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New life coming for Allentown's old Lehigh Valley Trust building

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: May 09 2013 05:07:35 AM CDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

An old jewel will gleam among the new in center-city Allentown.

The Lehigh Valley Trust Co. building on Allentown’s Center Square is set to be brought back to life as a facility catering “high-end” events such as weddings, corporate lunches, holiday parties, bar mitzvahs and other celebrations and social gatherings.

Built around 1910, the building at 634 Hamilton St. has a domed Victorian stained-glass ceiling surrounded by decorative plaster crown molding, 40 feet above its marble floor. It also has a huge chandelier and four stainless steel bank vaults.

The new business will be named Vault 634 and promoted as “a New York City quality venue.”

The building is owned by Jaindl Properties LLC. Mark Jaindl, the company’s president, anticipates spending nearly $3 million on the building before it opens.

“It’s going to be a very significant investment.”

Jaindl described the building as “absolutely beautiful” and said he intends to retain as much of its original historical appearance as possible.

He anticipates wedding receptions, which typically attract about 150 guests, probably will be the biggest events in the facility. “We’re anticipating maybe 20 weddings the first year and then growing from there. It will build up over time.”

He expects the place eventually will host 50 to 100 events a year, adding: “It could be more.” He said it will have seating for as many 250 people.

Jaindl revealed his plans for the building to Lehigh County commissioners Wednesday night.

“This is part of the renaissance of downtown Allentown,” declared Commissioner Percy Dougherty.

Commissioner Dan McCarthy congratulated Jaindl, saying he bought the building when things weren’t too exciting in downtown Allentown -- where the steel frames of new buildings now are rising higher every day – “and now they’re becoming exciting. It’s great that you saw that coming.”

Responded Jaindl: “I wish I could say I saw that coming.”

Zachary Jaindl, chief operating officer at Jaindl Properties, said Vault 634 will bring “high-end events to the center of Allentown, to make it a destination location for the city.”

Commissioners had first reading—but no vote -- on a proposed ordinance authorizing the sale of 859 square feet of the plaza in front of the Lehigh County Government Center to Jaindl Properties for $12,884.10.

The rear of Jaindl’s building is next to the government center’s S. 7th Street entrance.
Jaindl needs a rectangular chunk of the plaza so he can build a rear entrance to his building, along with stairs and an elevator to make it handicapped accessible.

He said the elevator also is needed to access the building’s rear mezzanine, which will have seating for at least 100 people, as well as for restrooms in the basement.
Jaindl said the cost of just that small addition will be $650,000 to $750,000. He said another $2 million will be spent on other work inside the building.

The commissioners probably will vote on approving that sale at their May 22 meeting.

Commissioner Vic Mazziotti was surprised to learn so much money is being put into a building where the primary purpose will be catering events, but told the Jaindls: “I’m sure you know what you are doing.”

Food will be delivered by subcontracted caterers before each event, but tables and chairs will remain in the building.

No construction start date has been set.

“We are still in the early phases of this project and carefully planning each detail of the building,” said Zachary Jaindl. “We are taking our time in designing the space to ensure historical integrity while maximizing quality. It may take some time to ensure all our goals are met.”

He added the building “will need to be fully code and ADA compliant before we open to the public.”

Mark Jaindl told commissioners that ample parking is within two blocks of Vault 364.

Glenn Solt, general services director for the county, said a proposal is being prepared to “sell” spaces on the county’s parking deck during hours when the deck is not needed by county employees.

Jaindl bought the building almost nine years ago. Except for some charitable and private events, it has been unused.

“This building has been dormant for a long, long time,” said McCarthy. “It’s a beautiful building on the inside. It’s got all the charm of early 20th-century construction.”

Mazziotti also thanked the Jaindls for preserving such a beautiful building.