City Cen­ter jug­gles res­i­den­tial projects

De­vel­oper scales back its largest apart­ment build­ing, ac­cel­er­ates project at for­mer ho­tel

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Waga­man

J.B. Reilly’s City Cen­ter In­vest­ment Corp. is re­duc­ing the size of what had been its largest pro­posed apart­ment build­ing to date in down­town Al­len­town.

Cen­ter Square Lofts East at South Sev­enth and Wal­nut streets will of­fer 169 apart­ments on four floors in­stead of 220 apart­ments on six floors. An un­der­ground park­ing deck will have 188 spa­ces in­stead of 239.

The scaled-back but still roughly $40 mil­lion com­plex “al­lows us to keep our cost struc­ture un­der con­trol so we can fea­si­bly move for­ward with the project,” Reilly said fol­low­ing a plan­ning com­mis­sion meet­ing Tues­day.

The de­ci­sion also en­ables City Cen­ter to ac­cel­er­ate devel­op­ment of its “fi­nan­cially at­tain­able” apart­ment com­plex at the for­mer Hol­i­day Inn site.

City Cen­ter an­nounced plans in July to con­vert the va­cant nine-floor ho­tel in the 900 block of Hamil­ton Street into 120 apart­ments and con­struct a fourstory apart­ment build­ing with 78 more units in the place of the razed con­fer­ence space along South Ninth Street.

“By par­ing back this project, it gave us the fi­nan­cial where­withal to move for­ward more ag­gres­sively with Ci­typlace, which we think is a re­ally im­por­tant project to get into the mar­ket­place so more peo­ple work­ing down­town can af­ford to live down­town,” Reilly said.

Rents at the for­mer Hol­i­day Inn site will start at $750 for stu­dios and $900 for one-bed­room apart­ments. Rents at Cen­ter Square Lofts East, which plan­ners ap­proved Tues­day, will range from $1,200 to $1,700, Reilly es­ti­mated.

The re­vised Cen­ter Square Lofts Easts plan main­tains most of the same aes­thetic fea­tures. Gone is a five-level glass hall­way near the north­east cor­ner of the build­ing.

How­ever, the units fill­ing in that space will have floor-to­ceil­ing win­dows.

The build­ing will still of­fer ameni­ties such as a fit­ness cen­ter, yoga stu­dio, pet spa and con­fer­ence rooms, among other things. A rooftop ter­race and lounge over­look­ing Cen­ter Square will of­fer a two-sided fire­place, kitchen and ceil­ing­mounted swings.

The build­ing is ad­ja­cent to the nearly com­pleted 95-unit apart­ment build­ing at South Eighth and Wal­nut streets, known as Cen­ter Square West. They’ll share a court­yard with fire pits, grilling sta­tions and a pool with a sun­deck, a first among City Cen­ter’s apart­ment build­ings.

Plan­ner Chris­tian Brown ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment that the ground floor on the eastern side of the build­ing, along South Sev­enth Street, will no longer “ac­ti­vate” the street as much as the pre­vi­ous plan be­cause of the loss of win­dows and a few walk-up units, sim­i­lar to what City Cen­ter of­fers at its Wal­nut

Street Com­mons at South Sixth and Wal­nut streets.

Project man­ager Robert DiLorenzo noted that South Sev­enth Street, with its three lanes of traf­fic, doesn’t have the same in­ti­mate res­i­den­tial feel as par­al­lel blocks. City Cen­ter had to tweak the de­sign to ac­com­mo­date stor­age space re­quire­ments, DiLorenzo said, and the new build­ing side will in­clude ivy screens to soften the aes­thetic.

City Cen­ter’s ini­tial plan for the site, in April 2017, pro­posed an en­ter­tain­ment com­plex that was to in­clude a 1,400-seat con­cert hall with a re­tractable wall open­ing to a 2-acre park. That plan was shelved in June 2018.

In­clud­ing the on­go­ing ren­o­va­tion of the for­mer Hol­i­day Inn site at Ninth and Hamil­ton streets, City Cen­ter will have built nearly 900 res­i­den­tial units down­town by 2021.

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