City Center Allentown will host a groundbreaking today for Walnut Street Commons, a $13 million residential project at Sixth and Walnut streets in downtown Allentown.
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.
J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center Investment Corp., said the company is finalizing a contract for a construction firm and should complete that in a few days. Construction should be complete by mid-summer 2019, he said.
The 61-unit apartment building, which is not in a tax-incentive zone, will wrap around the community deck parking structure and include a covered pathway, similar to what is offered by the company’s STRATA apartment buildings.
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. The architect is Bernardon of Philadelphia.
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.
Reilly sees no slowing of the continued interest in urban residential properties, particularly in Allentown.
“There’s a demonstrated strong demand for market rate apartments downtown,” Reilly said. “For several years, the Allentown Parking Authority, when they developed this deck, their plan was to have the deck wrapped with apartments.”
Walnut Street Commons also is a project that aligns with the findings of Goody Clancy, a planning, architecture and design firm from Boston that prepared a downtown urban design and development plan for the city in 2014.
“With all of the apartments, we are seeing strong demand from millennials and what I would call empty nesters,” Reilly said. “We are also seeing strong demand in the neighborhoods around the downtown. There’s a lot of investment there. We are looking at a lot of opportunities outside the NIZ.”