Invited guests helped Charles Street Capital and Trifecta Technologies on Thursday launch the construction of the Trifecta Building, which is being carved out of the former Schoen's Furniture Store at 612 Hamilton St. in Allentown.
Douglas and Jeff Brown of Charles Street Capital purchased the 103-year-old building – which essentially has been vacant since 1990 – in February. Trifecta owner Doug Pelletier joined as anchor tenant and building partner shortly thereafter.
The building and adjacent parking lot were a relative bargain. Charles Street was able to acquire the properties for about $500,000, with the parking lot being the more expensive half.
"I think it was a pretty good deal," Jeff Brown said. But, he said the real expense is in the reconstruction of the property. He expects the total cost of the project to be around $9 million.
Brown, whose firm is in Massachusetts, said he had been looking at investing in Lehigh Valley properties since about 2007, but it wasn't until he learned of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone tax district that he saw a project with feasibility.
"My education is in real estate finance. When I saw what the NIZ could do, I knew it would make a project financially viable," Brown said.
Without the NIZ, he said, projects such as the Trifecta Building wouldn't be happening. Under the NIZ program, taxes generated in the zone will stay in the zone to fund its redevelopment.
"You simply couldn't afford to demolish or renovate an old building like this without that help. No one could," he said.
Doug Pelletier of Trifecta Technologies said it also was the excitement of the other projects going on in the downtown that drew him to moving his IT business services company headquarters to the property.
"We weren't just looking for space. We wanted to get involved. We wanted to be part of something," Pelletier said.
He said he's eager to bring his more than 70 employees to the downtown. The headquarters is currently in Wescosville.
"We have a young company and a growing company. They're looking forward to working in an urban environment," Pelletier said. "They're going to eat in the restaurants, shop in the shops, go to hockey games at the arena."
As a hockey fan, he noted with some delight that the front door of the ice hockey arena under construction is only about 70 yards from the front door of his building.
One of the big renovation challenges for the team, which includes Allentown construction management firm Shane Patrick Associates, is to preserve the history of the building while expressing its bright, high-tech future.
Pelletier said the work will include the preservation of the historically significant front edifice of the building, but will tear down one wall and replace it with floor to ceiling glass.
"It is a balance," Jeff Brown said.
Some things must go, such as a few interior walls, plumbing and the old industrial elevator, but he hopes to still keep the feel of the building that once was Schoen's.
For a slideshow of the event click here