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Allentown apartment project a go, despite concerns of adjacent music school

1528 West project render
HDC MidAtlantic
A render of the 1528 West apartment project, with the building containing the Community Music School visible in background.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plans for a four-story, 63,000-square-foot apartment building and parking garage on West Hamilton Street for ages 55-and-older and people with disabilities has gotten Allentown Planning Commission's approval.

Despite its unanimous vote Tuesday, the board urged HDC MidAtlantic and Alliance for Building Communities Inc., the developer of the project at 1528 W. Hamilton St., to continue negotiations with neighboring Community Music School Lehigh Valley & Berks.

Representatives of the school, at 1544 West Hamilton St., have voiced traffic safety concerns regarding the size of the project.

  • Allentown City Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the construction of a 49-unit apartment building and parking garage on West Hamilton Street.
  • The complex would house primary occupants 55-and-older and adults with disabilities.
  • Representatives of the adjacent music school voiced concerns about increased traffic and the safety of students, parents, and staff.

On Tuesday, music school Executive Director Jeff Reid addressed the commission about the project and parking garage being built on the school’s current lot location.
Reed’s concern focused on a one-way entrance from Hamilton Street into the apartment complex that would run under a narrow portico at the front of the school where students typically are dropped off.

The additional traffic creates a real danger to those walking along the sidewalk beneath the portico, Reed said.

The school, which has 294 students, has experienced active growth in students and programming, Reid said.

“We’re concerned about a one-way driveway and having traffic go through there along the school building,” Reid said. “We’re concerned about the safety of the school students walking from the rear pathway to the school.

“We think it’s a bad traffic plan that directly impacts pedestrians of all ages, children, Kindermusik [a music and movement program for up to age 5], and many seniors who come once a week. We’re concerned about this dangerous situation.”

“You’ve made some progress together. But you need to go a little bit more to see if everybody maybe isn’t happy, but happier.”
Jeff Glazier, Allentown City Planning Commission member

Commission members were sympathetic to Reid’s concerns, suggesting that those driving to the school do so from Hamilton Street.

Reid also voiced concerns about the need for safe, adjacent parking for students and their families.

Community Music School 2
Jay Bradley
Community Music School on Hamilton Street in Allentown. The school's lot is the site of a proposed 55-and-older apartment complex.

Planning commission member Jeff Glazier agreed that Reed’s safety concerns were reasonable and urged both parties to continue working together.

“You’ve made some progress together,” Glazier said. “But you need to go a little bit more to see if everybody maybe isn’t happy, but happier.”

Ian Rawhauser, director of real estate strategy with HDC MidAtlantic, said at the meeting on Tuesday he is agreeable to continuing listening to the concerns of the music school to ensure the safety of those accessing the school.

Funding is complicating matters for the building project, as it relates to additional costs or changes to the current plan in order to accommodate the school’s requests for safety.

Attorney Erich Schock, who represents HDC MidAtlantic, told the commission if the project is not closed by May 31, its financing — a $1.2 million grant from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency — would be rescinded.

Also, any changes to the approved building plan would void the grant.

Reporter Jay Bradley contributed to this report.