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Authority preparing to "actively market" its share of State Hospital property

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 27 2012 07:21:03 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 28 2012 08:14:37 AM CST
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The part of the former State Hospital property owned by the Allentown Commercial and Industrial  Development Authority could soon be on the market.

Authority members voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to "actively market" the 30-acre parcel and its few outbuildings, even if the Environmental Protection Agency does not approve a $200,000 grant to clean up landfilled railroad ties and 10 cubic yards of dioxin-contaminated soil on the property.

Authority executive director Scott Unger said the deed limits the land's use to "age-restricted" -- that is, senior citizen -- housing and commercial development.

Unger said he has heard unofficially that the EPA grant the authority applied for a year ago will not be approved, but he has not been notified officially.

The psychiatric hospital along Hanover Avenue closed in December 2010 after 98 years in operation. Last month, the state Department of General Services announced its share of the property -- 165 acres and 30 buildings -- could be put up for sale as soon as next spring and bring in about $1.2 million.

Unger did not say what he thought the authority-owned property might be worth, but he was optimistic that there would be interest. "Two years ago, we sent out 35 letters [about the property] and we only got one response," he told the authority board. "It's a different world now."

In other business, Unger reported that Charles Street Capital is on schedule with its application for funding from the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority for its proposed restaurant and office space at the former Schoen's Furniture Store at 612 Hamilton St.

A big hurdle to the project was cleared on Nov. 14, when the Lehigh County commissioners approved the sale of an adjacent lot for parking for $305,000, he said.

Unger noted that some commissioners were reluctant to sell until they received two appraisals of the lot paid for by the county -- one of which came in at $280,000 and the other at $210,000.