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33-story, $60 million tower sought for Allentown

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At 350 feet and 33 stories, a new commercial/retail tower will become the tallest building in Allentown and in 65 counties in Pennsylvania, according to a city developer.

At the Allentown Parking Authority meeting of March 27, board members accepted Bruce Loch’s proposal to buy the land from the authority for $100,000, said Tamara Dolan, executive director of the Allentown Parking Authority.

The land where the $60 million tower would be built is at the corner of Ninth and Walnut streets in Downtown Allentown on a 4,000-square-foot grassy patch near the Ninth Street entrance to the city parking deck. The site is not a subdivided property, Dolan said.

“The first hurdle the developer would have to jump is to get that subdivided,” said Dolan. “There are a lot of details that need to be worked out.”

Dolan estimated an 18-month timeline for the planning process. The start of construction would be at least 15 to 18 months out, she said.

The Parking Authority’s solicitor, Dan McCarthy, will be negotiating the developer’s agreement with Loch, she added.

Several months ago, the authority received an independent appraisal of the property, which came in at $62,000, Dolan said.

“That 4,000-square-foot property has never been used for parking,” she said.

The authority put out a request for proposals for developing the land, and about 7-8 developers accepted the full bid package, Dolan said.

A practicing CPA in Allentown since 1971, Loch has developed more than 1,000 residential units in the city. He said he soon would disclose the name of the construction manager he selected for the building.

According to an Allentown Parking Authority request for proposal dated January 2013, W2A Design Group of Allentown is listed as the architect for the project and North Star Construction Management Inc. of Allentown is named as the construction manager.

Loch said the plan is to build retail space on the first floor, with 19 floors of office space, 10 floors of residential property for rent, condos for sale on floors 20-30 and a banquet hall/conference center on floors 31 and 32. A restaurant on the top floor would include an observation deck.

“The tenant that takes more than half the space will get the option of naming the tower,” said Loch. “We are working on several tenants.”

Loch said the building, tentatively called “Allentown Landmark Tower,” would be built and designed with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification in mind.

At 350 feet, the building would be the tallest in 65 counties and is taller than the PPL Building at 322 feet and Martin Tower in Bethlehem, at 330 feet, he said. Philadelphia and Allegheny (Pittsburgh) counties have taller structures.

“It’s in a zone that permits buildings that tall,” Loch said. “I first proposed it in 1985, so this is an almost 30-year plan.”

The project almost got started in 1987 but then the economy sank and the project got stalled until the development of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone tax district.

Since the project is in the NIZ, it has much more value now because of the tax revenues that will flow back to the developer and help subsidize the monthly mortgage payment, Loch said.

Loch said he needs approvals from the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority and the city’s Planning Commission.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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