Coworking space debuts in Easton

A multi-story building that’s been vacant for several years is now home to new coworking space in downtown Easton.

Mark Calafatello and his wife, Maryanne Russell, two former New Yorkers who live in Williams Township near Easton, completed the transformation of the six-story building at 403 Northampton St. into high-end co-working space and had a soft opening last week.

They plan to have an official ribbon cutting on March 2 and will begin their advertising campaign in mid-March.

The property, Reeds403 Co-working Lounge, has 3,000 square feet available on the first and second floors, and another 3,000 square feet on the upper floors if needed.

So far, the feedback they’ve received is positive, he said. Users have 24-hour access to the building via a key on the member’s smartphone. Members pay $100 per month to use the space.

“The range of age and industry has been great, everything from professors at Lafayette to people who are newly displaced and looking for places to work,” Calafatello said.

People are also showing interest in using the space as a gathering place, including women’s groups who want to use it for potluck dinners, he added.

The space as not just serving office workers but people in the community looking for a place with a relaxing, yet high-end vibe.

He’s seeing different types of people getting together in the space, “bridging communities with like-minded ideas.”

“For me, diversity is what keeps it exciting and interesting,” Calafatello said. “So far, all the feedback has been great.”


Dollar General going up in South Whitehall

A Dollar General is going up on Walbert Avenue in South Whitehall Township. (PHOTO/STACY WESCOE) –

A Dollar General store is under construction on Walbert Avenue in South Whitehall Township, with a targeted completion this spring.

Mike Goffredo Jr., vice president of MSG Associates of Moore Township, said his company is building the store, which will be about 9,000 square feet and should be finished in May.

His company has built several Dollar General stores and this project should cost about $1 million, he added.

Workers are completing interior framing, finishing the roofing and trim, concrete and sidewalks as well as site utilities and storm water drainage, in addition to plumbing, mechanical and electrical work. Parking will be on the east side of the building.

The new store will be at 2032/2070 Walbert Ave.

The site is near Kay Builders 788-unit mixed-use project set to go up at the corner of North Cedar Crest Boulevard and Walbert Avenue.

MSG Associates recently relocated from Wind Gap to 553 Nazareth Drive in Moore Township, according to Goffredo.

Report shows Lehigh Valley leans heavily toward seller’s market

For homeowners looking to sell, the market continues to lean heavily in their favor with the continued lack of inventory of new homes.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors released its January data, which showed tight inventory continuing to constrain buyer activity.

“We are still getting a ton of offers on anything for $400,000 and below,” said Jack Gross, president of GLVR. “It’s a great time to be a seller and a challenge to be a buyer. Until inventory increases, I don’t see a change to it.”

The 25.4 percent decrease in inventory from the previous year, as reported in the GLVR annual data for 2019, when inventory was already low, was a surprising figure, according to Gross. In addition, this led to a months’ supply of inventory that was down 25 percent to 1.8 months, a record low, according to the annual report. In a housing market balanced between buyers and sellers, the months’ supply of inventory is between six and seven months.

“A lot of the new construction being done is apartments,” Gross said. “There’s definitely a lack of inventory and that’s a problem.”

However, nationally, there could be hope for an increase in housing construction.

Nationally, new home construction sales should increase 10 percent in 2020, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

“National median home price growth is in no danger of falling due to inventory shortages and will rise by 4 percent,” Yun said in the report.

Yun and others would like to see more affordable units in the market to help ease shortages and slow price gains in that segment.

For the Lehigh Valley, new listings decreased 20.8 percent to 644 in January, a drop from 813 in January 2019.

  • Pending sales were up 15 percent to 613 in January, an increase from 533 in January 2019.
  • Inventory levels shrank 34.8 percent to 1,138 units in January, a drop from 1,745 in January 2019.
  • Prices stayed even with last year, as the median sales price held steady at $185,000.
  • The figure for days on the market dropped 14.9 percent to 40 days, a drop from 47 days in January 2019.
  • Also in January, the months’ supply of inventory was down 36 percent to 1.6 months, a drop from 2.5 months in January 2019.
  • In addition, the average sales price decreased slightly, down 2.6 percent to $211,777, a drop from $217,403 in January 2019.

According to the GLVR, low interest rates and low unemployment, coupled with rising national rents, should encourage healthy buyer demand for the spring housing market.

Proposal calls for nearly 200 apartments on former Easton Days Inn property

According to a presentation on Easton’s website, a proposal calls for a mixed-use project called The Confluence, comprised of three buildings that overlook the Delaware and Lehigh rivers. –

A special committee appointed by Easton Mayor Sal Panto has urged city council to approve a plan to add nearly 200 apartment units, artist studios and 32,000 square feet of combined retail, office, and entertainment space to downtown Easton on the former Days Inn property.

The committee recommended Peron Development of Bethlehem as the developer of the nearly 4-acre site at the corner of Larry Holmes Drive and South Third Street. The committee interviewed the developers, ranked and rated their proposals, and held a subsequent clarification meeting to confirm their finalist.

City council will review the committee’s recommendation and plans to make a decision on the developer on March 11.

According to a presentation on the city’s website, the proposal calls for a mixed-use project called The Confluence, comprised of three buildings that overlook the Delaware and Lehigh rivers. The project at 185 S. Third St. would include 227 parking spaces. City Hall is next door, which has a capacity of 236 spaces.

Project amenities would include a kayak/bike share for residents, the construction of a rooftop park to offer views of the waterfront, and walkability improvements.

The project would go up across from the Heritage Riverview project under construction, the future home of Hearst Magazines.

Peron is also developing the Easton North Third Street Apartments, also called, The Seville, a 70-unit apartment building on the North Third Street parking lot.

Matthew Malozi, president of Civitas Regio of Allentown, a civil engineering firm that’s part of the development team, said the design is still in progress, largely driven by the public nature of the project.

The city has a desire for the community to be involved in the process, he added.

Fourteen of the 17 committee members voted in favor of the proposal, he said. Furthermore, the city will host several public meetings about the proposal throughout the fall.

“The initial proposal was very sensitive to the historic district,” Malozi said. “It appears to me that the city is taking its time because they want a quality project, they want community involvement.”

The other firms that are part of Peron’s team on this project are USA Architects of Easton, Boyle Construction of South Whitehall Township and Omnes Landscape Architecture Planning & Art of Easton.

John Callahan, director of business development for Peron Development, said Easton offers a very strong quality of life and there’s a tremendous opportunity for high-end apartments.

He plans to start construction on The Seville project in April, which adds more residences to the downtown.

“We are very bullish on Easton and tried to present a development that has a very broad mix of uses,” Callahan said.

That includes the potential for a 60-room boutique hotel on the former Days Inn property, in addition to the other uses.

“Our first preference would be to put a hotel there,” Callahan said. “We are very early in the process. There’s a lot to work our way through. The plan really reflects a lot of the wishes of the committee.”

He estimated the project would be in the $70 million range.

Since the property is in a floodplain, the developers would elevate the structures on the land, which allows for parking on the ground floor. On the side closer to Fourth Street, there’s potential for underground parking, he added.


DLP Capital Partners launches $1 billion investment fund

DLP Capital Partners of Hanover Township, Northampton County, announced the DLP housing fund last week at an investor dinner at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem that attracted more than 400 guests. At left, Don Wenner, CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital, meets with guests. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED) –

A local firm has begun offering a $1 billion private real estate investment fund that combines debt funding with equity investments.

DLP Capital Partners of Hanover Township, Northampton County, announced the DLP housing fund last week at an investor dinner at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem.

Company executives describe the fund as an “evergreen” or open-ended hybrid fund that combines the firm’s multifamily investment and direct lending strategies in a single fund.

“Historically, we have had two separate funds, lending and multifamily,” said Larry Hickernell, senior investor success manager of DLP Capital Partners. “Lending has always been a separate fund.”

On the equity side, DLP’s multifamily investment fund was a closed-end fund that expired at the end of a five-to-seven year term.

With the housing fund, DLP never plans to close it, since the firm will be buying and selling properties all year long, Hickernell said.

The housing fund is DLP’s eighth fund in eight years and it allows the firm to work with larger investors, he said. DLP targeted 12% or higher equity returns for this fund.

“They get the benefits of investing in real estate, but in a passive way,” Hickernell said.

The frequency of distributions is also different, as this fund allows the firm to provide monthly distributions to investors so they can grow their portfolio.

Overall, the housing fund offers investors greater flexibility. They have the ability to stay in the fund, buy more shares or exit if they want, said Richard Delgado, managing director of DLP Capital Partners. DLP structured the fund so investors can exit after a year.

Furthermore, DLP pays investors before the fund takes any money from them, added Hickernell.

Today, the company has almost 850 investors, whom Delgado described as high-net-worth individuals.

“People invest retirement money with us as well,” Delgado said. “We have a huge group of investors in the Lehigh Valley. When we did a $1 billion fund, we wanted to accommodate those larger investors.”

The target minimum investment for this fund is $250,000.

Throughout the year, DLP will conduct about 15 to 20 events to promote the housing fund to investors.

“We commit to no less than 5% invested cash,” Delgado said. “We are actually investing alongside them. Right now, the firm invests about 40% of its own money in its other funds.

For the housing fund, DLP is investing 5%.

Overall, many of DLP’s investors are long-term clients.

“People like staying with us because they like our returns, understand our strategy,” Hickernell said.

The housing fund allows DLP to buy assets that it can hold longer, which benefits investors greatly, said Delgado.

The source of these funds comes from non-luxury, affordable housing investments.

On the equity side, DLP buys affordable multifamily housing complexes, both apartments and houses.

“We think in America, there’s a huge shortage and that continues to grow,” Delgado said.

Apartments that typically rent for $600 to $900 are always going to hold as an asset in cyclical markets, and there’s particularly strong demand in the southeast, he said.

The firm then adds upgrades and sometimes provides better management to increase the value of the property.

“We do a lot to make these appealing places to live,” he added.

Since the firm offers short-term loans to investors, Delgado said there’s minimal risk.

“They get their money back very quickly,” Delgado said.

DLP Capital Partners is part of the DLP Real Estate Capital family of companies.

Simon Property Group acquires rival mall operator

Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township PHOTO/FILE –

The owner of a number of local mall properties announced today that it plans to acquire another major mall operator for about $3.6 billion.

Simon Property Group Inc., which is headquartered in Indianapolis, said it plans to acquire Taubman Centers Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The company said it will acquire 80% ownership of the Taubman Realty Group Limited Partnership for $52.50 per share in cash.

The Taubman family will remain a 20% partner in TRG.

Simon is the owner of such shopping centers as the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, The Crossings Premium Outlets in Tannersville and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Pottstown.

David Simon, president, chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group, said the acquisition will help TRG invest in “innovative retail environments for retailers and consumers, deliver exciting shopping and entertainment experiences to consumers, and create new job prospects for local communities.”

Simon said he expects to fund the $3.6 billion deal with existing liquidity.

Demo of Allentown State Hospital to begin in July

Starting in July, a demolition firm will begin taking down the buildings and structures of the Allentown State Hospital property. (PHOTO/FILE) –

The buildings and structures that comprise the long dormant Allentown State Hospital will start coming down this summer.

Demolition contractor Neuber Demolition & Environmental Services of Gilbertsville, Montgomery County, will start July 10 and finish in February 2021, with a completion of its contract work in May 2021, according to a proposal.

The Pennsylvania Department of General Services selected the firm last year for the demolition of the 100-year-old structures and buildings on the state-owned property at 1600 Hanover Ave.

The $10 million project includes demolition of 44 buildings and other structures on about 200 acres, treatment of hazardous materials, utility termination, site restoration, historical salvage, and design documents.

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh), said the property costs taxpayers $2 million a year for maintenance. He supported demolition because he believes the value of the property will go up once the buildings go down. A mixed-use site would be the best use of the property, he said.

“It’s a huge site with a lot of potential,” Schlossberg said.

The new use could include light industrial/manufacturing, which is in demand in the area, Schlossberg said.

“You can turn the property into something that will generate jobs,” Schlossberg said.

In addition, the property could have some small components of retail and residential uses, preferably age-restricted housing, he added.

“There’s definitely traffic and access concerns,” Schlossberg said.

However, starting with a cleared site would allow for a fresh start to redevelopment, he added.

Overall, he said the redevelopment should fit in with the neighborhood.

Schlossberg is on a committee that oversees redevelopment of the site and also solicits and accepts proposals for redevelopment.

“There’s going to be a public outreach component,” he said. “We want to be further ahead in the demolition process before we start that.”



Local funding spurs renovation projects for Mex Grill owners

Juan Martinez and his wife, Melanie, recently refinanced a $1.7 million loan with Lehigh Financial Group LLC of Allentown for renovation work at Don Juan Mex Grill’s Palmer location at 2600 William Penn Highway. (PHOTO/FILE) –

The owners of five Lehigh Valley restaurants are embarking on major renovation projects at their Palmer Township and Easton locations.

Juan Martinez and his wife, Melanie, recently refinanced a loan with Lehigh Financial Group LLC of Allentown, to renovate Don Juan Mex Grill’s Palmer location at 2600 William Penn Highway.

Lehigh Financial’s Mike Gilbert said the Martinezes, who renovated part of the project last year, will use the new funding to make extensive renovations to the main building and a large portion of the storage buildings.

“We refinanced to be able to add a new roof to the main building, paint the outside, install new windows, upgrade the HVAC and overhaul another building in the back of the 25,000-square-foot-property,” Martinez said.

When they finish renovations this summer, Martinez said he hopes to find new tenants for the other building near the restaurant, which could offer space for medical or commercial tenants. He currently has a mix of contractors, landscapers and smaller self-storage units in the building.

First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union funded the $1.7 million renovation loan, Martinez said.

The first Mex Grill in the valley opened in the College Hill section of Easton in 2011. However, it closed in June when Lafayette College began building dorms on that block.

Martinez said the college was upfront in letting him know their plans for building student housing on that block about four years ago. Martinez said the college’s decision is why he is renovating a space inside The Spot that will become a new Mex Grill location at the base of College Hill near the college.

“We will be instrumental in helping him get financing for that as well,” Gilbert said.

Martinez has a lease agreement with Lafayette, which owns the property, and he will use the entire site for his restaurant, which will have the same menu as his other locations.

“We are a month away from opening,” he said. “We developed an awesome relationship with students and staff. For now, the goal is to continue to add more value for our customers.”

Martinez said he began the relationship with Lehigh Financial last year.

Easton committee to name developer for former Days Inn property

In March 2018, workers demolished the remaining portions of the Days Inn in Easton. (PHOTO/FILE) –

Easton’s city government is closer to announcing a developer of the former Days Inn hotel property.

A committee appointed by Mayor Sal Panto will present its recommendation of a developer for the nearly 4-acre site at the corner of Larry Holmes Drive and South Third Street to the city council at its Feb. 11 meeting at 6 p.m., according to a news release.

The city bought the Days Inn hotel and two acres of land at 185 S. Third St. for $5.9 million in 2018. The city demolished the hotel in anticipation of the proposed Da Vinci Science City project, which the Allentown nonprofit ultimately declined to pursue.

Since that time, Panto appointed a 17-member committee of city residents and professionals that met on eight separate occasions to conduct a review of a request for proposal responses from developers. The committee interviewed the developers, ranked and rated their proposals, and held a subsequent clarification meeting to confirm their finalist.

City council will review the committee’s recommendation. The meeting is open to the public.

According to the mayor’s Facebook post, which lists a tentative timetable, the city will host additional meetings for public comment in February and March, with the city council naming the preferred developer on March 11. Council will approve the start of negotiations on the developer’s agreement based on their proposal that day.

The city plans to publicly release the agreement of sale for the property by June 3 and potentially settle on the agreement on Oct. 30.

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sale of farmland could prompt industrial development in Forks Township

The sale of 32 acres of farmland in Forks Township could prompt the development of a new warehouse or other type of industrial use on the land. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED) –

The recent sale of about 30 acres of farmland in Forks Township could prompt the development of a new warehouse or other type of industrial use on the land.

Lisa Meszler Lyon, an agent with ALT Realty of Bethlehem, said she represented the seller, Ike Holdings LLC in the sale of 197 Padula Road in Forks Township to Northampton Farms LLC, an entity of Jaindl Land Co. of Orefield.

Meszler Lyon said the transaction took a year and a half to close and the land is vacant farmland.

The property covers 32 acres, zoned general industrial.

Though he declined to disclose the sale price, David Jaindl, owner of Jaindl Land Co. said he does not have a feasible user for the site.

“It’s premature to talk about the potential buyer for the site,” Jaindl said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be developed as an industrial property.”

Township planning commission records from a January 2019 meeting show a representative from Maser Consulting submitted a sketch plan for the property that presented a 389,400 square foot warehouse.

The project was also recently discussed at a planning commission meeting in December but no action was taken.

Prologis acquires Liberty Property Trust for $12.6B

Liberty Property Trust, a major commercial real estate company with a corporate office in Bethlehem, is now officially apart of Prologis Inc. of San Francisco. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Liberty Property Trust, a major commercial real estate company in the region is now a part of Prologis Inc. of San Francisco.

Liberty announced in October that it was being acquired by Prologis in a $12.6 billion all-stock deal. The transaction closed today.

Liberty, which has been operating since 1972 and has a corporate office in Bethlehem, specializes in the ownership, development, acquisition and leasing of buildings in logistics markets.

Liberty has a 26-million-square-foot industrial portfolio in Pennsylvania, many of them properties throughout Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania.

According to its website, Prologis leases modern logistics facilities to a diverse base of approximately 5,000 customers principally across two major categories: business-to-business and retail/online fulfillment.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, the company owned or had investments in, on a wholly owned basis or through co-investment ventures, properties and development projects expected to total approximately 814 million square feet in 19 countries.

Former Lancaster barber looks to start his own venture in Easton

Nathan Storck is planning to open his new business, The Keystone Barbershop, in mid-March in downtown Easton. (PHOTO/BRIAN PEDERSEN)

After working in the corporate world for many years, one Easton resident is banking on his love barbering to carry him in his new role as the owner of The Keystone Barbershop.

Nathan Storck is planning to open his new business in mid-March in downtown Easton.

Situated in the former Easton House of Jerky at 13 S. Second St., the opening of The Keystone Barbershop represents the fulfillment of a dream for Storck, age 41.

He grew up in the Lehigh Valley but moved to Lancaster in 1999. Storck worked at a popular barbershop therer, The Black Comb, which had eight employees. He recalled being booked with clients up to three weeks in advance. He’s hoping to replicate that success in Easton. Storck and his wife recently moved back to the valley and now live in Easton.

He wants to create a more modern, quieter atmosphere in his new shop, noting that the techniques have not changed much from the barbershops of the 1920s and 30s. He looks to provide tailored haircuts for $25 along with hot and wet shave services.

Storck will be the sole employee, but if business dictates, he plans to hire more employees.

Though he’s only halfway through reconstructing the interior of the space, he’s hoping to have it ready to open next month.

Previously, he worked as an illustrator for two major publishing companies doing a lot of work for medical textbooks, but found his true calling after going to barber school. Having been a barber since 2014, Storck is hoping to share his love of the profession with the community.

“It’s old school, it’s an honest living,” Storck said. “I just like taking care of people in the community. I just like what I do, it’s very rewarding.”