A construction project that’s been in the planning stages since 2004 is now underway.
Ashley Development Corp. of Bethlehem has started site work on Birchwood Commons, a $14 million 96-unit luxury apartment complex that will rise at the site of a former trailer park.
On Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township, the project will include one- and two-bedroom units and open green space.
In 2004, Ashley Development had the property under agreement, intending to build 50 townhouses, said Lou Pektor, owner of Ashley Development.
At the time, 50 sewer hookups were in place since the Barbosa trailer park was there, said Lisa Pektor, daughter of Lou Pektor and president of PennCap Properties in Bethlehem. Once the trailer park vacated several years later, Ashley Development revised the plan and got approved for 96 apartments, Lisa Pektor said.
Then came the recession of 2008-09. Financing for any development, particularly residential units, was difficult, and the project stalled. Site work finally began in 2010, yet the company continued to find lending hard to obtain.
Now, the company said, several factors helped to jump-start construction. These include a stronger luxury apartment market and the growth of the township’s population and the Route 33 corridor. Also of note are the 2011 opening of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Anderson Campus near Route 33 and the recent openings at Madison Farms, a mixed-use project across from St. Luke’s that includes a ShopRite, scores of new retail shops and hundreds of luxury residential units.
“Financial markets have loosened up a lot,” Lisa Pektor said. “When it was in concept, St. Luke’s was not built yet. We feel there is a demand, as rental rates have gone up considerably.”
Ashley Development will model the apartments at Birchwood Commons to look similar to the units it built for Bethlehem Fields on Cherry Lane.
Birchwood Commons will be Class-A luxury apartments and include six buildings, each three stories, and offer open green space, a fitness center and courtyard, Lou Pektor said.
Regarding KRE Group’s Madison Farms project, which includes townhouses and plans for single-family houses, Pektor said Birchwood Commons will offer something different, on a smaller scale and more secluded.
“We are trying to position this as the contrary of that,” he said.
He described Birchwood Commons as boutique apartments.
“We expect to be fully developed by spring 2017,” Pektor said. “Vertical construction should start in a few weeks.”
Two buildings, a total of 29 units, should be ready for occupancy by spring 2016, Lisa Pektor said.
“We’re pretty confident that 29 units would be absorbed fairly quickly,” she said.
Gartner Building Group of Ottsville is the general contractor, with Ryan Pektor, nephew of Lou Pektor, overseeing construction as project manager.
Construction will begin to the rear of the site and move to the front.
Cornerstone Consulting Engineers & Architectural Inc. of Allentown is the architect.
The fašade will be stone veneer and stucco with hardy plank siding, Ryan Pektor said. Half of the units will have balconies.
Monthly rents will start at $1,200 for single bedroom-units and $1,400 to $1,500 for two-bedroom units, said Amy Harris, sales/leasing agent for ALT Realty LLC. Fifty of the units will be two-bedroom; the others one-bedroom.
“We do have people that have called to inquire about it,” Harris said.
Sunburst Property Management of Allentown will be the property management company, with the property under separate private ownership, she said.
Fifty garages will be built into the units, so some tenants will have direct access without going outside, Lou Pektor said.
“It will be very heavily landscaped, with a park-like setting,” he said.
Other amenities include washers and dryers in the units, a municipal park to the rear of the site and a location that’s within walking distance to a fine-dining restaurant, pizza shop and pharmacy. Pets are allowed.
A significant road improvement is also part of the plan.
“We are extending the existing township road, 12th Street, to connect to Freemansburg [Avenue],” Ryan Pektor said. “Right now, 12th Street is a dead end.”