Going small a big hit for minority business owners

Eddy Pacheco is co-owner of View Lounge, a restaurant on the fifth and top floor at the Hamilton Business Center. A balcony on the floor is accessible from the restaurant, which on the weekends is open late. - (Photo / Brian Pedersen)

Since the opening of the arena at PPL Center in downtown Allentown last year, a host of business owners has moved to the urban core to be a part of the action.

Since the opening of the arena at PPL Center in downtown Allentown last year, a host of business owners has moved to the urban core to be a part of the action.

When the state approved legislation for the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, which offered tax incentives for economic development on designated parcels in Allentown, it kick-started City Center Lehigh Valley, the linchpin behind the downtown’s revival.

But for some small-business owners who wanted to do business in Allentown, the NIZ proved to be out of reach, with higher rental rates and an atmosphere not necessarily conducive to their needs.

Filling that void for some is the Hamilton Business Center, a long-standing building at the corner of 11th and Hamilton streets that’s beginning to reap the benefits of renewed commercial activity, becoming a hub for minority business owners. Not only do many tenants hail from various cultural backgrounds, they also represent the diversity of businesses found in the center – including a child care facility, security firm, insurance company, photographer, restaurant and several nonprofits.

Most tenants say affordability is a major draw. With rates at about $10 per square foot for office space, the price point offers access to tenants who could otherwise be shut out of the market. Many say it offers ideal space for tenants embarking on their own for the first time but also those looking to remain and expand.

“It’s just a good place to be; it’s something we can afford,” said Joseph Dunn, grandmaster for the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, a fraternal organization that helps senior citizens, single parents and young people. “When you have a diversity of people, it makes it easier.”

In the three years he has been a tenant, Dunn has seen many upgrades. The price, open-door policy with the building’s owners and the restaurant help make the building a place he’d like to stay and expand.

“We have grown so large that we rent several spaces here,” he said.

While not in the NIZ, the Hamilton Business Center has seen an increase in tenants since it transformed last year into a modernized facility geared for smaller businesses.

The partnership that owns Hamilton Business Center, 1101 HBC LLC, includes Matthew Sigman, a partner with Sigman Real Estate, a real estate investment firm in Asbury Park, N.J., and Richard DePetro. They saw the building’s potential and spent the money needed to create a diverse business hub that serves clientele from many backgrounds.

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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