Sunrise on the SouthSide (4): Commercial Vitality

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

Sunrise on the Southside

Chapter 2: Commercial Vitality

We continue to look at the Southside through Lehigh University’s promotional “Sunrise” video. Their project came to Gadfly’s attention just as we have been spending a lot of time on the Southside, a focus especially stimulated by the moving letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and the formation of Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development.

Images of Domaci, Godfrey Daniels, Joe’s Barber Shop, Color Me Mine, Lit, Banana Factory, etc.

  • The Domaci owners aren’t alone in their belief in South Bethlehem. While there are still empty storefronts to be filled, the South Side in recent years has attracted numerous entrepreneurs who have staked their success on a neighborhood they believe to be on the rebound.
  • Peron Development opened Five10Flats, an apartment and retail building, in 2018 on Third Street between Fillmore and Buchanan streets, across from Northampton Community College. The six-story Gateway at Greenway Park building was developed at Third and New streets, offering offices and retail space, including the top-floor restaurant Zest with its panoramic views.
  • Lehigh is an anchor tenant in the Gateway building, along with St. Luke’s University Health Network. The university relocated about 145 employees there from several campus locations, including its controller’s office, real estate services and the development and alumni relations offices. Additional Lehigh staff work a few blocks away in the Flatiron Building on Broadway.
  • You could look at it as moving Lehigh’s staff off campus, or you could view it as blurring the borders between campus and the town,” says Lehigh President Simon. “If you go into a lot of urban universities, [the borders are] blurred, and there are some buildings that have a lot of university employees and some that have businesses, and yet the campus still has an identity. But both can coexist in a very productive way.”
  • “I love being a part of this community,” [Color Me Mine owner Tara Nagabhyru] says. “I saw so much potential here.”
  • Like other business owners, Nagabhyru praised the efforts of the SouthSide Arts District, which pumped up the events calendar in its efforts to attract people to South Bethlehem. Also, Nagabhyru says, people like longtime business owner John Saraceno, who owns the building across the street and operates Saraceno Designs on the second floor there, offered practical advice and extended support when she opened her doors.


Sunrise on the SouthSide (3): A Clean and Safe Environment

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

Sunrise on the Southside

Chapter 1: A Clean and Safe Environment

After a short break, Gadfly would now like to continue the slow walk through Lehigh University’s high quality production  “Sunrise on the Southside,” focusing today on chapter 1, “A Clean and Safe Environment.”

This project came to Gadfly’s attention just as we have been spending a lot of time on the Southside, a focus especially stimulated by the moving letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and the formation of Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development.

The SouthSide Ambassadors — those people in the yellow uniforms cleaning streets and sidewalks!

Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they there? What do they do?

Since the program was created in 2014 in partnership with Lehigh and the Bethlehem Economic Development Corp. (BEDCO), the Ambassadors have expanded their footprint on the South Side with support from the Community Action Development Corp. of Bethlehem.

  • “In a lot of people’s minds, it’s not clear who [the Ambassadors] work for, whether they work for the City of Bethlehem or whether they work for Lehigh University. And to me, that is a successful way to view it. They are out there to make the South Side better.” (Lehigh president John Simon)
  • Seven days a week in the South Side’s core commercial district, the Ambassadors are on the job from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. Morning details focus on sweeping the sidewalks in an 18-block radius, pulling weeds from tree beds, picking up leaves, sprucing up. Later in the day, the Ambassadors focus on safety issues. The Ambassadors also provide plenty of hospitality—helping visitors with parking meters, directions and restaurant locations.
  • “Listen, it was pretty rough down here. It was dirty. Street lights were out. Curb lines were just covered with garbage, out almost 16, 18 inches from the curb. That doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re in it every day, but when it’s gone, what a difference it made. Things have changed considerably. ” (Ambassadors Operations Manager Hector Lopez)
  • “Now we are starting to see a change in [people’s negative perceptions of the South Side] just because the sidewalks are clean.” (Lehigh assistant vice president for community and regional affairs Adrienne McNeil)
  • McNeil works with Lehigh’s Office of First-Year Experience on Faux Friday, when first-years eat at South Side restaurants as part of the effort to get them to check out the core business district. Last fall, she says, about 1,100 students participated.
  • Then, on the first Friday in October, McNeil leads one of Lehigh’s 5X10 (five programs over 10 weeks) series. Participating students meet her at Farrington Square, then they walk together to the Color Me Mine pottery place on Third Street, where they can make plates, bowls and mugs imprinted with the Lehigh logo. “Part of that is just showing them that Third and Fourth streets are close,” she says. “It’s a fun thing for them.”

 Gadfly invites comments on this powerful Lehigh public relations document as we go.

Sunrise on the SouthSide (2)

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

Sunrise on the Southside

“We are are linked at the hip. The students who come to Lehigh have to call Bethlehem home. I want them to see themselves as part of the community and to participate in the community. The residents of Bethlehem have to see Lehigh as one of the major employers and a strong academic institution. That links to the ability to attract businesses and jobs. So I think it’s a very symbiotic relationship.”  (Lehigh president John Simon)

“We all just want to work together to benefit the community of South Bethlehem, to benefit the city, to benefit Lehigh. So it’s a win-win.” (Our mayor Robert Donchez)

Last time we took a look at the lead video in Lehigh University’s high quality production  “Sunrise on the Southside,” and Gadfly would like to continue a slow walk through the entire project over several posts.

This project comes to Gadfly’s attention just as we have been spending a lot of time on the Southside, a focus especially stimulated by the moving letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and the formation of Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development.

Begin with consideration of these examples of the symbiotic relationship between Lehigh and the City from the Lehigh project’s intro page:

  • the downtown manager position [Missy Hartney]
  • the SouthSide Ambassadors, the gold-and-blue-clad security officers who remove litter from sidewalks, clean away graffiti, assist visitors with directions and provide a host of other services
  • the Lehigh University Police Department, who work in concert with Bethlehem police and other organizations to keep neighborhoods safe
  • two city code enforcement officers, whom Lehigh financially supports, who inspect off-campus properties that students and others rent to make sure they are up to code
  • members of the Lehigh faculty affiliated with the South Side Initiative who offer a number of courses that examine the area’s architecture, history and evolution, and work to archive the area’s culturally rich and diverse history
  • Initiatives include Lehigh’s Move Out Collection Drive and the Great South Side Sale, where students’ discarded items at the end of an academic year are recycled for sale and profits are funneled back into community programming for local school children

The project has seven “chapters,” and we’ll gradually focus on each one. But, for now, chew on the above for a stimulating overview.

Gadfly invites comments on this powerful Lehigh public relations document as we go.

Sunrise on the SouthSide (1)

(Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside)

SS sunrise 1
“Sunrise on the SouthSide” is a striking promotional web project produced by Lehigh University. We will surely want to look at this powerful work in some detail over the course of several posts.

But to start our examination let’s look at the extremely well done lead video of the project, which has this caption:

“Lehigh University, its partners in the community and the City of Bethlehem join forces to foster South Bethlehem’s resurgence. In the two decades since local steelmaking operations ended at the Bethlehem Steel Corp., the South Side of Bethlehem is having its moment.”

This Lehigh video (and the project) remind us of a lot of good things.

“This is our home for four years.” — Lehigh student

“As someone who grew up on the South Side, we’ve been talking about redevelopment and revitalization of South Bethlehem for 30 years, and now it’s happening.” — Mayor Donchez

“[Bethlehem], just a fun place overall . . . and then the newness and vitality that the youth of the University brings.” — Warren Clark, local shop owner

The Lehigh strategy: 1) a Southside clean and safe, 2) participation in the schools, 3) economic development, and 4) neighborhood stabilization. — Lehigh Administrator Fred McGrail

“We’re really working together to make South Bethlehem a home for Lehigh University students. . . . We want potential students to come to Lehigh University because of the downtown and because of Lehigh University.” — Missy Hartney, Southside Arts manager

“If all you had available to you while you were in school had to come from the campus itself, it’s a very limiting experience.” — Lehigh President John Simon

“The Southside is our community, and we have a duty and responsibility to the community that we are a part of.” — Lehigh administrator Carolina Hernandez

“Lehigh has been very involved with the Hispanic Center . . . and one of the donors for the Fowler Community Wellness Center.” — Victoria Montero, Hispanic Center

“Students . . . weren’t necessarily venturing down into South Bethlehem, and then that’s the reason for the Ambassadors.” — Lehigh Administrator Adrienne McNeil

“I’m a believer that if you care deeply about the City, you are going to move people into the City.” — Lehigh President John Simon

“I think it’s incredible that Bethlehem’s getting such a second chance.” Warren Clark, local shop owner

In some ways South Bethlehem really is a great comeback story. . . . There’s a great sense of pride in South Bethlehem and always has been.” — Lehigh Administrator Fred McGrail

“I think the entire City today realizes the great partnership we have between Lehigh and the City of Bethlehem.” — Mayor Donchez

“Everything that we do is truly with each other.” — Lehigh administrator Carolina Hernandez

“We’ve only just begun.” — Missy Hartney, Southside Arts manager

“We are now stepping off the Hill. We are growing more into the community. . . . and the community almost seems brighter because we’re taking care of each other.” — Lehigh student

The proposed Packer Ave. Promenade

(Latest in a series of posts relating to Lehigh University, the Southside,
and neighborhoods)

“Lehigh University proposes to have the City of Bethlehem vacate the portion of Packer Avenue from Webster Street to Vine Street to create a pedestrian corridor.”
 – Lehigh Traffic Study

Gadfly is confident that we have all at one time or another been traveling on Packer Ave. through the Lehigh campus and experienced the hazardous crossing right at the main entrance.

Especially at class change time, students and faculty flow en masse up and down across Packer Ave., sometimes almost oblivious to traffic.

Students coming down the hill often flow with such force and determination that you are reminded of one of the falls in the Jim Thorpe area.

Students going uphill have the primal focus of salmon going upstream to spawn.

While students sometimes seem oblivious, drivers run the gamut from impatience to anger.

It’s not a good scene.

For this and other reasons having to do with a new physical plan in operation for the campus, Lehigh (as Gadfly first noted in the student newspaper back in March) is exploring seeking approval from the City to make Packer between Adams and Vine a promenade.

The safety concern would be eliminated.

And one can see good things in such a plan from Lehigh’s perspective. A promenade would help unify the lower campus buildings and fit right in to the (laudable) goal of a walking campus.

At a meeting two or three weeks ago, Gadfly heard the Mayor say there was no definite decision yet, but the positive thing he saw was a better flow of students down to the 4th St. businesses. So, at first blush, good for the City economics too.

In early May, a group from a Lehigh graduate class studying this proposal made a presentation to our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), primarily, I think, to recommend use of their assessment tool — Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) — to complement existing planning processes in new development projects.

Active Gadfly follower Peter Crownfield seems to have been involved in the assessment (see the conclusion to the executive summary), and I am sure we will hear from him.

Here is the complete PowerPoint presentation: Packer Promenade – Sustainability Council.

And here the executive summary:



Per Gadfly usual practice, let’s look at the primary sources before we editorialize and criticize.

But Gadfly had in mind then at the EAC presentation and has more in mind now with the South Bethlehem Historical Society May 22 letter about the impact of “progress” on the Southside still bubbling on his brain things like impact on the residential neighborhood, consultation with neighbors, and the dreaded “Lehigh sprawl.”

So join me in chewing on the Packer Ave. Promenade proposal.

Lehigh’s Health, Science & Technology Building begins (25)

(25th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Groundbreaking for the new Lehigh Health, Science, and Technology college at the corner of Morton and Adams is imminent.

Lehigh 1

The presentation on the web link above is stunning. Savor that video.

You might remember Gadfly having his pee warmed by Lehigh’s construction of three new buildings on parking areas, resulting in a loss of over 500 parking spaces, pushing some parking off campus.

Lehigh now has a parking lot for faculty and staff in the area of Founder’s Way and 3rd St. There will be bus service between the lot and campus. Maybe it has already started.

(You will have already noticed the big Lehigh Transit buses on Mechanic St. turning south [up] New St.)

Reminds me that I never did find out where the lower-paid contract workers (cafeteria, cleaning, grounds staff) were accommodated in the parking reorganization.

And reminds me that we need to talk about the Lehigh plan in potencia for closing Packer Ave between Brodhead and Adams for a pedestrian mall.

As well as the refurbishing of the entrance into Lehigh from 3rd St. at the bridge to Campus Square at New and Morton.

Lehigh — on the move!

Lehigh Northside parking lot mystery partially explained (24)

(24th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Deep Throat surreptitiously (good SAT word) passed Gadfly a new document regarding the new Lehigh University parking plan that contains the following bullet:

  • There will be a commuter lot added on the SteelStacks/Sands property off of Third Street and Founder’s Way, and a shuttle serving this commuter lot. More details about the commuter lot will be shared with the campus community by the end of March. The university will be funding the cost of this space, so there will be no cost to the employee to use this lot.

So why the big mystery?

Why couldn’t Lehigh simply say, yes, Gadfly, we announced in September and said nothing different until this week that there would be a Northside Commuter lot but actually it’s a commuter lot on the southside now — 3rd and Founder’s Way.

Instead they played dumb, as if there were no off-site commuter lot, and got Gadfly’s pee all warm.

No doubt a good reason for stiffing me. No doubt above Gadfly’s pay grade. Big business.

In the recent document, Lehigh indicates they have made some changes. They indicate that the first come/first served system has been dropped, and people on lower campus seem assured now of parking close to their workspace. Sounds like “bumping” has been eliminated or diminished.

Lehigh is, of course, still silent about the contract workers — Sodexo, ABM, BrightView, etc. They are not Lehigh employees, and thus are not referenced, though they clearly must be affected by the parking reorganization, and are separated out as such in the Lehigh July 2018 parking study (p. 16 if my notes are correct).

The 3rd and Founder’s Way lot is 3/4’s of a mile from Farrington Square at the bottom of lower campus, about the same distance as the “mythical” Northside lot.

Thus, I still don’t have an answer to my basic question of what’s happening with this lower-paid group, at least some of whom no doubt are Bethlehem residents and taxpayers.

But even if they aren’t Bethlehem residents and taxpayers, are the lower-paid workers being, as it were, “forced” to suffer some hardship to park off-site because they can’t afford the parking fee?

Remember that Lehigh has made a conscious decision to build on parking lots, losing approx. 500 spaces.

I keep saying that there may be no problem, but I’d like somebody who has thought about these people to tell me so.

Lehigh obviously made changes in the original program because of legitimate concerns, stiff questions, and resistance from faculty and staff on campus.

The contract workers probably have no similar voice or power.

Are they being treated fairly?