Allentown Waterfront Developer Visits LVEDC as Groundbreaking Approaches
By Colin McEvoy on October 27, 2015
For more than two decades, the decaying remains of the old Lehigh Structural Steel Co. site in Allentown have sat underused alongside the Lehigh River. All of that is about to change.
Construction began last week on the long-awaited Waterfront project, a $300 million mixed-use development that will include state-of-the-art office buildings, luxurious residences, and a lively new restaurant and retail district. The development will also include abundant open spaces, including multiple plazas, a river-front trail, and connections to the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor trail system.
“We’re trying to work towards a dynamic, sustainable type of approach to development,” said Andrew Twiggar, owner and co-founder of Dunn Twiggar Company, LLC. “How do we create something that people are going to come back to and want to visit? It’s like going to one of the downtowns. We look at it as recreating a neighborhood, helping a neighborhood advance.”
Twiggar visited the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) last week to give a presentation about the Waterfront, in advance of its planned groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 12.
He spoke before the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), LVEDC’s redevelopment program, which has supported the project since 2007. The program guided the project through a targeted brownfield assessment, as well as environmental assessments and cleanup plans.
Most recently, LVLRI 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.
“Your help has been greatly appreciated and instrumental in moving the project forward,” Twiggar said.
The Waterfront project will include about 620,000 square feet of Class-A office space, as well as 433 apartments and more than 2,500 parking spaces in three parking structures, Twiggar said. Each of the nine planned buildings will include first floor stores and eateries, encompassing roughly 100,000 square feet of retail and 30,000 square feet of restaurant with riverfront views.
“We’re planning on using the retail, restaurants, and planned open spaces as an attraction for bringing people down to the site repeatedly,” he said. “Even if they don’t live there or work there, we still want people to visit, enjoy themselves, and come back.”
Once completed, the project will produce $3.8 million in additional real estate taxes annually, compared to only $50,000 now, Twiggar said. It is also expected to create 2,900 permanent jobs upon full buildout.
The first stage of construction, which began on Oct. 22, will involve the installation of all underground utilities and streets across the 26 acres, while simultaneously leveling and grading the site’s signature River Walk and building pads in preparation for future construction.
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.
In addition to the River Walk, a half-mile of garden-lined pathways alongside the Lehigh River, the Waterfront will include outdoor restaurant seating, an amphitheater that can support concerts and weddings, floating docks that could be used to project movies, and preserved Lehigh Structural Steel crane rungs paying homage to the property’s heritage, Twiggar said.
“We understand that we get one shot at this: creating a neighborhood, creating a place that people want to come,” he said. “So we’ve asked ourselves, ‘How do we make it the best first shot out of the gates as possible?’”
Twiggar does not anticipate flooding will be an issue at the Waterfront. The building base will located at 264.9 feet above sea level, higher than both the 100-year flood plain level of 260.5 feet and the 500-year flood plain of 264.5 feet. He also noted the Lehigh River is flood-controlled by the Walter E. Francis Dam in Whitehaven, Pa.
PPL is running a dual-line feed under what will be a newly-constructed road into the Waterfront site, which will create the same type of reliable and robust electrical system that feeds PPL’s data centers, Twiggar said. The developers are also pursuing LEED certifications for the buildings.
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This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in Lehigh Valley Business on October 19, 2015. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous co[...]Continue to Next Page