This past Saturday, long time Allentonians could only shake their heads reading the news. Because of budget cuts in Harrisburg, plans
"to launch a Main Street Program on Hamilton Street that would duplicate the rejuvenation of neighborhood businesses along Seventh Street"have been postponed. Of course, in the bizarro world of Allentown 2009, it's sad that the Administration hopes Hamilton Street can do as well as Seventh Street; sadder still, is that our "leaders" don't know what they did or what happen. There are all levels of business in retail. Someone once noted that there are more quarters in the world than dollars. Hamilton Street, up to few years ago had viable businesses in the 700 Block of Hamilton Street. The Lanta transfer stops provided an continuous customer base for merchants, although not upscale, they provided the goods those passengers wanted. The Family Dollar Store was one of their most successful outlets in the country. Rainbow Jeans had a half dozen clerks. Pawlowski, encouraged by a few others, decided that the bus people had to go, to provide the atmosphere for the gentrification they envisioned. In response to protests organized in part by this blog at the time, Pawlowski claimed the decision was Lanta's alone. In reality, Lanta was induced to do this by the Allentown Parking Authority, controlled by the Administration. Almost overnight sales plummeted forty percent on Hamilton Street. Rite Aid Drug Store closed their Hamilton Street store. (they since reopened because of a building problem on 7th Street.)
Meanwhile, about eight years ago, a viable Hispanic business district started developing in 500, 600, and 700 block of Seventh Street. This occurred because rents were more reasonable and parking more available than on Hamilton Street. Although Allentown started a Main Street Program there a couple years ago, it was not responsible for the revitalization that occurred. The program has dressed up some facades and given some grants, but clearly the dynamic in place is the growing Hispanic Community cultivating their own merchants.
Allentown can make Hamilton Street all that it can be, in this era, by simply returning the buses. I know that they would prefer a different answer, but they will not find it in another Main Street Program.
The image shown is part of a watercolor by Karoline Schaub-Peeler