Plans to rejuvenate South Bethlehem took a step further today with the announcement that a major hospital network and university would be anchor tenants in a more than $30 million mixed-use project.
The six-story building, Greenway Park, includes plans for an attached parking deck and would be built on a vacant lot at the corner of Third and New streets.
Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh University are the anchor tenants of a six-story, 125,000-square-foot structure that developer Dennis Benner will build.
St. Luke’s will have a floor of clinical, teaching and administrative space, while Lehigh University will move 140 employees in its office of advancement to the building.
“This project, along with a 626-space parking garage construction, an investment of over $35 million, continues the great relationship between St. Luke’s and Bethlehem,” Donchez said. “This project will serve as a catalyst for more development in the South Side.
“This is a major commitment by both institutions,” Donchez said, referencing Lehigh and St. Luke’s.
This project is similar to an earlier proposal Benner made at the same site, but this time does not have residential units attached.
CBRE Inc., which has an office in Fogelsville, is already leasing space in Greenway Park.
Construction will begin in the spring, Donchez said.
Benner said the project should be finished in a year.
“I think this is uniquely located, Benner said. “We want good tenants that will help the community. This is a new day about a new building here in Bethlehem.”
Benner said when he asked his sons why they don’t go into South Bethlehem to hang out, their reply was that there was nowhere to go. Benner began acquiring properties in an effort to build developments that would draw activity to the South Side. After discussing the project with Howard Kulp of Howard Kulp Architects, a vision started to form about what the “gateway’ to Bethlehem could look like.
The building includes rows of large glass windows, a 17,000-square-foot basement, with first floor for retail.
“We are hoping to have restaurants and other vibrant retail coming into that space,” Kulp said.
The rest of the floors will be for office space, with taller spaces available on the sixth floor.
“Views over to the north and south side will be absolutely breathtaking,” he said. “We look forward to this new structure as the gateway to the South Side. We hope to investigate a number of energy efficient savings within the building.”
Greenway Park will include a “parklet,” an outdoor walking space five stories up that includes trees and plantings, Kulp said.
Richard A. Anderson, CEO of St. Luke’s, said it was “a day of Renaissance for South Bethlehem,” noting the history that is shared between Lehigh, the city and St. Luke’s.
Lehigh University president John Simon said the project would strengthen the commercial district in the South Side and help the faculty work with the city.
“We are part of the fabric of this city; many Lehigh students are engaged in the community,” Simon said.
The project is in the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone district. The CRIZ allows certain state and local taxes generated by businesses in the zone to be used to finance construction and development of projects. Bethlehem earned the CRIZ designation in late 2013.
Benner said he still has to submit the plans to the city for approvals.
If built, the project would require some demolition.
Benner, who owns the land which covers nearly an acre, said there are three businesses that occupy properties along New Street that would be demolished to make way for the new structure.
“I’m hoping to relocate them, we have a lot of property throughout South Bethlehem,” Benner said. “They’ve all been made aware of it.”
The businesses are on monthly leases, he added.