Residents to weigh in on future of Allentown State Hospital site
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Allentown residents have one last opportunity to weigh in on new zoning rules that would lay the groundwork for a developer to transform the old Allentown State Hospital site.
City Council is set to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday to hear residents’ opinions about a proposed “mixed-use overlay district” that would allow housing, retail, educational facilities and more on the site.
Its current designation under the city’s zoning ordinance allows only hospitals, related medical offices and colleges.
City Center, Allentown’s most prominent downtown developer, wants to build more than 1,000 housing units on the former state-owned property, which spans almost 200 acres.City Center planning documents
City Center, Allentown’s most prominent downtown developer, wants to build more than 1,000 housing units on the former state-owned property, which spans almost 200 acres.
The developer acquired the property in September 2022 for about $5.5 million after then-state Sen. Pat Browne helped push the deal through.
Allentown State Hospital was built in the early 1900s and served as a psychiatric hospital until 2010. It was demolished in December 2020.
'Framework' for entire project
Company executive Robert DiLorenzo has said the new development would include apartments, townhouses, duplex/triplex/fourplexes, cottages, single-family homes and senior living options to address what he called the “missing middle” of the real estate market.
City Center’s plans also show stores, health care and educational facilities, and other buildings throughout the site.
The development, to be known as Northridge, could one day support a new school and “micro-hospital.” It also would ban gas stations, warehouses and restaurants with drive-thru lanes.Robert DiLorenzo, who leads planning and construction for City Center.
The proposed overlay district would ban gas stations, warehouses and restaurants with drive-thru lanes.
The development, to be known as Northridge, could one day support a new school and “micro-hospital,” according to DiLorenzo, who leads planning and construction for City Center.
He called the new zoning rules the “framework” for the entire Northridge development. Without them, City Center’s ambitious plans could not move forward.
The public hearing is the latest in a series of meetings in which Allentown and Lehigh Valley officials have reviewed the proposed zoning overlay district for Northridge.
But Wednesday’s public hearing is the first and only meeting specifically for residents to weigh in on the zoning change that would enable the project.
The proposed ordinance that would establish the overlay district spells out a slew of regulations and limitations across 19 pages.
The ordinance would require the developer to preserve at least 35% of the property — about 70 acres — as open space for outdoor recreation.
A steep, forested slope that covers about 70 acres along the southern portion of the property — just north of the Lehigh River and Norfolk Southern’s rail lines — is set to be preserved through a conservation easement with the Wildlands Conservancy.
Whatever happens with the old Allentown State Hospital property, Wildlands President Christopher M. Kocher said the easement “would forever ensure” the land’s protection from development.
City Center also plans to preserve about 14 acres throughout the rest of the Northridge project, which means green spaces would account for 42% of the property.
The easement process could take up to a year to complete.