ALLENTOWN, PA. - . Pennrose Properties
specializes in restoring landmark buildings, and its expertise was
just what this city needed to transform two early 20th Century
downtown buildings into 63 one-bedroom apartment units for
independent seniors aged 62 and older.
Allentown Center Square Senior Housing was created by restoring
the former Allentown National Bank and the former Trojan Powder
Building, which stand side by side on the same block.
Built in 1905 and 1912, respectively, the buildings “were
in a state of terrible disrepair,” according to Pennrose. The
restoration included removal of a drop ceiling that had been
inserted into the bank lobby, revealing a dome that was restored
and is now part of the common area.
Turning commercial buildings into apartments was challenging and
costly, the firm said. The floors of the two buildings did not
align, so dual-stop elevators were installed. Remediating lead
paint and asbestos and restoring the historic dome also added
significant expenses. The total development cost was $12.2 million,
or $193,000 per unit. Construction costs were $8.5 million, per the
original contract, plus $841,000 in change orders.
The firm says it raised $9.3 million in equity from low-income
and historic tax credits for the project. The city helped with an
$800,000 loan from HOME funds for a term of 30 years with interest
accruing at the applicable federal rate.
Other financing included a $1.2 million loan from the
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s PennHOMES program. It
has a 30-year term at zero percent interest, with deferred
principal payments for the full term.
The project had a $1 million tax credit allocation, or about
$16,000 per unit.
For the environmental remediation, the sponsors obtained a loan
for $428,000 from the Department of Community and Economic
Development’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program. It has a
30-year term, with no interest and deferred principal payments.
The 62 one-bedroom units are sized at 548 square feet and rent
for up to $469. There is one efficiency unit, which is 395 square
feet and rents for $375. About half the units are targeted to
people earning up to 60 percent of the median income. The balance
is targeted to people with incomes maxing out at 40 percent and 50
percent of AMI.
A part-time on-site service coordinator will link residents to
aging, health, transportation, and other community services.
Low-cost on-site meals are among the services offered to
The development also has a gym, a computer lab, a community
room, and an examining room for visiting doctors and nurses.
Lease-up began April 2006, just a month before completion. Full
occupancy was achieved in eight months.
Additional project information, as
provided in application by the nominator.
Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be
recognized based on the award criteria of this
A. Before Allentown Center Square Housing
Partnership, L.P. (the partnership for which Pennrose, GP, LLC,
serves as its general partner) took ownership of the Allentown
National Bank and Trojan Powder buildings in 2005, the structures
seemed destined for demolition. Years of neglect and abandonment
had left these two prominent landmarks at Allentown’s Center
Square in such poor shape that even city redevelopment and economic
development leaders were hard-pressed to offer any hope of saving
them. One year later, the partnership led by Pennrose President
Mark H. Dambly proudly hosted a grand opening for the
Allentown Center Square Senior Housing involved the
rehabilitation of two historic buildings—the former Allentown
National Bank (c. 1905) and the Trojan Powder building (c. 1912)
into an independent-living, senior apartment facility consisting of
63 units for households over the age of 62.
The rehabilitative scope of work included the complete
remediation of all environmentally hazardous elements and the
removal on non-historical elements throughout the building; the
complete stabilization of the structure of the buildings, including
the stabilization of the ornamental cornices and façade
elements; the restoration of the Allentown National Bank interior
elements, including the removal of the floor inserted into the bank
lobby and the restoration of the interior building elements;
complete rehabilitation of the 11 floors of the Trojan Powder
building and eight floors of the Allentown National Bank building
into 63 apartments and related community spaces.
By combining these two historic structures and eliminating an
eyesore that had become a white elephant in the heart of the
city’s business district, Pennrose Properties and the City of
Allentown were able to preserve the buildings and create quality
affordable housing for senior citizens in the heart of the
redeveloping Center City commerce district. The new apartment
complex also includes a community room, computer lab, exercise and
health rooms, resident laundry facilities, and onsite parking in a
mix that provides modern amenities while acting as a catalyst for
continued development throughout the downtown business
Allentown Center Square both provides for the adaptive reuse of
historic structures for affordable housing for low-income senior
citizens, and serves as an integral component in the overall
community revitalization of downtown Allentown. The project has
previously been recognized with the 2005 Lehigh County Urban
Redevelopment Pioneer Award, and the 2006 Allentown Preservation
Q. How does this project represent an innovative
solution to a specific development challenge?
A. The Allentown National Bank and Trojan
Powder buildings, though historically significant, succumbed to
years of neglect and decay which had placed the two buildings in a
state of terrible disrepair.
In a determined and concerted effort to put the buildings back
into productive use and eliminate the eyesore that had slowly
developed, the City of Allentown solicited proposals for the
buildings’ rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the city’s
search for proposals left them virtually empty-handed; developers
were just not interested in tackling the job at hand. The
anticipated costs were essentially prohibitive, and the market was
not well established. Although the city wholeheartedly supported
the buildings’ rehabilitation, and was successful in having
the property designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone by the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, developers had a difficult time
determining a viable end-use for the buildings.
Fortunately, Pennrose had the vision and determination to make a
deal work, which enabled them to prepare a development proposal
that was economically feasible and that would allow the city to
retain these magnificent, historic structures at what is
unquestionably the most prominent intersection in the City of
Allentown. Now, several years later, Allentown Center Square is an
extraordinary success, not only for Pennrose, but also for the City
of Allentown and its residents. The eyesore has been eliminated,
the buildings have been historically preserved, and a new,
glorious, affordable, service-enriched home has been created for 63
The work of Pennrose and the City of Allentown serves as a
shining example of what can be done with aging urban properties.
Together, Pennrose and the city rallied the financial and community
support required to preserve and restore two buildings—once
the pride of Center City Allentown—that had become no more
than white elephants destined for demolition.