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Event explores new opportunities for investment in Allentown

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City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown will sponsor a program to share information on the federal qualified opportunity zone program at Renaissance Allentown Hotel. (file photo)
City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown will sponsor a program to share information on the federal qualified opportunity zone program at Renaissance Allentown Hotel. (file photo)

The tax incentives available through the Neighborhood Improvement Zone program have fueled more than $1 billion in construction and renovation of buildings in downtown Allentown.

Now, attention is turning to other incentives.

On Wednesday, City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown will sponsor a program to share information on the federal qualified opportunity zone program.

The symposium, “The Next Step in Qualified Opportunity Zones: Development-Ready Investment Opportunities in Allentown,” is cohosted by the Urban Land Institute, the city of Allentown and the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority. It is scheduled from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

Downtown Allentown has three census tracts designated as qualified opportunity zones, covering areas between Fifth and 12th streets and Union to Chew streets, said J.B. Reilly, president and co-founder of City Center Investment Corp.

The qualified opportunity zone program gives investors tax breaks on federal capital gains taxes in exchange for investing in funds that support small businesses and housing projects in low-income areas. It also helps fund new businesses, and could apply to manufacturing sites and new large developments within the zone.

“I think tomorrow is an opportunity to talk about how the opportunity zone works and the attributes that make Allentown positive and unique,” Reilly said. “There’s state and local incentives, the whole NIZ area and the fact that there’s all this development downtown. We continue to see strong demand for people wanting to live and work in downtown Allentown.”

In April, Gov. Tom Wolf recommended a number of census tracts in the Greater Lehigh Valley for designation as qualified opportunity zones. The federally designated zones were established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities.

The federal government approved the Lehigh Valley tracts in June.

“We … believe there will be lots of opportunities for small investors,” Reilly said. “The legislation will help significantly in smaller projects.”

That could include such projects as the renovation of an apartment or single-family home, he added.

The event speakers and panelists include:

• Charlie Dent, CNN contributor and former U.S. Congressman

• Tom Murphy, Former Pittsburgh mayor and current ULI fellow

• Evan Weiss, director of PEL Analytics, adviser on the formation of several early major qualified opportunity funds.

• Steve Bamford, executive director, Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority.

• Leonard Lightner, director of Community & Economic Development, city of Allentown.

• J.B. Reilly, president and co-founder of City Center Investment Corp.

• Scott Unger, executive director, Allentown Economic Development Corp.

• Don Bernhard, executive director, Downtown Allentown Community Development Initiative.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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