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LVEDC 2015 Year in Review: Redevelopment

By Colin McEvoy on January 5, 2016

Bell Hall, a new gourment burger restaurant that has opened in the former Schoen’s Furniture Store, is among the projects LVLRI assisted with.

Bell Hall, a new gourment burger restaurant that has opened in the former Schoen’s Furniture Store, is among the projects LVLRI assisted with.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) redevelopment program has just completed one of the busiest and most successful years in its history, and continues to gain national recognition for its track record of accomplishment.

Now entering its 18th year in operation, the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI) is focused on promoting economic development through the reuse of abandoned and underutilized commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields.

LVLRI worked on 11 active redevelopment projects in various stages over the course of 2015, roughly twice the number of projects the program has assisted with in some previous years, according to Andrew Kleiner, LVEDC Director of Redevelopment and External Affairs.

“This has been a banner year for the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative, which I believe is one of the strongest redevelopment programs in the country,” Kleiner said. “The redevelopment success stories we help facilitate are major catalyst projects that will create a lot of new jobs in the region.”

Andrew Kleiner

Andrew Kleiner

Additionally, LVLRI secured nearly $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for regional development, and Kleiner was invited to speak at the 2015 National Brownfields Conference in Chicago, one of the premier national conferences and trade shows focused on environmental revitalization and economic redevelopment.

“The rest of the country is starting to take note of what we’re accomplishing here when it comes to the marketing and developing of brownfields,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “Fostering economic development while protecting human health and the environment is one of many ways LVEDC works to support sustainable development in the Lehigh Valley.”

Among the projects LVLRI assisted with this year was the Waterfront, a $300 million mixed-use development being built on former Lehigh Structural Steel Co. land along the Lehigh River in Allentown. LVLRI has supported the project since 2007, guiding it through a targeted brownfield assessment, environmental assessments, and cleanup plans.

Other projects include two Phase I assessments at the Lehigh Valley Dairy site in Whitehall Township, Phase I and II assessments at the Weaversville Road Detention Center, a Phase I assessment at the Second Harvest Food Bank, and Phase I and II assessments at Wave Polarizer, a manufacturer of high-quality polarized film that is relocating from New Jersey to Easton.

Bell Hall, a new gourmet burger restaurant in Allentown, also received LVLRI assistance. It opened its doors in October in the former Schoen’s Furniture Store, a building once vacant for 20 years that has found new life as a loft-style office building with a mix of modern and historical architecture.

Another major accomplishment for LVLRI this year was its successful application of a $500,000 EPA grant to assist with environmental assessments and site cleanup plans for Lehigh Valley brownfields. The Lehigh Valley was one of only nine Pennsylvania communities, and only 147 communities in the nation, to receive the competitive grant.

Additionally, LVLRI assisted the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) with securing $400,000 of EPA grant funding for the cleanup of the Allentown Metalworks site. Those funds will help increase the scope of ongoing remediation work to also include the abatement of lead-based paint, asbestos, and other wastes, according to Allentown officials.

“The grant allows the cleanup project of this key site to move into Phase 2,” Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said when the grant was announced. “When completed, the site will be ready for redevelopment. It has the potential to generate up to 400 family-sustaining jobs.”

LVLRI is one of only 150 programs from around the world that was selected to present at the 2015 National Brownfields Conference, from a highly competitive field of about 425 applicants. Kleiner also made two presentations at the 2015 Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference in Erie.

In addition, Kleiner organized two tours of the Lehigh Valley for representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as an EPA visit. DEP officials previously said they visited the Lehigh Valley because it is a model region in Pennsylvania for the redevelopment of brownfields.

“The fact that the PA DEP Land Recycling Program has partnered with LVEDC/LVLRI and other stakeholders is reflective of the fact that there are many excellent successful redevelopment efforts happening here in the Lehigh Valley,” said Randy Roush, environmental chemist with the DEP.

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