Developers unveil multimillion dollar mixed-use project in Allentown

By - Last modified: May 10, 2013 at 11:51 AM

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Photo by Brian Pedersen: Inside the Federal Grill, which closed in 2008.
Photo by Brian Pedersen: Inside the Federal Grill, which closed in 2008.

City Center Lehigh Valley will renovate and lease five properties to create a new multimillion-dollar mixed-use development in Downtown Allentown, officials announced today.

Developers plan to transform the buildings into restaurant and retail space on the ground floor, with loft-style office space above. The properties will be available for lease this fall.

Local and state officials shared details about the project during a press conference this morning in the 500 block of Hamilton Street in the city. The buildings include 530, 532, 534, 536 and 538 Hamilton St.

"We feel strongly that not everything in Allentown needs to be demolished," said Jim Harbaugh, executive vice president and chief operating officer at City Center Lehigh Valley. "It's five buildings in a row that we are involved in, so we can make a difference."

Harbaugh said there is no estimated construction cost figure attached to the project yet, but J.B. Reilly, president of City Center Lehigh Valley, said the company is investing $5 million in these and other nearby buildings.

"We don't have an estimate of the total project yet because it hasn't been fully defined," said Harbaugh.

City Center will be the general contractor and bring in the right contractors to do the renovation work, Harbaugh said.

The company will start with the demolition work, then clean out the buildings and get them ready for occupancy through the renovation work.

"A lot of the construction will be done once the tenants are found to meet their needs," Harbaugh said.

Anchored by the Federal Grill, which closed in 2008, the renovations will include adding a new restaurant on the block in addition to bringing the Federal Grill back to "its former glory," Reilly said.

"This will be the first of many new projects that we plan to do in the downtown," he said.

Other potential tenants include high tech businesses and the creation of a center for entrepreneurship, with the goal of employing 100 new people in the downtown.

"It's always exciting to resurrect something that has historic value, and this is the perfect environment for that to happen," said Michele Dempsey, president of DxDempsey Architecture Design Planning of Scranton, the firm designing the project.

In addition to several other downtown projects, City Center Lehigh Valley also is developing the Two City Center building, which will be home to National Penn headquarters next year.

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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