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Can You Dig It

2013 – High profile and productive

- Last modified: December 19, 2013 at 8:36 AM

The year of 2013 proved to be a productive one, as many of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s construction projects got underway. Some were long-delayed, many just began, while others were continuing – and nearly all were memorable.

Here’s a few of the most notable …

• It’s like an African safari emerging from the wilderness of the Poconos as Kalahari Resorts, a company that builds indoor water parks and resorts, marked a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 1 to launch the start of construction for Kalahari Resorts & Convention Center-Poconos. The $230 million, 150-acre complex in Monroe County at Pocono Manor in Tobyhanna Township should open the first phase of the development in either May or June 2015.

• The 11-story Two City Center office building in Downtown Allentown is rising faster than you can say … holy cow! It’s already up and interior work is well underway to prime the building for an early spring opening. And to think just before Hurricane Sandy struck and delivered that nasty surprise in late October last year, I was watching the existing building get demolished to make way for this new $50 million structure.

• If avalanches of snow and plummeting temps have you thinking of ice hockey, look no further than PPL Center. Downtown Allentown’s arena/office/hotel complex at the corner of Hamilton and Seventh Street is shaping up for a completion by fall 2014. Anytime you drive down Hamilton Street, you’ll notice something new, including an overall more enclosed space that forever changes the look and feel of the block.

• A pair of manufacturing facilities has been steadily rising throughout the year in one of the rare glimpses of two massive multimillion dollar projects from different companies going up across from each other, almost at the same time. The end result will be a boon for fruit juice lovers and baked goods buffs. Both the Ocean Spray and Bimbo Bakery plants in Breinigsville are expected to open in the next few months, if not sooner.

• Berks Park 78 in Bethel Township, Berks County, also is shaping up to be a major player, with Dollar General and PetSmart under construction this year and both sites opening distribution centers on the 323-acre industrial complex early next year.

• Also in Berks, a $70 million industrial park is being proposed along Route 61 in Perry Township. Three buildings – totaling more than 2.2 million square feet – are planned for light industrial and distribution users.

• In Easton, the long-delayed intermodal/city hall project finally got a green light late this year. Since that time, crews have been busy clearing the earth and prepping the site. With a strategic location at the gateway to the city and a ramped-up energy-efficient structure, it could capitalize on the business transformation underway in Easton’s Downtown. More than just a bus depot, the project will increase options for commuters and get business people walking to nearby shops, restaurants and cafes – the city hopes.

• The Crayola Experience renovation finished in May and is drawing more visitors to the city as the crayon giant took over additional square footage and added extra floors in a strategic spot near the Downtown Easton circle. When it opened near Memorial Day after being closed for a several months, the facility attracted record crowds.

• The year also saw the official start of projects that were delayed for years, including Madison Farms in Bethlehem Township. The project stretches back to the early 2000s, and, at one time, was called Field of Dreams. The developers hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in December and site work is underway to create space for more than 800 residences and a new ShopRite supermarket.

• And in Palmer Township, a project to build a $40 million new interchange and overpass on Route 33 could finally unlock additional distribution routes for companies and attract new businesses to the area. A groundbreaking took place in January, but work did not start until recently. Already, Mondelez International, a global snack food maker, is building a large $10 million warehouse in nearby Tatamy, which will be directly affected by the new interchange.

• Then, at Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in Bethlehem, 2013 saw the start of several projects, including a $38 million speculative development for Trammell Crow.

As we’ve seen, persistence pays off. These are just some of the big projects that come to mind. If I’ve forgotten any, feel free to let me know.

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