Eminent domain would rip out downtown Allentown's heart
Years ago I appealed a zoning decision to Allentown City Council. Council told me at the time that if I wanted to be assured the right to operate a business, I should locate into the downtown business district.
Our merchants on Hamilton Street thought they had that same assurance, after investing both their time and assets for many years.
Although Hamilton Street has been our mercantile district for more than a century, our current mayor envisions an arena. Straight out of the catalog for unimaginative administrators, he hopes this one will succeed, although many have failed.
The 700 block of Hamilton Street certainly is not the neon success of the 1950s. Nevertheless, it still supports much more commerce than many people realize. Two national chains, Family Dollar and Rite Aid, succeed there along with numerous independents. Family Dollar is the modern equivalent of the 5 and 10 that anchored that block during its heyday. The senior citizens, at the two high-rises on Walnut Street, depend on Rite Aid's pharmacy.
Anecdotal evidence from other cities Allentown's size indicates that an arena/event center will not create spinoff business for nearby restaurants. It may well discourage existing patrons who now enjoy convenient parking.
Allentown's one-way streets would ensure unnecessary traffic congestion when patrons leave the arena. Most people feel that if an arena is built, it should either be along the Lehigh River or at Coca-Cola Park. I would prefer the former Mack 5C location at S. 12th and Lehigh streets. Lehigh is a major street that intersects with Interstate 78, less than two miles away.
My best recommendation for Mayor Pawlowski would be to concentrate on quality-of-life issues and throw away that catalog of distracting projects. I have seen mayors build a canopy, take down a canopy, reconfigure the parking, build parking decks, create a parking authority — and all the while ignore the things that really count.
When Allentown was the All-American City, we didn't need projects from that catalog. If the city was simply kept clean and safe, it would promote much more business than any boondoggle project.
This project has received no feedback or input from the citizens of Allentown. It is being rushed through various channels to accommodate the schedule of a minor league hockey team. While other cities have prospered from their history, we can't wait to tear down the heart of our downtown — by eminent domain. I say no thank you.
reprinted from The Morning Call, June 1, 2011
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