$250 Million of Development Coming to Allentown Waterfront


Haters gon’ hate, but obviously this project is going to be huge for the Allentown redevelopment agenda, and help coordinate everyone’s expectations around more growth and development in the city. People are going to be more likely to invest their money in the city if they expect other people to do the same:

Developers on Tuesday unveiled a $250 million plan to convert Allentown’s long-deteriorating riverfront into a complex of office and residential buildings, a project funded by the one-of-a-kind tax zone that’s powering the downtown hockey arena.

The gritty industrial mish-mash along the west bank of the Lehigh River from Allen Street past the Tilghman Street Bridge would be replaced by The Waterfront, a strip of 12 glass-and-steel office buildings, walking trails and apartments.

Waterfront Redevelopment Partners presented the quarter-billion-dollar plan to the city’s Planning Commission, proposing 610,000 square feet of offices, 130,000 square feet of retail and 172 apartments on a 26-acre property that was home to Lehigh Structural Steel, once an anchor of city industry.


“The utilization of the NIZ was crucial to development of this property,” Jaindl said. “Without it, I don’t think this property could be developed.”

The flurry of plans around Allentown’s hockey arena project have been dominated by City Center Investments. The quarter-billion-dollar plan by the Waterfront developers rival those of City Center, which has proposed spending more than $200 million to build three downtown office buildings, a 180-room hotel and as many as 200 upscale apartments.

When all the new buildings open, Waterfront and City Center will be competing for many of the same tenants, but that didn’t seem to bother Jim Harbaugh, COO of City Center.

Colin McEvoy also reports that they’re thankfully not planning to overdo it on surface parking:

Keppel said the development proposes 2,800 parking spots, with about 2,200 of them in two multi-level parking garages. The remaining would be in surface lots or street parking.

Can we try to have all of this be structured or curb parking, with zero land on this site wasted on surface lots? Think about all the truly beautiful places in the world that you like – how many of them feature abundant surface parking lots?
(Thanks: Emily Opilo, Scott Kraus and Matt Assad)


  1. People don’t hate the project. (I personally would say $250 million is on the low side for that property). The chap from Lehigh has a point–success really depends on finding tenants for the residential and commercial properties, not just building buildings.

    You need more than a dream and a “waterfront” http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/03/us-stockton-bankruptcy-cause-idUSBRE8621DL20120703.

  2. I was surprised it’s only a $250mm project too, that’s much lower than I thought. The environmental cleanup alone will chew up a big piece of that.

    Steve Thode is right about one aspect – if we don’t generate either new businesses or relocations from outside the area (both either into or outside the area), the NIZ will be a dismal failure.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      They’re saying that the building size could change depending on the level of interest, and that the clean-up required turned out to be less than expected.

  3. Smart of Jaindl, don’t overbuild right out of the gate. No one benefits from a bunch of empty buildings. Too bad Pawlowski and Reilly don’t have Jaindl’s real estate knowledge and savvy.

    Watch for the overruns on environmental issues, they’ll be there and be pretty damn big.

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