After years of anticipation and then delay, a luxury apartment complex along the Delaware River in Burlington City is poised to rise on a former municipal parking lot.

Developers and city officials gathered Wednesday amid much hoopla to break ground for Pearl Pointe, a complex of 184 units that will be built by Peron Development.  The project is a critical part of the long-planned rebirth of the historic city, officials and redevelopment consultants said shortly before announcing that construction would begin on the 3.8-acre site.

During the last five years, several upscale restaurants and a brewery have opened on High Street, sparking the slow revival of a once-dilapidated downtown.  Officials said the apartment complex will attract customers for the restaurants and the downtown's businesses and attract more people to the city of 10,000, giving it an added boost.

"This is the first market-rate housing in the city since the '70s," said Jim Kennedy, the city's redevelopment consultant and a former mayor of Rahway, a North Jersey community that was given a makeover under his watch.  "We're talking about bringing in about 400 people who will depend on the restaurants and businesses here."

The $29 million project, to be built on a gravel parking lot along the Delaware River, between High Street and Pearl Boulevard, is expected to be completed by next summer.

A view of the Delaware River from Burlington City. It includes a look at Burlington Island, a vacation spot for Philadelphians in its early 20th century heyday.
ED HILLE/Staff Photographer
A view of the Delaware River from Burlington City. It includes a look at Burlington Island, a vacation spot for Philadelphians in its early 20th century heyday.

Rents for the 122 one-bedroom units will start at $1,400, and the 62 two-bedroom units will start at $1,775.  All of the units will have balconies facing the river and some will have indoor carports.  There will be two four-story buildings, and one will have 7,800 square feet of retail space and restaurants on its first floor.

John Callahan, the former mayor of Bethlehem, Pa., a former steel mill town like Burlington City, is the director of development for Perone, a politically influential company owned by Michael Perrucci, a law partner of former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio.  In this project, Peron is partnering with Jack Morris and Edgewood Properties, which owns the Cherry Hill Mall.  Edgewood recently purchased the former Taj Mahal casino, once owned by President Trump, in Atlantic City.

As mayor, Callahan oversaw the creation of an arts, cultural, and entertainment center along with a casino at the site of Bethlehem Steel, which closed in 1998.   He said he sees similarities between Burlington and Bethlehem and looks forward to working on the new project.  "We're bullish on Burlington.  It has all the components to be a great downtown and this will be a catalytic project to put it over the top," he said.

Callahan said the project will feed on the "great views of the river," the city's 308-year-old history, and the wide brick sidewalks and colonial architecture.  The proximity to the light rail line and other mass transit are also significant, he said.

Callahan said it took time to prepare the project site, do title searches, and conduct environmental surveys before it was ready to go.  "It's the nature of redevelopment — it takes time," he said. "And this was a bit of an unproven market. But we are incredibly excited."