Beginning in 2013, Lehigh University engaged U3 Advisors to analyze all of their key real estate initiatives. Lehigh University resides in Bethlehem’s South Side neighborhood, an area that has been in steady decline since the closure of Bethlehem Steel in the early 1990s. Through a data-driven approach, U3 Advisors has worked with Lehigh on a stabilization strategy for South Bethlehem, identifying catalytic initiatives for the South Side neighborhood, developing a real estate organizational strategy for the institution, and advising the institution on property acquisition.
Our work at Lehigh University focused on four primary impact areas:
- South Side Neighborhood Stabilization Strategy: U3 took a data-driven approach to creating a residential stabilization strategy for the neighborhood, first conducting a full environmental scan of the area to assess existing conditions and opportunities. As part of this effort, U3 mapped current addresses of students, faculty & staff and cataloged parcel ownership to understand residential patterns in the area. U3 then overlaid Lehigh’s strategic objectives on this data to define future real estate opportunities, creating a comprehensive implementation roadmap for South Bethlehem strategies.
- South Side Neighborhood Catalytic Initiatives: U3 analyzed various potential real estate interventions. We identified key sites & opportunities, conducted due diligence, defined alternatives, identified resources for project equity, and highlighted potential development partners and delivery models.
- Real Estate Organizational Strategy: U3 collaborated with Lehigh staff to develop strategic real estate advice, including recommendations for framing a future management, staffing, funding, and prioritization structure for all South Bethlehem initiatives.
- Stabler Property Initiative: Independent of work in the South Side neighborhood, U3 advised Lehigh’s President and Board on the acceptance of a gift of 760 acres of developable commercial real estate located approximately a mile from the main campus. We conducted a complex due diligence process, weighing financial, political, and reputational risks, and developed a matrix of strategic objectives for property or disposition. We also advised Lehigh on all tactical and strategic aspects of property holdings.