As Downtown Allentown transforms, so too will its dining scene.
To achieve this goal, City Center Lehigh Valley hired Allentown native Brett Kemmerer to serve as director of restaurant development for its operations in Downtown Allentown.
Kemmerer, a Bethlehem resident, is an award-winning restaurateur who has been working principally in the West the past 20-plus years. His experience includes executive roles with TAO Asian Bistro and Bouchon in Las Vegas, Joie de Vivre Hotels and Coyote Café restaurants.
He said he has seen a noticeable shift in the quality of restaurants going to the city since City Center began its redevelopment project to transform the downtown.
Kemmerer said he will select new operators to fill fresh restaurant spaces and plans to ensure the area has diverse offerings right out of the gate.
"The demand and tastes have changed the quality of restaurants over the years," he said. "Specifically, with what's happening in Downtown Allentown, it's a unique opportunity for me. I think there's tremendous potential for the operators and the consumers as well."
Kemmerer will develop a strategy for restaurant prospecting and marketing to establish a variety of dining and entertainment options at City Center. Kemmerer will seek experienced operators to lease City Center's diverse restaurant spaces, including new space within the Two City Center office/retail tower, renovated space along Hamilton Street and future space along the Artswalk extension and the Three City Center office/retail high-rise.
"All of the city's new development, including office, retail, entertainment and residential, will create a huge demand for restaurants of every size, cuisine, service style and price point," Kemmerer said.
Within Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone, City Center's restaurant locations offer custom design and build-out and operational and marketing support.
City Center is seeking operators at four locations as part of its Hamilton Street renovations, including the former Federal Grill, which it will reopen on the 500 block of Hamilton Street, and at new spaces being developed as part of City Center's Class A office buildings. Kemmerer also will advise the operator for the new restaurant which will open in the Renaissance Hotel by Marriott which is under construction next to the ice hockey arena being built.
With 3,000 new people working in the downtown in a short time, City Center will need to have a variety of eating establishments, including quick, reasonably priced restaurants and other options for those entertaining or hosting luncheons, he said.
Operators need to have passion to think of City Center as a dining destination, he said.
"Since the project is going to grow over time, there's already some good operators signed on," Kemmerer said. "As the area is developed, there will be other opportunities."