Which local projects were awarded millions of dollars in state aid? Who missed out?

By Rudy Miller | lehighvalleylive.com

The Pennsylvania governor’s budget office awarded millions of dollars in grants Thursday for projects local officials that aim to help boost the Lehigh Valley’s local economy.

Not everybody got what they wanted, though.

The awards go out every year through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. For consideration, the awards must help acquire land or build a project that will boost “regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.” The state is looking for a big return on investment, which is why the grants are often six to seven figures.

The Commodore
Asked for: $9.3 million
Awarded: $3 million

Plans call for preserving the historic section of a blighted building at 100-116 Northampton St., called the gateway to Easton. The new structure will have a rooftop restaurant and 32 apartments. It was home for decades to Kaplan’s Awnings.

Lehigh Township public works facility
Asked for: $368,000
Awarded: $0

Heritage Lanes
Asked for: $750,000
Awarded: $750,000

This redeveloped bowling alley at 132 S. Third St. in Easton will become an office building. Most, if not all, of the building will be occupied by Hearst Publishing.

Lidl grocery store
Asked for: $1 million
Awarded: $0

The German-owned grocery store opened earlier this year on South 25th Street in Wilson Borough.

Riverport Market
Asked for: $1.2 million
Awarded: $750,000

This project calls for a $3 million renovation of the former Starters Riverport pub in South Bethlehem into a market for as many as 30 vendors.

Lafayette College – Rinek Rope complex
Asked for: $1.5 million
Awarded: $0

The Easton college wants to renovate and repurpose the former Rinek Rope manufacturing complex at 991 Bushkill Drive.

ArtsQuest Community Cultural Center
Asked for: $4 million
Awarded: $500,000

ArtsQuest in Bethlehem wants to construct a new 80,000-square-foot arts and cultural center at the current Banana Factory Art Center. The project calls for razing four of the six current buildings.

Lafayette College – Kunkel Hall
Asked for: $4 million
Awarded: $0

The Easton college wants to renovate this building for academic and administrative offices consistent with its campuswide expansion plans.

Boyd Theater
Asked for: $5 million
Awarded: $750,000

The redevelopment of the former Boyd Theater property in Bethlehem will be the first new mixed used residential development project on West Broad Street in over 35 years. Plans call for demolishing the obsolete two-story commercial structure and single-screen movie theater and replacing them with 120 one- and two-bedroom apartments with modern layouts and amenities.

Polk Street parking garage
Asked for: $5 million
Awarded: $0

This seven-story, 585-space parking garage is planned for a surface parking lot maintained by the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

Da Vinci Science City
Asked for: $8 million
Awarded: $0

Plans for this science museum in Easton are now off the table after the city and museum board couldn’t agree on a site.

Readington Farms
Asked for: $20 million
Awarded: $0

The Readington Farms project in Palmer Township includes the construction of a 350,000-square-foot dairy processing and distribution facility on a 35-acre parcel.

Here are the Lehigh County projects:

Allentown Metal Works
Asked for: $500,000
Awarded: $500,000

The Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority owns 606 S. 10th St., a 19-acre former manufacturing property. The project includes a phased renovation of three buildings.

Bogert’s Bridge restoration
Asked for: $1 million
Awarded: $250,000

The historic covered bridge’s railing system, approach road and timber deck all need serious repairs. Many systems have completely failed. Without significant rehabilitation, this bridge may be lost.

Mansion on Seventh rehabilitation
Asked for: $1.5 million
Awarded: $500,000

Plans call for rehabilitating a historic Allentown mansion to host a restaurant for hospitality training and to provide commercial office space. Empty parcels adjoining the mansion will be developed as public green space and for the construction of two commercial units and eleven townhouses.

Iron Works Catasauqua
Asked for: $2.2 million
Awarded: $0

The project calls for the redevelopment of the former Crane Iron Works site in Catasauqua for a mix of commercial, residential, and public uses.

Asked for: $2.5 million
Awarded: $2.5 million

The German specialty chemicals company Evonik plans to open a $50 million business and technology center at 7201 Hamilton Blvd. in Upper Macungie Township.

Little Lehigh infrastructure
Asked for: $3 million
Awarded: $1 million

This Allentown development will provide housing for low and moderate income Allentown families. It calls for the demolition of 10 structures and the new construction of 16 buildings with 76 homes.

Whitehall Township police and municipal services complex
Asked for: $5 million
Awarded: $1 million

Plans call for a new 29,000-square-foot police station at the current township municipal complex at 3219 MacArthur Road, renovations to the township building, a new shared lobby, two new elevators and associated site improvements.

Local officials react to the grant announcements:

State Rep. Robert Freeman said he’s grateful for the $3.75 million awarded to the Commodore and Heritage Lanes projects in Easton. “Projects like these encourage people to live downtown by offering affordable housing and they also provide businesses with opportunities to expand their operations leading to more jobs for area residents,” he said in a news release.

State Sen. Lisa Boscola thanked the governor for the $6.75 million in awards for projects in her district. “These state funds will be used to assist in the redevelopment of five important economic development projects in the cities of Bethlehem and Easton along with assisting in the construction of a new public safety complex in Whitehall,” Boscola said in a news release.

Garett Vassel is the president of the Optima Durant Group, which is developing the Commodore in Easton. The project got the most RACP dollars in the Lehigh Valley. Only seven projects in Pennsylvania got more than $3 million, according to an Optima Durant consultant.

“I am so grateful and encouraged for this deserving project,” Vassel said.

Remain apprised of Optima Durant Group updates and developments