Jul 11, 2012

The Real Neuweiler Story


A feature story in today's Morning Call omits the fact that several years ago the City of Allentown stole the brewery from the rightful owner. Just as merchants of Hamilton Street were never allotted the opportunity to benefit from city arranged grants or the NIZ, the former taxpaying owner of the brewery was never given any assistance. Mayor Pawlowski can't stand private investors, if he didn't give you a grant, you're not worth much. In the early 70's, the City and Redevelopment Authority gave control of the Neuweiler Brewery to a friend. Under the City's watch, windows were removed and exterior walls broken through to remove the brewing tanks and piping for scrap. All metal, wires and any object of value were crudely ripped out in an orgy of demolition. With a large opening in the back wall smashed out, the basement was used as a free landfill by a roofer.
What should be mentioned about the XXXX roofing property is the fact that when I was involved with the brewery property in front that the owner at one point had compiled evidence of the roofers illegal disposal of environmental hazards and that when the evidence was to be presented to the City that he was not only arrested, for issues regarding the building, but the evidence was just disregarded. That property would stockpile environmental hazards in the back and then when the pile got large enough a large dump truck with a front end loader would show up. A bunch of work would go on out back and "poof" no pile of garbage. Also, when he would do slate roofing (which is covered in petroleum) he would just dump it on the rear of the property and when the piles would get high, he would level the property off, even into the railbed in the rear. (anyone that doesn't believe me on this one, go take a walk on the rails behind the property you will see it). former caretaker of brewery property

 Still the building remained iconic, because of it's rich industrial architecture. In 2003 a New Jersey investor bought the building for over $200,000 in the condition shown in the photograph. The building has been in that condition since the late 70's. His hope was at some point the City would appreciate the landmark. and cooperate in its revival. He must have found the building citations from the Pawlowski administration mind-numbing; Can you image being held responsible for carnage committed by a previous owner under the City's watch? Mayor Pawlowski, afraid someone might want to invest private money in Allentown and pay real estate taxes, had the Neuweiler owner jailed when he came to Allentown to discuss the property. The city, through the Redevelopment Authority, then seized the brewery. The former Neuweiler garages, behind the brewery, were sold years ago to a roofer. A couple years ago the City purchased the roofer's property for close to a $million dollars, reuniting the parcel. The Morning Call story today is about the hope and potential of the site, but I thought you might want to know about the City's complicity in it's sordid past.

portions of this post are reprinted from May 2008
UPDATE: The following was received as a comment on June 14,2012, by the former caretaker of the Neuweiler property:The Neuweiler property has many many secrets hidden within it that the City does not know about environmentally. The bottling house along Front St at one point was cleaned up the DEP (state) and was an absolute disaster then. I remember a few years ago, as well as in the ‘80s, that they City made the comment about just tearing it down. I made myself a little phone call to them and needed to inform them that if they would demolish the building that they would have to completely rebuild the roads around the building and regrade the property seeing as the building is holding them up. Regarding the former owner of the larger buildings, the building was not actually purchased, the mortgage was. Mr. Kellner bought the mortgage in foreclosure. The owner, Hanna Industrial Properties, fell on hard times with the loss of his primary funding source. Once Mr. Kellner took over the property the City was giving him fines of thousands of dollars a month because of appearance issues with the property. I have a copy of the inspection report that the fines were based on, it is ridiculous. Since they took over have they done anything to alleviate the code violations that exist? Lead by example. The City actually took the property via eminent domain as the original site of the arena project. for some reason, their sights were then changed (no pun intended) to the Center Square one. The developer of the Arena fronted the near $1M to purchase the 16 W Liberty St property, the rear parcel, in the form of a loan to the Redevelopment Authority. They last year, defaulted on that loan. The last year that Mr. Kellner owned the property, the City even went as far as to demolish the iconic Neuweiler smokestack. How did they do this you may ask, they went back into the archives and decided to act on a raze or repair order from 1979, mind you the demolition occurred around 2007 or 8. We had an engineer come out and certify the structural integrity of the property as well and they demolished it anyway. I personally showed at least 20-30 real estate developers through this property in the almost 5 years that I was involved in it, most of them sent through City Hall or the county. Each one of them had the same thing to say, there is no money to be made there. There is no way with the amount it would cost to just renovate the building and convert it into anything that the rental that would be required to fund the project would be too high for the area. This is without the environmental issues. My question is, how is the City going to make this happen? My thought is that this is Phase 2 of the City's NIZ project, the arena being Phase 1. I also just took a look at the “study” that was done by cornerstone for the property and just right off the top of my head I find it very shady. There are parts of the building that were obvious issues that were omitted or made to be less than what they are. John P. Chapkovich

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

No grants = no ability to effectively control.

Which part of that is so hard to understand, Comrade Molovinsky?

Now, if the Chairman and Council of Apparatchiks could only find a way to jail renegade bloggers intentionally obstructing development and progress ...

Shaibu!

VIKTOR TIKHONOV

(for the historical record, I would have preferred the Palace of Sport be built along the Lehigh River)

Anonymous said...

I have personally seen trucks with 50gal drums go in that basement entrance with workers and them trucks would come out looking as they had no load. There is a sewer drain in that opening that leads to the lehigh. At the time I had been working there about 2months for the owner at the times has very high up ties.

The buildings thereself are benificial to the city, but that site should be a dep super fund because of the dumping of hazardous materials for nerely 50 yrs. Than will this be brought to the attention of future developers, I think not.

michael molovinsky said...

@3:50. were you working for the owner of the front, or the owner of the rear property?

Anonymous said...

At the dock building and the owner at the times name was also george and the man that subed name was also george onefer just like the roofer that used it a dump. The stuff comming in to be dumped was comming from another super fund site in allentown and the owners name was george.

I just watched from above but I know what was going on below?

Anonymous said...

Allentown has not had a thoughtful Mayor or insightful leadership for over 40years, likely longer. This includes it's eight years under a "conservative republican" mayor and a top dog GOP council president( Charles D. Snelling).
Things are quite bad and it took a long time to arrive at the current sorry state.
Saw what you will about the current mayor,and there is a lot of criticism that is deserved,he is at least trying to think big.

Anonymous said...

There a difference between thinking big and being delusional. This mayor is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Perhaps the arena will be built if the geological issues can be over come. But the result may be the same, another useless vacant monolith doting the landscape. So goes Allentown. You cannot legislate economic development.

Anonymous said...

You have to crawl before you can walk, seeing the current state of allentown, the current administration and its king can't even roll over on there belly.



REDD

Anonymous said...

Nobody want to get down and dirty and talk about allentowns dirty secrets for fear for there life.

Guy Williams said...

The real tragedy is that the city left the owner gut the building leaving the skeleton to exist.Restoration costs then excede building costs from scratch.Property owners rights vs city zoning laws.Seems like we havent done such a great job figuring that out either.

Anonymous said...

The remeadeations cost will far exceed any development on that site. It is good that the mayor is thinking big but, pipe dreams have always been a delusion of his mind.

John P. Chapkovich said...

The Neuweiler property has many many secrets hidden within it that the City does not know about environmentally. The bottling house along Front St at one point was cleaned up the DEP (state) and was an absolute disaster then. I remember a few years ago, as well as in the ‘80s, that they City made the comment about just tearing it down. I made myself a little phone call to them and needed to inform them that if they would demolish the building that they would have to completely rebuild the roads around the building and regrade the property seeing as the building is holding them up.

Regarding the former owner of the larger buildings, the building was not actually purchased, the mortgage was. Mr. Kellner bought the mortgage in foreclosure. The owner, Hanna Industrial Properties, fell on hard times with the loss of his primary funding source. Once Mr. Kellner took over the property the City was giving him fines of thousands of dollars a month because of appearance issues with the property. I have a copy of the inspection report that the fines were based on, it is ridiculous. Since they took over have they done anything to alleviate the code violations that exist? Lead by example.
The City actually took the property via eminent domain as the original site of the arena project. for some reason, their sights were then changed (no pun intended) to the Center Square one. The developer of the Arena fronted the near $1M to purchase the 16 W Liberty St property, the rear parcel, in the form of a loan to the Redevelopment Authority. They last year, defaulted on that loan.
The last year that Mr. Kellner owned the property, the City even went as far as to demolish the iconic Neuweiler smokestack. How did they do this you may ask, they went back into the archives and decided to act on a raze or repair order from 1979, mind you the demolition occurred around 2007 or 8. We had an engineer come out and certify the structural integrity of the property as well and they demolished it anyway.
I personally showed at least 20-30 real estate developers through this property in the almost 5 years that I was involved in it, most of them sent through City Hall or the county. Each one of them had the same thing to say, there is no money to be made there. There is no way with the amount it would cost to just renovate the building and convert it into anything that the rental that would be required to fund the project would be too high for the area. This is without the environmental issues.
My question is, how is the City going to make this happen? My thought is that this is Phase 2 of the City's NIZ project, the arena being Phase 1.
I also just took a look at the “study” that was done by cornerstone for the property and just right off the top of my head I find it very shady. There are parts of the building that were obvious issues that were omitted or made to be less than what they are.

Anonymous said...

Was this Hanna indutrail properties the same Hanna that is now police chief when the industrail waste from lehigh die was being trucked in and dumpped into the lehigh river. Or is this hanna properties that stole federal grant monies from the 500blk of 7th st and went back to the middle east. By the way hanna industries was george hanna of grant st.

Just another one of the mayors fine way of plundering monies from allentowns slush fund?

Anonymous said...

Under the current administration were they sued by the subcontractor. Because the city ommited the clean up costs of the hazardous materials in the contract knowing the site contained contaminants. Only parroting what I understand was written in a morning gag story.

REDD

John P. Chapkovich said...

I also reviewed the environmental cleanup plan for the property that is posted on the City's webite and just to clean the debris out the preliminary estimate is $900K-950K. They said the actual cost could (key word here) be lower. The plan also goes on to say that this is not including any remediation because of building materials on the building such as lead paint, the asbestos that is the ceilings in the front of the building (that isn't plaster my friends), the asbestos in the cement coating of the inner walls (it is like stucco, it may not have to cleaned up if not disturbed but most likely will need to be), there was an ash pile that the City, in their hast to tear down the smokestack, covered that alos need to be remediated and may have possible soil contamination as well, and last but certainly not least, the sulfur board that lines the stock house on the 2nd to 5th floor (this alone was estimated at over 25% of the estimate). Mind you, the Moonstone plan includes NOTHING from the 16 W Liberty property in the way of remediation. Just imagine if the disposal of the roofing tar was that the former owner buried it underground? We are talking huge costs just to move and clean dirt. No investigation was done to my knowledge, was it done? Probably not

Once again, this is an issue of City hall telling people what they want to hear to get what they want. You may have done that for the Arena project. You will not do that with this building.

To give the City a bit of credit here though, something does have to be done there. This is very similar to most cities around the country that have vast brewery buildings such as this that go empty. The costs to demolish the building would be either relatively the same or more than the renovation costs. Either way, the remediation needs to be done as well. If one wants to get an idea of the situation they are in, please search the Steigmaier Brewery in Wilkes-Barre. This brewery is huge and beautiful as well. Thanks to the local elected officials, they turned it into a federal building. It can be done, I just feel they are going about it the wrong way and trying to do something that will not work

Anonymous said...

This Hole property next to the river is and always has been used by people as a hazardous waste dump. When Novacs would not allow it to be dumpped at there dump if the right people were paid it was dumped at this site!