Officials from Lehigh Valley Planning Commission unveiled a study geared to re-imagine Bath's downtown business district, with plans that include improving streets, building facades and parking.
At a town hall meeting in the borough on Saturday, members of LVPC discussed the results of its yearlong project that focused on parking and transportation safety.
The first part of the commission’s project studied the borough’s parking availability while the second part focused on developing strategies to improve the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic through the downtown while enhancing the business district and making it more attractive.
The commission said these strategies are ones the borough could implement in short-, mid- and long-term periods with the goals of improving traffic safety, making parking more efficient and building for the borough’s expected growth.
According to the report, the borough has to overcome downtown traffic congestion, develop a clear plan for identifying available parking and create a strategy for capitalizing on the borough’s historic character while accommodating growth.
Implementing appropriate zoning and urban design improvements could contribute to revitalizing the historic district, which LVPC said is a key takeaway from the study. Furthermore, by boosting Bath’s economy and visibility, the borough could establish a greater connection to neighboring communities, potentially allowing for collaboration on shared road improvements or future funding opportunities.
“The future of Bath looks very bright,” said Mayor Fiorella Mirabito. “Again, we need funding because our resources are limited.”
SEEKING A BYPASS
Mirabito said she was grateful for LVPC doing the study, since the borough could not have afforded to do it. The one-square mile borough is host to five state highways and will pursue state grants to see if it can add intelligent traffic signaling to its streets, she said.
She said she would like to create a bypass from Route 329 to Route 512 to divert truck traffic.
“We already have an issue with truck traffic,” she said, noting that the rise of warehouses under construction in the region is continuing around the borough.
Some of the businesses the mayor would like to see in Bath include a bakery, medical offices and specialty shops. With the borough’s recently added mixed-use zoning, she is hopeful that could spur interest, Mirabito said.
New mixed-uses could increase downtown activity over time, according to the report.
The report shows that the borough’s architectural styles could be an asset to create a destination through designed visual improvements along the streets.
Other suggestions for improvements include creating flexible spaces in the downtown such as community gardens, tiny libraries and stages, play areas for children, extending sidewalks on both sides of the streets to promote pedestrian traffic, adding landscaping and sign markers, and increasing the amount of street lighting and paid parking spaces.
In its report, the organization said adding paid parking spaces in strategic areas could boost borough funds and encourage visitors to stay longer and potentially spend more in the downtown.
The main goal of the report was to provide data that would help create a balanced, multi-modal environment, but also to support the businesses there, said Becky Bradley, executive director of LVPC.
The borough made some zoning ordinance changes that allowed for a shared use approach with parking, she said.
Getting the traffic to flow at safer speeds was another key factor in promoting safety but also highlighting the businesses in the borough, she said.
“Our goal is to support what the borough decides what they’d like to do,” Bradley said. “We will continue to do that as part of our role as transportation planners.”
LVPC also did a similar study that resulted in improvements in Catasauqua, she noted.