Finding a solution to prevent further gentrification of Southside Bethlehem and instead help the urban communities in the area and preserve the historic properties is an important issue for the City of Bethlehem. Gentrification is a huge issue in southside Bethlehem; businesses, restaurants, luxury high-rise apartments, and other establishments have opened there and more are due to be built in the future. The problem here is the fact that all of these establishments do not support nor benefit the urban communities that live around them. This gentrification also dismisses the preservation of this historic area.
My goal isn’t to stand in the way of progress and development but to protect the history of South Bethlehem. I would like the economic impacts of this progress to be reconsidered keeping the residents of South Bethlehem in mind instead of fully disregarding them to be nothing more than obstacles that need to be overcome. My perspective on the issue is unwavering because the people who have lived their day to day lives in these parts of southside Bethlehem are currently being gentrified and this needs to cease. I would like to keep their historical neighborhood preserved from this aggressive modern progression in terms of buildings but more importantly sustain their way of life and keep their housing. If this intense modernization of the area continues, we will lose the historical significance of south Bethlehem. Inspired developers venturing to the area should start reusing historical buildings and transforming them into something new, instead of taking land and tearing down old buildings for entirely new structures. However, what is actually occurring is these new developers who are “modernizing” are also making the residents that have lived their entire lives in the area and built the community social fabric flee from a place they call home.
South Bethlehem is a beautiful and artsy community that also just so happens to have historical significance. Others have their own motives that could oppose my perspective on this important issue; they want to leave their mark in the community by developing new modern buildings and attracting more attention to the area — but most important to them is bringing in more money. Universities also put a dent in my mission to end gentrification. Universities are always on the move for expansion and our very own Lehigh University is no exception. South Bethlehem has high-value property and this university is willing to snatch up any property and develop new office buildings or student housing on top of historical land. My solution would be to allow new development in Southside Bethlehem; however, with this solution to give both groups something eighty percent of the buildings must remain to preserve the historical significance of South Side Bethlehem, and with this developers can restore the interiors of these older buildings and use them while keeping the exterior. If these old buildings cannot be restored, twenty percent of them could be allowed to be torn down making way for new development. Also, any space that is not already developed can be built on; however, the buildings constructed there could use and embrace the architectural style so that even though they might be “new” in build date they would resemble the community and allow for a smoother transition compared to a modern high rise. I hope that if this solution is acted upon the issue of gentrification in south Bethlehem will be a thing of the past but more importantly something to learn from for the future.
Anthony attends Liberty High School, where he is president of the psychology club. He has a part time job and enjoys invigorating conversations surrounding topics he cares deeply about which is one of the reasons why he wrote this piece.
Although increasing density by constructing bigger and taller buildings is sometimes touted as a way to minimize environmental impacts, the point of incorporating a commitment to environmental justice throughout the Climate Action Plan was precisely to make sure that vulnerable or “frontline” communities won’t bear a disproportionate burden….—Breena Holland