New York developer looks to buy land surrounding airport

By - Last modified: April 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

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One New York developer is looking to boost the industrial market by snapping up property surrounding Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

After a special meeting with board members of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority on Wednesday, Charles Everett, executive director for the authority, said Rockefeller Group International Inc. submitted a letter of intent to buy land surrounding the airport. Such a move could generate funds the authority needs to pay the balance from a $16 million judgment from a lawsuit from the 1990s.

"That starts the clock for them acquiring those parcels," said Everett. "Now we know what parcels they are interested in. They are not interested in Braden Airpark."

Braden Airpark, in Forks Township, is a general aviation facility in close proximity to Route 33.

The land sparking interest covers about 752 acres, said Everett. The authority board will make a decision about the letter of intent at its next board meeting on April 23, said Everett.

Everett said the value of the land has not been determined.

"The process is governed by FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] regulations," said Everett. "There will be fair market value for the highest and best use determined by an appraisal."

Once Rockefeller Group acquires the properties, the developer would work with local municipalities for any desired zoning changes, Everett said.

"Certainly there are constraints because it is airport-owned land, but we can work through that," Everett said in a prior interview. "Real estate is certainly an opportunity for us."

Doing so also enables the authority to faster reduce its outstanding debt, he added.

The authority has about $14 million left to pay by 2015, said Everett.

In a prior statement from Rockefeller Group, spokesman Brian Mahoney said the firm looks forward to working closely with the airport authority, local and city government officials as well as local professionals to ensure that the authority's vision for the property is realized.

"There are signs that consumer confidence is increasing, and that will buoy the industrial market as goods begin to move," Mahoney said. "We expect this, along with the site's proximity to the airport, will draw major industrial tenants."

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. 108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it. Brian also has a strong interest in health and fitness. He works part-time as a personal trainer at Steel Fitness Riverport in Bethlehem and earned his personal fitness trainer certification from World Instructor Training Schools.

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