Allentown State Hospital demolition on hold

The Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in Allentown. (Photo by Christopher Holland) –

The Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in Allentown won’t be facing the wrecking ball, at least not any time soon.

An agreement has been reached between the Pennsylvania Department of General Services and Allentown developer, Nat Hyman, who had filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

Hyman had expressed interest in buying the 200-acre property for its currently appraised value of $2.7 million and redeveloping it without demolishing all of the 28 buildings on the property.

“I’ve done a lot of these kinds of buildings. It’s exponentially more expensive when you demolish,” he said.

According to the state, the property has been mostly vacant since the hospital closed in 2010 and no one came forward to buy the property during that time. Meanwhile, maintenance costs on the property run about $2.2 million a year.

The state legislature voted to spend up to $15 million demolishing the buildings on the property, which it deemed no longer usable and then approved a direct conveyance to TCA Properties of Doylestown, giving the company the first rights to negotiate to buy the property after the demolition is complete.

According to Hyman, the state has agreed to indefinitely postpone the demolition and sale of the property in exchange for Hyman withdrawing a preliminary injunction against the plan. The state has also agreed to give Hyman 30-days’ notice of any impending sale or demolition. The state is pulling demolition bid requests from its website.

Hyman said the agreement should save the properties from demolition for months or years.

“This is going to be a long process,” he said, noting that he hopes the delay will ultimately derail the demolition.

“My goal is to ban the demolition,” Hyman said. “These buildings are beautiful.”

He said even if it isn’t him the property is sold to, he hopes any future development will include preservation of the buildings.

In addition to Hyman’s interest in the property and his subsequent lawsuit. There had been some public outcry over the demolition of the 107-year old hospital.

The property got a great deal of attention after the release earlier this year of the M. Night Shyamalan movie “Glass”, which was filmed on the property in 2017.

At least one local legislator, however, has expressed his displeasure with the delay on the redevelopment of the large piece of eastside Allentown property.

“I’m not happy about it,” said state Rep., Mike Schlossberg (D- Allentown), who supported the legislation that had been introduced by state Sen. Pat Browne (R-Allentown.)

He told Lehigh Valley Business that he still believes demolition of the buildings and a full re-use of the property is best for the community and taxpayers. This agreement, he said, is delaying progress.

“I understand you’re always going to have detractors with a project like this,” he said.

He does hope, and expect, that the issue will eventually be resolved.

“Eventually we’ll turn this site into something productive,” Schlossberg said.

 

Writer Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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