With an upscale, full-service hotel set to open next year, Downtown Allentown is looking to market itself not just as a place to do business, but as a destination.
Renaissance Hotel by Marriott International is the name of the new $65 million hotel under construction at Seventh Street on the block where an ice hockey arena is being built. Officials said at a press conference Monday that the hotel will bring more business in conference and personal travel to the city.
With an August 2014 opening date, the seven-floor, 180-room hotel will include an upscale restaurant and bar and lobby space that incorporates the Historic Dime Building, plus access to the adjacent hockey arena, which is part of the PPL Center project. The building also will offer nearly 20,000 square feet of event and meeting space.
Add the 8,500-seat sports and events arena going up next door, and the downtown is seeing the emergence of a destination location.
"We have a Renaissance Hotel in Pittsburgh that I know very well," said Gov. Tom Corbett, who spoke at the event. "I've seen them in my travels around the country. I look forward to seeing it when it's all up and running."
He cited the importance of the private sector working together with state and local officials to create this mixed-use development.
J.B. Reilly, CEO of City Center Investment Corp., the development firm building several office, retail and residential sites in the downtown, said the project could not be accomplished without cooperation of the city and the establishment of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, a tax incentive program.
"This construction has begun to spur revitalization of this downtown by bringing tourists and jobs back," Mayor Ed Pawlowski said.
Downtown Allentown construction also is fueling economic development elsewhere in the region, he noted. The city has 5,000 tons of steel going into these projects, all of which is made in Erie. Also, all the concrete for the arena and other nearby buildings is made in Berks County, Pawlowski said.
"The jobs coming here will put feet on the street," he said. "It's the first new hotel in Downtown Allentown in more than 30 years."
Corbett said he had heard the first hockey game would be in October of next year and he was looking forward to coming back at that time.
Dan Vinh, vice president of global marketing for Renaissance Hotels, said the brand has more than 155 hotels in 35 nations around the world in "places that show remarkable vision."
Since Allentown is undergoing its own Renaissance, Vinh said he is confident the hotel would be a welcome addition to the city.