Lehigh Valley

Airport authority names developer for nearly 300 acres

Negotiations will continue with Majestic Realty

HANOVER TWP., Pa. - After a months-long search for potential suitors to develop nearly 300 acres of authority-owned land, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority has chosen a partner it hopes will secure the airport's long-term health.

The authority board on Wednesday selected Los Angeles-based Majestic Reality to develop about 290 acres of flight path property northeast of Lehigh Valley International Airport. The decision came after a nearly three-hour closed-door session in which the board, staff and its real-estate consultant interviewed developers Majestic, Matrix and J.G. Petrucci Co.

Majestic operates an office in Bethlehem.

Wednesday’s vote now opens the authority to continuing negotiations with the developer. Board Chairman Michael Dowd said after the meeting that he envisions a 60- to 90-day negotiation period before Majestic begins its work.

It’s possible the developer could still back out of any agreement, but Dowd said Majestic was thorough in its presentation, “enthusiastic” about the process and has been open and up front about negotiations.

Authority officials have made it clear since the process began that any developer needs to work within the confines of the Hanover Township zoning regulations and avoid needing to rezone the property. One of Majestic’s strengths is that representatives said they could work with the existing zoning and remain sensitive to the township’s preference for Lehigh Valley Industrial Park-type development, according to Dowd.

After the vote, the authority presented very little detail about Majestic’s plan as the proposal is in its earliest stages. The developer is looking at sites of roughly 5, 7 and 10 acres, featuring “flexible buildings” that could easily be reconfigured from one tenant to another, according to Dowd.

The size of the finished product will depend on the township’s zoning regulations, although Dowd said it’s unlikely the project’s gradual build out will cover the entire site. The authority currently leases the land to a farmer.

Possible uses for the property include office space and light industrial. Township officials have zoned out big-box warehousing or distribution centers, and Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit homes or any educational uses. Dowd said Majestic did not cite a specific number of proposed buildings for the property as it’s more a question of how much acreage will be developed.

The authority has been focused for some time on finding revenue sources outside of passenger service to help sustain Lehigh Valley International Airport and its other properties. Cargo traffic has been booming, and Dowd said the authority is looking to generate sustainable revenue by leasing, rather than selling, land to the developer.

Although he could not provide an annual revenue estimate because of ongoing negotiations, Dowd said it could prove transformational.

“Could this revenue sustain the long-term future of this airport? I think that’s possible,” he said.

Once negotiations wrap up between the authority and developer, Majestic will need to go through the land development and zoning process with the township, secure permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and address storm water regulations.

The authority also continues negotiations with J.G. Petrucci to lease and develop land around Braden Airpark in Forks Township outside of Easton. Leasing the land is part of the authority’s plan to invest in and maintain the airfield.

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