Will we recognize South Bethlehem after a real estate boom and pandemic? Introducing Edged Out.

Lehighvalleylive.com on Wednesday launched the first in a series of stories exploring the changing face of South Bethlehem.

The first installment of “Edged Out” explores what’s at stake when a community that’s long been the first stop for immigrants and newcomers sees record investment by developers, whose visions for South Bethlehem don’t always jibe with what residents want.

Upcoming stories will delve into the influence of South Bethlehem’s anchor institutions on its past, present and future, and look at the choices families have to make when they can no longer afford to live in the communities they call home. The project is made possible via the support of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 National Fellowship, which provided training, mentoring and funding to support this work.

Over the last seven months, lehighvalleylive.com sought to track the damage of a pandemic that has exacerbated inequality and sent the local real estate market to new heights. The resulting project “Edged Out” represents more than 50 interviews with Southside residents, developers, historians, government and nonprofit leaders and housing experts. Residents shared their dreams and fears for South Bethlehem in interviews, through focus sessions and neighborhood canvassing.

“Edged Out” is a community-driven reporting project happening in real time as the city of Bethlehem tackles affordable housing, ushers in a new government and decides best how to spend $34 million in pandemic relief.

During the reporting process, Bethlehem was one of five communities nationwide selected for a New York University workshop to create a local housing plan. New Mayor J. William Reynolds has pledged to continue the momentum created by the workshop and made equity and inclusion a top focus of his administration.

The project will culminate with a late February community forum where Southside residents will have a chance to tell their elected officials what they love about their community, wish they could change and how they think federal pandemic relief can best help their community.

All stories related to the project can be found here.

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[This article was originally published by Lehigh Valley Live.]

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