By Dana Bonner
Spanning twenty-nine acres on the western banks of the Lehigh River, the Waterfront Development includes plans for apartment-style living, workspaces, and a commuting road and trail from Hamilton Street in Allentown into Whitehall Township. This project will be built on a former industrial site. The Waterfront is part of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, aka the NIZ, a special tax district created by Pennsylvania state law in 2012 to revitalize center city Allentown and the Lehigh riverfront.
The project has recently received a $21-million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a new roadway to connect the Delaware and Lehigh trail to Allentown. The D&L Trail follows the Lehigh Canal from Easton to Bethlehem to Allentown. The hope is to connect these three cities and establish Allentown as a major hub connecting Manhattan to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The project is planned to alleviate congestion on several major corridors and reconnect people to a part of Lehigh that has been inaccessible for the last century.
This Riverside Drive would give residents access to a new north-south connection for LANTA bus trips as well as the Delaware and Lehigh Trail. It is predicted to boost economic development and tourism as well as provide work opportunities. The project is expected to add $100 million in total opportunities, increase real estate tax revenue from 2012’s $120,000 to $4+ million, create more than 2,900 permanent jobs within five commercial office buildings, and house more than 750 residents in four residential apartment complexes. The plan is to also make the Lehigh Riverfront a fun destination for biking, walking and enjoying nature.
According to WFMZ, some residents are concerned about how the project will impact residents. However, The Allentown community can seemingly expect many benefits from this new project. “It’s going to connect people in downtown Allentown to recreational areas, to work sites, and it’s just going to be an amazing addition,” Representative Susan Wild commented to WFMZ. The project is estimated to have its first building built by October of 2022.