A Bethlehem church rectory will be the new home of Lehigh University's Small Business Development Center.
In a public hearing Wednesday night, Bethlehem's zoning board unanimously approved the business center's variance so that it can move from Lehigh's Goodman Campus to St. Joseph Church rectory in South Bethlehem, which the college bought two years ago for $205,000.
"They have adequate parking within close proximity to the property and submitted a very thorough application," said Suzanne Borzak, zoning officer for Bethlehem's zoning board.
The 3,000-square-feet rectory on East Fifth Street consists of offices and residential space. With Wednesday's approved variance, the college will be able to convert the entire building into a commercial property.
Lehigh spokesman Dale Kochard said the development center and other university groups are being relocated to free space for another department. The business development center is expected to be in its new home by the end of January.
The property does not appear to be in need of construction, Borzak said, to make the bedrooms into offices, but a commercial certificate of occupancy would be needed from the zoning board if the property should require construction. The college has two years from the date of the variance approval to obtain the certificate.
"It's a great adaptive re-use of a building that has been vacant," Borzak said. "This is a positive thing for the community."
The development center has served Pennsylvania small businesses since 1978, providing consulting services and educational programs to entrepreneurs wanting to start or grow their business.