Allen Organ Supermarket and 200+ Apartments is back.

It’s back. Except it’s no longer being characterized as a smart growth mixed use project as it once was. (But never really was…) Now it’s being billed as exactly what it really is. A supermarket and a gas station paired with 200 apartments on 30 some acres. The project would be the highest density in the township.

This property is located in the Corn Field between Mack Trucks and Borough of Macungie aside of and behind the Allen Organ offices. Township Commissioner Ron Eichenberg happens to be the realtor on the project.

What this is, is a high density residential project next to a high density commercial parcel. In fact one of the Planning Commissioners mentioned what I mentioned a couple months ago. What this is, is the Trexlertown Mall. Note those apartments have currently devolved into HUD housing.

Though the project has stayed essentially the same the developer is no longer seeking the new mixed use ordinance it once was. Special accommodations would have to be made since there is currently no zoning that allows this kind of development. Basically the township needs to go out of it’s way to allow this.

Many members of the planning commission were absent, so no official action was taken. Will keep an eye on this one.


The developer mentioned improvements to intersection will alleviate traffic issues – My question here is. Currently, there are no traffic issues. Traffic flows great at the intersection of Willow Lane and Rt. 100. Traffic issues might be created by this project, but currently there are none. This project would have 1 entrance in and out dumping 100% of the traffic onto Rt. 100.
“Just because you buy the junkiest land in the township doesn’t mean you should get special exceptions” – PCom member Maury Robert
“Little uncomfortable with the highest density in the township, should we really have developments exceeding 8 units per acre?” – Pcom member Tom Beil

DEVELOPMENT WATCH: Productive discussion last night on Lumber St. new daycare closer to reality.


Last night Borough council approved plans to relocate Lumber St. clearing the way for the construction of a daycare center on the Lumber Street property.

This is a great plan for a couple reasons aside from obviously developing a gaping whole in the middle of the downtown streetscape.

1. Upgraded Lumber St. at reduced cost to taxpayer. Lumber St. now is pretty much a gravel road that sees a fairly high volume of traffic. It’s a shortcut for anyone coming into town from Brookside who turn onto Lehigh St. Someday regardless of what happens with the lumber yard the Borough was going to have to address the situation. The potential new owners of the property, Christine and Joseph Devineare essentially contributing 1 dollar for taxpayer dollar to upgrade the street.

This is a winner for the Borough. Instead of the taxpayer coming in and having to pay the lions share of 400,000+ dollars the borough is only on the hook for roughly half. Excellent example of a private/public partnership. Win/Win.

2. The Recreation component. With a land development plan the developer must either contribute land or pay a fee. The Devines have offered to dedicate the bank of the mountain creek as open space and a pathway to the Borough in lieu of paying. This potential dedication will make an excellent addition to the borough path system. Better yet, the borough can wait and decide on whether to accept the dedication after seeing the pathway, gauging usage and value to the community. Again it’s Win/Win.

3. Business people working together. If I have one fault with this plan it’s losing 3-4 spaces on Main due to un-avoidable site line restrictions. However, I’m very happy to see all the players involved working to build more off-street parking behind Main. If there is one commodity that is absolutely invaluable to a suburban Main St. it’s parking spaces adjacent to the downtown. My one comment is I would love to see the Devines or a combination of landowners involved in the deal replace the 3 public spaces being lost with dedication of 3 public spaces on the Main St. end of the project so there isn’t a net loss of public parking.

Development Watch: Latest on the Macungie Lumber Yard Property

Two weeks ago at Macungie council, a couple came before the board to discuss their vision for the future of the Shelley Lumber Yard. Christine Devine and her husband would like to place adaycare center on a one-acre portion of the parcel closest to Lehigh Street.

The lumber yard property is bounded by Lehigh and Main. Lumber Street runs through the middle. Lumber Street is a public borough road. 

The tract has been vacant since the Lumber facility was demolished years ago. The 2010 downtown revitalization plan identified this tract as high priority for re-development due to it’s centralized location. (URDC facilitated the plan. Note: same firm that is going to tackle the LMT smart growth implementation plan)

Council was receptive to the plan, but had a few concerns. It’s important to note the plan on the table calls for development of only 1 acre of a total 5.5 acres. The reason the applicant is submitting this in steps is because the Devines would like to have the daycare open by August of next year. Questions regarding Lumber Street may be avoided temporarily by only developing 1 acre now.

Concerns centered around Lumber Street and bus access. If you’ve been on Lumber Street, (I am couple times a week) to say it needs some attention is an understatement. It’s basically a loosely defined gravel road. Lumber is the only way trucks can access businesses on Lehigh Street. (for ex. Lehigh Surfaces)

There was discussion on who would be responsible for future upgrades to the street. The 2010 plan suggested relocating Lumber Street to the edge of the property opening up more space and possibilities for the rest of the parcel.

The other concern was bus access to ensure school vehicles do not enter Lehigh St. from Brookside Road. This intersection is dangerous due to poor sitelines.

My take: This could be a great start to re-developing this brownfield.

The couple currently operates two Daycares in the area. Members of the public had nothing but nice things to say about the business and the Devines. If the concerns noted by council can be addressed, then this could be a great start to the re-development of this area.

I do agree that the intersection of Brookside and Lehigh is a concern and that Lumber Street is important to the success of this property as a whole. Council has to be sure they get it’s re-routing right. Meanwhile they must remember it is a public Rd. I think people would be surprised how hard it gets used, even in it’s current condition.

What do you think about the vacant lumber yard and this possible plan submission?

Development Watch: Indian Creek Subdivision and Macungie Lumber Yard

The proposed development at old Indian Creek Golf course

Monthly column (or whenever I learn about new proposals) outlining LMT and local projects in various stages and my thoughts on them. This month, 127-129 Main St. a great adaptive reuse of a historic building in Macungie, and an update on the potential Indian Creek Rd. subdivision that has major red flags at this early stage.

127-129 Main St. Macungie – Macungie Borough

Borough Council issued approval for a plan to convert 127-128 Main St. (currently a stone twin) into a mixed use building. The new owner, Tom Bartholomew plans to renovate the old twin which used to be a part of the lumber yard, to accomodate his state farm insurance office on the first floor and 2 small apartments on the 2nd floor. Also planned for the lot are six parking spaces and a rain garden that will mitigate the impervious cover of the blacktop. The environmental component of the plan has been approved by Lehigh Conservation District.

Why great: This is a great project for Main Street. Refurbished/Re-purposed Mixed use buildings with retail/restaurant or office on the 1st level and apartments on the second are what makes a Main St. community thrive. Excellent adaptive use of existing home stock. This will be a welcome addition to the community with the important blessing of the Lehigh Conservation district for handling of the storm water runoff associated with the parking spaces.

I would love to see more retail and restaurant activity on Main St., but this is a good project on the street-side of the old lumber site. Hopefully more good news comes down the line on the remaining portion of the property next to the park which will be a key component of Main St. revitalization in Macungie Borough.

Potential Subdivision of Indian Creek Rd. – Lower Macungie Township, Emmaus Borough and Upper Milford (Former Indian Creek Golf Course)

This is a unique proposal in that it has 2 acres in LMT, 10 acres in the Emmaus and the bulk in Upper Milford for a total of 78 acres. This is the old Indian Creek Golf course. The property is bounded by Chestnut Street, Allen Street, Indian Creek Rd and Cedar Crest. This plan would include 215 homes in a 55+ community. The plan would preserve 9 holes (off Cedar Crest) of the Golf course to continue as a public course.

Why the Jury is still out: While there are some ok elements of this plan for example the 55+ aspect (no impact on school district) and land preservation of 33-48 acres acres, at this point there are major red flags for LMT. Planning commission chair Irv Keister said “while only a few acres (2) of this project are in LMT, it appears we’ll get 100 percent of the traffic”. Basically the constraints of this property force all the traffic either onto Allen St. or Indian Creek Rd. Indian Creek either funnels traffic right into the heart of the township or exits onto the terribly dangerous intersection of Indian Creek and Cedar Crest. (The roller coaster hill) It’s basically one giant cul-de-sac that funnels traffic onto our township roads. Exiting Allen St. onto Chestnut is already a nightmare. This project should absolutely not proceed without installing a light on Allen and Chestnut. This could also possibly trigger another expensive traffic light at Indian Creek and Brookside (across from Dries) in the township. One positive at this early stage is it’s clear the developer is trying to work with the townships/borough to develop this tricky parcel. But there are many hurdles to cross for this iteration of the plan that has little benefit to the township and a ton of negatives.

Next month: Updates on two very different potential developments. 1. Stone Hill Station (potentially good conservation development off Gehman Rd) and 2. The latest on 700 acre Jaindl warehouse/residential/commercial monster currently in litigation with potential gamechanging consequences for the entire township.

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Development Watch: Allen Organ Tract/Mixed Use update


 Tuesday night at the bi-monthly Planning Commission meeting, Remington properties presented an updated version of the ordinance they are proposing to accommodate a mixed use development on the Allen Organ property.

Progress was made toward submitting an ordinance that can be applied at other locations that would be township serving. I appreciated Maury Roberts asking the developer “Why is this project good for Lower Macungie?” This is the fundamental question that should be asked of all proposals submitted to the township.

While progress was made, I was disappointed that much of the meeting was spent on items such as the size and number of parking spaces. While these items are important, my major concern with the original proposal was that it was simply an apartment complex and grocery store ‘smushed’ together on a commercial parcel. I’m still unsure if the ordinance goes far enough to aggressively promote the positive outcomes of mixed use, but progress was certainly made. Some of these outcomes are:

  • Pedestrian scale on the residential side – And if not truly centered on the commercial side then far more pedestrian friendly then any shopping center currently in the township.
  • Attractive design – Including significant architectural quality and site design amenities
  • Connectivity – Integration in a meaningful & functional way of the commercial and residential portions

PC member Tom Beil asked an important question about compatible uses. If the ordinance allows for auto-centric uses such as gas stations, drive-throughs and garages ect., then it completely defeats the purpose and undermines the goals and represents more of the same.

The target market for this project is the 20-35 year old professional. That was made clear. Ok goodand very important considering the current enrollment in EPSD.  You have to go all-in to attract this demographic when competing against trendy projects closer to urban cores. (Riverport for ex.) If this is truly targeting the 20-35 market then the priorities are markedly different and the thinking has to reflect that. There are subtle differences in thinking for say an over 55 or mass market community that are different then this particular niche.

I think trade offs over number of parking spaces in exchange for design standards, open space and surface parking lots  that are shielded or behind residential buildings are worthwhile. I was also happy to see the commission stick to it’s guns regarding density. 6-8 units per acre is appropriate for our suburban township. Also a common sense proposal was made to allow for future parking considerations on an ‘as needed basis’ instead of requiring more up-front impermeable surface lots. Once land is paved, it’s paved. This was a good compromise.

I mentioned in my last blogpost about this site… Lip service is no longer good enough. If we’re going the smart growth route we need a complete buy-in. Anything less is just more of the same and won’t generate the outcomes we need.

Other news:

The board voted to move forward with reviewing the comprehensive plan. This will include possible inclusion of smart growth concepts across the board as outlined in the townships 20/20 visioning document. This is great news! They made a point to encourage public participation in this review.