Nov 3, 2010
Lowering the Zoning Bar
While attention tonight will be focused on the Mayor's budget proposal, City Council will quietly pass a new zoning law. One of the major changes is the new process for conversion of commercial space into residential. While formally, practically every aspect was by variance, the conversions will now be encouraged by special exception leeway. The streamline procedure reflects the Administration's hope that young professionals will opt to live the loft life, and avail themselves of Allentown's urban charm; Of course, the only problem is reality. While the new upscale apartments near Wegmans filled quickly, the lofts in Allentown proved to be a hard sell, despite being beautiful. My concern for the City is not about the well done projects, but that this new ordinance will just create the last thing we need, more apartments. Not all loft apartments will be done equally. Not all loft apartments will attract the higher income demographic these changes are meant to encourage. The previous zoning procedure succeeded in producing more lofts than demand, the new one may well produce more apartments than is desirable.