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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, March 26, 2015

48 Apartments Approved at 65 E. Elizabeth

Bethlehem's five-member Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved the addition of 48 apartments at 65 E. Elizabeth Street. They did so at their March 25 meeting following testimony from two architects, owner Borko Milosev and star witness Darlene Heller, Bethlehem's Planning Director.  Milosev was represented by Bethlehem Attorney Jim Preston, who thanked Heller for giving his closing argument. There was no opposition to the conversion of the top six floors of the iconic ten-story building into multi-family dwellings.

Milosev, who purchased the property in December for $2.67 million, admitted to zoners that he is taking a risk. The property, which offers Class B office space, has had an increasing vacancy rate despite offering a 26% discount to interested businesses. Currently, the building is 65% vacant.

He hopes to change that dynamic by converting the top six floors into one and two-bedroom apartments. When the building was first constructed in 1967, it was only a four-story structure. But the demand for office space at that time was so great that six floors were added. According to Architect Lucienne Di Biase Dooley, a Principal at Artefacte, the building was considered avant garde because of its heavy use of metal panels, which was repeated at Martin Tower. She told zoners that the facade will be re-painted with a dark grey color, with screenings in the windows for privacy.

A second architect, John Lee, testified that there will be eight units on each floor, although that might change. He indicated there might be one or two three-bedroom luxury apartments on the top floor, where there are "wonderful views."

Milosev doubts that his building will attract Moravian students because 96% of the non-commuting students live in housing provided by the college. He plans to invest another $5 million into this project and estimates that will rent for $850-900 (1 BR) and $1,100-$1,200 (2BR),

Planning Director Darlene Heller advocated the project, referring to provisions in the new Zoning Ordinance that promote mixed use. She called it an "adaptive reuse" similar to the Dodson and Farr Buildings, adding that the City's own studies reveal there is an "unbelievable demand" for rental units like this from both young professionals and empty nesters.

Milosev stated that one of his commercial tenants, a dentist, is delighted at the proposal because she could live in one of the top floors and take an elevator to work.


Anonymous said...

Guess it's tough to compete against the NIZ taxpayer subsidized office rents over in Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I was thinking that myself last night.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I worked in that building and we moved out due the condition of the place to a different building in Bethlehem.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully it is rehabbed nice and apartments are made with quality material. I would not mind renting there for a reasonable price. Has great views and is a convenient location.