The Allentown Planning Commission approved a 61-unit senior apartment project Tuesday that would allow Sacred Heart Hospital to add more services for the growing geriatric population.
“We are going to lease the entire first floor,” John Nespoli, president and CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital, said this morning. “We are calling it a comprehensive approach to providing care and support to the geriatric population.”
Pennrose Properties of Philadelphia will construct the four-story, 66,000-square-foot building at Fifth and Turner streets.
The first floor will include three medical service areas. One area will be an outpatient rehabilitation center that includes physical and occupational therapy, a second will be a geriatric assessment and care center with staff that includes social workers, behavioral health specialists, rehabilitation specialists and nurses. The third section will be office spaces for family physicians, Nespoli said.
Next month, Pennrose plans to start demolition of 15 row houses on the site. By year’s end, it expects to start construction, said Kyle Speece, senior developer of Pennrose Properties. Total construction cost is $9.2 million, he said. Construction should be complete by the end of next year.
Almost all of the row houses are vacant, he said. Pennrose owns nearly all 15 houses and has the remaining properties under agreement of sale, Speece said.
The company received final land development approval Tuesday and still needs zoning variances, he said.
“These are mainly related to the amount of setback from the surrounding roads,” Speece said.
Since the project is directly adjacent to Sacred Heart Hospital, the development offers benefits, he said. Sacred Heart will support Pennrose’s efforts to attract tenants and link them to health care services.
“The development presents us with a real opportunity for collaboration with the hospital,” Speece said. “It can be a real complex for aging in place and continued living.”
To be known as Sacred Heart Residences, it will be an income-restricted building. Monthly rents for one-bedroom units will be a maximum of $801, with two-bedroom units at a maximum of $961. Some units will rent for less than that, Speece said.
“We have been talking about this for a couple of years,” Nespoli said. “It’s the continuation of the revitalization of the neighborhood.”
The project is only a few blocks from the Allentown Art Museum and the ArtsWalk. Also, part of Pennrose’s goal, in partnership with Sacred Heart, is to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
“We are certainly aware of the happenings in downtown Allentown, it certainly is proximate to the action but it offers some housing for seniors,” Speece said. “We think we are enhancing the pedestrian-friendly nature of the downtown.”
Downtown Allentown, of course, is home to more than $1 billion in new and proposed development, such as office buildings, retail and restaurants and apartments.
As part of the project, Pennrose will improve all four corners of Fifth and Turner streets, Speece said.
“I think it will be very attractive,” Nespoli said. “It’s really a neighborhood that’s coming back.”
Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba is the law firm handling the project, said Joseph Fitzpatrick, shareholder and founder of the firm. He is also vice chairman of the board of directors for Sacred Heart Healthcare System.
“It’s clearly an investment in the neighborhood and an upgrade in the quality of residences available to seniors,” Fitzpatrick said. “It is an excellent venture by a dedicated community hospital.”
Pennrose will begin leasing units as construction progresses. The company has not selected a general contractor. Kitchen & Associates of Collingswood, N.J., is the architect, Speece said.