It was one of those days made for a Lehigh-Lafayette tailgate. On the table outside Goodman Stadium were good food and drink – and an idea that could become one of the biggest developments in Allentown’s economic renaissance.
“We all but closed the deal at the tailgate,” said Mark W. Jaindl ’82, a Lehigh accounting and finance graduate, recalling the conversation he had with Andrew Twiggar ’94 ’99G–a discussion that visualized a bustling waterfront community with residential, business, entertainment, exercise, and retail locations.
Twiggar, who earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering and an M.B.A. from Lehigh, said about the original idea, “I was driving across the Tilghman Street Bridge and thought, ‘There has to be a better use for that land.’” The bridge traverses the Allentown site.
He shared his thoughts with Jaindl at a charity breakfast and they promised to revisit the proposal, which they did at the tailgate.
Referred to as “The Waterfront,” The Waterfront Development Company was established to redevelop 30 acres along the west bank of the Lehigh River in Allentown, PA. Most of the site was the defunct Lehigh Structural Steel Company.
The $300 million project is a mixed-use development that will consist of more than a million square feet of buildings, including luxury apartments; 610,000 square feet of Class A office space; 100,000 square feet of retail space; 30,000 square feet of restaurants; surface and garage parking; plazas and a river walk, hiking trail and amphitheater. It means 2,000 jobs during construction; perhaps 2,400 permanent jobs, many professional; hundreds of new Allentown residents; and $4 million in real estate tax revenues.
Forming The Waterfront were Jaindl Properties, a real estate investment and development company founded by Jaindl and his son, Zachary; Dunn Twiggar Company, LLC, a commercial real estate company in which Twiggar is a principal; and Michael Dunn Company, LTD, a real estate and construction management firm.
The partners are committed to making The Waterfront a model for urban infill and actively promote a best-practices approach for every aspect of the project, including planning, architecture, environmental awareness, sustainability, technology, and programming. They want to make sure the development provides the community with a true sense of place.
Dr. Thomas Hyclak, a Lehigh economics professor, said The Waterfront has the potential to change Allentown significantly by replacing underused land with tax-generating development.
“It could be transformational. They’ll be taking away an eyesore,” he said, and added that using tax incentives to defray commercial rents will attract businesses not just from the region, but also from out of state, meaning net jobs growth.
“The Waterfront’s apartments are likely to attract “a critical mass” of people with the purchasing power to support stores and restaurants,” Hyclak said. “It’s happened in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Lakeview in Chicago, and Northern Liberties in Philadelphia.”
City Hall Support
Enthusiasm is evident in Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who already has welcomed to the area Coca Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, a Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate; and PPL Center, an arena that hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey team, a Philadelphia Flyers affiliate.
“Any time you have water, it attracts people,” Pawlowski said. But the Lehigh River with accessibility? “That creates an exciting prospect.”
The renovation is along the largest developable tract along the Lehigh River. The Lehigh crew teams already practice there. “This is changing economics for the entire region,” said Pawlowski.
Jaindl’s father, the late Fred J. Jaindl, was a turkey farmer who became the Lehigh Valley’s top landowner. His first real estate sale was to Murray H. Goodman ’48 ’88H, a Lehigh business administration graduate, commercial developer, and Lehigh University benefactor.
Fred and Mark Jaindl, along with other investors, founded American Bank, which Mark serves as president, chairman and CEO. “Five of our seven board members have ties to Lehigh,” he said, either having studied there or having children who did.
Mark, Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003 and winner of the Top Workplace Leadership Award in 2014, actually became familiar with The Waterfront site through a Lehigh course. “I was asked as a banker by Lehigh to certify a class’s evaluation of the site,” he recalled.
In addition to his son, Zac, who majored in marketing at Lehigh, Jaindl and his wife, Beth, have a daughter, Julie, a graduate of Johnson and Wales. They reside in Allentown.
Twiggar is an adjunct professor in the Murray H. Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies. He teaches Introduction to Real Estate and the Real Estate Field Laboratory.
Twiggar says, only partly in jest, “I’m raising some future Lehigh students.” He and his wife, Bridget O’Connell ’95 ’97G ’07G, who earned a B.A. in English and anthropology, an M.A. in secondary education, and a P.h.D. in educational leadership from Lehigh, have four children and live in Bethlehem.