City Center Lehigh Valley, a major mixed-use development in Downtown Allentown, said it plans to buy the Hamilton Street property that houses the Gallery on the Mall building from PPL Electric Utilities later this year.
The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board approved the vacant two-story building at 932-944 Hamilton St. for demolition and deemed it structurally unusable.
“We couldn’t safely keep people in there anymore,” said George Lewis, director of corporate communications for PPL. “The roof is in danger of collapsing. There’s a good chance that a very heavy snowfall might bring the roof down.”
He told Lehigh Valley Business that PPL is putting together the final demolition plans and very soon should begin tearing down the building.
“We don’t have a start date yet, but it’s going to happen soon,” Lewis said.
Once the building is demolished, City Center plans to buy the property and may build an additional Class A office and retail building on the site.
Lewis said the terms of the sale could not be disclosed. He confirmed that PPL has an agreement of sale with City Center, which includes a requirement for PPL to hire a contractor to tear down the 58,000-square-foot building.
The size of the property is three-quarters of an acre, Lewis said.
PPL bought the building in 1999 and has rented office space on the property since that time. The company moved all tenants from the Gallery property to offices at PPL Plaza and PPL Corp. headquarters last year after being told by an independent engineering firm that it was no longer safe for habitation, Lewis said.
“We came to the conclusion that we didn’t really need the property anymore,” Lewis said.
City Center has not announced any tenants for that site, but the upper floors would clearly be for office space, said Jim Harbaugh, executive vice president and chief operating officer for City Center.
“Our vision for that building is similar to what we are doing with other buildings; we’re looking to do retail on the first floor,” Harbaugh said this morning.
Designs for these office buildings are demand-driven, he said. The site could be built for a single tenant or multiple tenants, he added.
As construction of Two City Center and the nearby hockey arena project continues, demand for office space has increased, particularly as out-of-state users eye prospects in Allentown.
“We’re seeing more and more demand now that we have this physical evidence,” Harbaugh said. “We’re looking at future sites as demand continues.”