May 2, 2013

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

reprinted from July 2012

UPDATE May 2, 2013: Yesterday, The Morning Call reported that Ruckus Brewing is buying the Neuweiler property from the city for $1.7 million and will indeed have NIZ funds for it's redevelopment. Above I reprint my post from last year, outlining the City's complicity in distressing a property, and then stealing it.  molovinsky on allentown, providing the real story behind the shenanigans.

UPDATE 7:30a.m.:  Despite  The Morning Call's front page feature story sporting illustrations, pictures and charts,  Ruckus is nothing more than the hype of a 30 year old marketing promoter.  It has no brew pub experience,  no  real estate experience,  and a very limited distribution of it's contracted beer.  Their business appears to be a small marketing office in New York City, which already is featuring the Neuweiler Brewer's Hill Project on their website as an accomplishment. 

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mike,

I remain suspicious of the entire deal. No amount of government assistance will make this attractive relic an attractive business,retail and or entertainment location.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott @ 6:02, from what I understand, Ruckus currently contracts their production out, so they don't even have experience as an actual brewer. they appear to be a holding company, that purchased the rights to some beer labels.

Lehigh Trals said...

Looks like the NIZ project is really starting to put the hurt on the minority owned business you said were going to get swept away.

http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/allentown-arena-construction-project-builds-business-for-restaurants/-/132502/19959102/-/7rhplgz/-/index.html

michael molovinsky said...

lehigh @11:12, occasionally, i print apologist nonsense like yours, but not always. yes guppy, construction workers must eat. the pizza parlor formally on the 700 block is now stuffed in a basement, fronting on 8th. one patron may look like a boom to you, looks sad to me. (so do you)

Anonymous said...

MM, don't apoligize to lehigh, just another cheerleader for the palumpa admin¿ There is an upcomming weekend of edited out reporting by other local media outlets in the town known for open shootouts that go from one end to the other¿
Allentown is on the fast track to becomming no1 for the OK Corral of the northeast¿

Rich Fegley said...

When they demolished the chimney with the Neuweiler name, the property lost its last bit of history. When you visit the revitalized Lucky Strike tobacco factory in NC, the smokestack with the Lucky Strike name stands out like a hood ornament on Rolls-Royce.

The property is a disaster.

Anonymous said...

MM completely OT but congratulations on winning the Morning Call blogging award! Well earned and deserved.

The Banker

michael molovinsky said...

banker@9:35, thanks, bernie also won. unfortunately for him, dave erdman, morning call editor, miscalculated, and entrusted me with bernie's award. more on that later.

Anonymous said...

Comrade Palowski gets more brazen with every move, socialists like him think the private sector is useful only to cronies. Aurel Arndt's ambition to build empires at whatever cost has played right into the community organizers hand. Now everbody pays for his follies.

Anonymous said...

I think this is all about "Gentrification" and getting the "undesirables" out of Allentown.

Only issue is, where is the gentry?

Can you imagine a Section 8 housing project on The Lehigh River.

michael molovinsky said...

@12:04, actually there was and is one across the river. hanover acres and riverview terrace were operated by the allentown housing authority. they were recently replaced by overlook park, which has a section 8 component.