ALLENTOWN, PA — In the center of this city’s downtown is a Civil War monument complete with a sailor, artilleryman, infantryman and a cavalry soldier.
It is very similar to the one in Lancaster’s Penn Square, but larger.
That’s fitting for a city with twice the population and twice the land area as Lancaster.
And for a city that has experienced proportionally larger swings of fortune.
The Allentown hockey arena construction saw another milestone today as more than 30 trucks worth of concrete were poured for what will be a 17,000-square-foot ice floor.
A total of 315 cubic yards of concrete were poured today, and the next major step will be making the ice itself, which will occur in the summer.
“This took a great team effort,” said Jim Brooks, co-owner of the Phantoms hockey team that will start its 2014 season at the PPL Center in September.
“There’s not too many 10,000-seat venues in the world, let alone the United States, and even less that have ice-making capabilities,” Brooks said. “It’s very difficult to pull off.”
With its financing woes behind it, construction began today on the $9.8 million renovation of the former Schoen’s Furniture Store in Allentown.
The 612 W. Hamilton St. structure has now been dubbed the Trifecta Building after its primary tenant, Trifecta Technologies, the software firm that will occupy the top three of the building’s six floors.
During an open house and construction launch party today, Trifecta founder and CEO Doug Pelletier expressed excitement about being part of the City Center neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization.
“We’re coming downtown, and we’re not just coming here to work,” Pelletier said. “We’re going to drink in your bars, we’re going to eat in your restaurants, we’re going to cheer at the arena. That’s what we love about coming here.”
A milestone of sorts for Allentown’s new arena has begun.
Three massive cranes this morning began lifting the seven 236-foot-long roof supports, called trusses, into place above the 8,500-seat PPL Center. Workers hoisted 85 feet in the air in high-reach cherry-pickers will use pneumatic wrenches to fasten the trusses into place with massive bolts.
Each truss, a curved structural support laced with a series of steel triangles, weighs between 125,000 and 212,000 pounds.
The first truss is expected to take 14 to 16 hours to install. The trusses were constructed on the arena floor last week.
The Allentown Planning Commission on Tuesday approved plans for Four City Center, a $30 million, five-story luxury apartment and retail development proposed for Seventh and Linden streets, across from the city’s new arena.
Working with Pennrose Properties, City Center Investment Corp. plans two buildings that will include 168 amenity-packed apartments, half of which will be one-bedroom and the other half two-bedroom units, renting for at least $1,000 a month. They will also house 12-15 first-floor retail and restaurant spaces.
Construction could begin as soon as November and is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. The goal is to bring more middle-income residents downtown to complement multiple new office buildings, support retailers and inject life into Hamilton Street, which empties out at night and on weekends.
The plans include a large five-story apartment complex with center courtyard, coupled with a smaller three-story, primarily retail structure sitting astride a brick walkway that ties into the city’s Arts Park. They also include a 600-square-foot pocket park.
Downtown Allentown has attracted a new tenant — one of the region’s nameplate companies.
Air Products of Trexlertown said Thursday it had signed a lease for space at Two City Center, the 11-story office tower being built on the site of the former First National Bank building at Seventh and Hamilton streets, across from the city’s new hockey arena.
The company — one of two Fortune 500 companies in the Lehigh Valley and the region’s third-largest employer with more than 3,600 local workers — expects to move its liquefied natural gas commercial and engineering teams to the building next summer.
“We feel locating these teams at this new development is a meaningful contribution and visible commitment to the revitalization of the city,” Air Products Senior Vice President John Stanley said in a news release.
The state has given Reading the eligibility it wants to compete for a highly prized City Revitalization and Improvement Zone that, similar to Allentown, would use state and local tax revenue to attract jobs and millions of dollars in private investment.
But it’s still uncertain whether Reading will be one of the two pilot cities the state chooses in the first round this year, or even whether the city will apply in time.
Lancaster already has submitted its own proposal, and Bethlehem is expected to shortly. The second round for two more cities doesn’t begin until 2016.
Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer could not be reached for comment.
Close to half of the $31.8 million in mostly state tax dollars swept up by Allentown‘s arena zone last year will go to the private developer erecting an 11-story office building across Seventh Street from the arena.
City Center Investment Corp. will get $14.4 million of the tax dollars generated by its projects to put toward its construction and land acquisition loans. The Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority will get $17.4 million to pay its debt for building PPL Center.
About $2 million would go into state coffers from a part of the city that is estimated to have been generating $22 million in state money before the Neighborhood Improvement Zone was created.
The figures were released Wednesday by ANIZDA Executive Director Sara Hailstone, a month after The Morning Call filed a Right-to-Know request for the information, which was compiled April 6 by authority consultants Compass Point and Concannon Miller.
York-based United Fiber & Data will occupy a new 10-story building behind the Butz Corporate Center in the 800 block of Hamilton Street in Allentown.
The building will rise behind the existing Butz structures, and have three floors of parking garage and four stories of office space topped by three stories of apartments and condominiums. It’s a long-planned third phase of the Butz headquarters, located across 9th Street from the PPL tower.
Details are being announced this morning.
From its new Allentown headquarters, United Fiber & Data will run a new 300-mile fiber optics network serving clients from New York to Virginia. The company will occupy a just-completed Butz building on Hamilton until Butz completes the new structure in spring 2015.
Six years ago Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, his city still smarting from losing the Sands casino to Bethlehem, first suggested that an arena might make a fine consolation prize.
Pawlowski on Wednesday, standing at the city’s $272 million arena complex, surrounded by dust and gravel, hard hats and heavy machines, looked downright satisfied.
With construction in full swing, steel and concrete rising from what was once a block of low-end stores and for a time just a muddy hole at Seventh and Hamilton streets, Pawlowski, media in tow, got his first tour of a project that he has been trying to make a reality for most of his time in office.
“It really is amazing when you think about going from the conceptual stage to something that is physically under construction,” Pawlowski said afterward. “I wanted to show the amount of planning that has really gone into this construction process.”
Developer Bruce Loch unveiled plans Wednesday for the 33-story Landmark Tower at Ninth and Walnut streets. The $60-million project would include nearly 200,000 square feet of office, retail and residential space and eclipse the vacant Martin Tower, the former headquarters of Bethlehem Steel and the Valley’s tallest building, by 20 feet.
Loch, an experienced residential builder in the Lehigh Valley with more than $100 million in development under his belt, is making his first foray into this type of project, which he said would be on a lot owned by the Allentown Parking Authority, next to the authority’s garage on Walnut Street.
The property is in the city’s one-of-a-kind Neighborhood Improvement Zone, which allows developers to tap tenants’ state and city taxes, not including property taxes, to finance construction.
His detractors say he’s a man in isolation, unwilling to listen to an angry populace unhappy with his plan to lease one of the city’s most valuable assets.
On Monday, Ed Pawlowski will announce a bid for a third term in office.
And so far, he has no opposition. Political observers on both sides say that’s unlikely to change.
Editor’s note: Allentown is on FIRE with development!
New York City-based Ruckus Brewing would like to put the beer back in the old Neuweiler Brewery in Allentown.
The company announced Wednesday that it had won the right to try to convert the run-down property into a multipurpose development it would call Brewer’s Hill.
The centerpiece of the roughly $25 million project would be a brewery that would produce Ruckus’ line of microbrews and other craft beers on a contract basis, said Josh Wood, a Lehigh University graduate and co-owner of Ruckus.
“It is a big property,” Wood said. “The overall gist of it is about 50 percent — maybe a little less — we plan to use for brewing purposes or something related to that.”