A neighborhood of cottages is being proposed in a quiet corner of south Allentown.
It will be the first cottage development of its type in the Lehigh Valley, according to the developers, who hope it will serve as a model to build others locally.
Forty-nine cottages are proposed at South Sixth and West Cumberland streets, where both streets end at the hilltop site of the former Montex textile mill.
The developers plan to have Sixth Street loop around to connect with the end of Cumberland.
Called Cumberland Commons, it will be a new kind of residential community in the city said Atty. Jack Gross, who represents the developers -- “a pocket neighborhood development.”
“We’re very excited about it,” said Richard Kontir, one of the principals of Cottage Communities LP, the developer. “It’s going to add a lot of value to the community. We want this to be something the city and the local community will be proud of.”
They propose building small cottages with room-size front porches, designed as starter homes for young couples or down-sizing empty nesters. “This really isn’t a family oriented type development at all,” said Kontir.
He said the cottages will range from 700 to just under 1,700 square feet, with an average size of about 1,200 square feet.
The units will sell for $100,000 to more than $200,000. “This is intended to be high-quality housing,” said Gross.
A concept plan for Cumberland Commons was put before the Allentown Planning Commission for an initial informal review Tuesday afternoon. The project will require an amendment to Allentown’s zoning law that must be approved by City Council.
The plan is to have a proposed zoning amendment ordinance introduced to City Council on June 19. If approved, that ordinance will give the developers a green light to proceed with more detailed planning. Then the project will go back before the planning commission for a formal review leading to approval.
“We could be breaking ground over there the first half of next year,” predicted Kontir. He declined to say when all 49 cottages will be completed, indicating the development may be done in phases.
“They’re introducing a new housing type to the city,” said Michael Hefele, Allentown’s planning director. “If everything turns out the way it’s supposed to be, it will be a very attractive development.”
Kontir said the “pocket neighborhood development” concept focuses on community, safety and privacy.
Most of the cottages will face green common areas, creating a safer environment and increasing the sense of community, according to the developers.
The units will be designed so they technically have two fronts, planners were told. And their interiors will be designed so people can walk through them without going into bedrooms.
The cottages will have no more than three bedrooms and those third bedrooms will be very small and marketed as home office space, said Hefele.
Hefele told the planners they were getting a “sneak peak” at Cumberland Commons in case they wanted anything incorporated into the proposed ordinance before it is introduced to City Council. He said he’s been working with the developers for nearly a year.
City resident Edward Roth, who lives in that neighborhood since 1969, was the only resident to address the planning commission about Cumberland Commons. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in south Allentown in my life,” declared Roth. “It’s a great idea.”
Roy Pascal, the other Cottage Communities principal, said they want Cumberland Commons done right because they intend to use it as a model to replicate elsewhere in Allentown and in other Lehigh Valley communities.
Both single and small groupings of attached cottages are depicted in the concept plan, which may change as the development evolves. Kontir said each home will have a small private yard, surrounded by a low fence and garden gate.
The common areas of Cumberland Commons will be owned by a neighborhood homeowners association, to which the homeowners will pay dues.
Cottages built on the six-plus-acre site will not have basements.
“With that being on a brownfield site, you probably want to minimize exposure,” commented commission vice chairman Anthony Toth.
Each cottage will have a garage, although not all of them will be attached to the homes.
Many garages will be clustered off to the side of the neighborhood, said Kontir.
The plan will require rezoning 11 properties, from Business/Light Industrial and Medium High Density Residential to Medium Density Residential.
If the proposed zoning change is approved, other such developments will need a minimum tract size of four acres.
Because of the residential neighborhood around it, Gross was skeptical anyone would ever attempt another industrial use for that section of the property now zoned for business/light industrial.
Hefele confirmed that, saying: “An industrial use would be very undesirable to put back in this neighborhood. It certainly doesn’t have visibility and it just does not have good access.”
Cottage Communities has an agreement of sale to purchase the property from the Allentown Economic Development Corporation.