Bethlehem revitalization program, Southside Vision, held a presentation Tuesday to announce their tentative 10-year development master plan for the district.
Hosted jointly by the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem and the City of Bethlehem at Broughal Middle School, the event featured several speakers who discussed the initiative’s past and future while also opening the floor to community input.
Presenters outlined five areas of focus that they will dedicate their resources to from 2014 to 2024: community engagement and communication, housing, public spaces, economic sustainability and health and safety.
They plan to implement these by creating further local initiatives and partnerships that strengthen socioeconomic development in Southside Bethlehem.
Since launching in 2001, Southside Vision has garnered $1,942,602 in funding, mostly through a government credit program while also fielding grant proposals and outside endorsements by organizations such as M&T Bank, Pennsylvania Power and Light and the Lehigh Valley Hospital.
“I think one of the most important things over the past 10 years is we had that money coming in which was really quite a gift to south Bethlehem,” said Bethlehem Planning Director Darlene Heller. “We’d like to think it was used wisely.”
Program organizers said that they hope to build off the success of past projects that have included the Bethlehem Greenway, the Skateplaza, the Campus Square Farmer’s Market and numerous projects aimed at improving housing stock and worker skill level in the community.
Officials also remarked on how the city and its priorities have shifted in the past decade.
“If you think back 10 years ago south Bethlehem was very different than how it is today,” Heller said.
A longitudinal 12-year community survey conducted by Southside Vision found changing trends in community needs.
“Interestingly the priorities shifted,” said Heller.
Whereas in 2001 community members identified parks and youth services as top priorities for the district, in 2013 citizens place low crime rates and good police relations among the top. Jobs remained a consistent priority throughout.
Jessica Dreidstadt, the Director of the CADCB, says that the new master plan has made sure to account for the shifting tides of public interest though.
“The plan was kind of nebulous intentionally because we want it to be a response to the changing needs of our community,” she said.
The Broughal presentation was the last in a series of public meetings aimed at getting public input on the next decade of Southside Vision planning.
Prior to Tuesday five other public forums were held at different Southside parks to get community input.
“We got a really great cross section of all people that care about south Bethlehem,” said Dreidstadt who went on to say that over 100 community members attended the combined gatherings.
The Southside Vision Master Plan spanning from 2014 to 2024 will be sent to the state for final approval in mid-June.