One of the newest major office buildings planned by developer J.B. Reilly moved forward another step tonight.
The $100 million Five City Center received conditional approval, one of several steps in the early stages of the City Center Lehigh Valley project. Plans for the building were announced in March.
No tenant has yet been identified for the 250,000-square-foot building, but construction could begin as early as mid-2015, City Center spokesman Jeff Vaughansaid. The building could be as many as seven floors tall.
Planned for Walnut Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, the building could serve up to 1,000 workers and will include a 1,078-space parking deck, which will include some underground parking.
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.
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.
Conscious that the borders of Allentown’s new arena district could become a visible dividing line between the haves and have nots, two downtown businesses are pumping $300,000 into the neighborhood just outside the arena zone.
City Center Investment Corp. will donate $200,000 and PPL will kick in $100,000 to help as many as 30 businesses along Hamilton Street remake their storefronts.
The deal comes as city and community leaders have spent months considering how to help the massive tax incentives undergirding the $272 million arena, hotel and office complex spill into the struggling communities just outside the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.
Under the program, businesses along Hamilton Street, between 10th and 12th streets — the first two blocks outside the NIZ — can get grants of roughly $15,000 to reface their shops. By the time city officials finished their 20-minute news conference Monday to announce the program, six eligible businesses had already expressed interest in the free money.
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.”
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.
At first glance, Friday’s groundbreaking for the American Parkway Bridge looked pretty much like every other ceremony where shivering, dark-suited community leaders poke their gold-painted shovels into some carefully piled dirt.
But this time, behind all the pomp and pageantry were more than five decades of planning, fighting, waiting and frustration.
It was 1956 when excited city leaders first proposed a direct path between downtown Allentown and Route 22, and Friday those shovel-wielding leaders celebrated the beginning of construction of a $46 million American Parkway Bridge project they say represents both the struggles of the past and the promise of the future.
It will span the Lehigh River just north of the Tilghman Street bridge and south of the Route 22 bridge.
Editor’s note: This is great news! Revitalizing our Pennsylvania cities is important!
Vacant and dilapidated the past nine years, Allentown’s 12-story Americus Center Hotel got good news this week when the state decided the city can alter the borders of its downtown arena zone to include the historic hotel.
Any changes to the borders of its Neighborhood Improvement Zone, Pennsylvania Department of Revenue officials say, must be made before bonds are sold to fund the $220 million arena complex.
With the arena authority preparing to sell bonds next month, it means city officials will have to work fast, said Sara Hailstone, Allentown director of community and economic development.
“We will need to follow up with the Department of Revenue and work through the details,” Hailstone said. “This is a great opportunity for the city.”