When a presentation on new commercial development in the Lehigh Valley that was supposed to go on for an hour takes closer to two hours, it's a good sign that things are picking up.
Speaking at the Dietrick Group's Eighth Annual Commercial Real Estate Presentation on Wednesday, Managing Partner Linda Dietrick said that the amount of development she's seeing seems to indicate good things.
"I think that we're improving, particularly in industrial development," she said. "I think we're coming out of it."
Dietrick indicated a number of major commercial projects that were completed in 2012 and early 2013, including the $2.5 million Revolutions Entertainment Center in Center Valley, the site of this year's presentation before about 200 people.
Other big projects that came to fruition included the construction of the Golden Corral Buffet in Whitehall, a venue whose popularity she admitted she didn't quite understand, but is a success judging by the lines of diners that usually extend outside around the building.
"I guess the chocolate fountain does sound interesting," said Dietrick, whose company is a Lehigh Valley real estate advisory company specializing in commercial and residential sales/leasing, commercial appraisal and property management.
Looking to the future, she said big projects to keep an eye on include the Hamilton Crossings in Trexlertown – a project she called "in jeopardy."
"It's a shopping center that's trying to make its way through the approval process," Dietrick said.
But, she said, the project costs for the $140 million endeavor have soared to the point that the feasibility of the project depends on the developer being able to secure tax incremental financing.
Of course, the center of the commercial real estate excitement in the Lehigh Valley is occurring in Downtown Allentown.
Projects in Allentown include the 33-story Allentown Landmark Tower, the Schoen Building redevelopment, the expansion of the Butz Center, the Waterfront project, the revitalization of the old Neuweiler Brewery and other projects, including the investment of $300,000 in façade improvements and the demolition of an old PPL building on Hamilton Street to make way for a yet-to-be determined project.
Looking ahead, she noted that P.J. Whelihan's is looking to demolish its original Lehigh Valley location off Tilghman Street in Allentown and replace it with a new, larger building that would extend to a neighboring property.
A parking garage on New Street and a building planned off Route 378 by the Hill to Hill Bridge will be big changes coming to the face of South Side Bethlehem.
The parking garage, she said, will make it easier for people to visit and do business in the South Side, while the building – to be called "the Hub" – will be the gateway into the city.