cel where TC Sa­lon & Spa closed a decade ago. The author­ity has one owner of two parcels left to ne­go­ti­ate with.

The author­ity opened a 626-spot garage on South New Street and is pre­par­ing to build a 470-spot garage at Polk and Third streets, near Northamp­ton Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Fowler Fam­ily South Side Cen­ter. More than half of those spots are now spo­ken for. The author­ity on Wed­nes­day ap­proved agree­ments to lease 300 spots to the col­lege, 45 to the Le­high Val­ley Char­ter High School for the Arts and 35 to The Fac­tory.

There is an al­ter­nate bid to add an­other 91 spots, or 1½ sto­ries, to the garage — if more leases are se­cured. There is also a 30-spot park­ing lot to be lo­cated be­hind the garage.

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