Jan 31, 2013

Allentown's Real Riverfront Story


As readers of The Morning Call are being fed the mayor's version of Transformation at the riverfront, here's the sordid history not revealed elsewhere. In the early 70's, the City and Redevelopment Authority subdivided the Neuweiler property. The actual brewery portion, the front, went to a supposed developer with long time ties to former Mayor Daddona. The rear portion, formerly garages for the Neuweiler trucks, went to a roofer. Under the city's watch, the developer removed windows and exterior walls, braking 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 mysteriously got filled up with roofing debris. 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 imagine being held responsible for carnage committed by a previous owner? Before seizing the property, Pawlowski actually had the hapless new owner jailed when he came to Allentown to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, the roofer was rewarded with an $876,000 buy out. This is how the city reunited the property; Welcome to the Transformation.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dadonna screwed up. This is news to nobody.

And yes, a property owner is responsible for the condition of the property, including those damages and problems created by a previous owner. If he did his due diligence (things like inspections), he would have seen a basement full of crap. If the real estate broker somehow failed to mention this or covered it up, he had legal recourse. If he did his due diligence and bought the property WITH a basement full of crap, then he's a fool. If he expected Afflerbach to be easy to work with, he's a chump. If he expected Pawlowski to be reasonable... yeah.

Dadonna messing things up doesn't absolve a developer in 2003 from actually having to do something with the property. In one breath you lament city intervention. In the next breath you defend a developer who expected city intervention to assist in his work (that's what the developer meant when he said he hoped the city would show appreciation for the property... appreciation through grants, loans, tax breaks and leniency in planning/zoning/codes).

Dadonna screwing up doesn't mean nothing should happen until Pawlowski disappears.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:28, this is news to a paper that doesn't apply an institutional memory to the city. your home buying advise is not applicable here because he purchased the property from a city agency. he did do considerable work, including boarding up the windows, work that the city never performed under their ownership. the current interested purchaser will be assisted by the king of grants, the NIZ. a more connected person than the hapless previous owner would have been encouraged with the distressed property he bought from the city, instead of being harassed.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

The idea this structure can be used for any modern manufacturing/brewing/business purpose seems illogical unless there is access to the building from other than Front Street. Front Street is way off the path of the new traffic arteries and the streets in the 1st and 6th ward are often very slow moving because of congestion.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott, it's my understanding that the interested party is basically a holding company, which has some micro brewery interests. essentially, they are probably interested in harvesting the taxpayer paid NIZ development. the building is so far gone, that the rehab costs will dwarf new construction costs. removing the twenty years of shingle landfill in the basement will cost well over $one million itself. i do believe that the front street entrance to old 22, and the new american parkway would allow delivery. however, i sincerely doubt that the brewery will ever produce enough for that to be a factor. it's a real estate deal, not a real company looking for a brewery location.

Bethlehem Native said...

I can't fathom the building being suitable for anything other than the receiving end of a wrecking ball. Even if it's still structurally sound, the cost of renovating it may be more than the cost of razing it and building new on the site. When I read about Ruckus Brewing's plan to turn the building back into a brewery, I scoffed. I hope I'm wrong, but I predict that they will never brew beer in that building.

michael molovinsky said...

bethlehem native, they will brew it if the taxpayers of pennsylvania pay for it entirely, which the NIZ provides for. pennsylvania just paid for a riverfront master plan, ($300,000) which the developers are not bound to. i always feel sorry for the residents of the small towns, like hamburg or bath, which must contribute to his nonsense, but never get any benefit.

Anonymous said...

I thought LVEDC recently assisted with waste removal inside this building.

Any idea where the $876k came from to make the property whole again? Was it a state grant? That was a smart move on the Cities behalf

Seems the former Lehigh Valley Dairy property would have been in a better position if not subdivided many years back.

Anonymous said...

MM,

You have got to be lying. This story can't be true. If so, a lot of people need to go to jail for this one or pay some mucho $$$ back to the city.

By the way, what ever happened a few years back to the Orthodox Jews that had the EPA called on them from releasing the remains of butchered chickens into the river at that spot? Haven't heard anything else from that since it made big news.

michael molovinsky said...

@3:43, nobody will be fined or go to jail, but we will pay for it. i recall reading about a chicken plant in the pottsville area years ago which was fined for dumping near a waterway. it was not near the brewery, or even allentown.

Anonymous said...

Who and what was paid for the consultants to overlook the hazardous waste risidual in the basment of the dock building¿ There is a cave like drain that runs to the lehigh waterway¿

REDD