Monday, December 6, 2010

Latest on the 600 Block of Northampton

600 block of Northampton Street in Easton has been 
crying out for redevelopment for a long time.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Christopher Baxter has written a terrific article in The Morning Call on the challenges of redeveloping the 600 block of Northampton, as well as the latest development with regard to Ari Schwartz's proposed grocery store/cafe/residential project, Dutchtown Commons. The proposed building is currently 7 stories, with two of those levels (one of the stories, and the basement level) designated as parking. The article also includes interviews with Elliot Joseph, owner of the armory and Jacob's produce, as well as Terri Briggs, who owns many of the properties on the block.

How is everyone feeling about the latest plans for Dutchtown Commons?


Anonymous said...

huh. who would have thought, all the plantings died and they ran out of money for the sidewalks.
that block is a hell hole, owned by slumlords and populated by dirtbags who can't be bothered to pick up the trash in front of their own door. the lazy and the greedy is a bad combination for a neighborhood.
having the filthy projects behind the block doesn't help either.
without residential ownership there, NOTHING will change. without business owners stepping up, NOTHING will change. I hate to say it, I take my glass business to Northampton Glass, but they have to step it up too, their lot looks like hell. I go to the bodega next door also (can't remember the name) but the parking situation was poorly conceived.
elliot joseph and his family, I'll never give them any money, dirty bastards, don't do ANYTHING good for the area!

noel jones said...

Anon--you make strong points, but let's stick to those points and not venture into personal insult--the points being that it will take an engagement on the part of landlords like Terry Briggs and business owners like Elliot Joseph, as well as the handful of homeowners on that block (most of the buildings are rentals) to transform it successfully, regardless how much grant money is thrown at this project. Hopefully the city and the WWNP will be successful in inspiring all stakeholders to get on board.

But it again begs the question--if these properties have code violations, why haven't they been enforced over the years by the city?

If anyone has a link to info as to when the judges who preside over code violation cases will be up for re-election, I would love to see it. The city has complained that they have a hard time enforcing code because after going through the lengthy (and spendy) process of taking property owners to court, our ELECTED judges just give them a slap on the hand and only the minimum fines. We need to pay close attention to who the records of these judges and keep an eye on when they are next running for office. If judges are receiving large campaign donations from slumlords they will never give them maximum fines.

If anyone has information on this, please post a comment.

Anonymous said...

Please don't let this blog start supporting Elliott Joseph. Gary Bertch also thought he was a good proerty owner and really interested in the city but his remarks in the article are downright laughable. He has owned that building forever and has never, I mean never, even tried to do anything with it. And the firetruck on the front sidewalk --- hmmm nice touch. Also against code.

the city needs to go after him the way they did the Hubcap store. Both of his buildings are becoming severly blighted. A lot of people going to and from the courthouse get his buildings as their impressuion of our city. He is an embarrassment and his comments are nothing more than placing blame on someone else for his own failings. He bought the building cheap, has done nothing and wants to sell high. Gee no takers,imagine that.

Anonymous said...

The judge issue is very relevent. My family was very let down by a particular judge regarding codes issues of our neighbor. 10 years ago and the property is still a blight on the whole street. Problem is - can we talk about this as "anonymous?" What ever the story it should be a matter of public record if it involves a judge. Therefore I think it should be okay and understandable to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Huh. The plantings didnt die. Its winter.

Anonymous said...

the judge issue and issue of influence is a good one; I have some friends on walnut by the courhouse, they are surrounded by lawyers offices. when they were renovating their home, they had the old carpets rolled up in the yard for a few days while work was going on. they got a threatening letter right away from the city that they had to clean up the yard! it wasn't even in view of anywhere but the lawyer office neighbor!
it's still all about who you know. the elliots must have some sort of influence that the hubcap store didn't have.

noel jones said...

Anon 8:17--yes, I think this is a perfect example of when it is ok to speak anonymously, especially when someone has had a personal issue with a particular judge.

When it doesn't make sense to post anonymously is in general discussions where there are no repercussions for speaking one's mind, and people simply don't want to own their words. That is unfortunately--I would prefer that people at least use a moniker, so that other readers can get to know that moniker's perspectives as a consistent voice.

Using a moniker would also be great when talking about judges.

Monikers help readers' to track a thread of conversation.

noel jones said...

Anon 8:49--unfortunately I have heard too many stories like this--the little guy getting picked on while slumlords and/or long-time offenders seem to get away scott free for years.

I have even heard disturbing reports from good landlords about the code office forcing them to tear out historic doors to replace them with fireproof metal ones--this is totally against all best practices in historic preservation and depletes the value of our housing stock.

Meanwhile, we have the son of one of the most notorious slumlords in the region (so notorious in fact, that I hear that a local college teaches a class that features him) who follows in his father's footsteps, and has had multiple properties in our neighborhood with codes violations for years.

It would be interesting to see if he makes any campaign contributions to judge's elections...

Amend said...

it's beginning to sound as tho code enforcement is more of a political process than one based on rules and regulations. if that is the case, then it would seem that we as a community should complain collectively so that our numbers can not be overlooked. get five or so people to complain about the same property on the same day, and maybe we'll start to see some traction. just talking out loud really, but i agree that something must be done from a code point of view if we're ever going to make progress as a community.

Amend said...

and regarding the Dutchtown Commons Project; bad idea all around. the scale of the building is completely out of context with the rest of the neighborhood, and the current look is more akin to a public housing project. parking would definitely become a bigger issue, and i truly do not see how a grocery store will survive there.

noel jones said...

Amend--on the code issue--I agree--strength in numbers, focused on a particular property that has visible code violations.

So why not start here and now?

Residents who know of buildings with visible code violations are welcome to email me at:

Please include: 1) the address, 2) the landlord's name if known, and 3) the code violations that you can see 4) any history of complaints that you have already reported. Please do not send me anything vague like, "the red house on the 700 block"--if people want to do this, they have to want it enough to do at least enough research to name the address and the visible violation, and hopefully, the landlord's name.

noel jones said...

Amend--on Dutchtown Commons--I have to disagree. I think it's a good project for a few reasons:

When I took a poll on this blog last year of what kind of businesses residents would like to see come to the neighborhood, 72% said a grocery store. A cafe/bookstore was second. This project includes BOTH a grocery store and a cafe that will now be in walking distance of West Ward residents. I know that I for one will be frequenting it regularly, as long as it is of decent quality. I much prefer to walk often to a grocery store for small bags of things then to have to drive to the burbs and load up my car with bigger bags. It's great for increasing walking traffic amongst good neighbors, which will make the streets safer. It's good exercise and also allows for people to be spontaneous. I'm all for it.

Parking is not an issue as there are two levels of parking planned in the design.

I believe the zoning for that area of Northampton basically says that a building cannot extend past the apex of the highest building already existing on the highest hill on the street--can anyone verify that? If that's the case, 7 stories probably works because the property will not be at the hill's highest point.

As for the aesthetics of the design--I haven't seen it yet--but there will be public input during the process of this project getting approved and we'll all be able toss in our two cents on the design.

The one valid concern that I have not yet heard an answer to, is whether or not there are any legal protections against the residential units being rented out to Section 8 if they are not easily filled when put on the market--does anyone know? Can the city draft any sort of covenant for the project?

Aside from that concern, I am completely excited about the residents of this neighborhood finally getting a real grocery store within walking distance-I can't wait. Neighbors have been talking about wanting this for a very long time, and I for one, will be a regular, if the produce is good. I hope they will offer a few local and organic products...

Amend said...

Noel, please don't misunderstand my position on a grocery store. i'm all for a quality market coming to town, but i just don't see it fitting into this building and doing well. the location is less than ideal. the slope alone would make delivery extremely difficult, and as for parking, my understanding was that the parking built into the building would be mostly for tenants. how are people going to get groceries from the store to their vehicle some distance away? i'm also concerned that the surrounding demographic simply can't support that sort of business alone and i don't see out of towners coming to Easton to do their food shopping. it would seem to me that the residential base in the 600 block would need to be redeveloped first before a grocery store had a chance. just my $0.02.

your question regarding section 8 housing is also a concern of mine. right across the street is an aging public housing project. it isn't out of the question to think that the developer sees that as a possible revenue source when the existing project needs to be redeveloped and those currently living there need to be relocated. that's just one scenario, but again i don't see people spending $800-1000/month to move to the 600 block in the condition it is in currently.

Anonymous said...

"how are people going to get groceries from the store to their vehicle some distance away?"

interesting point, Amend. I was asking the same question when the Lipkin apartments were being built and when Pomeroys was converted to an apartment building.

We have this attachment to buildings. It needs to stop. If a commercial enterprise could not find Pomeroys or Lipkins suitable, then demolish the building. Easton has too long experimented with this upper story housing in downtown and has attracted everyone but upscale. Just look at the high level of vacancies and perennial "for sale" signs throughout the rest of downtown. This was a mistake.

The 600 block of Northampton either gets cured through intensive code enforcement or demolition. Pinning hopes for a block on a building is idiotic, tear the building down if there are no developers. Redevelopment has its naysayers, but south side Easton would be a disaster had not demolition occurred in Canal and adjacent neighborhoods.

As far as supermarkets and parking, Best Market is the best example of an urban failure. A slow elevator coupled with that long walk with cart either up to the roof or to the garage killed that market. So will that long walk kill these latest residential developments.

Anonymous said...

demolish it? then what? more parking? for who? open space? for who?

Anonymous said...

Just a vacant lot with utilities. Land bank it. If parking or open space is a need, then develop the lot for that purpose. It is only undeveloped land after demolition.

I have heard all kinds of visions for its reuse for fifty years since the Pennsylvania National guard left. It's time to be realistic about this special use building. It has been vacant my entire life and I don't want to see it vacant for the entire life of my children.

Amend said...

tearing down buildings should be the last resort, especially one that has such unique character and historical appeal. i'm confindent that there is a best use out there for this building. it's just gonna takes vision and courage.

Anonymous said...

I can appreciate a desire to save a building. I think we have to look to the other side of the equation and what that does to the people who have to live with the eyesore. Empty and unattended structures destroy property values, are disincentives to investment and destroy neighborhood self esteem. It's a high price that a non resident imposes on a neighborhood. The armory has sat for almost fifty years empty. Enough is enough.

Amend said...

using that logic, most of the 600 block should be torn down and then some. empty lots in an urban environment don't create value either. good old buildings are assets, even if they've fallen on disrepair. the Armory has potential to be an icon for the rebirth of the West Ward. just look at what is being done with the Simon Silk Mill.

Anonymous said...

But, read what I said. You are imposing blight on the residents and business owners of that neighborhood. The silk mill is not comparable. No one lives or does business in the silk mill complex.

Do you live or own a business in the 600 block?

Amend said...

read what i said; using your logic means tearing down most of the 600 block. that's isn't a positive for anyone. empty lots aren't positives. redeveloping this property should be the focus. and there are people who live near the silk mill just to the south of the complex on the other side of the creek. the condition of the mill most definitely affects the value of their property. were the mill to be leveled and left empty, their property would still be worth about the same. your point was about the value the Armory has to the community. i responded. where i live or work is irrelevant to that. there are blighted buildings in my neighborhood as well, and i don't advocate tearing them down.

Anonymous said...

You don't understand my logic:

1. Building is vacant
2. Building has been vacant for a long, long time.
3. Building is blighted.

Only one building in the 600 block matches those criteria: the Armory.

As far as the silk mill is concerned only a few of the buildings would meet those criteria. Most have been occupied within the past ten years, not the half century mark for the Armory.

By the way the only neighborhood south of the silk mill is route 22. And, if you have buildings in your neighborhood that meet the above criteria, then demolish them. I don't think that you do.

Just think of the businesses that can use the armory - "Armory Used Cars, Armory Pizza, Armory Auto Repair" They follow the commercial development that has been successful in that area.

You want to change a neighborhood you need bold moves.

Anonymous said...


A historic building person stopped demolition of a burned out structure on my block years ago. We suffered. Our property values were reduced by 35%. You could not sell. Banks wanted more down than what buyers could afford. YOu could not borrow money to fix up your property. By continuing to require that a neighborhood maintain a useless and unwanted structure only destroys the neighborhood. That 600 block has not changed in 50 years.

Cathy said...

It would be a great market place. It would be a great performance space. Other cities do fabulous things with architecture like this all the time. The building is an asset that should be kept and developed as a historic landmark with a public function. Maybe that will take another decade or so. Probably not. Lets just keep focused on it.