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Allentown panel backs plans to demolish historic building for apartments

828 W. Turner St.
Jason Addy
Blackstone Structures is seeking approval to knock down this historic building at 828-830 W. Turner St. The developer is planning to build a 142-unit apartment complex.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A historic building’s days likely are numbered after an Allentown City Council committee on Wednesday supported its demolition to make room for a large apartment complex.

Councilmembers Cynthia Mota, Candida Affa and Santo Napoli, who make up the Community and Economic Development Committee, recommended the full council vote to let Blackstone Structures knock down a three-story house at 828-830 W. Turner St. to make space for The Swans.

  • An Allentown City Council committee on Wednesday supported a developer’s plans to raze a historic building
  • Blackstone Structure is planning a 142-unit apartment complex at 826 W. Turner St.
  • The historic building sits on an adjacent property

Proposals for The Swans at 826 W. Turner St. indicate a seven-story building with 142 market-rate apartments.
The Swans apartment complex is meant to be a “catalyst” for revitalizing the neighborhood, Newman said.

Though it’s only a few blocks away from Center City Allentown, it feels like it’s “a world away” because of crime in the area and its lack of connection to downtown redevelopment, Newman said.

Committee Chairwoman Cynthia Mota called the area a “runway for prostitution … and addiction” and said she believes it’s “in the city’s best interests” to demolish the historic building and spur development.

Renovation is 'financially impractical'

Newman told councilmembers he is working with officials at Central Elementary School, pastors and business owners to ensure his project improves what he said is the poorest Census tract in the Lehigh Valley.

Allentown Historical Architectural Review Board
Blackstone Structures is planning to build an apartment complex — to be known as The Swans — at 828-830 W. Turner St.

He said The Swans could be valued around $32 million, which Napoli said would bring in vastly more tax revenues for Allentown School District than the building that’s on the property now.

Blackstone Structures needs City Council’s approval for demolition because the property at 828-830 W. Turner St. is one of the city’s historic districts.

The lot at 826 W. Turner St., which has been vacant since a parking garage was torn down in 2009, is not.

Allentown Historical Architectural Review Board on May 1 recommended council members deny Blackstone’s demolition request, but city Community and Economic Development Director Vicky Kistler said Wednesday her staff was in “full support” of plans to raze the building.

The historic building the company is seeking to demolish has “severe damage,” and “rehabilitation costs to modernize the building are financially impracticable,” according to Blackstone Structures’ demolition application.

The three-story home likely was built more than 120 years ago and parts are “structurally unsound,” engineer Richard Christie said in a report about the property.

Similar complex in the works

Blackstone Structures also plans a five-story complex at 926-930 W. Hamilton St. with commercial uses on the first floor and market-rate housing on the top four floors.

Allentown HARB members supported the developer’s request to knock down the building 926 W. Hamilton St., where Kruper Bros. Appliances operated until 2019.

Gen. Harry Trexler bought the property in 1884 and lived there for about 30 years, according to HARB’s report on the property. That gave the property some historical value, but it’s been converted for commercial uses and reconfigured several times, the report says.

Board members agreed on May 1 that “there is nothing left” of historic value supporting the building’s demolition.