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With large corporate tenant's departure, owner preps building for next occupants

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81 Highland Ave. (Contributed)
81 Highland Ave. (Contributed)

Once Guardian Life Insurance Co. consolidated its offices and built a corporate headquarters, which it opened off Route 512 in 2016, it left behind a glut of empty office space in Hanover Township, Northampton County.

Several large nearby office buildings once occupied by hundreds of Guardian employees still sit empty in the township’s corporate business park off Route 512. However, one building is getting an interior upgrade to make way for Janney Montgomery Scott, a Philadelphia-based financial services firm that will relocate its downtown Bethlehem office to the business park.

Ondra-Huyett Associates Inc. of Upper Macungie Township is renovating the first floor interior of a building at 81 Highland Ave. that once had Guardian as a single tenant. The project for the three-story building, owned by Franklin Realty Development of Blue Bell, includes upgrades the owner is making, such as an energy efficient roof and heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems as well as light-emitting diode lighting, new bathrooms and new windows.

“We are in the process of going through substantial upgrades,” said Peter Gebert, president and CEO of Franklin Realty. “We’ve done everything from roofs to electrical mechanical systems. The building’s been painted.”

Franklin Realty added environmentally conscious, high-efficiency features, including increased insulation on the roof and remote controls in the bathrooms.

Gebert said he hopes to be finished renovating the building by the end of the year.

“Janney’s our first tenant,” Gebert said. “That’s the quality of the tenant we are looking for. We are looking for high-caliber tenancy. We have a number of proposals out right now.”

Ondra-Huyett is working on the space for Janney Montgomery, which includes creating a high-end office space on one floor, said Michael Gibson, business development manager for Ondra-Huyett.

His firm has been working on this project since January, and he said he plans to get the project complete for an April 13 occupancy by Janney Montgomery.

Ondra-Huyett will finish three weeks ahead of schedule, Gibson said.

Janney Montgomery will move its employees from its 1 East Broad St. office in Bethlehem to the Highland Avenue site, said Megan Spagnolo, real estate project manager of Janney Montgomery, in a statement.

The firm plans to move its 15 employees the weekend of April 13 and open the 5,000-square-foot office for business April 16, she said. Among those employees will be about eight financial advisers supported by other employees and private client associates.

It will close its Bethlehem office once it moves to the Hanover Township site.

The relocation space will be modern and sleek with a mix of different finishes, including stone surfaces in the reception area with a coffee bar to greet guests and a glass wall system throughout, leaving the space bright and open, Spagnolo said.

The architect is The Design Alliance Architects of Pittsburgh.

“Our decision to relocate our Bethlehem branch office was based on current and expected growth,” said Thomas Simcik, senior vice president of wealth management, mid-Atlantic regional manager for Janney Montgomery, in a statement. “The 81 Highland Ave. space not only meets our employee needs today but is flexible for growth.”

Jones Lang LaSalle, which has an office in Hanover Township, Northampton County, took over management of the property from NAI Summit.

Matthew Dorman, vice president of JLL, recently joined the firm after a lengthy career at NAI Summit and said JLL is now representing the property.

Dorman said the firm is seeking about four to eight additional tenants to occupy the remainder of the building.

Phil Schenkel, senior vice president at JLL, represented Janney Montgomery in the lease transaction, Dorman said.

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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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