Monday, February 12, 2007

Lots of housing development in our downtowns and affordable too!


A Bethlehem developer received unanimous approval Wednesday night from the Easton Planning Commission to add a third level of parking for a proposed 10-story, condominium high-rise downtown at the former Marquis Theatre site.

Ashley Development Corp. received permission in November to demolish the theater and turn the property into a nine-story high-rise with 169 parking spaces on two levels. The spaces would now increase by 58 to 227.

But before any construction work can start, the city's Historic District Commission must offer a recommendation to City Council for its approval. The commission meets again at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Ashley continues working on its other $11 million, 30-unit condominium project in the downtown — the former Pomeroy's department store on Northampton Street.

The company received preliminary approval from the Planning Commission in December to build 74 townhouses at the former Lincoln Textile Products Co. site on the South Side at Philadelphia Road and St. John Street, just north of Interstate 78 in Williams Township.


Townes at Trexler Square at Walnut and Lumber streets.

Eventually, the development by Nic Zawarski & Sons of Bethlehem will consist of 63 two- to three-bedroom townhouses with oversize one-car garages in the rear of the buildings.

The builder is replacing three unused city parking lots with the new homes.

John Zawarski, director of sales and marketing for his family's company, says the project, unique for the city, should be a key to its revitalization.

''What brand new [residential housing] has been built on this scale in downtown Allentown in the last 20 years? The answer is nothing,'' he says. ''Yet there's a huge work force in downtown Allentown who likes working down there and wants to live down there.''

The first phase, which is 14 homes just west of Eighth Street, should be ready by late spring or early summer. The foundations were poured and framing has begun.

A second phase of 18 homes will be built in the 100 block of S. Eighth Street. Site work should begin later this month. That's also when sales of those units should begin.

Another 30 to 32 townhouses will be built in the 900 block of Jackson Street. Construction on the third phase will begin when the second phase is well under way.

The townhomes in phase one start at $220,000 with a number of upgrades available.

Set in a courtyard, each 1,500- to 1,900 square-foot unit will feature Colonial-style exteriors, including brick facades, with accented transom windows and dormers. Additionally, each unit will include parking for more than three vehicles and have 21/2 to 31/2 baths.

All the units will consist of three levels; the main level will have 9-foot ceilings, a family room, dinning room and kitchen.

The master bedroom will have a large walk-in closet and the master bathroom a whirlpool tub with a separate shower.

The exteriors are designed to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and have architectural features that give them a historic look.

While the homes are built to resemble a classic townhouse typical of cities such as Philadelphia and Allentown, they also feature modern conveniences. For example, each home is wired for high-speed Internet access.

The units will be governed by a homeowner's association that will maintain all the common areas and be responsible for snow removal and landscaping.

Options include a rooftop terrace, a den, Corian or granite countertops, upgraded kitchen cabinetry, and hardwood and tile floors.

Another advantage of the townhouses is that they are in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, a statewide program aimed at encouraging revitalization of economically depressed neighborhoods. As a result, as long as the owners live in the townhouses, they will be exempt from real estate, personal state and local income taxes until 2011. (The transfer tax on the purchase of a home is not exempt.)

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