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Developer hopes to restore old hotel before arena opens

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 19 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 20 2012 05:02:28 PM CDT

The start of the arena project has one local businessman trying to finish a project of his own.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The start of the arena project in Allentown has one businessman trying to finish a project of his own.

The owner of the Americus Hotel, Albert Abdouche, said he wasn't too thrilled to find out about a new 200 room hotel on the arena site, but he soon realized how many people, and how much money, the arena was going to bring in.

For the last two years, Abdouche has been feverishly living out a David versus Golliath scenario, trying to restore the blighted Americus Hotel to its original glory.

Now, after changing out the all the plumbing and electrical systems and installing 3,000 sprinkler heads, Abdouche is focusing on finishing the Americus before the first puck drops.

"The arena is going to bring in a lot of people," said Abdouche. It's going to average about 100,000 people a month in downtown Allentown. It's going to help the economy, the hotels, the restaurants."

Abdouche said he believes there will be enough business to go around for the arena hotel, the Americus and the Holiday Inn at 9th and Hamilton streets.

The problem now is finding the money to finish before the arena opens.

Some $1.5 million in grant money is waiting once the Americus cuts through the governmental red tape. Abdouche will meet next week with Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski to figure out how to speed up the process.

Pawlowski said the project will likely require $20 million to $30 million, but he is confident the Americus will fall into the jigsaw puzzle of development now taking shape along Hamilton Street.

"It is a slow process, but we have been working on it now for a period of years and it's starting to all come to fruition, and what people are going to see is a whole new downtown," said Pawlowski.

Abdouche said he should be ready to rent out retails stores this summer and open part of the hotel next summer.