For five years, the Lehigh Valley has seen a sharp shift in the types of development.
The market is migrating from single-family detached residential construction, the primary development type for more than 50 years, to assisted living and apartment communities and warehouse, logistics and commercial box-manufacturing buildings.
These trends are expected to continue in 2016, though the length of the growth in greenfield freight-based facilities is anticipated to level off around 2020, as key locations around critical highway and freight rail lines will be developed.
This will cause densification of freight facilities and open redevelopment opportunities around highway interchanges and along primary and secondary rail-freight corridors throughout the region.
Since 2010, the Lehigh Valley has sustained between 350 and 425 new subdivision and development proposals per year. Between 150-175 of these plans reach final approval and development each year.
It is expected the quantity of new development proposals will remain roughly the same this year, though the locations are evolving.
More than 50 percent of new residential construction the last year consists of apartments. This is occurring in cities and suburbs, with the largest apartment developments in Palmer Township (306 units), downtown Allentown (168) and Easton (110).
The apartment development trend will continue the next decade, as real demand and need exist for new rental product in locations that are walkable, connected to largely urban eating, shopping, event and other recreational amenities.
The most successful market-rate apartment developments in recent years are in the cities, as consumer preferences have shifted to the multimodal, urban amenities model these places provide.
The region’s rental housing shortage can easily be addressed by reuse of existing buildings coupled with targeted new construction in communities whose development is backed by the “transportation trifecta” – defined by equal parts walkability, bike-ability and drive-ability.