City Center Allentown's next residential development gets underway in July with the start of construction on Walnut Street Commons.
It is the first project the commercial real estate company will develop outside the Neighborhood Improvement Zone. The NIZ features a tax incentive that allows for reduced rental rates on specific properties and has helped to fuel more than $1 billion in construction of new buildings and renovations of existing ones in Allentown’s downtown.
Officials at City Center Allentown said their confidence in the continued success of the NIZ led the company to decide to expand outside those boundaries.
“It makes a lot of sense to build off the success,” said Robert DiLorenzo, project manager for City Center Allentown. “Parking will be a great amenity.”
The 61-unit apartment building will wrap around the community deck parking structure at Sixth and Walnut streets. The project will include a covered pathway, similar to what the company’s STRATA apartment buildings have, to allow residents to access parking without going outdoors.
Since the property sits on the lot next to the community deck, there’s no demolition required, DiLorenzo said.
The Allentown Planning Commission approved the project this week, he said.
The company has not chosen a construction firm, though DiLorenzo said the project should be complete, with occupancy in May 2019. The architect is Bernardon of Philadelphia.
Estimated construction cost is $10 million, he said.
The 70,000-square-foot-building will be five stories with a main entrance on Sixth and Walnut streets. The side facing Sixth Street will be four stories, DiLorenzo said.
Aside from being a pet-friendly building, other amenities will include a fitness center, resident lounge with a patio, and storage space for bicycles and other equipment.
“All of our residents get additional benefits of downtown establishments,” said Jill Wheeler, vice president of sales and marketing for City Center Allentown, referring to discounts to arts, fitness and other establishments in the downtown.
“It’s another benefit to being a resident of one our apartments, but it’s also further integrating our residents into the city,” she said.
DEMAND IS HIGH
With STRATA Symphony, another residential building nearing completion farther north on Sixth Street, demand is very high for these types of market-rate apartments, DiLorenzo said.
City Center’s other two apartment projects, STRATA West and STRATA East, are fully leased.
STRATA Symphony, which should open next month, is 68 percent leased, he said.
With all of the new commercial construction, including the many companies that will occupy Tower 6, another City Center project expected to open in May, demand will remain high for residential space in the city, he added.
In addition, City Center is developing 68 residential units for 520 Hamilton, a mixed-use building rising on the site of the former Crocodile Rock Café. That project should open in September.
MORE INTEREST FROM COMPANIES
Companies appear to be eager to move into downtown Allentown at a faster rate.
As an example, DiLorenzo said, City Center recently reduced its height plan for its Five City Center Innovation Campus, under development.
“We are building a shorter building, but it’s a wider base,” DiLorenzo said. “This is a direct response to what the potential tenant is looking for.”
The building, which could house multiple tenants for Class-A office space, will drop from 353 feet tall, 24 stories, to 200 feet and 13 stories.
The reduction in size will allow for a quicker turnaround time.
City Center also moved the completion date to a year ahead of schedule, now August 2019.