May 8, 2015

As Allentown Turns

Allentown's greatly touted NIZ should be named the ROA, Reilly Owns Allentown. While his state house boy recovers in the hospital, and his home boy tries to become a senator, J.B. Reilly said Let There Be Stores. These stores were duly announced this week by the local paper and TV, which will promote them as they open. As he did with the restaurants, J.B. will hand out special J.B. currency to the new office workers, which can be used in the stores. The Plywood Plaza Apartments for the workers, at 7th and Linden, will be completed this fall. The idea of company housing and stores isn't new, cement companies and mines did it back in the early 1900's.

While trying to escape Allentown, first to Harrisburg and now to Washington, Mayor For Life Pawlowski tells us who to elect to City Council and the school board. Meanwhile, the streets beyond the Reilly District are potholed and dirty. Existing residents are being double ding donged at the parking meters. The WPA structures in our parks are crumbling away. Don't despair, buy a ticket for the Classic Geriatric Concert Series at the J.B. Reilly Arena, and enjoy a night out.


Anonymous said...

If any new retail establishment downtown, and its employees are already registered/living in Pennsylvania, the taxes they generate provide NO replenishment of tax dollars that have been obligated for NIZ construction.

Essentially, nothing is repaid/gained by incoming tax revenue Pennsylvania was already receiving.

Maybe someone reading can list which business establishments have been attracted to date that were not already paying taxes to Pennsylvania before the NIZ was created. I suspect, very few.

I don't see the NIZ concept working for all of Pennsylvania until a SIGNIFICANT number of new incoming tax dollars are generated yearly.

All I see is spending and debt.

Fred Windish

DreamingOfJustice said...

Tim Horton's coffee is actually a new business- we had very few in Pennsylvania. There is a new Dunkin Donuts and a new Starbucks, too. Of course, that's not exactly a king's ransom worth of tax base is it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for listing Tim Horton's, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

Unfortunately, additions like these three are almost meaningless. Most likely, those who work the cash registers were already working locally. Plus, a good portion of business income came at the expense of some nearby existing business, too.

The goal needs to be attracting NEW dollars. We haven't had nearly enough of that.

The nature of local media coverage notwithstanding,I seem to recall reading Pennsylvania is already 3 years behind schedule in tax receipts coming from the same district prior to the NIZ. That's about 50 million dollars to make-up.

Then consider all the revenue no longer coming in from business moving here from within the state (no longer paying taxes in their former location). So, the budget deficit is probably 80-100 million dollars and growing every year.

Just to regain normal income from the NIZ district, the state will need to begin receiving millions and millions more than it once did. That is beginning to look impossible, without 3-4 major players moving here from some other state.

Donut shops won't get this done.

Anonymous said...

The previous post was mine. The point is, these development schemes are sometimes deceiving. They can represent both winning AND losing.

Allentown has been very fortunate.

Fred Windish

doug_b said...

As an ex-Allentonian I have limited info on your current economy / plans , but here's my reasoning:

The Lehigh Valley was booming in the 50's - 60's because of all the high paying blue collar jobs from: Beth Steel, Mack Trucks, GE, Western Electric. These businesses required more trades people, and thus drove more businesses and the local economy.

Those jobs supported lively downtown shopping in Allentown. But even in 1970's, one could see shopping moving to malls.

What I understand is that the current plan is to build office buildings and apartments in several square blocks of downtown.

How will this revitalize Allentown, when all those jobs that were lost, have not been replaced?

There now seems to be a Utopian plan where they build these gleaming 4 - 6 square blocks and people magically flock there. Allentown will have an economy based on entertainment, visitors (to the entertainment), restaurants, and coffee shops.

It all seems backwards, from where the economy drove the city. Now they want to build some office buildings that will create an economy.

Anonymous said...

There are so many different acts going on with this downtown development compairing it to a soap¿ The only real compairison would be that of a circus that has ones mind coming and going at the same time¿ We look throughout the city and see blight and degredation everywhere, than we read the morning gag and the arena is made out to be the goose that laid the golden egg¿

Soaps at least had a storyline and we all knew the good the bad and the ugly¿ Than there was what happened was what we expected of the chacters poortrayed¿

This is just one big lie, like cocaine¿ There is a difference though one chooses to imbibe and the other is on the populus weather they like it or not¿

patent pending

Dreaming of Justice said...

Here's the thing: the old days, with the old economy and the industrial past are gone. There is no way to attract jobs of the caliber and numbers of Bethlehem Steel. The time to have planned for the future was before Bethlehem Steel died; that sort of planning requires major league vision. People will go where the jobs are: they will continue to commute to New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York. There is no affluence to be had, here. I am from the "New Bad Old Days", my experience looking for work that pays $50k has been completely fruitless here. I had to get aggressive and go to New York to obtain a career level job. Pennsylvania is a second-tier state, now. Anonymous at 1:15, since you responded to my comment, I'll respond to yours: if you had read my remark, you might have noticed I was actually agreeing with you.

"That's not exactly a king's ransom worth of tax base, is it?"

Come up with some bona fide ideas, or support other peoples' ideas if you dont have any of your own.

Anonymous said...

Geez! I thought my 1:15 post was being supportive of the earlier post.

Either way, the time for certain better ideas has passed. First, I would have been more aggressive on improving quality of life issues downtown first.

Next, I would have structured the NIZ construction payments in a manner that retained ownership interest (equity) in whatever is built.

Third, I would not have been so generous with the Phantoms agreement. For example, proceeds from naming rights should have gone to the NIZ Authority, and also a portion of food & drink revenue. There was no need for so much incentive to the Phantoms. They were struggling in Glens Falls.

Next, I would not have built an arena at essentially the same size as several nearby arenas. There's really nothing unique here except for the massive price tag per seat compared to other arenas.

I would have obtained more real estate and incorporated adjacent convention floor space. Space large enough for massive exhibits and trade shows, community use.

All this surrounded by more surface parking lots and elevated walkways connecting the Holiday Inn, Americus, and Renaissance hotel buildings.

So much for those ideas.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Since you mentioned our parks, it seems we're once again being "treated" to digital billboards being put near our parks and natural areas.

The latest is the billboard along MLK Drive and the 15th Street Bridge. Not only are motorists traveling either way across the bridge subjected to the visual litter, but those traveling west on MLK get their own oversized billboard there. It's a jarring departure from the park-like setting along the rest of the road.

This follows the recent addition of an electronic billboard at the entrance to the Hamilton Street bridge(heading east, on city property). That billboard helps block the view of the Lehigh River.

Not that his is anything new. Previously, the city has added electronic billboards along Lehigh Street (near Queen City Airport); the Cedar Parkway (where Hamilton Street crosses Cedar Creek); and Jordan Park (next to MacArthur Road).

There was a time when a vigilant City Council would have put a stop to any such damage to our parks, or the Mayor in office would have been run out of town (by members of his own party) for doing such a thing.

Sadly, today there is no such accountability. Members of council seem to see their position on council as a stepping stone for state office, and the Mayor runs freely for state and national offices on the taxpayer dime.

My, the progress we've made.