Easton’s $26 million transportation center project, approved last week, is expected to do more than serve as a bus terminal and new home for City Hall.
Once construction starts on the South Third Street site next month, business could start booming directly across the street as officials aim to fill vacancies and secure fresh retail and commercial prospects.
The transportation facility would be at the former home of the Marquis Theatre and Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, near the intersection of Larry Holmes Drive and South Third Street.
Across the street sits a vacant former bowling alley and pizza shop. Development of these parcels could encourage more foot traffic as the transportation center takes shape.
Last year, workers widened sidewalks throughout South Third Street and Larry Holmes Drive as part of the city’s $4 million streetscape improvement project, creating a narrower corridor in an effort to slow the speed of vehicles and encourage pedestrian traffic.
“The whole streetscape got a facelift; it got people looking at South Third Street with a new set of eyes,” said Kim Kmetz, manager of Easton Main Street Initiative, a nonprofit group that promotes the central business district.
Since momentum began on the transportation project, the city has received lots of inquiries from businesses looking to locate on South Third Street, she said. Mayor Sal Panto said as soon as construction gets going, it could generate more interest in businesses wanting to locate near the site.
One of these new businesses set to move in April 1 is a shoe repair and shoeshine business owned by Raul Velasco from Brooklyn, said Kmetz. The business should open at 116 S. Third St. as the first shoe repair shop to be in the Easton area in quite some time.
Kmetz also confirmed that another shoe repair business is set to open shortly on North Third Street, which also is in the downtown.
“I think those are the kind of businesses that you will see that will be of interest to commuters,” said Kmetz.
Other possibilities on South Third Street include a breakfast shop, coffeehouse/café, dry cleaner and fitness center.
“We don’t have a dry cleaner in the downtown,” said Kmetz. With the addition of more residents living in downtown apartments, businesses such as fitness centers and dry cleaners would be good fits for the corridor, she said.
Existing active businesses on the South Third Street block across from the facility include a daycare center, tattoo parlor, tax preparation business, notary, pizza shop, furniture store and gas station.
Aside from the two vacancies, the corridor has shown very little turnover, and Kmetz said opportunities exist for more business growth.
Above the Exxon gas station at the intersection of Larry Holmes Drive are medical office spaces that have been vacant for years. The area includes parking for about 40 spaces on the lower level, and to the left is the former bowling alley at the rear of the site, said Kmetz.
“That has the most opportunity for redevelopment,” said Kmetz, referring to the office spaces and bowling alley. “I think the intermodal will be the game-changer.”
The architect for the project is Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem, a firm that designed the building to be energy-efficient and provide a high-profile gateway to the city.
“This is not just a bus terminal with offices stacked above,” said Randy Galiotto Jr., project architect and associate of Spillman Farmer Architects. “This building was designed to mold together three unique civic functions; public parking, a public transportation hub and city government.”
“While we still have some tweaking to do, we don’t envision major changes to the building moving forward,” Galiotto said. “The building has been vetted many times to the public and the local historic district, and we have it right.”
The facility is named the Easton City Hall and Transportation Center, but that name could change, said Panto.
Resources at the facility will include intercity services, in addition to Trans-Bridge lines to New York City, and bus services from LANTA, Greyhound and Susquehanna Trails. The center also will have a waiting area and customer service facility managed by Trans-Bridge.
NEW HOME FOR CITY HALL
The construction manager for the entire project is J.G. Petrucci Co. Inc., while Pennoni Associates Inc. of Bethlehem is the engineering firm for the project.
In addition to the bus areas on the first floor of the intermodal facility, there also will be space for a retail/commercial business facing South Third Street.
“In six to eight months, we’ll start advertising for that space,” Panto said.
Also, on the first floor, the city will outlay 9,000 square feet for the High School Sports Hall of Fame. And City Hall will move its 50-55 employees from the Alpha Building down the street to occupy the second and third floors of the new intermodal facility, said Panto.
Now, he said, is the perfect opportunity to move City Hall into the new site and open the Alpha Building to private sector investment.