Is Whitehall’s Majestic Project Smart Growth?


By Michael Sutherland

What’s up with the push back against adaptive re-use in Whitehall?

As the Morning Call reported this week, developer Nat Hyman wants to turn the former Majestic Athletic factory into 49 apartments.

The only issue is that Hyman has been denied multiple times for the variances that he needs by the zoning board in order to build.

This re-use of an abandoned building should make the township excited, but residents and officials have come out twice since 2009 against the project.

So why is supporting this proposal a good idea for the township?

  1. Adaptive Re-use

Right now, this property is sitting vacant as an eyesore to the township.

In allowing Hyman to turn the factory into apartments, the property would have a new life.  If the quality of the re-development is high, the neighborhood would stabilize.  Whitehall would see the value of the surrounding homes rise all by re-using what is already there.  Reduce, re-use and recycle apply to buildings and neighborhoods, too.

  1. High ROI

This dense residential development puts a relatively high number of residential units on a small parcel of land. This will result in higher tax revenues for the township. It is a high return on investment compared to uses such as warehouses, which very often provide a relatively low amount of tax revenue when you factor in the amount of space they use.  While these 49 residential units could add children to the school district, apartments in converted factory buildings do not usually attract families with children.


  1. We save our farmland

By re-using a former property in an urban area, we prevent the temptation to build on a piece of prime farmland. As the Lehigh Valley continues to grow, adaptive re-use of old buildings will be crucial in preventing urban sprawl and keeping our cities vibrant.

We support the adaptive reuse of buildings like this as smart growth.

Posted on April 15, 2015, in Neighborhoods. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. These issues of rezoning come up all of the time all around the Lehigh Valley. If we used the principles of Smart Growth to help make the right decisions, we would have more vibrant neighborhoods, preserved farmland and shorter commutes.

  2. Similar issue in Emmaus:

    They seem to throw up roadblocks for an adaptive reuse project. But at the same time, Emmaus supported a terrible wholesale Greenfield rezoning for a cookie cutter sprawl project “Fields at Indian Creek” by changing its zoning map. (resulting in the area loses a wonderful piece of open space)

    Greenfield rezoning almost always results in land use patterns of very low /acre value paired with excessive liabilities assumed by the local municipalities. Bottom line is greenfield development costs localities more then revenue it generates. It’s a net loser.
    That being said.. they are “concerned” about some incremental targeted mixed use density? (AKA smart growth) A type of land development proven to be a net winner?
    Appropriate density in your mixed use town center that takes advantage of existing infrastructure almost always is a great financial bet. It’s a adaptive re-use project also. Good stuff.

    If I’m reading right this thinking is the opposite of smart growth. One statement makes no sense to me: “Manager said the square footage of the building did not support additional parking.” What does that even mean? How does square footage translate into parking need? Just another arbitrary regulation based on numbers pulled out of the sky usually.

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