Ribbon cutting for SouthSide Commons

At the SouthSide Commons ribbon-cutting, from left, are Julie Skolnicki, senior managing director of Greystar Collegiate Housing; Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez; Tom Trubiana, executive director of Greystar Collegiate Housing; Lehigh Trustee Anne R. Kline ’81; and Patricia A. Johnson, vice president for finance and administration at Lehigh.

SouthSide Commons Officially Opens

Ribbon-cutting ceremony signals milestone along Lehigh’s Path to Prominence.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christa Neu

SouthSide Commons officially opened its doors Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by community and city leaders, ushering in a new era of residential living at Lehigh and marking an important milestone along the university’s Path to Prominence.

Fifteen months after breaking ground on the project, Lehigh officials joined with Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to the five-story student living facility at Brodhead and Packer avenues. Tours followed. 

Trustee Anne R. Kline ’81 

“It’s a very exciting day for Lehigh,” said Trustee Anne R. Kline ’81 

“It’s a very exciting day for Lehigh,” said Trustee Anne R. Kline ’81, in remarks to the more than 100 people who gathered under a white tent for the brief ceremony. “We have made a major commitment to the future.”

The ribbon-cutting marked a significant step in the university’s plans to expand its academic footprint, strengthen its research enterprise and redefine the Lehigh student experience. As part of the Path to Prominence initiative, Lehigh will expand its undergraduate and graduate student populations and recruit new faculty to support new opportunities in teaching and research. Also central to the plan are several major building projects, including the new Health, Science & Technology Building and the New Residential Houses, both of which are now under construction, as well as the planned renovation of the historic Clayton University Center at Packer Hall. Other completed projects include the $31 million renovation of Chandler-Ullmann Hall and the newly opened and centrally located Center for Career & Professional Development. 

A room in the SouthSide Commons

SouthSide Commons features studio apartments and two-, three- and four-bedroom units.

SouthSide Commons was built in partnership with Greystar Collegiate Housing (formerly EdR Collegiate Housing) and designed by Atkin Olshin Schade Architects of Philadelphia. The building, which offers apartment-style living for 428 students, features studio apartments and two-, three- and four-bedroom units. It also has a fitness center, study rooms, pool tables, ping pong tables, shuffleboards and an outdoor recreation area where people played a cornhole lawn game before the ceremony. Six community assistants will also be on staff, in addition to resident and maintenance managers.

“Here at SouthSide Commons, Lehigh students will find unparalleled opportunities for personal growth and social interaction,” Kline said. “The students who are coming here to SouthSide Commons will live here, will learn here and will thrive here.”

Inside the SouthSide Commons pool table area

SouthSide Commons has a fitness center, study rooms, pool tables, ping pong tables, shuffleboards and an outdoor recreation area. 

And, because of its location—on the northwest boundary of the Lehigh campus and across from the Bethlehem Area School District’s Broughal Middle School—the new building adds another dimension to the vibrant relationship between the university and the city. As President John D. Simon pointed out at the building’s groundbreaking, Kline noted, “SouthSide Commons will open a world of possibilities for how Lehigh students interact with our outside community. ” 

Patricia A. Johnson, vice president for finance and administration at Lehigh, welcomed guests to the celebration and introduced the speakers, including Tom Trubiana, executive director of Greystar Collegiate Housing, who noted the building opened on time and on budget. 

“We have a lot to celebrate,” Trubiana said, adding the greatest impact will occur as students move into the facility and become part of the community.

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said SouthSide Commons will help continue South Bethlehem's revitalization.

Mayor Donchez, who commended the Lehigh administration for its “bold leadership” in moving some Lehigh offices and employees into off-campus buildings, said he sees the SouthSide Commons as a symbol of South Bethlehem’s continued revitalization. 

“This facility will bring more foot traffic and attention to South Bethlehem businesses, a key to maintaining the revitalization of the South Side,” he said. “ He added that he looked forward to continued partnerships with Lehigh as it expands and continues to “bring new life” into the city. 

inside SouthSide Commons

The ribbon-cutting at SouthSide Commons marked a significant step in the university’s plans to expand its academic footprint, strengthen its research enterprise and redefine the Lehigh student experience.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Christa Neu

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