Now that they’ve received unanimous approval from the city’s planning commission, two Allentown developers hope to build a “big sister” to an apartment complex in the city’s Sixth Ward neighborhood.
Developers John Palumbo and Alex Wright of Urban Residential Properties have won commission approval for a seven-story, 61-unit apartment complex on North Railroad Street. They plan to name the new building Riverview Lofts II, a nod to the adjacent Riverview Lofts I, a 22-unit building on Allen Street, which was completed over a year ago.
It’s yet another step forward in the wave of development to come along the city’s Lehigh River: the first of 12 buildings that will make up Jaindl Enterprises’ Waterfront project will open this year. Wright and Palumbo’s Riverfront Lofts project, which will be another apartment complex on nearby Front Street, also opens this year.
Riverview Lofts II would consist of 10 three-bedroom apartments, 29 two-bedroom apartments and 22 one-bedroom apartments; a gym and year-round indoor pool; and retail space on the first floor.
Commission members praised the building’s design, which uses red brickwork in keeping with the surrounding buildings, and spacious apartments.
“The plan looks amazing, it seems well thought out in terms of providing a great space for families,” said commissioner Kelli Holzman.
When the project was proposed in 2020, several residents wrote letters of support to the city. Some have applauded the effect the development will have on the Sixth Ward, where much of the housing stock is run down or in disrepair.
The apartment building would provide 71 new underground parking spaces, some of which could be accessible to the public. But the Sixth Ward is a dense neighborhood with limited parking, and some locals fear the new building will make it even scarcer.
The developers plan to consolidate eight plots of land into one for the new building.
One of these plots is land owned by the Allentown Parking Authority with 22 spaces, at least some of which are occupied. Developers will work with the city and parking authority to create a temporary parking plan before construction begins, they said.
Beth Sipos runs Egypt Star Bakery, which has four locations in the Lehigh Valley, including one near the development. She rents five parking spaces in the parking lot for bakery employees and said the lack of parking in the neighborhood makes it difficult to work.
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“Parking in this area is non-existent now, so what are people supposed to do?” said Sipos. “I can’t imagine living there; it’s bad enough working there with the parking lot.”
“Parking is going to be a problem,” said James Spang, a neighborhood resident and president of the Riverfront Civic Association.
Despite concerns, the plans have the number of parking spaces legally required for a development of its size. Commission members said the parking issues were valid, but said the project could still go ahead.
“While I would certainly encourage … the developer to make available as much public parking as possible at the facility, that is absolutely not a dealbreaker,” said board member and comptroller Jeff Glazier. town.
Commission members also asked the developers if they were looping through the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which operates a cemetery next to the new development. The developers said church leaders were involved in the planning.
Developers must submit detailed design and construction plans to city zoning staff for review before construction begins.
Morning Call reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at 610-820-6681 and [email protected].