Adaptive reuse projects continue fueling growth in South Side Bethlehem with the completion of an $11 million affordable housing project.
Officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning for South Side Lofts, a 46-unit affordable housing community, talked about the project’s potential for generating economic development by providing an affordable residence for artists to live, work and play in Bethlehem.
One apartment site covers a vacant church site at 419-429 Hayes St., and a second is a block away at a brownfield site at 420-424 Atlantic St.
The project marks the first venture in the Lehigh Valley for Housing Development Corp. MidAtlantic, a nonprofit based in Lancaster that is the developer and owner of the project.
“We focused on revitalizing two properties that were underutilized and vacant,” said Michael Carper, president and CEO of HDC.
Each unit has its own parking spot, while additional parking is available on a vacant lot across Atlantic Street.
The site on Atlantic Street provides additional parking. The company acquired a vacant lot across from the Atlantic Street location for off-street residential parking.
Carper said the project garnered a lot of support from the community and state, while tax credits from the low-income housing tax credit program helped the organization’s mission come to fruition. Every unit is made affordable to residents at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
Carper said Wells Fargo, ArtsQuest, the city of Bethlehem and Alan Jennings, executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, were important partners.
“The goal was to revitalize these two sites and provide an asset to the community,” Carper said.
The company adaptively reused the 100-year-old church on Hayes Street and demolished the adjacent rectory to build a new apartment site. At the Atlantic Street location, the company razed two blighted buildings to build apartments.
“It’s great to see that you preserved a lot of this structure,” said Brian Hudson, executive director and CEO of Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, based in Harrisburg. “It’s preserving a community’s historic building, reuse of an existing facility. You’re stabilizing the community. The demand here is tremendous.”
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said he grew up three blocks from the church and noted that for the city of Bethlehem to be successful, it cannot only focus on jobs, but housing, including affordable or workforce housing. The city has supported this project since its inception, he added.
Residents began moving into the apartments in September, said Jolene Weaver, spokeswoman for HDC. Construction should be fully complete in November, she said. Atlantic Street construction is complete and only minimal site work remains at the Hayes Street site.
Rents range from $593 to $722 for one-bedroom units, $705 to $860 for two-bedroom units and $808 to $987 for three-bedroom units.