Aug 19, 2015

The Livingston Club, Allentown's Benevolent Oligarchy

Back in the day, when the town had three department stores, the major decisions affecting Allentown's future were made at the Livingston Club. Harvey Farr would meet Donald Miller and John Leh at the Club for lunch, and discuss acquiring more lots for Park & Shop. The bank officers of First National and Merchants Bank would discuss loans with the highly successful merchants, many of whom had stores in all three major Lehigh Valley cities. As the heydays winded down, likewise the exit plans were made there. The City of Allentown acquired the Park & Shop lots, becoming the Allentown Parking Authority. Leh's became the Lehigh County Government Center.

The new oligarchy consists of much fewer men, they could all met at a small table in Shula's, and be entertained by watching street people  arrested. The former 1st National Bank location is now a new Reilly building. The former Livingston Club building is now a parking lot, and future site to another Reilly building. Shula's is also a Reilly building....

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Things haven't started off well for Shula's. Not that I care for business decisions carry risk but if it wasn't for the subsidized rents, they'd be taking even a bigger bath.

Maybe come hockey season things will improve but there is zip going on downtown to bring in their type of customer.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:39, there is no ambience what so ever downtown, normally associated with a pleasant dining experience. needless to say, the shula patrons will not be stopping in the 7-11 caddy corner. BUT, none of it really matters. this is strictly a real estate deal, and reilly gets his debt service paid from the income tax of the workers in his buildings. the restaurants and businesses coming there are in their downsizing mode, and making a last hurrah because of the free rent.

DreamingOfJustice said...

I wondered how Shula's would fare in the new location..but I will also note that some of the slowness is due to peoples' tastes changing as well. Who eats huge hunks of steak anymore? There are few people who consume meat by the pound, and frankly the new focus on healthier choices in general does not fit Shula's menu at all. The prices were always steep..and the service was not better than many mid priced restaurants. The hard truth is actually a bit different..people in the valley do not have the wealth to splurge on meals and in general do not go out to eat nearly as much as residents of larger more prosperous cities. The entire premise of the NIZ shell game depended on the appearance of new upscale jobs (not happening!) and a sudden influx of young professionals (from where? thin air??).

It was clear that the owner fled for downtown because he saw financial difficulty coming. Here's the (steak) rub: Financial Difficulty is Here.

Anonymous said...

Thank You Michael,
You are true to your Word!!.....The Old Allentown Curmudgeon (PJF)

C.C. said...


While I agree with DOJ above on many points, I do think we've seen *some* increase of young professionals downtown. Not scads and scores, but enough to notice during lunch hour. We've also seen more of what demographers are now calling "young urban creatives." That said,yes, I agree with MM that this is all about real estate and a heavily, heavily subsidized debt service on 8 public dimes of every dollar.

michael molovinsky said...

@3:40, i disagree about the change in demographics. during the week, you might be seeing some new office workers, but check out town on the weekends during the day, nobody new. btw, it's 10 subsidized dimes of every dollar.

Anonymous said...

The downtown is swarming with young urban creators, in Easton.

Guy Williams said...

Good Point. Eastons downtown is doing much better than in years past without the NIZ.

AuH20 said...

C.C. above said...
While I agree with DOJ above on many points, I do think we've seen *some* increase of young professionals downtown.....

How come when I was a "young professional" in the '80s we were derisively called "YUPPIES", with a negative connotation? In the Reagan era we were ridiculed for wanting to improve our lot in life. But Obama's era gets the more delicate name of 'young professionals." How quaint.