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.