May 10, 2016

Allentown, Revitalized or Devastated?


Driving down the arena block of Allentown, one would hardly know that behind all the buildings on the other side of the street,  there is nothing.  An entire square block of buildings has been leveled in preparation for the NIZ baron's mega-project.  The baron, J.B. Reilly, has put those plans on mothballs, and now is going to build an office condo at 6th and Hamilton.  Although the Morning Call has been promoting that smaller, alternative project, they haven't shown one photograph of the devastation two blocks away.

Before anything was built in the NIZ, it was reported that National Penn loaned J.B.Reilly $16 million for site acquisitions.  In the last two years over $30 million a year of state tax money has gone for Reilly's debt service. Did the taxpayers of Pennsylvania pay to create this devastation?  Rather than cutting ribbons for Mr. Reilly,  our state representatives, Michael Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer, would better serve their constituents by getting answers to the questions asked on this blog.

What sort of town allows one person to displace hundreds of residents, and level dozens of buildings with no public input?   Between an ambitious mayor and an agenda driven newspaper,  we now have a wasteland in the heart of Allentown.

7 comments:

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

When there is government money to be spread around, everything is acceptable, Has anyone done anything in Allentown with their own money , except the small businesses that are trying to make a living rather make a killing. This has been going on in Allentown for decades, it is time to do away with the state and federal grants and partnerships. To build a sustainable city, you real need local jobs, people with incomes living in the city. To do that you need policing by the citizens, block by block, to make the city safe and a good place to live. I don't see that happening in most cities today. Things probably have to get worse before they get better.

Dave said...

What was the block that Mr Molovinsky illustrated so clearly is never going to be rebuilt by Reilly. His idea of a vibrant business district are box office buildings that now comprise the center city of Allentown. What we don't have here is a enaissance, It reminds me of some of the 1930s architecture that survived World War II in Germany. It's stark, it's cold, it's unimaginative to put it kindly.

Before returning to this area, I lived in Atlanta. The Atlantic steel mill had been abandoned and the site was abandoned.. An imaginative developer turned the area into something that people value today, where people live and shop, and where commerce is conducted. Its now called Atlantic Station and something along those lines would truly revitalize Allentown.

Its not what we have seen so far, which would turn into a ghost town without subsidies, it's a commercial success. I don't normally post links here, but this describes it and it's something that can be done with Reilly's wasteland at 7th & Walnut.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Station

Monkey Momma said...

Please excuse my ignorance on this matter, but what was previously at this location of 7th and Walnut, where the construction fence guarding nothing currently stands? I just do not recall....

michael molovinsky said...

momma@9:01, the picture was taken from the southwest corner of 8th and walnut. both 8th and walnut were occupied by mostly row houses, converted into apartments over the years. on the west side of 8th street is the st. pauls church, rectory and garden area. it's retaining wall along both 8th and walnut street is in dire need of repair. while reilly's portfolio is given full subsidy and attention, the surrounding city decays. the sad irony is that when you walk down hamilton street, a $billion dollars later, there is still no vitality.

Jamie Kelton said...

"the sad irony is that when you walk down Hamilton street, a $billion dollars later, there is still no vitality."

It's a dead zone. Sorry, I don't often speak badly of Allentown, but in this case there is nothing to do on Hamilton Street. No shopping, no movies, no stores of any substance. And it's expensive to park. It's not a city, it's a morgue. And as far as restaurants go, there are places just as good that are closer to where I live that are cheaper and better.

ninoshinkicker said...

A recent Morning Call story highlighting the career of outgoing editor Dave Erdman had him praising the paper's history of investigative journalism. Well, there have been some good features in the decades I have been reading it. I do not, however, expect to see the current MC staff searching for the displaced residents of that block to see how they feel about the now vacant lot that was once home.

Rich Fegley said...

They didn't take that tree down in the center of the photo because it is landscaping for the multi-million dollar cigarette stamping garage behind it.

The Elk Club(?) had bowling alleys in the basement. It would have been fun to restore that old building. Gone.