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Bethlehem panel strips tax incentive from site where South Side garage is proposed

A small piece of land is being cut out of Bethlehem’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zone in preparation for a new parking garage.The CRIZ incentive, which allows construction loans to be paid off with certain state and local taxes generated from the project, cannot be combined with grants from the state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program. The state has already committed $2.5 million from that program to build the garage at Polk and Third streets.The authority overseeing the CRIZ voted unanimously to remove the CRIZ incentive from a half acre of the property and reserve the allotment for projects at other locations. The state will have to approve the decertification.The parking garage has long been envisioned for the site as city agencies sought grants and studied parking demand. As some critics question its necessity, Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration has described it as critical for further economic development on the South Side.Parking officials are still discussing the size of the garage. The last proposal put it at 470 parking spots with a 30-spot parking lot behind it. The Bethlehem Parking Authority has signed commitment letters from Northampton Community College for 300 spaces, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts for 45 spaces and The Factory, a business innovation center, for 25 spaces.The Bethlehem Parking Authority bought the property from the Sands casino a month ago for $2.1 million. It recently put out a call to developers for proposals to add retail, office or residential development to the front of the garage. Those proposals are due Friday.Donchez has said that he expects to brief council about the project this summer.City Council would have to approve the garage if the city guarantees the financing.Authority executive director Kevin Livingston has said he expects to renew his call for City Council to increase parking fines, many of which would jump from $10 to $15. City Council postponed the vote last year until it got an explanation of how the fines would help finance the Polk Street garage.Earlier this year, Donchez’s administration raised the on-street meter rates from $1 to $1.50.
Source: Morningcall

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