Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lehigh Valley International (KABE), Allentown, Pennsylvania: Airport to begin finalizing land sale talks

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority today authorized staff to conclude contract negotiations with a new developer for marketing unwanted land near the Hanover Township, Lehigh County, facility.

Negotiations with a different partner broke down earlier this year.

After meeting behind closed doors, the authority's board of governors unanimously voted to begin finalizing talks with Rockefeller Group, a New York City-based developer. The authority is looking to unload the excess real estate to pay off mounting debt.

Lehigh Valley International Airport will owe $16 million in settlement dues by 2015 after losing a decade-long court battle with investors in the now-defunct Willow Brook Farms housing development. With only about $5 million in the bank, according to figures read by Treasurer J. Michael Dowd during the meeting, the governors are considering selling land north of the airport to fund the settlement.

The airport had previously reached this stage of negotiations with local developer J.G. Petrucci for advice on marketing the land, but talks broke down, said authority Executive Director Charles Everett Jr.

Airport administrators went back and reviewed other companies that showed interest in the project, and Rockefeller Group stood out because it did not demand millions of dollars upfront to make the property more profitable, he said.

"They were willing to partner with us," Everett said.

Revenues at the airport are down on the year, but it remains profitable -- operating $830,000 under budget, Dowd said.

Authority board Chairman Tony Iannelli said most of the revenue loss came from the departure of AirTran and American Eagle from the airport. However, through internal cuts, the airport is projected to finish $1 million under its $21.1 million budget, he said. Though he commended the airport’s staff for finding ways to trim costs, he warned this was not a healthy long-term solution.
“We’ve got at some point to find some growth,” he said.


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