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Major development project in Allentown NIZ cleared by authority

Published On: Sep 25 2012 11:11:21 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 26 2012 07:00:49 PM EDT

Major redevelopment project moving forward


A developer was chosen Tuesday afternoon for a major building renovation project in Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

The Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority conditionally approved a $250,000 agreement of sale with Charles Street Capital for the former Schoen's Furniture building at 612 Hamilton St.

Authority executive director R. Scott Unger said Charles Street Capital was the only bidder for the six-story building. He aid Charles Street, which has two local principals, Jeff and Douglas Brown, will spend $6.4 million on the mixed-development project.

Charles Street will have 60 days to decide if it wants to go through with the deal, Unger said, noting that closing on the sale could happen in as little as 90 days.

Unger said that the building "is in very, very sound structural shape," but added, "a ton of internal work" needs to be done.

Unger said the first floor of the building will have a restaurant and retail space, and the second would be used for light manufacturing. The other floors would be office space, although the top floor could be an art gallery, he said.

The building's Hamilton Street façade also will be restored, he said.

According to the terms of the sale, Charles Street must have the restaurant operating and the façade work completed within two years of the opening of the proposed downtown hockey arena, Unger said. The arena is at the heart of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

No deadline was set for renting the office space because it is hard to predict what the market for it will be, Unger said, adding the upper stories could be "shell space" for a time.

The project will use Neighborhood Improvement Zone financing, so it needs to be approved by the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority, Unger said.