Widening Sidewalks, Creating Neighborhoods

The South Side Vision 2014 program, which focuses on redeveloping South Bethlehem, has initiated a study that will examine the feasibility of widening portions of the sidewalk in the Four Blocks International section of East Fourth Street. The broad vision behind this project is the effort to establish an identity for the neighborhood. The Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem has identified the Four Blocks neighborhood as a high-priority region, describing it as “a prime location for commercial establishments to meet the residents’ needs.” The diverse culture of this location has already spawned such businesses as Borinquen restaurant which serves up delicious Puerto Rican cuisine, and the Southside Soul and Caribbean Food restaurant, with a menu that includes Jamaican fare, a treat for those in a mood for more exotic tastes.

Several studies examining city planning patterns have suggested that narrower streets and wider sidewalks bring a variety of economic and social benefits. One of these benefits is increased pedestrian access, which often creates more consumer choices and destinations. Additionally, widening the sidewalk can better accommodate busier sections of a neighborhood, especially pertinent for this section of South Bethlehem which already experiences a steady flow of pedestrian traffic from established businesses. Finally, local restaurants will have the opportunity to add outdoor dining, and public transit users will benefit from new bus shelters.

Such projects always involve a great deal of challenges, and this one is without exception. East Fourth Street is currently only two lanes wide, with parking meters lining the street. If widening the sidewalk will mean narrowing the street, parking revenues and/or car traffic could be adversely affected. Local business owners cited these issues as most worrisome, though optimism for increased opportunities remains high. The $10,000 study hopes to address both the positives and the negatives. Keep checking the Crossroads blog for updates on this project and others in the Lehigh Valley.

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on August 12, 2009, in Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Regions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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