Another Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority development is inching closer to take off.
On Tuesday, the authority’s Board of Governors voted to start negotiations with High Real Estate Group, a Lancaster-based developer. High’s proposal called for building an upscale hotel, restaurant and a convenience store on the airport’s campus.
The developer operates 15 hotel properties across New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, including the SpringHill Suites in Center Valley, according to its website.
The new buildings would go on 15 acres north of the airport’s main entrance. The land is currently occupied by the former economy parking lot and the former terminal building. High would be in charge of determining what brand the hotel would operate under, Stoudt said. If negotiations between the authority and developer go well, an agreement could be reached by the end of the year, he said.
A 2018 study by Jones Lang LaSalle, a consulting firm that specializes in real estate and hotel development, found that hotel room occupancy rates around Schoenersville Road are well above industry standards, indicating the area could use another hotel. Airport officials have experienced that first hand, struggling to find rooms for staff when blizzards and other severe weather is expected to bear down on the Lehigh Valley.
The hotel development plan is part of a wider strategy to diversify the authority’s revenue stream. The authority has been negotiating with Majestic Realty for nearly a year to develop 297 acres of the east side of Airport Road between Schoenersville Road and Orchard Lane. Like the hotel project, the airport authority would continue to own the land and lease it to a developer. Early plans call building 2 million square feet of buildings on the land; the authority has indicated it wants the land to become an office park.
Stoudt originally thought the Majestic deal would be finalized by January, but contract talks have dragged on for months. On Tuesday, Stoudt said FAA regulations on the land have created extra hurdles for the two sides to overcome. He believed the talks are about 95% complete at this point.
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