LVEDC Hosts ‘From Brownfields to Business’ Redevelopment Event
By Colin McEvoy on June 28, 2016
Built in 1926 to assemble truck chassis and paint truck bodies, the Mack Trucks Plant 4 in Allentown closed in 1984 and remained shuttered and neglected for five years, until it was redeveloped into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, a business incubation program.
That successful urban reuse story made Bridgeworks the perfect place for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) to host “From Brownfields to Business” on June 17, which focused specifically on redevelopment in the Lehigh Valley.
“There have been a lot of exciting redevelopment stories in the Lehigh Valley over the last few years, resulting in a lot of new jobs for the region, and this event drew attention to just a couple of them,” said Andrew Kleiner, LVEDC Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs.
About 75 people attended the event, which featured information about available financial assistance for the redevelopment of abandoned and underutilized commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields.
The evening was organized by LVEDC’s redevelopment program, the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), which has been in operation since 1998. LVLRI experienced one of its busiest and most successful years in 2015 and is experiencing similar project and prospect volume this year, currently managing eight active redevelopment projects in various stages.
“I truly believe LVLRI is one of the strongest redevelopment programs out there, and we’ve begun to be recognized nationwide as a best practices model for environmental revitalization and urban reuse,” Kleiner said.
The highlight of the event was a robust panel discussion that included Jeff Brown, principal with Charles Street Capital; Kassie Hilgert, CEO of ArtsQuest; Mike Grather, CEO and founder of Lightlab International Allentown; and Andrew Twiggar of the Allentown Waterfront project.
Charles Street Capital redeveloped the long-vacant former Schoen’s Furniture Store building at 612 Hamilton Street in Allentown. With new life as a loft-style office building with a mix of modern and historical architecture, it is now the home of Trifecta Technologies, Shane Patrick Associates, an Offix Systems showroom, and the Bell Hall gourmet burger restaurant.
Brown said the rich history of the building helped inspired him to redevelop an urban brownfield rather than build a new office building on a greenfield in a suburban area. It was made possible by the wide range of public financing support, he said, including the Allentown NIZ, DCED loans, and Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grants.
“It was a real community effort,” Brown said. “It’s not easy, but going the greenfield route isn’t as satisfying as doing a retrofit here has been.”
Andrew Twiggar is the owner and co-founder of Dunn Twiggar Company, LLC, which is partnering with Jaindl Properties on the Allentown Waterfront project on former Lehigh Structural Steel Co. land in Allentown.
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.
LVLRI has been has been assisting the Waterfront project with environmental assessment and site clean-up planning since 2007. Twiggar discussed EPA assistance programs Dunn Twiggar used for the Waterfront project, including federal funds it obtained through LVLRI to pay for half its Phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments.
The “From Brownfields to Business” included food from the Lehigh Valley food truck Licensed 2 Grill, and all attendees received a free drink from the HiJinx Brewing Company, one of the Bridgeworks client companies. The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is operated by the Allentown Economic Development Corporation.
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