Bagel shop’s move opens opportunity for Allentown developer

Johnny’s Bagels & Deli has moved to a space on Sixth and Linden streets in downtown Allentown, making its former space a prime spot for a developer looking to highlight his projects.

Zachary Jaindl, COO of Jaindl Enterprises in Allentown, said he plans to lease the former home of Johnny’s Bagels, which is at 640 Hamilton St. in the Hamilton Financial Center building.

Jaindl Enterprises will lease space recently vacated by Johnny’s Bagels & Deli in Allentown. (Photo By Stacy Wescoe)

Jaindl’s brokerage and leasing teams are expected to use the space, to help promote downtown event venue Vault 634 and The Waterfront, a mixed-use project under construction along the Lehigh River in Allentown.

“It’s a triple-functional space for all associated entities,” Jaindl said.

The 4,000-square-foot space is next to Vault 634, which Jaindl Enterprises opened in the former Lehigh Valley Trust Building in 2018. It also is near PPL Center, Two City Center and the Wells Fargo building.

Jaindl said the lease should commence Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, Jaindl said he is hoping to announce the first tenant at The Waterfront in the next two months.

ESSA Bank & Trust moves into larger space in Nazareth

ESSA Bancorp, a Stroudsburg-based holding company with assets of $1.8 billion, has moved its Nazareth branch to a larger space in the borough.

ESSA Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of the holding company, said Tuesday that it had closed its Nazareth office at 14 South Main St. and relocated to 76 South Main St.

ESSA Bank & Trust relocated its Nazareth branch to 76 South Main St. in the borough, and also completed interior renovations. (Submitted) –

The new space is a 2,700-square-foot-site, three times the size of the bank’s former space, said Gary Olson, president and CEO of ESSA.

The new site is the vacant former headquarters of Nazareth National Bank, Olson said. ESSA Bank will lease space on the first floor of the two-story building.

“For me, I love old bank buildings, so the good fortune to open the doors of the bank is a good thing,” Olson said

ESSA had been operating the branch at 14 South Main St. since buying First Star Bank several years ago, he added. The location did not have an ATM, a night deposit drop or parking, Olson said.

Its new site will be a full-service branch with more room for consumer lending, home equity and mortgage services, in addition to other services.

The bank moved four full-time employees to the new site, as well as $25 million in deposits. As business grows, the plan is to add more employees, Olson said.

The bank also completed renovations to the interior, construction work that it managed internally, Olson said. In addition, the property owner had made some significant upgrades to the property.

While it opened Tuesday, the bank is planning a grand opening in August, Olson said.

Valerie Noble, branch manager, will lead the new branch.

Overall, ESSA has nine branches throughout the Lehigh Valley.


City Center reveals plans for $25M apartment community

On Tuesday, City Center Allentown announced a new project expected to bring nearly 200 apartments to the city’s downtown.

City Center Allentown’s newest apartment project, Cityplace, will include a pool and courtyard. (Submitted) –

The $25 million project, Cityplace, involves demolition of a former Holiday Inn at Ninth and Hamilton streets in downtown Allentown. Once demolition is complete, the company will build a new structure on the site of the hotel and a connected addition at Ninth and Maple streets.

“We are finishing up the demolition now and construction will begin in a few weeks,” said J.B. Reilly, president of City Center Investment Corp., the company financing the project.

In the space where the hotel sat, City Center will create a tower with 120 apartment units. It will also develop an addition to the building’s south side that will have 78 apartments surrounding a courtyard with an outdoor pool and fire pits.

Studios in Cityplace will rent for $750 per month, while one-bedrooms will fetch $950, he said.

The rates are lower than those in the company’s previous residential developments.

The company’s Walnut Street Commons development, for example, includes studios starting at $967 per month and one-bedrooms at $1,275.

“We wanted to be able to offer apartments that are more attainably priced, for younger people and some of the lower-paying jobs in Allentown,” Reilly said.

City Center will use Bernardon, the same architect it hired for Walnut Street Commons and its 520 Lofts apartments. The company is still in the process of finalizing its choice for a construction firm, he added.

Reilly expects the Cityplace project to be finished by the end of next year.

In addition to apartments, the building will contain more than 20,000 square feet of office, retail and amenity space on its first floor, he added. Other amenities will include a fitness center, co-working space, and a resident lounge.

The retail space will front Hamilton and Ninth streets. Residents will have access to the parking deck off Maple Street behind the building.

Once Cityspace is completed, City Center will have developed 650 apartments in downtown Allentown. Center Square Lofts, another City Center apartment project, will bring the total to 900, Reilly said.

“We think the demand is really strong,” Reilly said. “As the environment grows, we think there will be a need for more apartments.”




Startup manufacturer to take up site near Easton

IQ Fibers, a cellulose fiber manufacturer, will set up its first manufacturing operation in the borough of West Easton.

George Day, the company’s CEO, described IQ Fibers as a startup that plans to begin manufacturing at a site it hopes to occupy by November.

IQ Fibers will lease space at 1550 Lehigh Drive in West Easton. This aerial view shows the rear of the property. (Submitted) –

Day said IQ Fibers expects to lease a 45,000-square-foot-building at 1550 Lehigh Drive. The company has committed to investing at least $5.4 million in the project and plans to hire more than 40 employees over the next several years.

Day said his company chose the Lehigh Valley because it is a good logistics and transportation hub with strong resources and access to an educated workforce.

IQ Fibers received funding from the state Department of Community & Economic Development, which includes an $86,000 Pennsylvania First grant, $86,000 in tax credits, which the state distributes once the company creates jobs, and a $32,550 workforce development grant to help the company train employees, according to a news release.

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. helped coordinate the company’s efforts to find a location.

LVEDC helped make the appropriate introductions with the state government to help provide incentives and offer information about the region’s market, including labor rates, said Matthew Tuerk, vice president of economic development and marketing at LVEDC. The information often helps companies in their decision-making process, he added.

IQ Fibers’ products include cellulose insulation and absorbents that it sells to distributors, contract installers and end users.

Ethan Medgie, senior advisor at SVN Imperial Realty in South Whitehall Township, said he represented both sides of the IQ Fibers deal.



Long-awaited food market moves forward in Quakertown

Quakertown could be seeing a resurgence of its downtown, thanks in large part to the start of construction on the long-awaited $4.5 million public market.

Developers Chris LaBonge and Ian Jeffery broke ground on the project last month, which involves renovating the old trolley barn at East Broad and Front streets into a public market.

Dubbed the “Rail Area Redevelopment Project,” it includes renovating four buildings near the old Quakertown Train Station. The buildings are the Mammy Kleine’s storefront to the left of the old trolley barn, the Quakertown Traction Co. building (trolley barn), the “Whistle Stop” hobby shop and the old rail station property, which the borough used to load and unload cargo while the train station was in use.

A look at a public food market slated to open in Quakertown in May 2020. (Submitted) –

Overall, the market will cover 20,000 square feet.

Now that construction has begun on the Trolley Barn Development Project, it shows the borough is in a good place to move forward, said Naomi Naylor, executive director of Quakertown Alive!, an economic development organization.

The project has been in the works for a number of years and received funding from several different sources, including a $2 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the state.

Quakertown Alive! will also provide a $5,000 façade grant, which it obtained through Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative, a Media-based organization. It will also donate a bike rack and bike repair station it obtained through financing from Schuylkill Highlands. The donations are worth about $4,000 Naylor said.

Meanwhile, QNB Bank of Quakertown is financing the construction.

So far, the public market, expected to open in May 2020, attracted a number of businesses, including several who are opening second locations. Bank Street Creamery of Easton will open a second spot for its ice cream shop in the Quakertown market. In addition, Two Rivers Brewing of Easton will also open a second location at the market, in an outdoor section called The Yard, that’s expected to open by the end of July, LaBonge said.

Hewn Spirits, a handcrafted distillery, will also open at the

market, adding to its Pipersville and New Hope locations, and Black River Farms Winery, which has a location in Lower Saucon Township, will open a second spot in the market.

Overall, the market will have 14 vendors, including a health/general food store, an events company and a coffee house yet to be announced, LaBonge said.

Naylor said the borough has been networking with the Greater Easton Development Partnership to determine what worked well and what did not when that organization opened its Easton Public Market in 2016.

Overall, she views the Quakertown market as something that will generate more economic development for the borough.

“It’s going to improve the daytime and evening economy,” Naylor said. “Our daytime foot traffic definitely needed to be boosted.”

She sees the public market as something that would fill the social need, providing people with a place for social gatherings.

“We get about 16,000 cars through each day, our goal is to capture some of that economy,” Naylor said.

Because Quakertown’s downtown is fragmented, the public market is helping to put the downtown district together, Naylor said.

The developer also sees the market as a way to bring more people together.

“My partner and I believe that people want to go out and be social,” LaBonge said. “They aren’t going out and shopping anymore, it’s become much more about experiences and creating experiences.”

People are more interested in eating locally, and that too is fueling the need for venues that offer locally sourced food, according to LaBonge.

“Our goal is to make this a tipping point project for Quakertown which we feel is ripe and ready for a downtown,” LaBonge said.

Creating a more social environment in the downtown will help make it grow, he added.

Penn Builders Inc. of Milford Township is doing the construction work for the market and Penn Outdoor Services of East Norriton is doing the construction work for The Yard section, he said.

LaBonge is considering a contractor for the second part of construction on the market and will be putting that portion of the project out to bid at the end of the summer.

Paul Bencivengo, president and COO of Visit Bucks County, the county’s tourism agency, said Quakertown’s market would be similar to Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and should help provide more food access and improve the local economy.

His organization has worked closely with Quakertown Alive! and the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce and is looking for ways to collaborate more closely to encourage economic development, he added.



Assessment focuses on tourism efforts

As Quakertown gets its public market underway, Visit Bucks County, the county’s tourism agency, has hired two companies to complete a tourism and hospitality product development assessment initiative for the county.

One of the purposes of conducting the assessment is to identify where the county needs to focus its tourism efforts, which could include promoting the county as a place for weddings, events and sports tournaments, said Paul Bencivengo, president and COO of Visit Bucks County.

Parter International, a New York City based consulting firm and Econsult Solutions Inc., an economic consultant firm based in Philadelphia have conducted the initiative, including the assessment work and the survey.

Alan Parter, president of Parter International, said he would meet with Visit Bucks County on July 8 to deliver the results of the assessment and evaluation, which included a survey of about 100 stakeholders and residents. The recommendations phase is the next step.

“We completed the assessment work and the survey itself, in addition to one on one interviews,” Parter said.

While Parter declined to disclose the results until the teams meet, he did say the county was one that appears to value and understand the importance of tourism.

The two consulting teams developed an analysis that examines the county’s attractions, infrastructure, marketing efforts and community.

While the results and recommendations vary whenever agencies conduct these types of studies, Parter said this type of process is common.

“The process is pretty tried and true over the past 30 years,” Parter said.

One aspect of the assessment included a study of comparable markets.

Visit Bucks County collected tourism data from eight other tourism agencies as part of the assessment, he added. The organizations included Discover Lehigh Valley, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau and Visit Hershey & Harrisburg.

Parter said this is an example of how these tourism agencies can collaborate.







UGI subsidiary to acquire Columbia Midstream Group for $1.3B

Shortly after moving to its new home in the renovated VF Outlet Center building in Berks County, UGI Energy Services, a subsidiary of UGI Corp., said it signed a definitive agreement to acquire the equity interests of Columbia Midstream Group LLC for $1.275 billion.

UGI Energy Services moved into its new headquarters at the former VF Outlet Center in Berks County and also plans to acquire the equity interests of Columbia Midstream Group LLC for $1.3 billion. (Submitted) –

UGI plans to acquire CMG from a subsidiary of TC Energy Corp. based in Alberta, Canada.

CMG owns five natural gas gathering systems and 240 miles of pipeline in the southwestern core of the Appalachian Basin.

UGI said the acquisition expands its midstream portfolio and provides an opportunity to invest an additional $300 million to $500 million over the next five years.

In addition, the company said it would position UGI Energy as a significant operator of midstream assets across the Marcellus and Utica production region from northeastern Pennsylvania through western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and parts of West Virginia.

UGI said the transaction, which should close in the fourth quarter, would also diversify its business by giving it access to wet gas gathering and processing and expand its fee-based revenues.

“Our core business is in the midstream segment of the Marcellus gas industry,” said Pamela Witmer, vice president of government affairs for UGI Energy Services. “This expands our footprint into wet gas areas of the Marcellus Shale, into a part of the Marcellus we have never been in. This new segment will be close to our existing assets. We are looking westward at what opportunities are there.”

UGI Energy plans to fund this transaction with a combination of new debt at UGI Energy Services, a credit facility at UGI Corp. and available liquidity at UGI, she said. In addition, UGI Energy Services has a commitment from Credit Suisse LLC to provide a $700 million loan.

On Monday, UGI Energy moved from Spring Township into the former VF Outlet Center building, Witmer said. The former VF Outlet Center sits at the border of Wyomissing and West Reading and is now a $70 million new office and retail campus.

UGI Energy Services has 260 employees at its new location, she said. The company will be offering CMG employees opportunities to join UGI but they are still working out the details, she said.

UGI Corp., based in Valley Forge, is the parent company of UGI Energy.

Home remodeling company prepares to relocate to larger site

A home remodeling company based in Whitehall will move its office and showroom into a larger space on an industrial site in Bethlehem near Lehigh Valley International Airport.

“We are moving from 5,000 square feet to 32,000 square feet, which is a huge upgrade,” said Rick Hinkle, general manager of Master’s Home Solutions.

Master’s Home Solutions is moving into larger space at 2147 Avenue C in Bethlehem. (Submitted) –

Hinkle said his company is a third-generation business that began in 1957 and offers interior and exterior residential remodeling services, including roofing, siding, gutters, windows, doors and one-day bath installations. The company is also an authorized Bath Planet product dealer.

The new space will include a sales business office and a larger showroom, where the company can have a functioning walk-in tub and shower. The walk-in tub will have a shower option. Customers can test out the shower and tub in a private room, he added.

The company has not started construction yet, but he estimated that it would take about two to three months to finalize the interior renovations of the space.

Aside from moving to a new location, the company is also rebranding its image.

“We are known primarily as a roofing company but we are changing and rebranding all of that,” Hinkle said. “We want to be the predominant home improvement company in the area.”

Overall, Master’s Home Solutions has about 65 employees. Hinkle said his children, Nathan, Christy, Alyssa and Jared Hinkle are also principals in the business.

The new space is in a single building on 2.6 acres at 2147 Avenue C in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park I.

Mike Capobianco of Markward Group, a real estate firm in Upper Macungie Township, represented both the landlord and the tenant in the transaction.

Berks Homes building luxury townhomes in Cumberland County

Berks County-based Berks Homes is building new luxury townhomes on the Harrisburg area’s West Shore as contractors strive to provide more housing options in fast-growing Cumberland County.

The builder is adding 18 units in a community dubbed The Woods at Waterford in Wormleysburg, which will have views of the Susquehanna River.

The project calls for three buildings, the first of which is expected to open this fall. Berks Homes said the homes will range from 2,256 square feet to 2,271 square feet. Each will have three-bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms as well as a two-car garage.

The units will range in price from about $250,000 to $320,000.

Berks Homes has been very active in Cumberland County, especially on the West Shore.

The company finished 2018 with $73.5 million in revenue, up from $49.1 million in 2017, according to Central Penn Business Journal records.

DLP Real Estate Capital buys Florida homebuilder for $22M

A Lehigh Valley-based real estate company said it acquired Brite Homes, an Orlando, Florida-based homebuilder for $22 million.

A model home built by Brite Homes, an Orlando-Florida-based business that was acquired by DLP Real Estate Capital. (Submitted) –

DLP Real Estate Capital, based in Hanover Township, Northampton County, finalized the acquisition last week and is bringing all 35 employees of Brite Homes under the DLP family of companies, said Patrick O’Donnell, chief experience officer of DLP Real Estate Capital.

Aside from Brite Homes, DLP Real Estate Capital has four other companies under its ownership: DLP Realty, DLP Capital Partners, DLP Real Estate Management, and DLP Builders.

The roots of the Brite Homes acquisition reach back over the past several years.

“We funded many of the loans for their construction projects,” O’Donnell said.

Homes built by Brite Homes include energy efficient features such as solar panels, hybrid water heaters, automated technology and dual pane windows.

“It’s where homes will be in about 10 years,” O’Donnell said. “Typically, there’s no electric bill with solar panels integrated.”

While he acknowledged that a few select builders already do provide these types of features in homes, O’Donnell said the acquisition allows DLP to gain a larger footprint in the market.

DLP plans to build hundreds of these types of homes throughout Florida over the next year and expand into additional states, including Pennsylvania.

Brite Homes will retain their name under the DLP family of companies, O’Donnell said.

Former PPL Plaza to be renamed, rebranded

The former PPL Plaza will be renamed and rebranded by its new owner. (File photo) –

The New York-based commercial real estate firm that bought the building formerly known as PPL Plaza said it is working to rebrand and reposition the mostly vacant building.

Somera Road Inc. has hired local leasing and marketing agencies to breathe new life into the LEED Gold-certified building, which was built in 2002 as one of Allentown’s earliest revitalization projects.

With an eye to appealing to a millennial, urban workforce, the firm has hired JLL vice president Matt Dorman and executive vice president Phil Shenkel to lease the property.

“We are embarking on an exciting, full-scale transformation for this building and it is critical to our strategy that we partner with experts who have local insight and expertise from a rebranding and marketing standpoint,” said Ian Ross, managing principal of Somera Road.

Dorman said his team, as well as the building’s owners and architects, will be working on a master plan for redeveloping what he called a valuable piece of downtown real estate. They even reached out for help from the building’s original architect, Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.

Dorman said they want to take their time in redesigning and leasing the 240,000 square feet of available space in the building.

“We want to do this thoughtful and not just sign the first tenants that come along,” he said. “We want this to be a center in Allentown.”

Somera Road has hired Altitude Marketing of Emmaus to help with the renaming and rebranding of the property.

The building at 835 Hamilton St. had fallen on hard times, due in large part to its exclusion from the downtown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone and the tax breaks that come with it.

A handful of tenants remain in the building, including some PPL offices, a deli, a BB&T bank branch and the Gold Credit Union.

Dorman said new tenants will have access to the benefits of the NIZ as well as a Class A office space.

Site for new Wawa sells for $4.8M

Wawa is the new tenant for a building that sold for $4.8 million in Reading.

Formerly the site of a Bottom Dollar, the newly built 5,585-square-foot-building is at 413 Lancaster Ave.

Wawa signed a lease for a newly completed building on Lancaster Avenue in Reading. The building recently sold for $4.8 million. (Submitted) –

American Regent Reading LLC, a local developer, sold the building to 413 Lancaster Associates, according to Derrick Dougherty, first vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap of Philadelphia. Dougherty and Steve Garthwaite, an associate at Marcus & Millichap, represented the buyer and seller in the transaction.

Wawa is leasing the ground from the owner under a 20-year lease, Dougherty said in a statement.

“Wawa had been looking to enter this dense infill market for about five years,” Garthwhite said in a news release.


Execs: Environment is crucial to keeping, retaining workers

Employers know that attracting and keeping employees is crucial in today’s tight labor market.

One way to attract new office workers is an appealing work environment.

Here is a look at the inside of the lobby of Five City Center in downtown Allentown. The 13-story office tower is the newest project from City Center Investment Corp. and was the site of a recent program about how to find and keep workers in a competitive labor market. (Photo By Brian Pedersen) –

For some, Five City Center, the latest office building to pop up in downtown Allentown, is a prime example of the kind of place workers want to be.

That’s one reason why the top floor of the 13-story building was chosen as the setting for a program hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. about how to attract and retain workers in a tight labor market.

The program’s panelists shared ideas on how to achieve employee interest, attraction and retention through amenities, architectural design and technology.

Olympus of the Americas, which has its U.S. headquarters in Upper Saucon Township, employs about 1,000 workers locally. The medical supply company was an early adopter in establishing a footprint in the valley, having opened its corporate campus in the Center Valley area in 2006.

Though situated in a suburban market, the Olympus property offers a number of amenities including a full cafeteria, on-site day care and dry-cleaning services, and walking trails that connect to the Promenade Shoppes, said Therese Beck, director of employee experience at Olympus.

What’s challenging for employers is how technology has changed how people work.

“Working remotely has become more commonplace,” Beck said.

As a result, an attractive work environment with amenities can help attract and keep employees.

“The other thing that technology has given us is the ability to make smarter choices,” Beck said.

As an example, job seekers can now search online reviews of what it’s like to work at a company and weigh that against their decision to apply.

Companies should strive to control the narrative of their brand, to find a credible and authentic way to share their message to describe the experience of working at their companies, she added.

Dana Nalbantian, a panelist and principal and studio director at Gensler, said her company, which designed Five City Center, surveyed about 315,000 people to determine what an innovative company offers.

Innovative companies believe in creating more spaces for socializing and collaborating, Nalbantian said, which they can accomplish through designs that do away with traditional environments.

The newest office designs have more places for social interaction, and many show off their amenities at the front door, rather than featuring a traditional lobby space, she said.

ADP is set to occupy the top 10 floors of Five City Center. J.B. Reilly, president and co-founder of City Center Investment Corp., said ADP had looked all over for office space.

Reilly, a panelist, compared ADP’s move to an urban environment as a notable trend of companies migrating back to cities.

Employers should think not only about their office space but also their surrounding environment, he said. Many employees enjoy walking to stores and restaurants and that serves as an attraction tool.