As plans to demolish the Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in East Allentown get back on track, Allentown’s Democratic state Rep. Mike Schlossberg is saying it’s the right thing to do.
“We need to move forward with demolition,” he said.
State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Allentown) introduced legislation June 3 that would call for a competitive-bid sale of the nearly 200-acre property, but only after demolition of all structures on the property, except for a state-owned air monitoring station.
Original demolition plans were put on hold last month after an Allentown developer, Nat Hyman, filed a lawsuit against the project. He withdrew a preliminary injunction against the state after it agreed to put the demolition on hold and give him 30 days’ notice if it restarted demolition plans.
Schlossberg said part of the bill does address the issues brought forth in the lawsuit and is aimed at getting the demolition back on track and the property sold.
Hyman had relied on a local ordinance in his original lawsuit, but the legislation introduced by Browne directly states that it would supersede any local ordinances, taking the wind out of Hyman’s legal challenge.
The bill also would terminate negotiations with TCA Properties of Doylestown, which had been awarded a contract to purchase the property at a negotiated rate after the demolition was complete.
Schlossberg said since the state announced that it would be demolishing the property, a number of new parties have come forward and he expects there will be interest in buying the land once the buildings are gone.
He noted that prior to that notice the property had sat vacant with little to no interest for a long time.
“For nine years people would tour the property and say, ‘Nope. We can’t do this in a way that is economically responsible.’ It’s time to move on,” he said.
Hyman, who has redeveloped a number of properties in Allentown, has said he can successfully rehabilitate the vacant properties and he disagrees with those who say it can’t be done.
Hyman said he was unsure if there was anything he could or would do to continue his fight if Browne’s bill becomes law.
“I will be talking to my lawyer,” he said. “This is very disappointing.”
Besides Hyman’s interest there had been other public outcry over the demolition of the 107-year-old hospital on the property.
The property and its main building got a great deal of attention after the release earlier this year of the M. Night Shyamalan movie “Glass,” which was filmed on the property in 2017.
That shined a spotlight on some of the structure’s historic architecture, and a number of petitions were circulated in the Lehigh Valley calling for its preservation. Those petitions gathered several thousand signatures.
But Schlossberg said the important part of the proposed legislation was that it puts a guiding hand over the future of the property.
Under the legislation, a committee would be established to review bids. On the committee would be Browne and Schlossberg, the state secretary of General Services and a representative of the city of Allentown.
The committee would take bids, but consider them based on what is best for the community and not just the highest dollar bid.
Browne did not return calls for comment.