The developer of a $325 million retail, office and residential project along the Lehigh River in Allentown said construction will begin in the next couple of months on the first two buildings: a six-story office that’s expected to house a tech company, and an apartment building with 122 units.
In anticipation of the construction, Zachary Jaindl, principal of The Waterfront, asked Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority on Wednesday if he could use some of the $6.2 million financing granted for site cleanup and utility work to go toward the buildings’ design.
He anticipates using about $1 million of the $6.2 million for design, a request that was unanimously approved by the authority Wednesday. Jaindl said each building is expected to take 18 to 22 months to construct.
In addition to the six-story office building and 122-unit apartment complex, the first phase of the project will include an eight-story office building with retail and a restaurant on the first floor; another apartment complex with 175 units and two parking decks totaling 1,500 spaces, Jaindl said.
The entire first phase, to the south of the Tilghman Street Bridge, is expected to be finished in five years.
The second phase of the project would bring six more office buildings, 140 apartments, another parking area and dozens of retail shops on the 26 acres of former industrial land that is part of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone special tax district.
After decades of being hidden behind Lehigh Structural Steel, ndustrial the river will be the centerpiece of the project where developers can apply taxes generated from their properties to pay down construction debt.
Jaindl said utility work has been completed on the 26-acre site and structural steel for the six-story office building and apartments should be visible in the next six months.
Work to prep the property included taking down 14 warehouse-like buildings that comprised the former Lehigh Structural Steel and other industrial buildings; removing old railroad tracks, installing sidewalks and curbs, and 8 miles of underground electric conduit.
The Waterfront will include Riverside Drive, a road from Whitehall Township to Allentown along the western bank of the Lehigh River that will reach Hamilton and Union streets -– realigning major entry and exit points for the city’s downtown. A walking and biking trail would run parallel to the road to tie together northern and southern legs of the D&L Trail.
On Wednesday, Jaindl touted the project, saying the apartments with waterfront views and a rooftop view all the way to Coca-Cola Park will appeal to millennials. He said a recent marking study by Lisa Price & Associates of Doylestown shows there is a desire for luxury apartments in the area.
He anticipates the apartments will be one- to two-bedroom units between 800 square feet and 1,600 square feet. The apartment complex will include a swimming pool and outdoor lounge areas with fire pits.
Jaindl declined to disclose the proposed tenant of the six-story office building, but said it’s a tech company that will occupy all six floors.
Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone,s located allows property owners to tap virtually all the state taxes created by their projects to fund their building debt for up to 30 years. Critics have said the NIZ has unfairly used big tax subsidies to lure tenants from other parts of the Lehigh Valley, and many of City Center’s buildings are filled with tenants that moved to Allentown from elsewhere in the region.
Phase I of Allentown’s “The Waterfront”
645 Waterfront Drive: Six floors of office space to be occupied by a single tenant.
615 Waterfront Drive: Eight stories with a retail use and restaurant on the first floor. Upper floors will be office space.
630 Waterfront Drive: An apartment complex with 175 units.
560 Waterfront Drive: An apartment complex with 122 units.
545 Waterfront Drive: Parking
660 Waterfront Drive: Parking
Written by Christina Tatu; Published by The Morning Call< Return to Noteworthy