Many of the apartments will be in the second through fifth floors of buildings that adjoin the two parking garages.

Mark Jaindl said the most optimistic projection is phase I construction will begin early in 2014 on the Waterfront’s first office building, which will be eight stories tall.

“I would imagine no one will be occupying any buildings until the end of 2015.” He said the second building should be completed in 2016 and the third in 2017. He added all phase I buildings might not be completed until 2018.

Traffic and bridges

Planners had many questions about additional traffic that will be generated by the project, but those concerns did not stop them from granting tentative approval.

However, based on a suggestion by Hefele, a stipulation of tentative approval is that final approval of both phases I and II will be contingent on “a successful and workable traffic study” that is satisfactory to the planning commission.

Planner Anthony Toth raised the possibility traffic issues could result in “less intense development of the proposed plan.”

The developers have completed a traffic impact study for the first phase of their project and plan to do another before seeking final approval for phase II.

Toth asked what happens if that second study shows too much traffic is causing intersections to fail.

Responded Jaindl: “You’re the planning commission. You can turn us down for phase II. Or if it turns out we can only put 250,000 square feet in phase II versus 500,000 square feet, that’s under your control. ”

“We are not sure phase I traffic impact studies deem immediate traffic improvements, as many of the intersections are not failing right now and we are tiering the building completions,” said Zachary Jaindl after the meeting. “However, that will be up the city and we are prepped to act accordingly.”

His assessment was confirmed by Richard Young, Allentown’s public works director, who explained none of the intersections in that area of the city are failing now.

Young said the best intersections get a ranking of A, while failing intersections get Fs. He added: “In phase I, none of them fail either.” But he said they do drop from a rating of D to E, and the city requires them to be no lower than D.

Several intersections near the development are expected to have ratings less than “D,” confirmed Ryan Kern of Barry Isett & Associates, the project’s design and traffic engineer. He said that will include the intersection of Front Street and American Parkway, which does not yet exist. He said the Front and Tilghman streets intersection already is so congested that it is rated “D.”

Kern indicated the developers plan to coordinate traffic signals along both Front and Tilghman streets in an attempt to alleviate congestion.

He indicated the developers hope to avoid what he called “geometric improvements,” which means buying properties and tearing down homes and other buildings to widen roads and add turning lanes.

Zachary Jaindl said phase I will not be complete until after both the new American Parkway and rehabbed Tilghman Street Bridge are open, which will help relieve traffic congestion.

The Tilghman Street rehabilitation is a state Department of Transportation project that will completely close that bridge for two years, beginning in 2015, according to Young.

Public hearing speakers

Alexis Gurinko of Bethlehem and Bob Wittman of Allentown urged Waterfront developers to include apartments for people with disabilities. Wittman said he was representing Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community, a network of providers, caregivers, consumers and advocates.

Wittman read a statement written by Gurinko, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Gurinko said she spearheaded Lexie’s Dream Apartments in Bethlehem, a 15-unit complex designed for people with disabilities, including her, “giving us the ability and freedom to live like everyone else in society.”

She said many more people with disabilities need such apartments – ranging from those with birth defects and disabling diseases to those who have been in car, industrial and hunting accidents, to veterans with war injuries. She said 13 people are on a waiting list just to get into Lexie’s Dream Apartments.

Wittman said people with disabilities make really good tenants, remain in their residences for a long time, take care of their properties and “only rarely do they have really crazy wild parties.”

After the public hearing, Mark Jaindl said he wants to learn more details about what Wittman and Gurinko would like to see, such as how many units.