Is An Allentown Waterfront Project Finally in the Offing?
1/14/2013 | Construction Blog
Waterfront Development Partners, L.P., presented its plan for a waterfront project in Allentown to the Allentown City Planning Commission recently. The project, which is being called The Waterfront, is slated to convert approximately 26 acres of industrial property along the Lehigh River inside the city limits into a large scale mixed use development. Office, retail, restaurant, residential, and commercial space are all envisioned as part of the project.
The master plan sets the framework for the project. It does not, however, get into the details of how the project will be engineered. Schematically, The Waterfront will have 610,000 square feet of office space, 172 residential apartments, and 130,000 square feet of retail space. In addition, they envision 2,800 parking spaces, boating facilities, and heavily landscaped walking trails.
The development is being placed in the City of Allentown’s “Neighborhood Improvement Zone”. This designation, called NIZ for short, was recently lauded by Mayor Ed Pawlowski. NIZ is a funding mechanism that lets the City use several state tax break programs, including the Keystone Opportunity Zone, to help fund the project. Specifically, the program is a Tax Increment Financing program by which the City and developer can use future tax gains to subsidize current improvements. According to Mayor Pawlowski, the NIZ creates a valuable source of revenue that is attracting development projects downtown and serving to help revitalize the area. The NIZ has already been used in Allentown to aid in the construction of the new hockey arena for the relocating Philadelphia Phantoms.
The project is slated to start construction in 2014 with initial occupancy in 2015. More specific plans will be submitted for approval in the coming months.