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Completion of 96-unit luxury apartment project in sight

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Construction is nearing completion on Birchwood Commons, an upscale residential project in Bethlehem Township. Work began to the rear of the site and is now moving up front facing Freemansburg Avenue.
Construction is nearing completion on Birchwood Commons, an upscale residential project in Bethlehem Township. Work began to the rear of the site and is now moving up front facing Freemansburg Avenue. - (Photo / )

In planning since 2004 and under construction since last year, a residential construction project is finally coming to fruition.

Ashley Development Corp. of Bethlehem is developing Birchwood Commons, a $14 million 96-unit luxury apartment complex that’s rising at the site of a former trailer park on Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township.

Scarce lending options, changing residential market conditions and the 2008 recession all combined to stall the project. However, construction has picked up and moved ahead over the past few months.

With a more robust and growing luxury apartment market and the rise of recent commercial and residential developments along the nearby Route 33 corridor, the prospects for filling the apartments with tenants look strong as construction is expected to be complete this fall.

The project includes six buildings of one- and two-bedroom units, open green space and landscaping enhancements.

Gartner Building Group of Ottsville, the general contractor, is working on the buildings nearest to Freemansburg Avenue.

Lou Pektor, owner of Ashley Development, described the project as composed of three phases, with the first part nearly complete and the second part about 90 percent complete. The third and last part of the construction should be completed by September or early October.

By late June, the first part of construction should be complete, with the first group of 29 apartments open, Pektor said. The second part of construction will include 38 apartments, and the third part will have 29 apartments.

The façade will be stone veneer and stucco with hardy plank siding, half of the units will have balconies and 50 garages will be built into the units. Cornerstone Consulting Engineers & Architectural Inc. of Allentown is the architect.

“We plan to have it well-landscaped,” Pektor said. “Our goal is to create a well-landscaped, park-like setting that is unique to any of the competitive product in the area.”

Workers are planting 30 foot trees and working on mass landscaping, he said.

“You will see probably the most over-planted apartment site in the Lehigh Valley … to create that feel of some place you want to come home to,” he said.

Depending on square footage, monthly rents will start at $1,200 for single-bedroom units and go up to $1,624 for two-bedroom units.

“We have had very strong pre-leasing activity,” Pektor said, noting that the project is geared for Class-A tenants. “We have taken time to study our competitors and what we can do to stay ahead.”

Interior finishes focus on grays, whites and onyx, which Pektor described as more cutting edge style finishes.

Other amenities include a park to the rear of the site, washers and dryers in the units and a fitness center equipped with Peloton bikes, which are interactive indoor bikes with virtual ride functions. The site is within walking distance to the Kingfish American Bistro and Wine Bar across the street, plus a pizza shop, pharmacy and several other establishments.

A significant road improvement is also part of the plan.

The developer is extending 12th Street, an existing township road, to connect to Freemansburg Avenue.

“Part of the delay is solving a stormwater condition that was pre-existing,” Pektor said. “It has been a substantial delay.”

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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