Plans to develop seven townhouses, extending from 305 to 321 Van Buren Street, were discussed in an October zoning board meeting. The houses are set to become Lehigh University student housing options beginning in the fall of 2021.
Louis Intile, a co-owner of Fifth Street Properties — the company responsible for this project — said the townhouses on Van Buren will offer many benefits.
“We found that students really value the 100 percent new construction,” Intile said. “Each unit will also be five bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, better than any other off campus ratio including off-street parking and the proximity to campus couldn’t be closer.”
The units will also be less expensive than Southside Commons.
“It’s in the $900s per person per month, which puts it between $150 and $200 a month cheaper than Southside Commons,” Intile said. “(It’s) certainly not the cheapest off-campus housing, (but) we are not going for that.”
Intile said the great value of the properties drives the higher pricing.
Brett Irwin, the manager of Fifth Street Properties, also highlighted the value of these townhouses. “The houses will include energy efficient construction, central air conditioning, tile bathrooms, in-unit laundry and free garage and off-street parking,” Irwin said.
Much of the proposed project delivered to the zoning board involved the consolidation of lots on the property.
“The developers had a series of dimensional variances that they needed relief for in order to construct the way they wanted to construct,” said Craig Pieffer, a zoning officer on the Bethlehem Zoning and Hearing Board. “Their proposal was to consolidate the lots. They needed dimensional relief for yard setbacks and lot area per dwelling.”
He said the district Fifth Street Properties proposed to build in has a series of design requirements, including adding parking in the side or the rear of the building. Fifth Street Properties requested to put parking in front of the building between the street line, in lieu of side or rear access.
Pieffer said the zoning board agreed and granted the request, with the stipulation that the parking on one side would need to be pulled away from the property line.
Intile said Fifth Street Properties was inspired by the success of other local properties, such as the new townhouses on the corner of East Fifth and Fillmore Street, which were well-received by students and parents.
Intile said the developers looked into what the students wanted from their off-campus housing when constructing the houses.
“We looked at some of the new construction that the university was building like with Southside Commons and we took a lot of feedback from the students,” Intile said. “While it’s beautiful and a new building, a lot of the students found it a little bit too far and they found the units way too small.”
Although the units will not be available for students to live in until the fall of 2021, they have already attracted much attention from Lehigh University students.
“We are getting dozens of calls and a lot of interest,” Intile said. “A number of the townhouses for the first year have been reserved already. Some units have even been leased already.”