Vehicles are parked on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in the Brodhead Parking lot. This lot is the future site of the new 400-student dormitory. (Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

Plans underway for 400-student dormitory

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By July 2019, what is currently a parking lot on Brodhead Avenue will be home to hundreds of Lehigh students.

Located across from Broughal Middle School, the 400-bed residential facility will be the largest in Lehigh’s history. To put this number into perspective, Farrington Square houses 250 students, while McClintic-Marshall and the Lower Cents are home to approximately 300 students each.

Ozzie Breiner, the director of residential services, said the current plan is to have juniors and seniors live in the new building.

“Beginning in the fall of 2019, there’s going to be 125 more freshmen coming to Lehigh that year than typically do, so we’re going to have to account for those students in the housing we already have,” Breiner said. “(Upperclassmen) housing that we have may go to sophomores, so juniors and seniors who would typically be living in Trembley, Sayre or Farrington Square may select this as an option instead.”

The administrative offices on Brodhead Avenue will also be torn down to make room for the new building. The 60 employees who work in these offices will be moved to offices in Bethlehem’s Flatiron building and offices that are under construction at the intersection of Third and New Street.

The university is financing the project through a private-public partnership, typically called a P3. In Lehigh’s case, however, since it is a private institution, it will be a private-private partnership. The university owns the land, but they will partner with a developer, who will build the facility and entirely fund the construction.

The developer will then own that building, receiving payment from the students living there. After a period of time, the dorm will revert back to Lehigh ownership. Breiner said that period of time could last upwards of 30 years.

“It’s a win-win all around,” the university architect Brent Stringfellow said. “It allows developers who are pretty good at housing to take the lead on it and it allows the university to harness resources for other projects that we might have.”

With this partnership, however, the university is giving up complete control over the project. Stringfellow said he has developed stringent guidelines in terms of what the building can look like, how big it can be and how it will need to be operated, all things with which the developer will need to comply.

Stringfellow said he has not decided on a developer yet, but Lehigh is currently going through the selection process. The pool has been narrowed down to a handful of firms that will develop proposals for Stringfellow and his team to choose from.

The residential facility is the first step in Lehigh’s 10-year expansion plan, the “Path to Prominence,” which was announced last October by President John Simon. One of the goals of the plan is to increase enrollment by 1,000 undergraduate students and 500 to 800 graduate students.

Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, said another goal of the 10-year initiative is to provide on-campus housing for 70 percent of undergraduate students, or approximately 4,100 beds. This objective, in conjunction with the 20 percent increase in enrollment, means more buildings like this one will be popping up in the future.

Stringfellow already has several locations picked out for the new residential halls. Two projects he is currently working on, Bridge East and Bridge West, will be in the vicinity of M&M and Taylor. These dorms will be completed in several phases, but as of right now, the first dorm is slated to open in the fall of 2020.

Lehigh is still in the early design process for these buildings. A committee, comprised mostly of faculty from Student Affairs and Residential Life, is evaluating who should live in these dorms and what types of amenities the buildings should offer.

Breiner said some of these projects, like the Brodhead building, could potentially be built on top of existing parking lots. However, he said the university is mindful of the importance of parking in all projects it is undertaking.

“We certainly don’t want to create a situation where people feel like their job has gotten harder or their life on campus has gotten harder as a result of these projects,” Stringfellow said. “Every project that we’re studying, parking is usually near the top of the list of items we need to address as we sort through what the impact will be on campus.”

In the construction of the Brodhead building alone, there are 180 faculty members who will affected by the loss of parking: 60 people currently residing in administrative offices on Brodhead Avenue and 120 members of Lehigh’s Advancement team. Friedman said they will all be moving to a new parking deck in Spring 2018 as part of the development on Third and New streets.

Friedman also said the university anticipates adding remote parking on the Mountaintop and Goodman campuses, which will be supported by an improved transit system. Lehigh is adding an electric bus to its fleet in the upcoming months.

With the expansion of residential housing on campus, Stringfellow and Breiner said they always find their way back to one issue: graduate housing.

“Graduate housing is also an issue that we’re going to have to deal with and it is on everyone’s mind,” Breiner said. “We’re just not quite there yet in how we’re going to address it.”

Stringfellow recognizes the problem with graduate housing is twofold, both in its modest quantity and its remote location in Saucon Village. Although they haven’t formed a concrete solution, Stringfellow and his team aren’t giving up.

“We are committed to digging deeper on the issue and understanding what the best solutions might be,” he said.

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2 Comments

  1. Re: new student residences, I sincerely hope Lehigh doesn’t repeat the mistake of building more unsightly buildings like Campus Square that add nothing to (and arguably detract from) the architectural interest and beauty of the campus. Whether the approach is modern as at the Univ of Chicago (https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2016/09/12/university-chicago-opens-campus-north-residential-commons) and Haverford (http://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/kim-and-tritton-residence-halls-haverford-college), or more traditional as at Villanova (http://www.ramsa.com/project-detail.php?project=480&lang=en) the university leadership has an opportunity to enhance the beauty of Lehigh’s campus and surrounds, they should not waste.

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