Construction has begun on transforming a long-dormant property in Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone into fresh commercial space near the Lehigh River.
The NIZ, which features a tax incentive that has fueled more than $1 billion in construction of new buildings and renovations of existing ones, could entice companies looking for space in the building.
Several years ago, a New York City developer planned to redevelop the former Neuweiler Brewery at 401 N. Front St. into a beer production facility. While those plans have not moved forward, a construction crew is doing demolition and site work to prep the buildings on the 4.5-acre property for commercial tenants.
“We started some work on the property in August and we will be doing quite a bit of work for Building J,” said Josh Wood, one of the managing partners for Brewers Hill Development Group, a real estate venture in New York City. To redevelop this building would cost an estimated $4 million to $6 million, he said.
The plan is to renovate Building J and Building B, which is a taller structure, to get the property ready for occupancy and then redevelop the other buildings on the site, Wood said.
So far, the crew has put in temporary electricity and is clearing out the windows, removing cinder blocks and power-washing the interior in Building J, Wood said.
“It’s getting it into a position where it is a very serviceable property,” Wood said. “We are thinking about creative space. With a lot of the inventory that’s available, the space is very creative-looking.”
With its exposed brick walls, the property is expected to attract millennials, he said.
The property has eight connected buildings and Building J itself totals slightly more than 40,000 square feet, Wood said.
“We are going to start fencing them in and focusing on Building J as a catalyst for the property,” he said.
Wood said he is still planning to include a brew pub at the site.
“A brew pub is part of the plan,” Wood said. “We scaled back the brewery concept but a brew pub piece, perhaps in Building C or D, could be considered.”
He is mainly interested in attracting office tenants to the site, particularly agencies, professional services companies and possibly light manufacturing. Wood said he is talking to a couple of potential tenants.
Though no work has occurred at the site since the project was first announced several years ago, Wood is looking forward to the start of making the property into a viable and vibrant structure.
“It was a very interesting opportunity,” Wood said. “We own a small brewery operation in New York in addition to an agency. It’s a beautiful property, it definitely needs some love. It’s quite majestic.”
Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem is the architect.
Brick City Construction of New Jersey is doing the demolition work and preliminary work in three phrases.
Once that’s complete, Brewers Hill will seek bids from construction firms to renovate.
More acreage is available in the rear of the site for new construction, but Wood said he is waiting to see when the new Riverside Drive will be built, which is part of a separate project for The Waterfront, which is being developed by Dunn Twiggar Co., Michael Dunn Co. and Jaindl Enterprises.
According to Zachary Jaindl, chief operating officer for Jaindl Enterprises, the segment being constructed stretches from Furnace Street to Allen Street and should be completed in the second quarter of 2018. The south portion of the road project covers Allen Street to Hamilton Street and should be completed in the third quarter of 2019.