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ACIDA approves $37-million building for Allentown

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 23 2013 04:39:13 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2013 10:10:13 PM CDT

ACIDA awards Colonial Theater lot contract

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Yet another new building will soon take its place in the rapidly changing landscape of center-city Allentown.

A proposal by Center City developer J.B. Reilly to erect a $37-million office and retail building on the site of the former Colonial Theater was approved Tuesday afternoon by the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority.

Reilly will pay $1 million for the property in the 500 block of Hamilton Street, which will be the site of a five-story building, called Three City Center, which he expects to be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.

If the finished building is larger, Reilly will pay an extra five cents a square foot.

ACIDA chose Reilly's proposal over one made by Alvin H. Butz and THINKLab, which offered to pay $800,000 for the property and build a 10- to 15-story mixed-use structure that would have been completed by June 30, 2016.

The Butz-THINKLab proposal offered an extra $400,000 to be paid at some future date, according to ACIDA executive director Scott Unger.

Unger said the selection committee recommended Reilly's proposal  because it would mean "more feet on the street sooner."

"We're at a critical point of momentum," Unger said. "To have [the property] sit vacant [longer] would be a negative."

The deal still requires the approval of the Lehigh County commissioners because the county owns 23 percent of the property, Unger pointed out.

Three City Center will have a total of 110,000 square feet, including 8,500 square feet of first-floor retail space. It also will have an underground parking structure with 112 spaces.

With this new undertaking, Reilly's company will have invested more than $300 million in projects around the city's hockey arena.

After the meeting, Reilly said, "We want to move forward quickly because we don't have enough space in our other buildings. We're getting people coming up to us every day."

He said that in the quarter-century he has been involved with Allentown's downtown, "I've never seen [this] level of intensity [in] interest and demand."

Reilly said Three City Center will be architecturally compatible with neighboring buildings, including the Old Lehigh County Courthouse. It will have entrances on both Hamilton Street and the Allentown Arts Park.

Another proposed feature will be a 6,000-square-foot green roof space.