$15M mixed-use development in Easton earns approval

By: Brian Pedersen

August 8, 2019

After acquiring Easton Planning Commission approval on Wednesday night, The Commodore project is a step closer to starting construction this fall.

A developer is planning to start construction this fall on The Commodore, a mixed-use building in Easton. (Submitted)

The project involves constructing an eight-story building in downtown Easton with a rooftop restaurant, several floors of upscale apartments and office/retail space on the lower levels. The building will include an addition to the existing Kaplan Building at 100 Northampton St., which the developer will incorporate into the project.

The next step comes Monday when the project is expected go before the city’s Historic District Commission, which also must review the project. It also has to go before City Council for approval, said developer Garett Vassel, founding president of Optima Durant Group LLC in New York City.

He said he is hoping to start construction on the 91,500-square-foot building sometime in the fall and to wrap it up in fall 2020.

He is using Optima Durant Construction, Artefact Architecture of Bethlehem and Beers Engineering of Lehighton.

He said he pursued the project based on the business growth and activity he has seen in Easton.

“I think Easton is a really exciting place to be,” Vassel said.

His company acquired the Kaplan Building last year. He said he wanted to preserve and restore its architectural features rather than simply demolishing it all and building new.

“I am trying to build this building very thoughtfully,” Vassel said.

The building would include predominantly two-bedroom units, with some one-bedroom units and, potentially, studios.

He plans to offer about 15,000 square feet of office space, which he described as a considerable risk.

The overall estimated cost of the project could be more than $15 million, he added.

The funding is mostly private, but he received some public funds in the form of a $3 million state grant from the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program.

He estimated that the property would generate $700,000 in income, city and state taxes each year once it is operating.

Vassel will offer some parking on site and more spaces nearby to the north of the property.


Optima Durant Group Triples Commercial Offering of Easton Gateway Project to 15,000 Square Feet

The Commodore Mixed-Use Development to Include 31 Residential Units

June 28,
2019—Optima Durant Group has expanded the commercial floor plan of its ground-up
Commodore development in Easton, Pa. to 15,000 square feet, triple the original
design. Still on track to open in fall 2020, the eight-story project now
includes a mezzanine and additional level dedicated to commercial office space,
plus a 350-square-foot semi-private lobby. It also features a 1,600-square-foot
gym available to all tenants, 14 integrated parking spaces, 31 residential
units, a 1,200-square foot open-air courtyard, a 6,200-square foot rooftop
restaurant with a terrace, and a 1,700-square foot retail space offering.

Located at 100 Northampton
Street and informally known as “the gateway to Easton,” the Commodore is being marketed
as an exceptional branding opportunity for its location, foot /car traffic and
visibility from the Northampton Street Bridge (Free Bridge). The development is
within walking distance to the city’s bustling downtown and overlooks the
Delaware and Lehigh rivers. It is also adjacent to Scott Park, connecting
tenants to multiple recreational trails.

“The early interest we’re seeing in both the residential and commercial sides of this project is astounding”

Garett Vassel

“The early interest we’re seeing in both the residential and
commercial sides of this project is astounding,” said Garett Vassel, Optima
Durant Group founder. “Due to Easton’s proximity to both Manhattan and
Philadelphia, not to mention its charm and affordability, the city has become
an ideal location for urban professionals looking for a higher quality of life.
With its revitalized business scene, culture, cuisine and nightlife, plus its
family-friendly vibe and accessibility to nature, you could argue that Easton
is becoming the new Brooklyn.” Easton is approximately 65 miles from
Philadelphia and 68 miles from Manhattan.

Optima Durant Group is currently in leasing discussions with
Fortune 500 companies throughout the entire Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions,
as well as with several midsize local Lehigh Valley companies. Vassel said the
city of Easton is evaluating possible infrastructure upgrades within the telecommunications
realm, which would present a compelling offering for large companies that want
to have a regional office at a significantly lower price than in a major city.

Optima Durant Group

Optima Durant Group is a fully integrated real estate company that focuses on development, construction, design and property management. Optima Durant, the motto of the founder’s primary school, translates to The Best Endures. The Company was founded in 2017 and pursues projects within the New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas markets.

Business Matters – Investing in the Lehigh Valley

Tony Iannelli, Garett Vassel, Carl Billera, Nat Hyman, Dennis Benner talk about investing and rebuilding Lehigh Valley cities. Including rural and suburban areas.

Business Matters – Investing in the Lehigh Valley (Pt.1)


Part 2


Part 3


New York developer has big plans for Kaplan building in Easton

EASTON, Pa. – It was once home to three generations of a family business and known for its red, white and blue awnings.

But now the Kaplan building, which sits on the corner of Northampton Street, is the latest piece of hot Easton real estate.

New York developer Garret Vassel has big plans for the property, which include retail space, apartments, and a roof top bar and restaurant.

“The ability to be able to look out onto this fantastic view here, the two rivers coming together, I think the vantage point was really it for me,” Vassel said.

Parts of the building, which is over 100 years old, are in serious disrepair.

The first and second floors housed Kaplan’s sign and awning business, which has since relocated.

The third floor was at one point an apartment, but water damage and neglect have left it in shambles. There are holes in the walls and ceilings, buckling floor boards and broken glass.

Vassel said the current condition is cosmetic and the location and history of the property is what drew him to it.

“The numbers, all of the analysis, is great. But there has got to be a sex appeal, an excitement. For me it was the charm of the building,” Vassel said.

Project investor and former Easton Mayor Phil Mitman says he expects the building redevelopment to add to Easton’s growing revitalization.

“It’s just a wonderful time to take this old building, building around it and then invite people to live here. The views and everything else are phenomenal,” Mitman said.

Vassel calls the project ‘adaptive reuse’ and says he plans to restore parts of the building back to their former glory.

The rest will be transformed into something new.

Vassel said he plans to start construction this year.

Remain apprised of Optima Durant Group updates and developments