Lehigh Valley

Demolition approved, Five City Center moves forward

Building at 734 Hamilton Street will come down

The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board granted a special use appeal that will advance City Center Investment Corp.'s massive Five City Center project on Monday night. The vote was unanimous.

The decision will specifically allow the developer to demolish a building at 734 Hamilton St., currently home to the Downtown Fashion store. The relief was needed by City Center as the developer has modified the scope of the Five City Center project to expand the project's footprint to more than 300,000 square feet, according to testimony by Robert DiLorenzo, project manager for City Center.
The footprint expansion will reduce the height of the proposed 15-story Five City Center building to 13 stories, according to comments made by Dennis McCarthy, an attorney representing City Center.

Earlier in the evening, the city's Historical Architectural Review Board endorsed the demolition of the building with various stipulations to which City Center agreed, save for an additional $10,000 for a historical study. DiLorenzo testified the company already committed $25,000 for the project in September and after nearly five months nothing has been done. Given those circumstance, City Center was perplexed as to why HARB was asking for another $10,000.

Zoners were also perplexed and did not require City Center to pay it at this time.

The first phase of the demolition has been well underway, clearing the western end of the site. This includes the razing of properties located at 736-744 Hamilton. The project is expected to be completed by August 2019.

Other business

In other business, the zoning hearing board approved a variance request by the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority to install a 40,000-square foot gravel parking lot instead of a paved parking lot. The gravel parking lot will be used by the Allentown Kia car dealership as an off-premises storage parking lot. The vote was 2-1 with board member Scott Unger dissenting.

The parking lot will be about one acre and will be located at least 185 feet away from any public street. The lot will be used only to store cars for the dealership and will not have any public access, according to testimony offered by Randy Lebowitz, president of Allentown Kia.

In voting against the relief, Unger noted that Kia failed to meet with the city's Department of Public Works and "did not meet their burden." As such, Unger said if the zoning hearing board granted the relief, they no idea of the ramifications of their decision on "the public health, safety and welfare" as required by the city's zoning law.

The stance did not sway either board Chairman Robert Knauer or board member Alan Salinger to vote against the request. However, the approval required the car dealer to review their plans with the Department of Public Works and comply with any findings or requirements. 


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