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Symposium Highlights ‘What’s Hot?’ in Lehigh Valley Development, Commercial Real Estate

By Colin McEvoy on March 9, 2017

More than 500 people attended the Lehigh Valley Business Real Estate Symposium at DeSales University.

More than 500 people attended the Lehigh Valley Business Real Estate Symposium at DeSales University.

The topic was “What’s Hot?” in Lehigh Valley development and commercial real estate in the Lehigh Valley, and there was plenty to talk about.

More than 500 professionals from across the region gathered for the Lehigh Valley Business (LVB) Real Estate & Development Symposium on Tuesday, March 7, at DeSales University.

The event came just as Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) released its new Lehigh Valley Commercial Real Estate Report, which revealed that the region’s industrial market get by nearly 7 percent over the course of 2016, reaching a total inventory of 113.6 million square-feet.

“We’re seeing a true industrial boom in the Lehigh Valley, and job creation has exploded in the e-commerce, logistics, and transportation sector,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of LVEDC, which was a presenting sponsor at the symposium.

The economic forecast was discussed by keynote speaker Gregory Rau, Managing Director and Market Investment Director with U.S. Trust and Bank of America. He said unemployment in Pennsylvania is expected to come down over the course of the year to 5.3 percent, and he projects gains in personal income in the state at around 4.3 percent.

“Economic growth will pick up this year, both nationally and statewide, Rau said, “and inflation will rise around the globe slightly as we see the first synchronized global expansion since the 2009-2010 period.”

Rau also expects the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates two or three times this year, with the first coming in March. He believes the Fed will not raise them again in the June period due to concerns about international elections and legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress, but that the rates will be raised again in September.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, Jr. of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba hosted a panel discussion about growth and development in the Lehigh Valley. Speakers Becky Bradley, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC); Eric Knopping, Senior Vice President of the Goldenberg Group; and Amy Neu, President of Eden Wood Realty.

“You have our commitment that we’re loving this project,” Neu said. “We think it’s fantastic, and it’s our vision for change. Our motto is ‘Bringing to life and ready to go.’”

Knopping discussed Goldenberg’s Hamilton Crossings project, a $140 million retail complex in Lower Macungie Township that opened in 2015, which includes a Target, Whole Foods and Costco Wholesale Club. Neu discussed plans for a 1.25 million expansion project at the Allentown Commerce Park, at the former Mack Trucks plan on 2027 S. 12th Street.

Bradley discussed the Lehigh Valley transportation network and planning for the future in response to the the region’s industrial growth. She highlighted the 2017-20 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), a list of highway, bridge, and transit projects proposed to be implemented with federal assistance.

The TIP includes $131 million for highway projects, $144 million in transit projects, and $183 million in bridge projects, marking the first time more has been allocated for bridges than highway, Bradley said. The Lehigh Valley has 4,105 miles of total roads and sees 13.7 million daily vehicles miles.

A panel discussion was also held about “What’s Hot and What’s Not” in the Lehigh Valley’s commercial, industrial, office, and residential markets in the greater Lehigh Valley. Speakers included Justin Porembo, CEO of Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors; and Del Markward, President and CEO of the Markward Group.

Porembo said housing inventory YTD is down 43.4 percent in the Lehigh Valley, and that new construction is needed. He also said home ownership is down among millennials, due largely to student debt, which is leaving them unable to afford mortgage payments.

“Student loan debt is just ever-looming,” he said. “This could potentially be the next bubble that we see just with how inflated student loan debt has become. … We fearing we’re creating a generation of non-homebuyers that are going to be renting.”

New LVEDC Report Highlights Growth in Lehigh Valley Industrial, Office Markets

The Lehigh Valley industrial market grew by nearly 7 percent over the course of 2016, reaching a total inventory of 113.6 million square-feet, according to a new report by[...]

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