Undisclosed bank may enter Valley market on airport property

Brian Pedersen//July 23, 2014

Undisclosed bank may enter Valley market on airport property

Brian Pedersen//July 23, 2014

Officials from Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority overwhelmingly approved the lease terms for the property at its board meeting Tuesday but did not disclose the potential new tenant.

“We have an offer to lease the bank property,” said Darren Betters, director of commercial services for LNAA, which plans to lease the property to the community bank. “We’ve had a broker working on it for over six months. They’ve bought in an undisclosed financial institution.”

The rent would be $4,500 per month for a five-year lease with two five-year renewals. The terms also include the right of first refusal in the agreement, which allows someone the right to buy the property at the exact same terms and conditions contained in an offer that the owner has received and wants to accept from another buyer.

The bank is not willing to remove that right of first refusal from the agreement, Betters said.

The property is at 2355 City Line Road in the city of Bethlehem, said Chris Baj, senior adviser for Sperry Van Ness Imperial Realty, a commercial real estate firm in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, which has been marketing the property. The site was a very challenging property to lease because of its limitations in spite of its great visibility, Baj said.

The tenant would like to invest more than $200,000 in the property, which is worth about $800,000 to $900,000, Baj said. The building is 2,664 square feet and sits on two acres.

“The appraisal did not take into consideration the limitations of the site,” Baj said. “There are some challenges with high volume traffic. We found what we think is the best tenant for them.”

Betters described the financial institution as a community bank with 26 branches, but one that’s never been in the region.

Baj said the bank has locations in northeast Pennsylvania, including Monroe County and several northern states and wants to expand into the Lehigh Valley.

“They seem to be a very reputable bank,” Betters said.

The bank wants to be unnamed until the lease is signed and finalized, according to Betters.

“We are still negotiating the lease,” he said.

He said he expected the lease to be finalized within the next 60 days.

“The chances of us selling that property are pretty slim,” Betters said.

The structure is in poor condition and the potential tenant is looking to make significant changes in improvements, Betters said.

Board member and treasurer William Berger questioned whether the airport authority should enter into a lease with the tenant since that property could be used for a jug handle if more traffic improvements are needed and the airport becomes more successful.

Berger said the risk would be against a $281 million airport.

The airport has not used the property in seven years and the horizon for highway improvements is often 10 years, said board member Michael Dowd, chairman of the business and finance committee.

Dowd did not think there was a need for a jug handle at that location.

While the majority of the board approved the lease terms, two board members voted against it.