Capitalizing on Allentown’s re-emergence as a walkable shopping district, officials hosted a celebration outside Four City Center on Tuesday afternoon to mark the completion of the ArtsWalk extension.
Officials from the development company City Center Lehigh Valley hosted the event, along with the Allentown chapter of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Many of City Center’s new retail spaces sit on the ArtsWalk, a walkway that links downtown Allentown’s arts venues with PPL Center arena and the Renaissance Hotel by Marriott.
Four City Center features STRATA Flats, a complex with 162 luxury apartments and eight in a smaller building next door, called the STRATA Annex, divided by the ArtsWalk. New retail spaces are on the ground floor of both buildings.
Merchants joined in the celebration along with leaders from the Allentown arts community to share their thoughts on the progress of the city’s revitalization over the past few years. They emphasized how the ArtsWalk connection promotes both the arts and commerce while creating a live, work, play environment.
“The City Center team has been together a little over four years. … Today’s crowd is a sign of the re-emergence of a strong business community downtown,” said J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center Investment Corp.
To go from zero to 24 shops in one year is a sign of the strength of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, Reilly said, referring to the tax incentive legislation for Allentown introduced several years ago.
The businesses that are part of The Shops at City Center include those that opened along Hamilton Street in 2014, such as Hamilton Kitchen & Bar and ROAR Social House and recent openings such as Moravian Book Shop, Ruby’s Floral Factory and Center Ice.
Other retailers include those along the ArtsWalk extension entrance near Seventh Street such as Greenmouth Juice Bar and Cafe, 7th & Sole (shoes), Aquarius (women’s clothing), Sage (women’s clothing) and Shula’s Steakhouse.
More retailers are set to open in the fall along the ArtsWalk, including Popmart, RE:find and American Hairlines. Three more retail spaces are under agreement, with tenants to be announced.
George Haddad, owner of Sage, 7th & Sole and Aquarius, said he moved Sage from The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley back to downtown Allentown because he loves the city.
He expressed his excitement about the redevelopment of the downtown.
“I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see it,” Haddad said.