Jan 28, 2009

Clueless In Allentown




The other day in letter to the editor, a self-confessed "ardent booster" of downtown Allentown, was "astonished" that Freeman's would close its Hamilton Street location in the middle of all the "positive activity." Ignoring the reality that the store had more chance of being robbed than selling anything, the cheerleader cited a planned charter school moving into a vacant office building. Will their students buy high end jewelry? The "renaissance" includes The Cosmopolitan restaurant on 6th Street. Not often has a building foundation been so elegantly named and subsidized. Included on his list of proposed construction is Nic Zawarski's project at the former Schoen Furniture site on Hamilton Street. I hope Nic first finishes the townhouses he suspended on 8th Street. Lastly, this believer cited the pending sale of the Americus Hotel, the real reason for this posting. From time to time, it has been necessary for me to say things to which almost everybody flinches. Unfortunately, for all of us, I have been usually correct. (all the time, but that sounds too arrogant) My fear is that down the road, the Americus operated by Mendleson. may turn out being less problematic for Allentown than under new ownership. Here's why; By every measure the building is an enormous white elephant. Under Satan (nobody has ever been more vilified than Mendleson) two long term established businesses contributed to downtown, Kerrigan Shoe Service and Minnich Jewelers. He keep the building open renting out only about six apartments. He paid the taxes, always two years late at the sheriff sale, but he paid the taxes. Under the new buyer, we will bestow endless grants and KOZ status. There will be no taxes for many years, if ever. We will never regain merchants of the caliber we lost. (Pawlowski chased them out to turn off the electricity, which has stayed on anyway). All this is the good news, here's the bad; the building will be turned into 100 low income apartments, ensuring there will never again be a clientele on Hamilton Street which could afford jewelry at a store like Freeman's. Mr. letter to the editor, perhaps the owner of Freeman's reached a different conclusion about these projects leading to a "renaissance."

UPDATE: I do not mean to imply the building will be designated low income, rather this is the demographic which the finished project will attract. 100 units is a guesstimate, assuming the first several floors will be commercial

UPDATE 2: According to The Morning Call, Mendleson has concocted another buyer to negate Allentown's petition to the bankruptcy judge. Pawlowski's buyer is a local apartment operator, who would have paid $750,000 to the city through the sheriff tax sale procedure.

13 comments:

Tpowder said...

I couldn't agree more! Having grown up with a vibrant downtown Allentown, only to now be afraid to even walk down Hamilton Street, the "letter to the editor" person is living in a dream world, or is a lap dog for the Mayor.
The absolute last thing we need on Hamilton Street is low rent housing.
It's pathetic how Allentown has let itself become Newark.

Anonymous said...

Allentown has never been as dangerous as Newark, but the irony is, even Newarks is bouncing back. They have a brandnew huge performing arts center that is turning around the downtown.

Looking To Escape said...

Maybe the good mayor could encourage the Americus to become a home for microbusiness.
.....
I think his dream of becoming a center of green industry is not based on any reality known to businessman. One look at Allentown and it will be a no thanks from any high tech company.
.....
Encouraging micro businesses would be more practical and less costly than trying to land a big corporation plus you're not putting all your eggs in one basket by going after one or two big businesses.

Anonymous said...

So Newark is safe when hordes go to art exhibits and Devils and Nets games. Same is true in the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium. But guess what? For the residents in those areas when the events are not going on...it is still a crummy scummy place to be...just like downtown Allentown.
Can we begin a guessing game on who the letter writer is? I nominate cheerlearder Pete Sweyer or Joyce Marin.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Molovinsky,
In the early 1980s I earned $7.32 an hour. One Christmas I went to
Freeman's Hamilton Mall store to buy some gifts. The store had a special lay-a-way plan. They allowed shoppers to pay equal amounts for four months w/o one cent interest and to take the gifts! I spent about $200.00 and for the next four months would walk up during my lunch hour and pay my monthly $50.00. They were absolutely wonderful. This is a memory I cherish to this day. In recent years, I shopped twice at the SouthMall store but after poor customer service each time, won't go back. Something changed. That's life.

A.J.C. said...

That's a lot of apartments. This might be a stupid question, but is there adequate parking available?

John P. Chapkovich said...

Clueless is right

Allentown is not equipped enough to handle any klnd of larger scale residential housing the likes that they are looking to do. Just look towards the warehouses in the Ward that are sitting vacant awaiting the "re"development into apartments. There is unfortunately no demographic for high-end (or even moderate income) apartments that the City wants to put in place.

A.J.C. said...

Anon 11:42,

The area around Yankee Stadium is mostly commercial, but I understand the point you're trying to make.

Anonymous said...

I actually live in a LOFT apartment above the CATCH 22/DL a "former" nightclub in the so-called nightlife district; and before there was P&P Mill high-end apartments and other places, there were people already making conversions. This is actually my second loft I have lived in. The first was in a re-done paper mill on 9th and CHEW Streets. I forgot the landlord's name but he was a man who battled the City to get his conversion done. He also was an avid protestor and fought for the rights of the environment and art. Anyway, there are many of us who do like the LOFT designs but a majority of Allentonians have families and want 1-3 bedroom apartments and homes. I pay $700.00 a month for my space, but according to Allentown's pay scale, I make DECENT money, plus am single, so I can pay my rent. The average income in Allentown's Center City area is between $9.00 - $10.50, and that is not including their fees for electric, oil, gas, food, etc and most are single parent families (1-3 children). I say this because I am unsure what the answer may be for the "housing crisis" Allentown faces. Many don't want the low-income residential housing or warehouse transformations, but a lot of our residents aren't even making a decent working wage. Again, I speak about the GAP between the City and it's residents. I believe the Ciy would like to attract middle and upper class people but even BEFORE the recession, THIS wasn't happening. Just because you are low income doesn't mean you don't have to take pide in your community. I believe we have to lierally GO into these communities CONSISTENTLY and not just "police" them but collaborate with them so they can BECOME part of the gorwing process and "renaissance" of A-town.

Alfonso Todd

Anonymous said...

Michael this is a great post. I agree, I agree, I agree.
Hopefully some day Allentown will get a home grown true and honest government, one that gives back to true Allentownians.
Bob Romancheck

Anonymous said...

Aside from the bars and souvenier stores, as well as the courthouse, the area immediately surrounding the Stadium is fully residential.

A.J.C. said...

You're forgetting the bowling alley...

Bryan said...

A.J.C
That bowling alley is now the epic Iron Pigs Bar (or some name like that). The mayor even showed up when they reopened it.

More low income housing in Allentown. What a surprise. Good God, this city is like a dog chasing its tail.