It’s hard to visit Bethlehem Pennsylvania and not fall in love with this charming, scenic, historic town. Embedded on a mountain side on the banks of the Lehigh River, Bethlehem attracts thousands of visitors who come for business, education and pleasure. In the winter, tourists visit the largest Christmas market in the nation and enjoy the festive atmosphere downtown as well as the proximity to Pennsylvania ski resorts. In the summer they come in droves to attend the acclaimed MusikFest featuring groups like the Chainsmokers. And all year long, the famous Sands Casino, attracts guests to its restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues. Add to all that a vibrant, growing student population and all that a university town has to offer – the Lehigh Valley is the home of leading institutions including Lehigh University, Moravian College and Lafayette, as well as the new Penn State campus. The academic buzz of young minds and hearts who call Bethlehem home while getting their elite education is apparent. No wonder more and more businesses are seeking new opportunities in the rapidly growing region.
The Lehigh Valley includes the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. It spreads across the Lehigh and Northampton counties into Eastern Pennsylvania along the Lehigh River, all the way to the New Jersey border. The region has not been on the radar of many real estate investors who followed the crowds to neighboring Philadelphia, Northern New Jersey and New York City markets. After all, other than locals, whoever heard of “the Lehigh Valley”? However, quietly and steadily, the region has been undergoing a renaissance of change that savvy investors, who take the time to look, find hard to ignore.
The Lehigh Valley is comprised of three main cities – Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton and their outlying suburbs. Each city is unique and enjoys its own highlights. Here is a short list of what you need to know:
This historic city is situated on the confluence of the Lehigh River and the Delaware river. The Crayola Experience is an offshoot of the Craola factory in Easton and attracts families to enjoy a unique family experience Visitors can enjoy a vibrant and exciting downtown with four-star restaurants, food trucks, a convergence of waterways and fantastic architecture. City Public Market – a thriving upscale farmer’s market with hand-crafted beers and food and live entertainment has become a favorite for locals and visitors. Lafayette College is a prestigious liberal arts college know also for its engineering program and is home to a growing student population.
Historic Bethlehem known as the “Christmas City” is a magnet for millions of visitors each year to lit streets, cafes and horse drawn carriages. Architecture is maintained for historic structures dating back to the 1700s. And music has become a big part of the Lehigh Valley experience with an abundance of quality small and large venues that attract national talent and contribute to an impressive local music scene. It all culminates each summer in a huge music festival called Musikfest / ArtsQuest.
South Bethlehem is an area of the city currently undergoing re-gentrification. It is the home of a Lehigh University, a world known university in sciences, math and engineering. S. Bethlehem provides a mix of ethnic foods, nightlife and million dollar brand new skyscrapers and rooftop restaurants together with the Sands Casino and Hotel.
West Bethlehem is a drive down Prospect Ave. and showcases large mansions nestled among well-kept smaller single family homes. Opportunity abounds for rentals due to the lack of city planning.
North Bethlehem is enjoying millions of dollars of investment being poured into the area where the State Highways 22/33/78 all converge to create the perfect location for the growing distribution center it is becoming for companies like Amazon and Fed Ex.
Over one billion dollars of investment has been poured into downtown Allentown over the past four years with JB Reilly as the lead mastermind behind this revolution. New skyscrapers tower over downtown and millennials are paying $1250 in rent for a small apartment so they can be in the center of all the activity. New restaurants, shops, and an arts district is anchored by the PPL Center – home to the minor league ice hockey team – The Phantoms – who feed into the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Baseball fans can also enjoy some games in Allentown. The IronPigs are the local minor league team for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Allentown’s hospitals and leading health and medical centers provide thousands of jobs for local residents.
The unique location of the Lehigh Valley in proximity to the Tri-state area and on the crossroads of important interstate highways, makes it an attractive hub for the warehousing and transportation industries. Driving on the Lehigh region highways, you will see trucks, trains and airplanes carrying anything from food, Amazon packages to fuel. The region is also energized by young minds and entrepreneur startups, fueled by the many academic institutions and the large and growing healthcare industry in the region.
In 2016, the GDP of the Lehigh Valley was estimated at $39 Billion, an economic force not to be ignored. The real estate rebound and price hikes in Northern New Jersey and New York are beginning to effect experienced investors who have identified the Lehigh Valley as their next
expansion destination. Overall prices for housing has been steadily climbing for the past few years, yet we believe that there is still substantial room for growth. Lately, a large part of the Lehigh Valley started to benefit from the new opportunity zone program that provides tax breaks as investment incentives based on location. The regional universities and medical centers have announced plans for growth and expansion. American Airlines featured the region and its potential in its inflight magazine. Spotlight Lehigh Valley is a dedicated supplement about the region that takes a detailed look at what makes a certain region a great place to invest, visit, or relocate, with a particular focus on global economic impact, business diversity, and innovation.
Our own experience
In the past year we formed a partnership with a local leading agency that specialize in finding Lehigh Valley investments. We started to invest there ourselves and have purchased several SFH properties for clients. The shortage of student housing has also caught our attention as an interesting way to diversify a portfolio.