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Allentown Waterfront Groundbreaking Marks “Beginning of a Rebirth”

By Colin McEvoy on November 12, 2015

A rendering of the Waterfront, which is expected to include 675,000 square-feet of Class-A office space and 425 apartments in three state-of-the-art complexes.

A rendering of the Waterfront, which is expected to include 675,000 square-feet of Class-A office space and 425 apartments in three state-of-the-art complexes.

With the closing of Lehigh Structural Steel Co. in the mid-1980s, the 26-acre site along the western banks of Lehigh River in Allentown has served as an industrial curtain to an underutilized stretch of land for nearly three decades. Now, finally, that’s all coming to a change.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held today for the long-awaited Waterfront project. Now projected to cost $400 million at full build-out, the development will include six new office buildings, three residential complexes, three parking structures, a vibrant main street, and a signature half-mile River Walk.

“Today, we are all gathered to bear witness to the beginning of a rebirth,” said Mark Jaindl, president and CEO of Jaindl Properties, who has partnered with Dunn Twiggar Company, LLC and the Michael Dunn Company on the project.

“This is the second phase in Allentown’s ongoing renaissance and the introduction of a vibrant new mixed-used development that will serve as a catalyst for an entirely new district in our city,” Jaindl said. “While no one can truly ever see what lies ahead, Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it,’ and today we as a city are doing just that.”

About 150 people came out for the groundbreaking ceremony, where details about the project’s updated master plan were revealed. The site will include 675,000 square-feet of Class-A office space, and offer 425 market-rate apartments, compared to just 172 originally planned for the site.

A rendering of 615 Waterfront Drive, the first building expected to be constructed at the Waterfront.

A rendering of 615 Waterfront Drive, the first building expected to be constructed at the Waterfront.

Each of the twelve new buildings is programmed to offer both retail and restaurant space. Amphitheaters, programmable plazas, and other amenities are planned for the River Walk, all designed to capitalize on the direct river access.

“Just as the rivers have provided passage for economic opportunity since the beginning of man, today’s riverfronts offer new opportunities for local economic development and enrichment,” said Andrew Twiggar, owner. “… The Waterfront will become a model of post-industrial city resilience and reinvention.”

Construction on the first building is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2016 and take about one year through fit out. Once completed, the project is expected to create 2,900 permanent jobs, and will produce $3.8 million in additional real estate taxes annually, compared to only $50,000 now.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) — through its redevelopment program the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI) — has been assisting the Waterfront project with environmental assessment and site clean-up planning since 2007.

In 2013, LVEDC applied for and received a $468,000 Growing Greener grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for help restoring the river bank and installing infrastructure.

Most recently, LVEDC performed environmental assessment work on parcels of land that will become Riverside Drive, a key piece of infrastructure for the site that will create a new road and trails running from Whitehall Township to downtown Allentown.

“It’s critical to redevelop our former industrial sites and to strengthen our urban cores in the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC president and CEO. “The Waterfront project presents a unique and brand new vision of how we can do that and access our Lehigh Riverfront, while continuing one of the most dramatic urban turnarounds in the entire country.”

The first building expected to be constructed is 615 Waterfront Drive, a 160,000 square-foot, eight-story office building at the intersection of Furnace Street and Waterfront Drive. The building will be constructed of brick and limestone, with the side facing the Lehigh River featuring glass, balconies, and corner offices to take advantage of the riverfront views.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Jaindl announced that another building, 560 Waterfront Drive, has been increased in size from four- to eight-stories, and that an additional structured parking garage is proposed in place of the former surface lot at 545 Riverside Drive.

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