Lehigh Valley

Allentown planners review North Sixth Street apartment project

Plan offers more 'reasonable' rental option

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A North Sixth Street building that once housed a school and later a county corrections center now has a possible future as an apartment building.

Manny Makhoul has an agreement to purchase 324-330 N. Sixth St. from Abe Atiyeh, who previously had designs on a rehab facility. The prospective buyer proposes 18 one-bedroom apartments and a ground-floor laundromat.

The agreement of sale is contingent on the developer receiving the necessary approvals.

Makhoul and his attorney, Ron Corkery, were before the Allentown Planning Commission Tuesday afternoon to review the project’s adaptive reuse application. The city’s zoning hearing board has final say over the project’s approval, but planners are given an opportunity to review and comment on adaptive reuse projects.

Along with a school and a women’s correctional facility, the building also housed apartments with a ground-floor doctor’s office in a previous life. Corkery told planners that the building itself will change very little, if at all, and that it will offer more affordable rents than the apartments popping up along nearby Hamilton Street.

Monthly rents will range between $600 and $750.

Makhoul said he’ll be replacing an outdated central heating system with individual heating and air conditioning units. The existing layout for apartments that included the necessary plumbing will help keep construction costs – and subsequently rent costs – down, he said.

Corkery said after the meeting that the city planning staff was generally receptive to the project, but raised questions about the addition of a commercial laundry facility. Planning commissioners followed suit by generally supporting the project, but questioning the wisdom of a laundromat.

Makhoul and Corkery said the laundromat is not intended as a major draw, only a convenience to neighbors in walking distance of the building. If the zoning hearing board rejects the idea, Makhoul said he’d like to get permission for some type of ground-floor commercial use.

It’s likely he’ll also need a parking variance. A rear parking lot offers 24 spaces for the 18 apartments, which Corkery argues is sufficient considering he expects the project will attract tenants who utilize nearby public transportation.

Planning commissioners passed along a recommendation that Makhoul work to restore the window wells on the Sixth Street side of the building. He noted that it would prove difficult as the ceilings are now lower that the arches above the windows.

Commission members clarified that he could replicate the original windows with some type of ornamentation.

The zoning hearing board will review the project next month. Makhoul said work should take 30 days once all the necessary approvals are in place.

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