Jan 8, 2010

Reality In Short Supply

A new blog, Allentown Afterthoughts, reports that three more businesses have closed. I'm familiar with all three, having written about them before when Lanta stopped the transfer stops on Hamilton Street. En Vogue was a small women's store on 8th. They were double victims of City Hall and Lanta policy. A small public meter lot next to their business was taken away and given to the Allentown Brew Works for its private use; The Lanta transfer bus stop across from their store was closed. The closure of Quiznos and City Line Coffee are especially ironic. Both were housed in the CityLine Building, given both KOZ and outright grants and subsidies by Allentown. Apparently all of Pawlowski's men couldn't keep Humpty Dumpty together. Afterthoughts reports that an art gallery opened, but fails to disclose it's a temporary rent free donation by the landlord of a vacant storefront.

It will be easy forAllentown Afterthoughts to become just another city puff blog, of which there are now a dozen or so. But its owner, Jeff Pooley, a communications professor at Muhlenberg, who lives in center city, may decide to break that mold. He does disclose that his wife is Director of the Allentown Redevelopment Authority. A recent article in The Morning Call states that Emmaus has become a refuge for shops fleeing Allentown. It mentions that the customers of a Cuisine store, formally on 9th st. in Allentown, were afraid to come downtown, hence the move to Emmaus. The article then mentions the success of Main Street Program on Allentown's 7th Street. A viable Hispanic Business District has evolved there, but it's totally unrealistic to think that the Emmaus clientele would shop there. It's important to recognize that the previous statement is not intended to be classist or racist. Walmart and Brooks Brothers understand that they have different clientele. The manager of 7th St., Pete Lewnes, who is doing an excellent job, is quoted as saying that Hamilton Street needs a Main Street Program. In reality it simply needs its former customer base which Lanta took away when it removed the bus transfer stops. The Brew Works and CityLine, both on Hamilton Street, received much more money than any Main Street Program would provide.

I understand that public officials will never look to this blog for lessons on optimism, but until which time they inject their goals with some realism, the grants from our tax money will not receive much return on investment.


dr. nancy said...

MM: Humpty Dumpty. He is one of my favorite men. You know he, like you, uses words just the way he wants, to quote: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."

michael molovinsky said...

jeff pooley has acknowledged and addressed this post on his new blog. (my program does not allow hyperlinks from me in the comment box) currently his blog does not accept comments , so permit me to make some responses here.

first let me digress and agree with him about north street. although i haven't been there for a year or so, fire engines would still be hard pressed to enter that area, which allowed the massive fire in the first place. with construction costing about 355k each unit, perhaps a pocket park was more in order. actually I wrote such a recommendation several years ago in a letter to the editor.

with the exception of the limited devotee's of old allentown, i believe jeff's hope of mixed income neighborhoods is unrealistic. although i agree it happens elsewhere in larger cities, allentown is just too horizontal for it to happen here. currently the term "loft" apartment is only adding to the low income housing stock, not the targeted demographic. although i'll accept his contention that i said 7th street will not attract the middle class, i never previously wrote off hamilton street. I felt the dislocation of the "bus" people in the 700 block by lanta and the administration was a mistake, the 800 block and above could have experienced some gentrification. unfortunately, the only thing scarier than the wrong people, is no people. the clientele could have been upgraded, but now i think the hill is too steep.

michael molovinsky said...

jeff, another thought. i'm not sure you're being fair to patrick lester for writing what other people say and think. it's almost too easy for you to be defensive, considering where you live (invest), and where your wife works. "drop me a line" moved for the exact same reason. too many middle class patrons told them that they no longer feel safe visiting the store. you may blame the administration, or the police department, but is fair to blame the reporter?

West End Betty said...

Michael why don't we just use the power of zoning to prohibit any construction that could be affordable by the undesirables? I am not prejudiced or anything but I do want to feel safe in my city.

Anonymous said...

What Pooley wants to see happen over time sounds good. But in order to begin real progress, planners need to be honest. Lesters article wasn't happy news, but it was honest. It is a fine line between honesty and pure pessimism, true. Last week's opinion piece by Mr. Bliss and Co. was really full of absolute B.S. Regional collaboration in the Vally is doing only slightly better than Hamilton St. Allentown won't get there by wishful thinking or thin P.R. gimmics.

michael molovinsky said...

betty, there is no correlation between affordability and desirability. i'm sure there are drug dealers who can afford the best. i do agree that our community seems to have grown larger than our ability to deal with the problems generated. for the sake of our schools, we should discourage more housing of any kind.

Looking To Escape said...

The article then mentions the success of Main Street Program on Allentown's 7th Street.

7th Street does have the advantage of greater traffic flow than Hamilton.
I'd love to see the tax revenue breakdown for 7th Street for the last 10 years. I haven't seen any numbers reported and the story is in the numbers, not the pr or new signs. We can then compare the amount of revenue 7th contributes to the city vs what it did 10 or even 25 years go.

It mentions that the customers of a Cuisine store, formally on 9th st. in Allentown, were afraid to come downtown
I shopped (and purchased) occasionally at La Belle Cuisine. I had chatted with the owner multiple times, it was sad Allentown lost her business.

i believe jeff's hope of mixed income neighborhoods is unrealistic.
Allentown needs people with income, income, income and need I mention it, income. Skip the pat phrases like diversity and start a redevelopment plan that makes the city attractive to higher income people.

Anonymous said...

"Michael why don't we just use the power of zoning to prohibit any construction that could be affordable by the undesirables? I am not prejudiced or anything but I do want to feel safe in my city."

There's that term, again, "undesirables". At this point, WHO exactly is being looked at as one of these persons ? I probably am included in that group. I may even be known as the ringleader. (smile)
The true reality is that bringing higher income people into A-town will not happen until you give them a reason to come. Businesses, events, or an atmosphere of vibracy may be the ticket.
Many of those "undesirables" may actually be the life support that keep Allentown's heart beating.
The Butz building, Johnny Manana's, etc still sit empty and desolate, while I know people constantly opening and attempting to open small businesses in Allentown everyday! It may not be the people or businesses you want to see but it is taxable income for the City. Maybe if we used, utilized, and inspired the UNDESIRABLES, Allentown could make a turnaround, but unfortunatley people are happy enough to complain, reminisce, and build more brand new but under utilized buildings...

Alfonso Todd


michael molovinsky said...

alfonso, unfortunately i've come to the conclusion that many comments submitted to my blog, under different names, actually come from one source, and are intended to characterize both myself and this blog in an unfavorable way.

Jeff Pooley said...

Mike, I agree about Lanta: a major mistake. Sorry for the Hamilton Street misread on what you meant. On Lester and the Call, I agree with the point of anonymous about honesty and not consuming the same PR drivel. But the reason I mention Lester by name is that he chose to set the story up as a slam on Allentown. There are a hundred ways to tell that story, and he chose to lead it off with the nastiest possible.

Anonymous said...

Pooley and Lewnes will soon, I assume, take Marin's golden brick road right out of Allentown.

Hopefully no one will be looking at their emails.

These cheerleaders are wearisome.

Sorrowful flashes in the pan often nothing but passing entertainment for the elites.

Like when the otherwise stalwart West Enders venture down to the Stonewall to indulge in a little local culture.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 1:20, your comment appears to be a shot at lewnes and pooley. actually both have established roots in allentown, and purchased the real estate where they live. marin rented an apartment. lewnes has already accomplished much more economic development than marin, in a considerably smaller job. pooley, (his wife aside), is a college professor who has a vested interest in seeing the quality of centercity life improve.