In May, news came that Alabama-based Wind Creek Hospitality, which had already announced its intention to buy the Sands Casino in South Bethlehem, also planned to spend about $250 million to turn the former Bethlehem Steel’s storied No. 2 Machine Shop into an adventure and water park, plus build a hotel and food and retail outlets.
That news followed the launch of Factory LLC, a food and beverage innovation hub, located in a former steel mill a few blocks from Lehigh’s campus. Managing partner Rich Thompson, a former Freshpet CEO, leads a team with $250 million in investable capital to buy stakes in “high potential” companies. Another recently announced development is the planned expansion of the Banana Factory, which is home to ArtsQuest’s visual arts education programs.
This summer, Lehigh is scheduled to begin construction on its Health, Science and Technology building, which will be home to the new College of Health. The New Residential Houses are taking shape further up the hill, and the SouthSide Commons residential facility is nearly complete at Brodhead and Packer avenues.
At the same time, Lehigh maintains its commitment to the community and city leaders, as well as South Side residents and business owners, in supporting public education, fighting neighborhood blight, keeping streets clean and safe, and promoting businesses.
There is much, much more to do and Lehigh is going to be a part of that going forward for a long time. We’re in this for the long haul.
“There is much, much more to do,” says McGrail, Lehigh’s vice president of communications and public affairs, “and Lehigh is going to be a part of that going forward for a long time. We’re in this for the long haul.”
Still, for people such as Hector Lopez, of the SouthSide Ambassadors, there is also much to applaud.
“I’ve seen a lot,” Lopez says. “There’s buildings, there’s businesses, there’s all kinds of things that are happening. … There was one point, maybe six months into the [ambassadors] program, somebody says to me, ‘What would you like to see down here?’ As corny as it sounds, I want lights, I want music, I want the busy sidewalks, I want to hear music, all of that. I want to see all of that. And it’s happening.”