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Former Saucon Creek Inn: What Should Go There?

For years now, the restaurant at 5361 Rt. 309, Center Valley, has been closed, and the exterior of the property is displaying signs of disrepair.

The Saucon Creek Inn was once a highly visible casual restaurant along the busy northbound side of Route 309 in Upper Saucon Township.

A May 1997 article by Pat Bosha published by the Morning Call—and now archived online—said the eatery's success strategy at the time was to offer "top-notch food at casual prices."

For years now, however, the restaurant at 5361 Rt. 309, Center Valley, has been closed, and the exterior of the property is displaying signs of disrepair.

On a recent afternoon, delivery trucks could be seen parked in its lot, the drivers apparently having pulled over to make phone calls or take a rest break.

According to Lehigh County tax assessment records, it is currently owned by Gateway Enterprizes Inc. of Brandywine, Md., and has a liquor license.

Yearly property taxes total approximately $9,500.

The restaurant was built in 1971, and the 1.25 acre property was last sold in December 1987 for $269,900, the records indicate.

The property is not currently listed for sale, according to a recent search of the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors' online Multiple Listing Service website.

Given its visibility, plus its proximity to a number of successful Center Valley businesses—including Putt U miniature golf course and The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley—the potential for the property to be successfully redeveloped would seem to be high.

What do you think? Did you ever eat at the Saucon Valley Inn? Would you like to see another restaurant open at this location? Would you prefer to see something else built on the site? Do you see an obstacles to its potential redevelopment? Tell us in the comments.
Gramma24 January 12, 2014 at 04:43 PM
Don't forget it was a Denny's before it was Saucon Creek Inn. I had heard at one point a store-front church was trying to rent the facility. Something needs done to that before someone vandalizes it and gets hurt doing it......you know that will be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Even if they just tear it down.....do something.
John Schubert January 12, 2014 at 06:27 PM
Grama24's history is good, but incomplete. It was the Center Valley Inn before it was a Denny's. I ate many good meals at the Center Valley Inn in the 1980s. I was less of a fan of Denny's. I find it bizarre that someone would pay $10K per year in property taxes to do . . . what? Wait for Godot? Perhaps they are lie-and-wait speculators, waiting for the day when the property will be worth gazillions to someone. Perhaps they have been quietly discussing options with various restauranteurs, and found none to their liking. We don't know. I don't care if it becomes a viable restaurant again. We have plenty of excellent restaurants within a few miles of that location already -- most especially its close-at-hand neighbor Diana's Cafe, which has distinguished itself as a uniquely restful atmosphere with excellent food. But a vacant building isn't open space or quality of life enhancing for the community, and I'd like to see the real estate get a good use. In my dreams, it would be a destination store meeting a need underserved by anyone else.
Jay Impink January 12, 2014 at 09:59 PM
John, as usual, well written but I have an addition. At that location there was a Spanish themed restaurant named El Toro. I kind of remember the building being there the mid 70's when I arrived on the scene at SL. The Center Valley Inn did have good food and was a comfortable decor as well as an intimate bar area conducive to happy hour. The restaurant was never full though and was owned by a man, I can still picture him sitting at the end of the bar who owned another more successful restaurant. I believe the other restaurant helped to subsidize the Center Valley Inn. Quick story, I remember a particular date December 20, 1979, Craig Borst, and I were scheduled to chaperone the HS Snow Ball. Craig and his wife, Darlene met myself and my date, a HW fifth grade teacher (Maryann Zelko) for dinner before the dance. In fact four years later on that same date, Maryann and I would become engaged at that same restaurant. Too bad the restaurant will not be open for us to celebrate our 30th anniversary this summer. Back to the subject at hand, I believe a successful business on this property is probably handicapped because of the limited access from the Southbound lanes of 309. Too bad.
Luc Saldist January 13, 2014 at 07:37 AM
....and before that nothing was there which is the direction it should proceed to go.
Pappy January 13, 2014 at 07:42 AM
Sorry Jay but El Toro was where the Copperhead is on 378.
Cornerstone Presbyterian Church January 13, 2014 at 08:35 AM
I believe our community (not Upper Saucon Township) and area churches should make an offer & re-locate Betty Lou's Pantry, and make part of the building temporary housing for those that are caught in a financial bind. A non-profit of sorts that would be willing to pay property taxes but donations would be tax deductible. I could go on but our community (Coopersburg & Center Valley) need to come together on a social project such as this. : >)
Marc January 13, 2014 at 09:05 AM
I had heard through the grapevine that the last owner of the property was pretty upset with the township and refused to sell the property after it went out of business, leaving it to look like an eyesore in the community,. esp to the thousands of the commuters that pass it daily. I have no idea if this is true or not, I am sure someone out there can verify.
Webster January 13, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Maybe you could put the proposed Verizon tower and the support facilities there.
Mike Zweifel January 13, 2014 at 09:48 AM
I thought the liquor license was sold to one of the places in the promenade?
Gramma24 January 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Marc, I had heard that 'grapevine' as well.......that the last occupant/owner was really upset by the township (no tax break, no 'accommodations', something in that vein), and come heck or high water, was not going to make doing *anything* with the property easy for the township. Unless the owner has more money than common sense, I don't see how you paying $10k in taxes for nothing is hurting the township.
Jay Impink January 13, 2014 at 05:48 PM
Sorry Pappy, The original business that occupied the location where the Copperhead is located was the Camelot Inn. A Southern Lehigh Institution (the teachers favorite watering hole). I stand by my original location for the El Toro ( I believe that there was an infamous murder there in the early 70s).
KAR January 13, 2014 at 07:12 PM
I like the Cornerstone Church idea.
mcamp0624 January 13, 2014 at 08:59 PM
I think making it a teen destination like a paintball park, laser tag joint, something action packed that would lead the kids from hanging uselessly at the promenade and actually participating in something would be awesome. Even a roller skating rink. I also like the Church's idea as well but we need a safe place where the kids can congregate and do something with their free time and all the places I mentioned are a hike to take them too!
David Segal January 13, 2014 at 09:16 PM
Yes, there was a murder/robbery at closing time (around 11:00 PM) many years ago. Also, I heard that the owner of the restaurant went to jail for tax evasion. Being in the restaurant business must be difficult... Obviously, buying a property for $269,900 and holding it for many years with no rent return, while paying almost $10,000.00 a year in taxes, is a ridiculous business proposition. It is very unlikely that the future sales price will ever be high enough to provide a decent return on the original investment. The new elementary school should be built in the area around the property utilizing entrances from Camp Meeting Road and Route 309.
David Segal January 13, 2014 at 09:18 PM
Maybe you could put the proposed Verizon tower and the support facilities there..... Ain't going to happen....
Pappy January 14, 2014 at 09:19 PM
Jay in the 50s and 60s the Copperhead location was We The People then El Toro then Paul's Cantina, Camelot and Copperhead.
Sharon Riu-Porter January 19, 2014 at 09:55 AM
The very first restaurant there was the El Toro. I worked there while I was in high school.
Ishla Dowie January 23, 2014 at 04:41 PM
I have a phenomenal business plan and would love to speak with the owners. However the number listed on the window is no longer in service. I would love to offer services to the community and this would be a perfect location. If anyone has additional information please reach out to me. Ishlac@gmail.com. Thank you

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