A 400-student housing facility is being built as a part of Lehigh’s ‘Path to Prominence’ expansion. The facility will be located on Brodhead Avenue. (Courtesy of Brent Stringfellow)

New housing facility will be largest in Lehigh’s history

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Under its Path to Prominence expansion, Lehigh plans to build SouthSide Commons, a new 400-student housing facility.

Located on Brodhead Avenue across from Broughal Middle School, the housing facility will be the largest in Lehigh’s history.

The building will also be the first apartment-style housing alternative offered off campus. University architect Brent Stringfellow said most apartments will consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Stringfellow said spaces will be carved out for informal gatherings and could be used for studying and recreational activity.

“The plan is not to alter that balance (between on-campus and off-campus housing) — it is to provide a different set of options,” Stringfellow said.

Lori Friedman, the director of media relations, wrote in an email that SouthSide Commons will serve as a bridge between traditional on-campus living and off-campus living in South Bethlehem.

The location will put students at the edge of Lehigh’s campus, making travelling to class and off-campus staples more accessible.

The residential facility will be available to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

“There is no large apartment buildings really for people who want to live off campus,” Stringfellow said. “You usually have to go to a house. We see (this) as just another option for students as they start to grow out of the traditional dorms into more independent living.”

Stringfellow said because the apartments are located in South Bethlehem and affiliated with Lehigh but are not Lehigh dorms, they offer a degree of independence.

“In some ways, it is a transitional way for students to begin to live in the South Side community,” Stringfellow said, “but perhaps in a setting that is different from what they would get with a house rental.”

The building will not be divided by gender. It will have key swipe access and will be compliant with all handicap regulations.

Parking spaces will be located to the north of the building and will only be available to residents.

Stringfellow said the new building will affect faculty parking. Parking services is currently completing an extensive study to find the best place on campus to provide alternative parking.

“There will be less parking than there is now,” Stingfellow said, “The parking will be reassigned to other lots, but the parking will be on site for the new housing.”

Under the Path to Prominence plan, Lehigh hopes to engage more with the residents of South Bethlehem.

“SouthSide Commons is an important step in growing Lehigh’s student body, faculty and staff, and building stronger connections with the city of Bethlehem,” Friedman wrote. “We believe both of these will positively impact Lehigh’s reputation in the future and the South Side.”

Joseph Roy, superintendent of schools in the Bethlehem Area School District, has high hopes for the plan and does not anticipate any conflicts with construction, despite its close proximity to Broughal Middle School.

“We have a great relationship with the university,” Roy said. “We talk to the community affairs people all the time.”

Stringfellow described the middle school as “one of (the) biggest supporters.” The developers on the project will be working with Broughal to coordinate any events and traffic concerns.

“We work well with the community, and I’m sure we will work through this project as well,” Roy said.

Friedman wrote that the building’s impact on Broughal should be limited, as traffic will not change.

“We are increasing our commitment to the vitality of South Side Bethlehem,” she wrote. “The Bethlehem Area School District (is a) great supporter of this project.”

Construction for SouthSide Commons will begin between February and March of 2018.

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1 Comment

  1. This is just the first in a coming series of projects in which Lehigh slowly but surely seeks to evict and replace the community of the South Side in Bethlehem. Lehigh knows that the white, upper class demographic, which forms its primary base of students as well as faculty and administrators, sees the south side as a dirty, dangerous, run down place. Most students at Lehigh have never stepped further than Tally Ho or the liquor store. This dorm, in combination with the plans for a new health college, is just a part of this attempt to replace the south side’s existing urban fabric with that of the stereotypical “college town.” Sadly, this practice is not without precedent. In the 1960’s Lehigh bought and demolished two entire blocks of the south side, these blocks today constitute what is called “lower campus,” i.e., the part of campus north of Packer Ave. Temple University is doing the exact same thing with North Philly. They will tell us this is a part of their “inclusive” efforts, and standards of an “equitable community”, however, it is a thinly veiled attempt to evict the south side residents and polish up Lehigh’s image, which is really the only thing this university cares about.

    Additionally, Lehigh’s attempts to force juniors to live on campus, and I expect soon the seniors as well, is just another example of Lehigh only caring about its bottom line. They will say it is all in the name of “safety” or “inclusivity” or “providing options.” The only thing “options” means is that it costs more!

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