After 11-year wait, luxury apartment complex starts to rise

Architectural rendering shows the streetlevel view of Birchwood Commons, a 96-unit apartment complex under construction on Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township.

A construction project that’s been in the planning stages since 2004 is now underway.

A construction project that’s been in the planning stages since 2004 is now underway.

Ashley Development Corp. of Bethlehem has started site work on Birchwood Commons, a $14 million 96-unit luxury apartment complex that will rise at the site of a former trailer park.

On Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township, the project will include one- and two-bedroom units and open green space.

In 2004, Ashley Development had the property under agreement, intending to build 50 townhouses, said Lou Pektor, owner of Ashley Development.

At the time, 50 sewer hookups were in place since the Barbosa trailer park was there, said Lisa Pektor, daughter of Lou Pektor and president of PennCap Properties in Bethlehem. Once the trailer park vacated several years later, Ashley Development revised the plan and got approved for 96 apartments, Lisa Pektor said.

Then came the recession of 2008-09. Financing for any development, particularly residential units, was difficult, and the project stalled. Site work finally began in 2010, yet the company continued to find lending hard to obtain.

Now, the company said, several factors helped to jump-start construction. These include a stronger luxury apartment market and the growth of the township’s population and the Route 33 corridor. Also of note are the 2011 opening of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Anderson Campus near Route 33 and the recent openings at Madison Farms, a mixed-use project across from St. Luke’s that includes a ShopRite, scores of new retail shops and hundreds of luxury residential units.

“Financial markets have loosened up a lot,” Lisa Pektor said. “When it was in concept, St. Luke’s was not built yet. We feel there is a demand, as rental rates have gone up considerably.”

Ashley Development will model the apartments at Birchwood Commons to look similar to the units it built for Bethlehem Fields on Cherry Lane.

Birchwood Commons will be Class-A luxury apartments and include six buildings, each three stories, and offer open green space, a fitness center and courtyard, Lou Pektor said.

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.

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