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Apr 30, 2013
Allentown Gives Merchants Short Leash
Every time I see Peter Lewnes, he expresses some gratitude about how complimentary I've been about his stewardship of 7th Street. That's about to change. Pete has been designated manager for Hamilton Street, and it's new facade grants program. The initial investment by the donors is only $300,000, for grants up to $15,000, but then again, there's not many merchants left. Pete mentioned that he will use the 1930 Victorian approach, which he uses on 7th Street. Put aside that victorian has nothing to do with 1930, but from spending time on 7th Street, I know what he means. Pete has all the buildings essentially treated the same. They're given a basic historic look, and a hand lettered business sign. I praised the program because the merchants of 7th Street were primarily upstart businesses on a low budget, more concerned with acquiring merchandize to sell, rather than exterior esthetics. Driving into Allentown on 7th Street, the street looks quite presentable. In reality, this painted rose technique has a short shelve life, as does any painted exterior surface now a days. Besides a small inside OPEN sign, the merchants are not permitted neon or freedom in sign choices. City inspectors threaten the merchants for non-conforming signs. Can you imagine having told Max Hess or John Leh what kind of sign they had to use in our hey day? Can you imagine telling Hess and Leh what they should do for $15,000 in 2013 dollars. Although the new facade grant program hasn't yet begun, the criterion already expressed says that we don't really want your success, just clean yourself up and behave.