The early morning hours of Oct. 18, 2014, proved to be a true test for Shuman Development Group of Reading after an arson ripped through the company’s near-completed $14 million renovation of the iconic six-floor Reading Outlets Center.
The test is nearly over.
This morning, owner Alan Shuman told Lehigh Valley Business that his company has received all approvals to begin reconstruction of the fire-damaged outlet building at Eighth and Oley streets in northeast Reading. Construction will begin in a few weeks and will be complete by September, he said.
“I’ve had six months of character building, trying to pull this all back together,” Shuman said of the $9.4 million in fire and water damages that put a halt to the project.
Although Shuman had the proper insurance policy, he lost money from the fire, he said.
“They [the insurance company] covered most of it,” Shuman said. “But, they don’t cover everything. I am still out a sizable amount.”
When construction of the outlet building is complete, the bottom two floors will have 42,000 square feet of retail space. Shuman said that he soon will meet with potential tenants, including a day care, two restaurants, barber shop and pharmacy.
The top four floors of the building will become 69 apartments. Most of the residential spaces are 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom units. There are a few studio apartments in the mix, said Shuman, who added that he hopes to have the occupancy permit in September.
Shuman said many of the apartments are on hold for interested tenants, and he said some of the units are being requested by elderly widowed locals who are selling their homes.
Since the fire, crews have been cleaning up from the fire damage and doing repairs, which included the rebuilding of 99 structural beams and 40 structural columns. Shuman said all of the floors needed to be pulled, and a new roof was put on.
Since this will be the second time that construction and utility crews will be doing the project, it will be a bit quicker than the last time, he said.
“Everybody knows exactly what they are doing because they already did it once,” he said.
The final piece to revitalizing the outlet district, Shuman said, will be the Moss Street Outlet at Ninth and Douglass Streets. He said the project is in the approval process and set to be complete in fall 2016; it will feature 55,000 square feet of retail space and 45 apartments.
When the Moss Street project is complete, Shuman said, his company’s 10-year revitalization of the outlet district will have brought to the city close to 500 jobs.
“We will have completely revitalized the commercial core of northeast Reading,” he said.