City Center juggles residential projects
Developer scales back its largest apartment building, accelerates project at former hotel
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.