May 28, 2010
The Latinization of Hamilton Street
Neither this blog or myself are known for political correctness, and this post will be blunt. Allentown has hired a Main Street Manager for Hamilton Street. She has two choices; either subsidize or Latinize the street. With enough subsidization, businesses will indulge temporarily in the free ride; However, I do not believe it is possible to achieve self sustaining gentrification on Hamilton Street. The urbanists must accept the fact that the valley is a suburban orientated community.
A Hispanic business district developed on 7th Street. The was a natural evolution over the last decade, resulting from the Puerto Rican population explosion, and cheap rents on Allentown's traditional secondary shopping venue. The Main Street manager, who was later hired for that street, Peter Lewnes, could not have created that success. Mr. Lewnes has done an outstanding job bringing order and finesse to what would otherwise be a chaotic venue, but he did not create the Hispanic merchant class. The success of 7th Street was governed by market forces; likewise, there are limits as to what can happen on Hamilton Street. Hopefully, the taxpayer funded grants will be spend more wisely on Hamilton Street than in the past.
The article in today's Morning Call does not state Ms. Suhr's specific objectives for Hamilton Street. It mentions that she has a background in Main Street Program promotion, but not commercial real estate recruitment. She does speaks Spanish and was a Democratic organizer.