Lehigh Valley

ANIZDA OKs 9th and Hamilton hotel, 2nd waterfront project

Projects involve hundreds of millions of dollars

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It was an overwhelming evening, involving hundreds of millions of dollars of multiple development approvals from the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Authority (ANIZDA) Wednesday night.

The authority unanimously approved project plans and credit facility increases for the following projects: 

An 18-story 350,000 square foot office tower to be built by J.B. Reilly's Center City Investment Corp. above the current Wells Fargo Bank building at 702 Hamilton Street. It will be the cornerstone of the downtown developer's Five City Center Innovation Complex,  transforming the entire downtown block between Hamilton and Walnut streets and Seventh and Eighth streets. It will also include another smaller office building, two residence buildings, parking garages and an interior park. 

"We're trying to master plan the entire block," remarked Reilly, who followed with a presentation on his second project just two blocks west on Hamilton Street.

A new, mixed-use, 19-story office building, including a 100-room hotel to replace the current Holiday Inn, which Reilly said he would be purchasing at the end of the year. The building's top will be designed to resemble a pyramid and will feature first-floor retail space, all-glass floor to ceiling windows, courtyard and a recessed garden.

A five-story apartment building west on the same block at 950 Hamilton Street, part of Center City's to reach it's ultimate goal of 1,000 downtown living units in order to secure a new grocery store in the area.

Reilly termed the plan "a jumpstart on the development of the 900 block of Hamilton Street".

Vice President and Center City design director Jane Heft compared her 900 Hamilton designs to those of her company's previous Strata projects, with unique differences, such as the inclusion of a smaller scale business conference center next door to the hotel.

The board granted Center City a credit increase from $125 million to $350 million backed by a group banks led by BB&T to finance the Five City Center complex, including the 702 Hamilton office tower and the 900 Hamilton project. "There's well over half of a billion dollars in projects here," Reilly stated.

The board also approved the second phase of the 26-acre Waterfront project, located north of the Tilghman Street Bridge.

Developers Zachary and Mark Jaindl are making use of NIZ funding to redevelop the former site of the Lehigh Structural Steel Co. located on the Lehigh River.

Chief Operating Officer Zachary Jaindl said it was time to secure the board's approval for the project's second phase, which includes an additional three office buildings, two residential structures, and a parking deck.

He added that the plans call for first-floor restaurants and retailers in addition to docks for boat launches and an amphitheater and plaza for outdoor concerts. He claims the features offered in the project are what millennials desire.

Jaindl requested and received from the authority a credit facility increase from $92 million to $214 million and another $466,000 for kitchen improvements necessary for its new 634 Hamilton Street Vault banquet facility, scheduled to open in the beginning of May.

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