The developer behind an ambitious plan to bring office buildings, retailers, apartments and public space to a stretch of the Lehigh River waterfront in Allentown said the first round of tenants are ready to go and will be announced when the timing is right.
Zachary Jaindl, chief operating officer for the Waterfront Development Company, appeared before the Allentown Planning Commission Tuesday, looking for final approval for phase two of The Waterfront. The project's second phase, north of the Tilghman Street Bridge, features three office buildings, two apartment buildings and a parking deck.
The entire property, bisected by the bridge, totals 29 acres and will eventually feature five office buildings, four apartment buildings and three parking decks. It will also feature first-floor retail and restaurant space throughout the site, a promenade, an amphitheater and a boat dock. The property was previously home to the Lehigh Structural Steel Co.
After planning commissioners unanimously approved Waterfront's second phase, Jaindl said the six-story office building in phase one is fully designed with leases in place for multiple tenants. Designs for a second eight-story office building that will house one primary tenant are nearly complete, and one of the apartment buildings that will wrap around a 700-space parking deck is fully designed, he said.
During his presentation to the planning commission, Jaindl said there is a common misperception that there's very little going on at the property. After the meeting, he noted building pads are ready to go, there's about $18 million in infrastructure work in the ground, including about eight miles of underground conduit installed, and another $5 million in design costs that can't be recouped until buildings are built.
Work could begin immediately on phase one's first office building, but Jaindl said the company wants to make sure design work and the developer's and tenants' timelines all match up before making one major announcement and beginning construction on three or four buildings at once.
The ultimate goal is to make such an announcement by year's end, according to Jaindl.
The Waterfront will have on-site marketing and programming for the project's public spaces, according to Jaindl. That will mean concerts at the amphitheater, a farmer's market on weekends and food truck events, he said.
"This isn't going to be the Baltimore Inner Harbor, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from it," Jaindl said.
As for Tuesday's review and approval, planning commissioners received a broad project overview before reviewing smaller details such as public access to the river, parking, the project's connections to the existing neighborhoods and maintenance of the property's green spaces.
When the planning commission granted conditional approval for phase two, the American Parkway Bridge wasn't open yet, so there was some concern about traffic and access to the property, Jaindl said. The extension of the American Parkway and Riverside Drive, the new street that will serve as the spine along the waterfront district, will sufficiently handle the additional traffic, he told planners.
Riverside Drive will eventually run north into Whitehall Township and fill in an existing gap in the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Trail.