Thursday, March 29, 2007

Two young professionals behind Allentown's $175 Million Waterfront Project

The developers of the huge waterfront project in Allentown are two young men who formed their company two years ago.
Developers Ryan Dunn and Andy Twiggar
Dunn is 28 years old. Twiggar is 35. They formed Dunn Twiggar in 2005, after working together for a year at Dunn Noble Development Co., a company that included Dunn's father and built Walgreen's drug stores in the area.

City officials are satisfied, in large part because Dunn and Twiggar don't plan to develop the Waterfront alone. They have had discussions with a Philadelphia company, which they won't identify, and others about partnering. They are open to selling building sites to other companies.

The pair say they have built an experienced team around them. It includes market analyst Tripp Umbach and architect Burt, Hill, both of Pittsburgh; traffic consultant Taggart Associates of Bethlehem; attorney Joseph J. Plunkett of Allentown; and Dunn's father, Michael Dunn, who has 30 years of development experience.

Ryan Dunn has worked in development and real estate for about six years, Twiggar for about nine. Together, they have a resume of about $40 million in development projects.

They spent more than a year on the project, identifying hurdles and how to jump them, before they had it together enough even to publicly announce it.

'We definitely know the hurdles,'' Dunn said. ''We feel this is a project we can accomplish. We wouldn't be spending our time and money to do it if we didn't feel this way.''

The Waterfront would be the most expensive redevelopment project in Allentown's history.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski tires of the naysayers who doubt good things can happen in the city. He says Allentown's successes don't get enough attention.

''Everybody said we would never do anything with Hess's,'' he said of the site of the former department store that's now the Plaza at PPL Center. ''Everyone said nothing would happen with those buildings across the street,'' he said, referring to the Alvin H. Butz Corporate Center across from the plaza.

Development along the Lehigh River has been spotty. Only one significant plan has been floated: the Lehigh Landing entertainment district at Front and Hamilton streets. That was in the late 1980s, three mayors ago. Initial plans included night life, dining, ball fields, town homes and an elaborate transportation museum.

Only recently has work started on the first component, the America on Wheels transportation museum. It is slated to open in April 2008.

What makes the Waterfront project different from the city-driven Lehigh Landing, city officials and the developers say, is the Waterfront is privately financed and driven.

Two springs ago Dunn and Twiggar first eyed the Lehigh Structural Steel site, stretching from the proposed location of the American Parkway bridge to just south of Allen Street.

It's a collection of industrial buildings including a tire warehouse, dog kennel, cryogenics business and an Air Products facility.

Dunn and Twiggar focused on what isn't easily seen behind the old buildings: one of the most-navigable stretches of the river.

The site was just what they were looking for -- urban, riverfront land that was accessible and could be redeveloped with an orientation toward the water. Dunn and Twiggar wanted to try the nationwide trend of pedestrian-friendly, environmentally responsible, socially interactive development. They want to build something to encourage public gathering, what urban planners call ''a sense of place.''

The developers estimate that the Waterfront would generate $6.6 million annually in property taxes for the city, county and school district, and ultimately employ 610 people.

More here.

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