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Boutique hotel on Hamilton Street getting green light

DiLorenzo commission meeting.jpg
Phil Gianficaro
Robert DiLorenzo, of City Center Investment Corp., addresses Allentown Planning Commission on Tuesday. City Center's hotel project on Hamilton Street received final approval.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Allentown City Planning Commission on Tuesday gave final approval for a proposed five-story, 140-room boutique hotel, with ground-bar and restaurant at 949 Hamilton St.

The hotel project on Monday received unanimous approval for demolition of the existing buildings at the site in the Downtown West section of the city.

  • A five-story, 140-room boutique hotel planned for Hamilton Street was given approval by Allentown City Planning Commission on Tuesday
  • The hotel will generate 31 full-time jobs and 70 construction jobs, and create $185,000 in city taxes
  • A digital marquee at the planned Archer Music Hall on Hamilton Street was approved

According to project manager Robert DiLorenzo, director of planning and construction at City Center Investment Corp., of Allentown, the next step in the project is applying for a demolition permit with the city.
Demolition of the structures is likely to last from mid-April through June, DiLorenzo said, with plans to break ground on the project in July or August.

Hamilton street corner.png
City Center Allentown
Hamilton and 10th Streets is the site of the proposed boutique hotel that received approval on Tuesday.
New Allentown Hotel
City Center developers
A new Allentown hotel proposed by City Center developers was approved on Tuesday.

The hotel will measure 55,000 square feet and have 140 rooms on the second through fifth floors.

DiLorenzo told the commission he is not ready to announce the branding of the hotel. He noted the pink color on the hotel sign is consistent with the as-yet-unnamed hotelier.

Jane Heft, City Center vice president/director of project design and corporate branding, told the commission City Center will maintain ownership of the hotel, but it will be managed by an outside company.

Photos of the hotel’s diverse themes were posted on video screens throughout the meeting room.

“It’s eclectic, bordering on edgy inside."
Jane Heft, City Center vice president, on the planned hotel interior

'We want to bring vibrancy'

“It’s eclectic, bordering on edgy inside,” Heft said. “We challenged the architectural firm to come up with an eclectic theme.

"It’s neighborhood inspired, picking up the magic of the old Dorney Park, mixed with the old theater district. We wanted to bring a vibrancy.”

Commission members asked DiLorenzo if there would be valet parking — there are no plans currently — and where guests would park. Parking would be available at Maple Street Garage, a half-block from the hotel, he said.

Aside from the aesthetic improvements the hotel would have to the area, DiLorenzo emphasized to the zoning hearing board on Monday its economic impact. The $17.8 million project will generate 31 new permanent jobs and 75 construction-related jobs.

The currently vacant properties offer no employment.

DiLorenzo said the current buildings generate just over $32,000 annually in city property taxes, while the hotel would generate $185,000 annually.

“What makes this product unique is the rooms are a little smaller than a typical hotel,” he said. “It’s intended for that purpose, to try to get the average daily rate down.

"The smaller rooms are functional. But our intention is to get people to go down to the first floor, work on their laptops and maybe grab a drink.”

New music venue marquee approved

Also Tuesday, the commission unanimously approved making a favorable recommendation to Allentown City Council to approve the waiver request for construction of a three-sided digital marquee outside a planned music venue at 939 Hamilton St., between 9th and 10th Streets.

The Archer Music Hall, as the venue will be called, also under the direction of City Center Investment Corp.

DiLorenzo noted to the commission the importance of having a digital entertainment marquee as opposed to a fixed, non-electronic marquee, which would not have required a zoning amendment.

“At the end of the day, that’s the main key piece for the success of the venue, to have a digital marquee” DiLorenzo said.

Commission member Jeff Glazier questioned DiLorenzo whether nearby residents would be affected by the lights from the marquee. DiLorenzo said he did not believe the lights would impact residents. Dimming the marquee lights starting at 10 p.m. is an option to ensure residents are unaffected.

A similar lighted marquee is not planned for the nearby proposed boutique hotel on Hamilton Street, DiLorenzo said.

Approval for the construction of the Archer Music Hall in the 900 block of Hamilton Street was given by the commission last month. The 31,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art entertainment venue would accommodate 1,500-1,800 standing-room-only patrons.

The music venue project, under the direction of City Center Investment Corp., is scheduled to open in spring 2024.