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Allentown arena authority approves funds for former Schoen's Furniture Store

Published On: Feb 06 2013 09:44:00 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 07 2013 07:55:46 AM EST

ANIZDA approves development plan


The authority overseeing the building of Allentown's hockey arena crossed a threshold Wednesday afternoon by formally endorsing a developer's application for help in revitalizing the former Schoen's Furniture Store.

"This is all your project, not something you've inherited," said solicitor Jerome Frank, just before the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority unanimously backed the application from Charles Street Capital.

Until Wednesday's vote, ANIZDA, which is less than a year old, had been continuing work initiated by the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority.

W. Jeffrey Brown recapped Charles Street's plans for the six-story building at 612 Hamilton St., which is in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

Brown said his company would spend $5.35 million restoring the building front along Hamilton Street; replacing the limestone panels on the western façade; bringing in "more light and air" with new windows on the upper floors; turning a parking lot next door into a pocket park; establishing a restaurant-pub on the ground floor, and creating loft office space on the other five floors.

Artist Gregory Coates and his wife Kiki will help with the design, he added.

Brown said construction would start in June, and he hopes to have the building ready so tenants can move in in May 2014, around the time the hockey arena is scheduled to open.

Brown also announced that the project's general contractor, Shane Patrick Associates Inc., of Allentown, will be moving its offices to the building's second floor.

By getting the authority's approval, Charles Capital will not have to pay earned income taxes up to $302,000. That money will be used to help pay the Schoen project's debt service. The authority will have no responsibility for the bank loan Charles Capital will get for the project.

Should the earned income taxes exceed $302,000 by 25 percent or more, the money would go into an account controlled by the authority and be used for projects to upgrade neighborhoods in arena district.

In other business, the authority passed a resolution saying it would give top priority to using excess earned income tax money collected in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone to repay $22 million each year to the state, the city of Allentown and the Allentown School District.

The $22 million is the estimated amount of earned income revenue collected by the state for the authority in the zone.

The state legislation creating the zone was pitched as revenue neutral by its supporters, including Republican State Sen. Pat Browne, but because of lawsuits over the zone and other delays in its first year of existence, the authority couldn't come with the money.

Before the vote, authority attorney Ken Luttinger said that Browne and state Department of Revenue officials had raised concerns with him about the situation, and asked that the board reaffirm its intention to pay the $22 million annually.

The authority also passed a resolution creating a condominium association for the block where the hockey arena is being built.

Jerome told authority members the condominium area is divided into nine units, with the authority owning five of them -- the arena, the parking deck, the underground garage, a retail space along Hamilton Street and another that will be used by the arena operator.

Membership in the condominium association is based on how many units a group owns.

The resolution requires two-thirds of the condominium association to take action.

Authority chairman Seymour Traub said the authority will control about 60 percent of the association.