Lehigh Valley Chamber Hosts Real Estate Development Outlook
By Colin McEvoy on April 27, 2021
Despite the challenges the Lehigh Valley has faced over the past year, the regional real estate market is hot, economic development is at a high point, and efforts are underway to bring small businesses and the region’s restaurant & hospitality sectors back onto their feet.
Those were among the messages shared at the Lehigh Valley Real Estate Development Outlook and Awards virtual event hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce on April 27.
“So many of you out there have done so much for this community, and it’s been a great run both from an economic standpoint and a quality-of-life standpoint,” said Chamber President & CEO Tony Iannelli.
The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation was a sponsor for the event, and LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham provided an overview of the regional economy and commercial real estate development in the Lehigh Valley from the past 12 months.
“Last year was an unusual one, obviously, but interestingly, despite what happened in the hospitality, restaurant and visitation sectors, we continued to see the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “It was a big year for continued manufacturing growth and industrial growth. … We’re a Top 5 market in the eastern United States and a top 10 market for our size in the country.”
Cunningham discussed growth in the region’s manufacturing and life science sectors, as well as the well-balanced nature of the regional economy, which has helped the Lehigh Valley endure the COVID-19 crisis. He expressed optimism that the region’s restaurants, arts centers, and downtown businesses will start to recover as more people get vaccinated.
He also discussed a common misconception in the community that all large industrial buildings are warehouses. While some indeed are fulfillment centers for e-commerce and direct-to-consumer retail, many such buildings house manufacturing and production.
“Manufacturing is the second-biggest part of our economy, it’s generating $7.2 billion a year in output, and it’s employing 34,000 people and growing, but it also occurs in those horizontal box buildings in the industrial parks,” Cunningham said. “So when people use the term warehouse, it’s not necessarily whatever they think of as warehouse. There’s a lot of economic activity and opportunity for people in there.”
Becky Bradley, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, also spoke during the event. She discussed FutureLV, a comprehensive plan that establishes goals, policies and actions designed to carry the region through 2045 and beyond.
Development proposals did not slow down as a result of the pandemic, Bradley said. The region saw 450 subdivision and land development plans last year, the second-highest amount since before the Great Recession, as well as 450 subdivision and land development plans.
“While 2020 was certainly a year for the history books, the Lehigh Valley’s old world soul and new economy firmly rooted in innovation created an uncommon combination that’s made it one of Pennsylvania’s fastest growing regions,” she said.
Additionally, Iannelli hosted a panel discussion about emerging trends in real estate, which featured J.B. Reilly, President of City Center Investment Corporation; Bill Wolf, Executive Vice President of CBRE; Justin Porembo, CEO of Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS; and Daniel Santaniello, President & CEO of Fidelity Bank.
“It’s a very busy market right now, and the lack of inventory is really driving prices and everything through the roof,” Porembo said. “Even though we see this lack of inventory, it’s really not quenching the thirst for the buyers that are out here. So we’re seeing multiple offers, driving prices up, as well as waiving inspections and going above appraisal prices.
The Chamber presented its 2021 Lehigh Valley Commercial Real Estate Development Award to the new Northampton County Forensic Center in Upper Nazareth Township. The 28,000 square-foot center includes autopsy rooms, a digital forensics lab, a five-bay garage, and offices for coroner staff.
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