SouthSide Bethlehem proposed apartment building rendering East Fourth and East Morton streets

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A seven-story south Bethlehem building with 123 apartments and first-floor retail space will be reviewed by the city's zoning board next week.

The would-be developer wants to demolish residences from 106 through 126 East Fourth Street to put up the mixed-use building. Two properties on Morton Street would also be part of Lehigh SH Development I's plan.

"The single-family homes currently located on the property are not in good condition and evidence the long-standing, short-term use," according to documents filed with Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board.

The homes are mostly rented to students, according to Lehigh SH. The property is not in the city's designated student-housing district, which was created after the residences were built.

The proposed building would be available to Lehigh University students, but they would not be the target market.

"The apartments will be available and marketed to the general public," according to the applicant's submission.

The property is in the Southside Historic District. The city's historic commission favors buildings of three or at most four stories in the district, but it is only an advisory body. The city's zoning law allows buildings that exceed the commission's recommendations.

City Council can override the commission's votes, and some commissioner members have complained that council has been too willing to approve big new projects.

At the same time, developers have questioned why they should be asked to conform to the historic standards when zoning law allows big buildings.

The current plan is for 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and 4-bedroom units. In addition to first-floor retail space, the complex would have a fitness center, clubhouse and other amenities.

South Bethlehem is the site of several approved and planned developments that would add hundreds of apartments for students and residents.

Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, to review the Lehigh SH plan. Details about the meeting and a link to a web broadcast are available on the city website.

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