South Bethlehem Historic Board Approves 9-Story Building After Previously Panning It

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After voicing strong opposition last month to a proposed 9-story building on West Fourth Street, the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District voted 5-2 Monday to support the building’s design.

District board Chairwoman Beth Starbuck said she had been very troubled by the building’s height until she realized Hotel Bethlehem also was nine stories and doesn’t stick out badly on Main Street.

“I’m not happy with the scale of this, either, but I’m less freaked out about it — it just never occurred to me that the Hotel Bethlehem is that tall,” she said.

The board makes recommendations to Bethlehem City Council, and board Historic Officer Christine Ussler said there’s a fear if the board is often overruled by council “this developer and other developers will get the sense we don’t count.”

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/10/south_bethlehem_historic_board.html

Distressed Cities Bill Wins Final OK

HARRISBURG, PA — Scranton and other fiscally distressed cities could triple the local services tax to help them move out of Act 47 status under legislation that won final legislative approval with a 43-5 Senate vote Thursday.

This option would be available to Act 47 municipalities only as an alternative to an increased earned income tax already available to them.

Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill after a review, said spokesman Jay Pagni. He has 10 days to review the provisions.

The local services tax could potentially triple from $52 annually to $156 annually for individuals working in those municipalities but those earning under $15,600 annually would be exempt from the higher local services tax.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/distressed-cities-bill-wins-final-ok-1.1772463

Changing Skyline: Subsidized Housing Deal May Benefit Developers More

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

It wasn’t always that way. From the 1950s through the Clinton years, the federal government financed thousands of units of affordable housing. Though the results weren’t always well-designed, the programs did at least ensure the poor had places to live. But in the last decade, federal money dried up and cities were left to their own devices. It’s no accident that wage stagnation has become a hot issue as low-cost housing has become harder to find.

So, as with many urban improvements these days, cities have begun to look to the private sector to pick up the slack. The strategy is called “inclusionary housing,” and it involves trading zoning bonuses for apartments.

Developers get to put up taller, denser towers. Cities get a bunch of units in the new buildings that can be rented at below-market rates. Low-wage workers get fabulous apartments with skyline views.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20141017_Changing_Skyline__Subsidized_housing_deal_may_benefit_developers_more.html#TCCsm4dMWl0uHb5b.99

The Political Porn Circus Adds A 3rd Ring

THE HARRISBURG porn circus consuming the state’s Capitol added a third ring yesterday.

The first ring: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane last month released a selection of explicit emails sent and received by Gov. Corbett‘s top deputies when he was attorney general.

The second ring: State Supreme Court Justice Ron Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery continued their long-running feud, swapping accusations this week after Castille disclosed that McCaffery sent and received many of the explicit images.

And the third ring: Emails obtained yesterday by the Daily News show that state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin used a fake name on a Yahoo email account to receive emails with explicit and racist images in 2010.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141017_The_political_porn_circus_adds_a_3rd_ring.html#BVfVSR1RS0B1Yrsx.99

Corbett Announces $10M In Grants For Almono Project In Hazelwood

Locator map with the Hazlwood neighborhood in ...

Locator map with the Hazlwood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before local developers can build a projected $1 billion in apartments, offices, retail shops and tech suites on the former LTV Steel Corp. site in Hazelwood, they need about $103 million in streets, utility lines and other infrastructure upgrades.

“There’s huge interest in this site, tremendous interest in this site, from developers not only in the region, but across the country,” said Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corp., which is managing the project. “Really, it’s all just interest until we can give them some certainty that the site will be ready for their buildings to open.”

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday announced $10 million in state grants to support development at the 178-acre Almono property along the Monongahela River.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/6964700-74/industrial-office-space#ixzz3GLYMNDky
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Leighton Names Hughes New Wilkes-Barre Police Chief

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Make that Chief Hughes, and no more “acting.”

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton this morning named Robert Hughes the city’s top cop, just a month after the 25-year department veteran was appointed acting chief in the wake of longtime Chief Gerard Dessoye’s departure to take a position at King’s College.

“The role of police chief requires great expertise and experience in law enforcement, superior leadership and outstanding professionalism in working with all law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels,” Leighton said during the 11-minute ceremony in the City Hall council chambers.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50505618/

Biden In Philly To Promote Port

Official portrait of Vice President of the Uni...

Official portrait of Vice President of the United States . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vice President Biden toured a dredging barge on the Delaware River at Penn’s Landing Thursday to show support for the project to deepen the river’s shipping channel.

Biden, the latest high-profile politician to visit the region in recent days, was flanked by fellow Democrats U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, Rep. Robert Brady and Rep. Chaka Fattah.

Before delivering remarks on the ongoing deepening of the Delaware, Biden and the delegation were led on a tour of the large barge by Brian Puckett, project manager for the Great Lakes Dredging and Dock Co.

The vessel’s main feature, an enormous dredging bucket that can haul as much as two dump trucks, immediately caught Biden’s eye.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20141017_Biden_in_Philly_to_promote_port.html#XRrFTtvHxbyblZSS.99

Pottstown Zoning Board Approves Variance For iCreate Cafe

iCreate Zoning Supporters

Front row: Left, Peter Dolan, Esquire, Right, Ashraf Khalil

POTTSTOWN, PA – Wednesday evening the Pottstown Zoning Board heard testimony from iCreate Cafe owner, Ashraf Khalil, regarding his request for a zoning variance to operate a cafe and computer training center at 130 King Street, Pottstown. The neighborhood is zoned TTN or Traditional Town Neighborhood.  After receiving a violation notice from the Pottstown Codes Department in August, a hearing was originally scheduled for September 17th.  However, Mr. Khalil’s attorney, Peter Dolan, requested a continuance to adequately prepare his case. The hearing was rescheduled for October 15th.

A large group of supporters gathered in the 3rd floor council chambers to hear the evidence be presented. After Mr. Khalil’s sworn testimony and some clarification questions from the board, the meeting was opened to public comment. More than a dozen people were allowed to speak in favor of iCreate Cafe and Mr. Khalil.

After the public testimony, the board met in Executive Session.  After a short recess, the board returned to the council chamber and rendered their verdict for Mr. Khalil and iCreate Cafe by allowing the variance.

First of all, we thank the Pottstown Zoning Board for being open-minded and seeing the value of this niche market small business that draws customers from all over the Delaware Valley and beyond.   Based on the passionate testimony made during the public comments, it’s obvious this is a very special place.

Secondly, we feel now that Pottstown is getting serious about economic development and tourism (by developing a Tourism District and leveraging all the attractions that surround Memorial Park and the Western Gateway) having a highly rated locally owned restaurant within walking distance is a win-win.  If you want people to come to Pottstown and “spend the day” they will need to eat.  They are not going to want fast food or chain restaurants.  They are going to want something they cannot get at home.  iCreate Cafe is the total package when it comes to something you cannot get just anywhere.  From the unique decor to the vegan/vegetarian food with a Middle Eastern flair, it’s far from ordinary.  Add a chef/owner with the gift of hospitality and you have a winning trifecta.

This was a great victory for small business and for Pottstown.  If Pottstown could attract more unique restaurants like iCreate and some funky boutiques so people could do some shopping while they are visiting, you would have yourself a destination.

Congratulations to Ashraf Khalil and iCreate Cafe.  We wish you much success.

Website: http://www.icreatecafe.org/

Tourism District Proposed For Pottstown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA – Officials are hoping that as the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, a collective effort of the borough’s revitalization efforts will result in greater sums of grant money and tourist dollars.

Steve Bamford, executive director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development, Inc. outlined a plan to borough council Tuesday that would see the many attractions clustered near Pottstown’s western gateway joining together in pursuit of funding and marketing.

The joint undertaking as part of a “tourism and recreation district” includes: Pottsgrove Manor, the Carousel at Pottstown, theColebrookdale Railroad, Manatawny Green miniature golf, Memorial Park with the splash park and Trilogy Park BMX track, Montgomery County Community College’s art gallery, the Schuylkill River Trail,Riverfront Park and the Schuylkill Heritage Area’s River of Revolutions interpretive center.

“There are some in place, some underway and some nearly ready,” Bamford told The Mercury Friday, referring to the state of the various sites.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20141014/tourism-district-proposed-for-pottstown

Sustainability: Pottstown Eyes Environmental Balance

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA – As any farmer can tell you, use any resource faster than it can be replaced — be it wood, water, money or patience — and eventually it will run out.

To put it simply, it’s not sustainable.

And where does that leave those who come after you?

Recognizing a responsibility to maintain a sustainable balance and to ensure resources are available to future generations, Pottstown may soon become the third municipality in Montgomery County to adopt a “sustainability plan.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20141012/sustainability-pottstown-eyes-environmental-balance

Manhunt Impacts State Police’s Future

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Monroe County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA — As the intensive manhunt for suspected cop killer Eric Matthew Frein ends its fourth week, Harrisburg is taking the first steps to address how this unprecedented event will affect the future operations of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Officials here discuss the topic with the caveat that the manhunt isn’t over yet. Considered armed and dangerous, Frein, 31, of 308 Seneca Lane, Canadensis, is the sole suspect in the Sept. 12 sniper attack at the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County that killed Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II of Dunmore and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass of Olyphant. Since then, authorities have been searching for Frein, a self-described survivalist, in the dense state forest that straddles Barrett and Price townships in Monroe County.

The estimate by a state police spokesman this week that the manhunt has cost several million dollars so far is one issue emerging on the radar screen of Corbett administration officials and lawmakers. Policy makers are starting to focus on related matters such as security at state police barracks, equipment needs of state troopers, impact on local governments and schools and assistance of local fire companies, 911 centers and the Red Cross with the manhunt.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, has requested a Senate committee hearing in Pike County once the manhunt is over to delve into these issues.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/manhunt-impacts-state-police-s-future-1.1769039

Demands To ‘Stop the Violence’ Dominate Wilkes-Barre City Council Meeting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Desperate for answers in the shooting death of one son, Yvonne George pleaded to be heard in order to save her other child.

Her brief statement capped the raucous and at times unruly city council meeting Thursday night filled with other members of the black community fed up with violence in the city and demanding something be done to end it.

A photo of her son David George was on the collage of black-and-white photos above the words “Stop The Violence” on posters held up in the audience. The 24-year-old man was shot and killed July 18, 2013, on South Welles Street, the seventh of the city’s 13 homicide victims that year.

“I feel that the Wilkes-Barre police every time something happens with a black person down here, the first thing they say is is it’s drug related and it’s gang related,” the deceased man’s mother said. “My son was not in no gang.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50464272/

Alco Proposing Two Office Towers, Parking Garage On North Shore

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three years ago, Alco Parking president Merrill Stabile was rebuffed when he offered the city’s Stadium Authority $10 million to buy land on North Shore Drive for a “signature office tower.”

Now Mr. Stabile is back — this time with plans for a new office development and parking garage on the land he owns behind PNC Park on the North Shore.

As conceived, the project would feature two, 11-story glass office towers erected on top of a new five-story, 1,227-space parking garage. In all, as much as 600,000 square feet of Class A office space would be built.

“We think it’s a game-changer,” said Kim Clackson, senior vice president of CBRE, which is marketing the “very dramatic” development that would rise above the ballpark and offer views of the Downtown skyline.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/10/09/Alco-proposing-2-office-towers-parking-garage-on-North-Shore/stories/201410090197

Hazleton Moves To Save Money On Fire, Police Pensions

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HAZLETON, PA — The city council approved use of a 75 percent amortization option to calculate its 2015 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the city’s non-uniformed, fire and police pension plans on Tuesday.

Don Williamson, ASCO Financial Services Group president, said although the city status as a distressed city has progressed from Level 3 to Level 2, it is still eligible to contribute to its MMO at a discounted rate for the years 2015 and 2016.

The move will save the city over $1 million dollars per year.

Councilman David Sosar inquired as to whether this would result in an increased financial burden to the city in upcoming years, to which Williamson replied, “I really don’t think so.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50460903/Hazleton-moves-to-save-money-on-fire-police-pensions

PSERS Investments Exceed Expectations

Taxpayers and public school employees should expect some good news later this year when one of state’s major public pension systems releases its investment returns for the most recent fiscal year.

The state Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, earned nearly 15 percent during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A press release on the organization’s website Monday revealed the latest findings.

Exceeding the annual investment earnings assumption of 7.5 percent helps to ease the burden of the unfunded liability that must be made up in the future by some combination of future investment returns, contributions from workers and tax dollars.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/psers-investments-exceed-expectations/article_285ee46e-4e4c-11e4-b1be-001a4bcf6878.html

Corbett Down 17 In New Quinnipiac Poll

Democratic challenger Tom Wolf leads Gov. Tom Corbett (R) by 17 percentage points among likely voters in Pennsylvania – 55 percent to 38 percent – as the campaign enters its final month, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

The survey shows a slight improvement for Corbett compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll of the race Sept. 11, when Wolf led 59 percent to 35 percent among likely voters.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/big_tent/Corbett-down-17-in-new-Quinnipiac-Poll.html#Ccbgppqxvz3zPMFX.99

Bankruptcy Judge OKs Revel Sale To Brookfield

Map of New Jersey

Map of New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A federal bankruptcy judge in Camden on Tuesday approved the sale of Atlantic City‘s Revel Casino Hotel for $110 million to Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

“I believe the high bid of Brookfield should be approved,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gloria M. Burns said.

The sale will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the short and tumultuous history of the $2.4 billion property that struggled from the day it opened in 2012.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20141008_Bankruptcy_judge_makes_Brookfield_new_owner_of_Revel.html#9DfB3Aab1OpydZmT.99

The Hill School, Borough, And Pottstown School District Plan Second Pottstown CARES Clean-Up Event

POTTSTOWN, PA –About 700 volunteers from the Borough of Pottstown, The Hill School, the
Pottstown School District,and other organizations will again combine forces to demonstrate their
commitment to our hometown during the second annual CARES clean-up event to be held on Friday,
October 24, from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Rain date will be Monday, October 27.

Click here to view (and share) a short documentary created by Hill School student Jake Trombley
(Douglassville, Pa.) about last year’s CARES project and its impact on Pottstown.
(http://www.thehill.org/CARESvideo)

The clean-up will occur in a targeted area of Pottstown, from High Street north to Beech Street,
and Manatawny Street east to Edgewood Street.

All 515 Hill School students as well as Hill faculty and staff; at least 50 Pottstown High School students
and numerous faculty members; and many Borough workers and officials will be dispersed to weed,
pick up trash, and complete other “spruce up” tasks in public spaces in the core downtown area. In
addition, about a dozen volunteers from the Montgomery County Community College as well as
additional individuals from other community businesses and organizations will join the students and
other workers on their clean-up teams.

E-waste collector ReduxTech will be on hand to accept any old items that had electricity running
through them for recycling. The collection truck will be located in The Hill School Center For The
Arts parking lot off Beech Street from 9 a.m. to noon on October 24.

In addition, the Pottstown School District is running a blood drive in the High School gymnasium
from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Individuals interested in making a donation at the Pottstown High School
on October 24 may send an email to Pottstown faculty member Mark Agnew at
magnew@pottstownsd.org. Drop-in blood donations are also welcomed.

The CARES organizers ask that Pottstown area residents support our community by also
stopping by the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities at 57 North Franklin Street and
donating nonperishable food, laundry detergent, toiletries, warm clothing, and other items that will be
greatly appreciated by area families in need at this time. The Cluster will be accepting donations on the
CARES day (October 24) from 9 a.m. to noon.

Numerous organizations have contributed funding, tools, supplies, or other support to the CARES
endeavor. The generosity of the United Way and Home Depot provided funding for a Pottstown
CARES Community Tool Share Shed from which community individuals and organizations may
borrow tools. Interested parties should contact Katie Scanlan, High Meadows Foundation Sustainability
Chair at The Hill School, at kscanlan@thehill.org or 610-705-7277. CARES asks that tool borrowers
contribute one additional rake, shovel, or broom for each tool used and returned in order to helpexpand
the tool share program.

Organizations that wish to make additional donations of time, materials, or funding toward
CARES should contact Scanlan at the email address or phone number above; take donations of work
gloves, trash and leaf bags, or tools to Borough Hall at 100 E. High Street; or email
PottstownCARES@pottstown.org with suggestions or questions.

The massive CARES day volunteer crew will assemble under Hill’s former hockey rink roof at
8:30 a.m. on October 24 to receive instructions and participate in a group photo. All volunteers are
asked to wear blue – a “school color” shared by The Hill, the Pottstown School District, and the
Borough. Pre-organized teams then will disperse to their designated project areas until about noon,
when they will return to Hill for a picnic buffet lunch prepared by Sodexo, Hill’s food service provider.
Sodexo is generously donating the meals for all volunteers as well as Hill students and personnel.

The initial, joint CARES (Community, Awareness, Responsibility, Empowerment, and Sustainability)
endeavor was conceived in the spring of 2013 during conversations between Borough Manager Mark
Flanders, Pottstown School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Sparagana, and Hill School Headmaster Zachary
Lehman. The three leaders envisioned a collaborative project that would help to “spruce up” a
designated area in the core of Pottstown while boosting community pride. The CARES planning team
hopes these events will motivate Pottstown residents to engage in ongoing clean-ups of their own in
their immediate neighborhoods.

CARES project organizers wish to give special thanks to the Pottstown Police Department and
Emergency Services organizations and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for their support.

Columbus Provides Blueprint For How To Develop Mellon Arena Site

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  We love it when folks use existing successful business models for a blueprint. Why reinvent the wheel when a tweak will due :)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — About $1 billion in development around an arena primarily for hockey transformed a dreary section of downtown Columbus that used to be an industrial area and home to a run-down prison.

“People didn’t come downtown very often, and they certainly didn’t live here. Things are different now. This is a place to be,” said Sherri Lyle, 44, of suburban Powell, who works in Columbus’ 14-year-old Arena District.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are paying attention. The team is preparing to develop a 28-acre site where the Civic Arena stood, across Centre Avenue from the $321 million Consol Energy Center that opened in 2010.

“We’ve sat down and talked with them several times about what they have done relative to development,” said Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams, noting the team studied similar projects in Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Jose, Washington and Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6881016-74/arena-district-area#ixzz3FOBkt9TK
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Experts Worry Stagnant Wages Are Delaying Economic Recovery

Editor’s note:  Came across this article right after I posted about grocery store price increases. They certainly speak to each other.

Jim Talerico got a $900 raise this year, but he isn’t happy about it.

“It’s a terrible wage,” said Talerico, a part-time faculty member in Robert Morris University’s English department. “Now I’m making a whopping $14,400.”

It was the first pay raise in 10 years for the 54-year-old Ingomar resident. Even with the $13,500 he earns from his other part-time teaching job at Community College of Allegheny County, he said a barista job at Starbucks looks tempting. At least it would come with benefits.

Working Americans have had to make difficult choices — from canceling doctor’s appointments to cutting their grocery budgets — as their paychecks barely keep up with the cost of living.

Consumer spending drives 70 percent of economic activity, and wage stagnation has been a stubborn problem that might be holding back the recovery as other measures such as unemployment improve.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/6812082-74/percent-pay-employers#ixzz3FO9O6Fhr
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