Somera Road Inc. of New York City released its interior renovation plans for Allentown’s Grand Plaza, a Class-A office building it bought in April that had been in foreclosure.
Built in 2002, the building, formerly known as PPL Plaza, is in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, a tax incentive that spurred more than $1 billion in construction and renovation in downtown Allentown.
The company plans to update the interior design first and then rejuvenate the outdoor plaza space in front of the building next year.
“We are in full design mode, finalizing the architectural design,” said Basel Bataineh, vice president of Somera Road. “We haven’t selected a local contractor yet. We are looking forward to working with someone with experience working in the NIZ.”
Somera Road hired ESa, an architectural firm from Nashville, Tennessee, to do the interior renovations. He declined to disclose an estimated cost for the renovations.
Bataineh said the vast majority of the original design is timeless, with some modern features that some designers are putting into buildings today.
“We are really looking to breathe some new life into the building without changing the character,” Bataineh said.
The firm will make some changes to the lobby, upgrade existing office spaces and renovate the 22,000-square-foot-outdoor plaza space fronting Hamilton Street.
Bataineh said the firm wants to activate the space by adding green space, seating, and areas for events and food and beverage options in addition to live music and fitness programs for the downtown community.
“I do think it’s underutilized outside of more marquee events,” Bataineh said.
Having the outdoor space available is a rare amenity for an office building of this type, he added.
He expects to have the interior renovations complete by the first quarter of 2020 and the exterior finishes later.
Overall, Bataineh sees potential for the building to play a role in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Allentown.
“I think the building speaks for itself,” Bataineh said. “It’s in a downtown that has been absolutely transformed since the building was built.”
Downtown Allentown’s revitalization has been similar to the revitalizations of downtowns he has seen across the country, he added.
The building has four tenants – PPL, BB&T, Gold Credit Union, and Bon Appetite café, with more than 200,000 square feet of available space.
JLL is representing Somera Road in leasing the space.