The commission gave unanimous approval to a conceptual master plan for The Waterfront, a $275-million-dollar mixed use neighborhood along the Lehigh River. The Waterfront is planned on nearly 27 acres stretching more than a half mile along the river– the former Lehigh Structural Steel property beneath the west end of the Tilghman Street Bridge.
“This is a very significant redevelopment project occurring in the city,” said Michael Hefele, Allentown’s planning director. “The proposal calls for over one million square feet of new development – a mix of commercial, office, residential and retail uses, as well as almost 2,800 parking spaces. It’s a significant addition to the city’s waterfront.”
Although one member of the planning commission expressed some concern that The Waterfront’s proposed master plan deviated from the city’s conceptual plan, Mike Hefele stated The Waterfront plan conforms to the overall intent of the city’s Lehigh Riverfront Master Plan, including open space and public access to the river. He said the city’s plan is a guide for redevelopment, but some decisions should be left to developers who have to market what they build.
“It’s a great opportunity for the city to see new development happen on the riverfront,” said planner Christian Brown.
“There’s obviously more than one way to do this,” said Hefele. “We had a number of discussions with the developer very early on about that very issue. Obviously, we like the master plan approach but we’re also respectful of the developers’ vision of their site and their need to be able to market it to the type of users and tenants they feel they need to attract to make the development successful. The differences are not fatal by any means. It’s another way to develop the site and we’re willing to go along with it.”
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