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$48M project expected to strengthen ties with university and city, officials say

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Officials host a groundbreaking for the start of construction of SouthSide Commons in Bethlehem. From left, are: Patricia Johnson, vice president for finance and administration at Lehigh University; Kevin Clayton, chairman of the board of trustees for Lehigh; John Simon, president of Lehigh; Robert Donchez, Bethlehem mayor and Tom Trubiana, EdR Collegiate Housing president.
Officials host a groundbreaking for the start of construction of SouthSide Commons in Bethlehem. From left, are: Patricia Johnson, vice president for finance and administration at Lehigh University; Kevin Clayton, chairman of the board of trustees for Lehigh; John Simon, president of Lehigh; Robert Donchez, Bethlehem mayor and Tom Trubiana, EdR Collegiate Housing president.

Officials marked the start of construction with a groundbreaking ceremony on a $48 million five-story student living facility for Lehigh University in Bethlehem Thursday.

The project, named Southside Commons, will go up on a vacant university-owned parking lot at the corner of Brodhead and West Packer avenues and provide housing for more than 400 students. Construction should be complete in summer 2019, said Brent Stringfellow, associate vice president of facilities and university architecture at Lehigh University.

With more than 400 students living there, Stringfellow sees the project as a way to create more linkages to the South Side business district.

With its proximity to the business district, officials see the potential for getting more students out into the community and strengthening ties between the university and the city.

Stringfellow said the design of the building would blend Lehigh University’s architecture with the industrial look of the buildings in the city’s South Side. Other amenities include a fitness center and lounges for students.

The project is different from other forms of student housing such as the traditional residence halls the university offers, Stringfellow said.

“This type of multiple apartment housing doesn’t exist as a model for students,” he said.

Most off-campus housing rentals for students in the city are converted houses, he added.

Once Southside Commons opens, the university will have a partnership with EdR Collegiate Housing, based in Memphis, Tenn.

EdR will operate the facility, which means Southside Commons would not be part of Lehigh’s dormitory systems, he added.

The project gets underway as Lehigh plans to start its campus-wide infrastructure initiative that includes the construction of academic facilities and renovations or expansions to some of its most iconic buildings as it adds to its undergraduate population.

“It ties in well with the anticipated growth,” Stringfellow said.

The architect is Atkin Olshin Schade Architects of Philadelphia.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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