The New York Times and Wall Street Journal recently reported on the Downtown Allentown revival, shedding light on what we in the Valley already knew.
However, having the national spotlight on one of our cities helps us realize the significance of these developments to the local economy.
With $500 million worth of construction underway and another $500 million in planning, the Allentown projects are among the largest in small- to midsize cities nationwide, reported the Journal.
It’s hard to believe that just three years ago these projects were just dreams and, by many people’s standards, far-fetched ones at that.
No one thought a struggling city could sustain a new ice hockey arena, hotel, multiple office buildings and hundreds of apartment units. But that’s exactly what’s happening now. And with the first project, Two City Center already complete, more are rapidly on the way.
City Center Lehigh Valley, the prime driver of new development in the downtown (except for the arena, which is not a City Center project), offered a timeline during the March 11 Real Estate & Development Symposium our publication hosted at DeSales University.
City Center’s plan:
• March-May: National Penn will continue to move employees into its new headquarters building at Two City Center, occupying the top five floors of the building which is at Seventh and Hamilton streets.
• April-August: Air Products, Buckno Lisicky & Co., City Center Investment Corp., Lehigh Gas Corp. and Cenduit occupy Two City Center.
• April: Three City Center groundbreaking. This project includes a 167,000-square-foot Class A retail/office tower on the 500 block of Hamilton Street.
• May: Four City Center groundbreaking. A major upscale retail and residential project at Seventh and Linden streets.
• June: Lehigh Valley Health Network occupies 187,000 square feet in One City Center at Seventh and Hamilton streets.
• July: A 10,000-square-foot restaurant opens on the ground floor at Two City Center.
• August-September: Renaissance Hotel by Marriott and PPL Center arena (for ice hockey and events) open at Seventh and Hamilton streets.
• By September, Allentown should see 3,000 new people downtown each day.
Aside from this, City Center also is investing in incubator space and historic renovations to smaller businesses along Hamilton Street, all of which should bolster the economic base and image that the city is striving to portray.
As Jim Harbaugh, City Center’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, pointed out, “What we are trying to do is create sustainable change, change which permeates the community.”
Now that some structures are going up, it remains to be seen if this change is in fact, sustainable, if residents will be moving in along with the new businesses.
So far, all signs appear to point to rapid growth. Whether it slows down, remains steady or stays that way, only time will tell.