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A bustling Bethlehem: Year-in-review shows city projects underway, to come

Construction at the former Boyd Theatre site
Will Oliver
The old Boyd Theatre site at 26-44 W. Broad St. in North Bethlehem will feature over 200 apartments, ground-level retail space and other amenities along a notably busy thoroughfare.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — In the past year, the number of residential unit applications that have come before Bethlehem planning and zoning has seen a dip from previous years, according to city officials.

But some residents are still left saying it's the busiest they’ve ever seen their beloved city.

More than 200 apartments are coming to the old Boyd Theatre property on West Broad Street, in addition to residential developments popping up along both the eastern and western gateways of the city.

But it doesn't stop there.

Bethlehem Planning and Zoning last year had seen almost a 50% dip in residential unit applications come its way.
Bethlehem Planning and Zoning Director Darlene Heller

City Planning and Zoning Director Darlene Heller provided an annual report to the city Planning Commission on Thursday, highlighting some of the larger projects popping up across town that also have come before the planning and zoning panels.

The panel also unanimously approved passing that report along to the City Council for review.

Bethlehem Food Co-Op
Will Oliver
The Bethlehem Co-Op Market website lists an opening timeline of Summer 2024. Photo taken Dec. 18, 2023.

Up north

The new mixed-use project at the old Boyd Theatre property at 26-44 W. Broad St. recently was reviewed, approved and is currently under construction, Heller said.

The $50 million development has been reported to include a six-story, 205-unit structure featuring one- and two-bedroom apartments, underground parking, a pool, a courtyard as well as ground-level retail space.

It could be ready for tenants by midway through 2024, according to reports.

“Union Crossings” is a 39-apartment, mixed-use property set for the 218-226 W. Union Blvd. property just east of the Route 378 ramp and Monocacy Way Trail.

Heller said the developer agreement is nearing completion, and construction could begin midway through 2024.

Officials have called this area a “gateway” for the western end of Bethlehem because the Colonial Industrial Quarter and Main Street also are close by.

Bethlehem Food Co-Op, which soon will be rebranded as Bethlehem Co-Op Market, is under construction at 250 E. Broad St.

The four-story property will feature a 7,000-square-foot, “community-owned” grocery store on the building’s first floor, with 42 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors.

The co-op website lists the grocery opening timeline as the coming summer.

Parts of both the east and west ends of the Broad Street corridor are set for safety improvements to benefit conditions for those using alternative modes of transportation.

Hanover Apts. Rendering
Alloy5 Architecture
A rendering of the proposed property at 2300 Hanover Ave., with a view from West Broad Street and Club Avenue.

Going west

The four-building, 317-unit Hanover Apartments project planned for the border of Bethlehem and Allentown went through a number of hearings with the Zoning Hearing Board regarding building length and commercial space.

The New Jersey developing firm had planned to consolidate four tax parcels — 2235 W. Broad St., 2300 Hanover Ave., 2220 W. Florence St. and 2211 W. Broad St. — into one for the proposed buildings at the Bethlehem-Allentown border.

The Hanover Apartments case will be further handled in court on April 2.

Heller said planners had reviewed and approved plans for a new gymnasium of more than 25,000 square feet and redevelopment of office space for the Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School at 2040 Avenue C.

Six10 Flats
Will Oliver
A shot of Six10 Flats from across Pierce Street. The former Bethlehem Steel headquarters is just across East Third Street.

Heading south

An “Eastern Gateway” development at 4th and Williams streets recently got the green light from Bethlehem Zoners to have more apartments than typically allowed on a site of that size, with 69 units.

City planners also gave their go-ahead the month before that vote.

A North Bethlehem applicant plans those 69 apartments to be paired with 4,000 feet of commercial space.

The former Boys & Girls Club site at 117 E. Fourth St. is planned to become “The Marshal,” offering a mix of 76 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Some retail space also has been proposed for the property.

A 98-room Tru by Hilton hotel is planned to go up just down the road to the east from Wind Creek Bethlehem casino.

The developer said the project would bring about 20 jobs to the city, and construction would potentially start this spring and be open for business within a year.

Last year, the ribbon was cut at Six10 Flats along East Third Street in South Bethlehem. The $20 million project offers 75 apartments and commercial space on the ground level.

Walnut Street Garage
Will Oliver
Walnut Street Garage demolition progress at 33. W. Walnut St. in North Bethlehem. Photo taken Feb. 8, 2024.

Developments in historic districts

Bethlehem City Council has overruled recommendations from two of the city’s historic panels regarding new developments to go up within both the North and Southside historic districts.

Most recently, the city's Historical Architectural Review Board moved to deny two proposed designs for a rebuild of the old Walnut Street Garage in North Bethlehem.

The new garage is planned to be operating by the end of 2025.

But the majority of City Council liked the idea of a taller but smaller parking deck replacement to make room for some sort of mixed-use development next door, which could ultimately mean space for housing and retail offerings.

City and parking officials have said the plan would encourage more walking, biking and generally more “feet on the street” exploring what the nearby Main Street area has to offer.

“The city is negotiating with Norfolk Southern to buy that trail gap between the South Bethlehem Greenway and the Saucon Rail Trail; it’s about nine-tenths of a mile. We’ve received some grant funding to support that, but we’ve not really been able to reach a final acquisition dollar amount.”
Bethlehem Planning and Zoning Director Darlene Heller

The council also approved plans for the new ArtsQuest Cultural Arts Center to replace the old Banana Factory at 25. W. Third St., overruling the wishes of the city's Historic Conservation Commission.

The $23 million facility could see a tentative completion during the second quarter of 2026, officials have reported.

The Banana Factory demolition is set for early in the first quarter of 2025, with the new project's groundbreaking taking place later in the same quarter.

Historic officials have reviewed plans to make updates to the historic Grist Miller’s House in the North Side’s Colonial Industrial Quarter.

Those could include stabilizing the structure itself and building a transparent connection point to join the 1869 Luckenbach Mill next door.

The South Bethlehem Greenway has been “pretty much built out,” Heller said, but negotiations with the railroad company are still ongoing.

“The city is negotiating with Norfolk Southern to buy that trail gap between the South Bethlehem Greenway and the Saucon Rail Trail; it’s about nine-tenths of a mile,” Heller said.

“We’ve received some grant funding to support that, but we’ve not really been able to reach a final acquisition dollar amount.”