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Lehigh Valley commercial development on the upswing

Published On: May 02 2013 07:28:39 AM CDT
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -

From huge warehouses to housing developments to new and renovated diners, anyone attending the 8th annual “state of the Lehigh Valley real estate” program had to be convinced business is picking up – simply based on sheer volume.

The bulk of Wednesday afternoon’s program consisted of a comprehensive review of local commercial projects, as well as residential developments, that were built or sold in 2012, will be built, sold or redeveloped in 2013 or are planned for the near future. Even large land sales were included.

The program was presented by Dietrick Group, a full-service commercial real estate firm based in Upper Macungie Township. It was attended by 200 “real estate industry insiders” – including developers, builders, brokers and investors.

For more than 90 minutes Linda Dietrick, founder and managing partner of Dietrick Group, shared an exhaustive list of projects large and small, as images and statistics about each of them briefly flashed on four screens behind her. Those statistics included names and locations of buildings, their owners, purpose, developers, size and cost per square foot.

Rather than being in some bland meeting room, the program was held inside the new Revolutions Saucon Valley, which offers bowling alleys, a restaurant and more along Route 378 in Lower Saucon Township.

Dietrick selects a different venue every year for its program, focusing on new area highlights.

Revolutions itself was part of Dietrick’s report. She said it was the former Hoyt movie theater. “The project was 40,500 square feet. We’ve got 24 bowling alley lanes here, a sports theater, there’s an arcade upstairs and, of course, the dining and the bar. Cost of construction and renovation: $2.8 million. It was completed in January of this year.”

Long segments of recitations about properties were interspersed with videos of Dietrick employees clowning to music at Revolutions and in their office, concluding with the Harlem Shake.

The program also included video clips of Neighborhood Improvement Zone construction in center city Allentown and the proposed Waterfront NIZ project along the city’s Lehigh River at the Tilghman Street Bridge.

The center-city NIZ project was called “the biggest urban revitalization project in the country right now.”

Think of almost any project recently done, being done or even just proposed in the Lehigh Valley –including the 33-story skyscraper in Allentown -- and Dietrick probably touched on it.

However, anyone who attended the program hoping to hear a discussion, analysis and/or forecast about Lehigh Valley real estate – as the program was promised -- may have been disappointed.

The clearest summary was in a news release, where Dietrick stated: “This past year was one of continued activity across the board, albeit a little slow in some sectors. We are not out of the woods yet, but there has been moderate tempered growth throughout the Valley.”

She did offer some statistics about local population, incomes and business at the beginning of her presentation, but she was hampered by a faulty microphone for the first several minutes.

Dietrick got some laughs when she mentioned the new 400-seat Golden Corral restaurant in Whitehall, which offers “an extensive buffet.”

“The lines just wrap around this thing forever. I don’t get it. The chocolate fountain does sound interesting, though. It’s their first location in the Valley since 2005. Construction started in July, they opened in January and it’s just butt kickin’.”

Dietrick reported the $110-million Ocean Spray plant in Upper Macungie should be completed in September.

She also reported the Crayola Experience Center will reopen this month in Easton, after a $1.5 million expansion. It will have retail on the first floor and 18 “Crayon stations” on the other floor.