Touting his building's beauty, Abdouche ready to begin NIZ-funded work on Americus Hotel: PHOTOS
While work already has begun on the Americus Hotel, owner Albert Abdouche said he will soon be celebrating the official start of the next phase of his reconstruction work on the historic Allentown property. The work will include restoring the 12 upper floors of the 13-story building into hotel rooms, extended-stay units and offices.
The first floor has been finished, with retail tenants filling the first floor and a Walgreens pharmacy soon to open. The main ballroom has been hosting events ranging from baby showers to weddings.
Now, work on the upper floors is beginning with the help of the $9 million in funding Abdouche received from Berwick-based First Keystone Community Bank. He said the building’s inclusion in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone spurred the loan.
The property was not originally included in the NIZ, which allows tax money to be steered toward debt repayments, but Abdouche fought the city NIZ authority for inclusion and was granted NIZ benefits in January.
Work done so far involved a great deal of painstakingly slow detail work to restore the main floor and ballroom to its original 1920s splendor, keeping as much of the original equipment as possible and repainting and refinishing walls and fixtures to look as they once were.
“It’s like beautiful old lady getting a face-lift,” Abdouche quipped.
That work was done with Abdouche’s funding. Now, with the capital, serious reconstruction work begins, with a goal of having the entire structure restored by next spring.
“I’ve been holding back to get in the NIZ,” he said. “Finally, we are there and I just want to go forward.”
The first two projects, already underway, are installing sprinklers and restoring the elevators.
While Abdouche is keeping the boxes or frames that serve as the hotel’s elevators, which can be restored to their former elegance with a little paint and polish, the mechanical components behind the scenes that operate the elevators all will be replaced.
There also will be new windows installed, and carpet, paint and furniture to restore 85 rooms as nightly hotel rooms and 48 rooms as furnished apartments for long-term stays. He also wants to put in a second banquet room.
The part he is the most excited about, however, is the plan to add office space to the 10th floor. He is reserving 10,000 square feet of space that he will build to suit future business tenants.
Again, Abdouche said his overriding goal is to keep the structure as true to its original appearance as possible.
“People cannot build like this anymore. I want to save it,” he said proclaiming his love for the beauty of the building.
“This building is saved I because I wanted it saved,” Abdouche said. “I had a couple of offers to demolish it, but I can’t. I’m hooked on it. Look how beautiful it is.”