ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A project that promised to revolutionize Allentown's Lehigh River waterfront, but has sat dormant for years, is now being revived by a powerhouse real estate developer.
Jaindl Properties, known for turkeys and land projects, announced Tuesday that it will contribute an undisclosed amount of money to develop The Waterfront, an ambitious project below the Tilghman Street Bridge.
When it was first announced in 2007, developers promised The Waterfront would be the cure to Allentown's crumbling riverfront. It would feature a river walk, condos, a hotel, and upscale shopping at the old Lehigh Structural Steel site. But today, the land remains largely fenced in and locked up.
According to Mayor Ed Pawlowski, in the wake of the real estate crash, the money never came together.
"[It] went through various stages, but really lacked the capacity to pull the financing together needed to really redevelop that site," he said.
Just this fall, the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority was preparing to take over and develop the site itself. But now, in a move that even took the mayor by surprise, The Waterfront appears to be back on track.
"It's a very positive day for the citizens and the city," said Pawlowski.
In a statement, company president Mark Jaindl said they got involved because of the city's new Neighborhood Improvement Zone.
"The city and state provided an extremely powerful economic development tool through the creation of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone," he said. "Their actions should go a long way in enhancing the quality of life in the city."
The zone funnels tax money from the waterfront site, as well as the area around the new downtown hockey arena area, back into new development. Essentially, Jaindl could use NIZ money to pay back loans.
For those who live near the site though, it's the latest twist in a five year roller-coaster ride.
"It's up and down, up and down all the time," said Nina Ruiz, a seven year resident.
Since 2007, Ruiz and other residents have been in limbo, wondering when -- and if -- they'll lose their homes.
"They've just got to make up their mind," she said, "because if we're going to move, we need to know ahead of time."
Ruiz and several other neighbors said they are willing to move if the project really improves the city.
Dunn told 69 News that no residents will be displaced. All of the property to be developed is currently commercial property.
Meantime, Jaindl said it may be a year and a half before groundbreaking actually takes place.
Allentown, PA 18102