The Bethlehem City Council approved construction of a nine-story apartment building and food court on New Street last Spring. Residents give their thoughts on how the building may affect South Bethlehem. (Andrew Isaacson/B&W Staff)

New nine story apartment and food court coming to New Street


Last spring, the Bethlehem City Council agreed to begin the construction process of a nine-story apartment and food court building from 317 to 327 South New St. The new complex would replace a few local businesses that previously moved from the area to make room for the demolition plans. 

The decision to move forward with the construction plans was at odds with the Historic Conservation District, who said this complex would be harmful for the South Side. 

Some residents said such a tall building will have consequences that outweigh the benefits on New Street. 

Anna Smith, a nonprofit manager who grew up in South Bethlehem, saw both the upsides and downsides of the construction. She ultimately sided with residents who were displeased with it.

Smith said the 13 story building proposal was a huge surprise to residents.

“I think initially it was kind of shocking to a lot of people like, wow, this is like a skyscraper that belongs in a big city,” Smith said. 

Smith said there were also concerns about the building affecting the atmosphere on the Greenway that many local residents and Lehigh students walk, bike and run on. 

She said the Greenway is a public amenity that’s open to everyone. 

“It’s very well utilized by residents throughout the South Side as a mode of transportation,” Smith said. “So the idea that this public amenity with all the green space it provides was going to fall under sort of a permanent shadow from a skyscraper was also concerning to folks.” 

Kimberley Carrell-Smith, a former professor in the history department at Lehigh, said she is worried about how the new apartment complex and food court would hurt local businesses.

Carrell-Smith said South Bethlehem is already a very congested area, and wishes if they were going to make such a huge change on the historic fabric and quality of life here, they would include local eateries instead of excluding them. 

She said building developments, such as the one on New Street, could also lead to the gentrification of the area, in turn raising rent and pushing families out of the South Side. 

“They’re beginning to think they don’t belong here because they can’t go to some of the businesses,” Carrell-Smith said.

Anne Evans, a community activist who has resided on Montclair Avenue since the 1980s, said she is hoping the decision can still be changed. 

She said residents feel as if the city council did not listen to them when they protested the construction. 

“The buildings that are being proposed are just too big for the scale of other buildings here on the South Side of Bethlehem or anywhere in most of Bethlehem,” Evans said. “A nine-story building will be totally out of scale with anything that’s over there. I don’t understand why that’s OK here.” 

Despite the negative outlook by many residents, some see the development as a positive sign for the community. 

Gary Lader, an architect on the New Street Construction, voted with Chief Building Inspector Mike Simonson to move forward with the construction. 

“Allowing taller buildings activates the downtown more,” Lader said. “It brings more people and is good for the economy.”  

Yadira Colon-Lopez, the director of the Community Action Development Corporation, said if done fairly, developments are beneficial. 

She said the South Side community is a great place to live, work and open a business.

 “All the work that has been done in the last 20 something years, you’re seeing it,” Colon-Lopez said. “You’re seeing the fruit of it when you see development wanting to come into the city. That’s healthy for a community, but how do we ensure that we put in some safeguards to protect the community that is here to protect the mixed- income, protect the diversity and income diversity and culture.” 

Lader said there will be more construction projects like the one on New Street in the future.  

“They are happening now and in the future,” he said. “There’s quite a lot of this kind of development, and we’re continually seeing proposals for projects like this every month.”

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.


  1. So the architect gets to vote on his own project? Vote John Kachmar for Mayor on Tuesday if you want responsible growth in the future.

    If you want more 9 story buildings & complete gentrification the Reynolds will facilitate that for you.

  2. John G. Lewis '90 on

    I wonder if the project is to be located in between 4th and 3rd streets on New St., or if it is to be located ‘below’ 3rd St. (being north of 3rd, or towards the river). … We already do have that one large, tall (something like 12 stories high or more) apartment building in the south side already and rather close to the campus. This structure has been here since the 1970s, and I never really liked it… Nonetheless, this obviously does not mean that all tall apartment buildings must be unattractive.

Leave A Reply