Jan 7, 2013

Cloning Yuppies for Allentown

When molovinsky on allentown began almost five years ago, I used to say that It's good to be Butz, I must now add, but it's better to be J.B. Reilly. In today's Morning Call we learn that "under Allentown's arena block master development agreement, if City Center determines a hotel is not feasible, it could build apartments or offices instead."  That is news to me, and as a blogging naysayer I'm more informed than most. All state taxes in the 130 acre NIZ will be going to pay for the arena complex. Reilly will own from the second floor up on two portions of the complex, one on Hamilton Street, the other on 7th Street. Lehigh Valley Hospital will the the tenant on the Hamilton portion, while the 7th Street side may well now be apartments instead of a hotel. Reilly is also building apartments on the other side of 7th Street, at the Linden Street corner. Although I have no background in office development, I do know the apartment market. No upscale apartment development in center-city has ever met it's target demographic without substantial subsidy, and then only with limited units. There are not enough Yuppies in Allentown to occupy the current supply of loft apartments, much less without Reilly's new apartments. Perhaps he can use his influence with Lehigh Valley Hospital for a clandestine Yuppie cloning laboratory.


Anonymous said...

Michael, the apartments revelation surprised me, too. Also the part that gives the Brooks Group all the parking revenue. Together with giving Brooks revenue from naming rights, one could make the case Brooks' own investment is quite small.

Anonymous said...


The term "Urban Gentrification" was created for Allentown. It's a case study...
See this :



Anonymous said...

Of course their contribution will be small--they are minor league hockey owners, which puts them right above carnival owners. You would have thought Warren Buffet or Bill Gates owned the team with all the press blather about "the Brooks Group," which likely exists as a vehicle to pay the owners a nice salary from public money .

michael molovinsky said...

VOR, advocates for social justice and the low income have a problem with gentrification as outlined in your article, and that certainly is the intent of the current development. however, the plan won't work because allentown, unlike manhattan, is not landlocked. there's no reason for the young single middle class to live in center city, because off an arena? furthermore, the developers know that it won;t work, but they are not playing with their own money. to them it's free money, state taxes. understand that the NIZ board is self-regulating. reilly isn't even dependent on tenants and rent. the NIZ taxes will be applied by the board to cover the bonds, and they alone decide who will be financed.

ironpigpen said...

I never saw ANYTHING that stated the Brooks Group had one penny of their own money in this deal.

At least the IronPigs put $ 20.0 million of their own money into the deal to build Coca-Cola Park UPFRONT.

But, whatever.



Anonymous said...

The social and political infrastructure of Allentown is in freefall.
It's quite something to watch. Unbelievable really.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think that you are wrong on this one. A critical mass of high end apartments can create its own weather system.

It has been done all across the country. It can happen here, too.

Of greater concern to me is there being no checks and balances on the income stream from the NIZ. Unless this is fixed all you will have to to is wait a few years and everyone from the Mayor to AEDC and city DCED staff to the developers will sent to prison on corruption charges.

michael molovinsky said...

@11:10, there have been numerous attempts to gentrify the demographics of center city, going back to a project by the Leh family on walnut street 40 years ago. more recently the zawarski complex also on walnut, but near 8th. nothing has moved the needle one degree, and neither will the reilly apartments.

i have many issues with the NIZ law and it's lack of oversite, as should all pennsylvania taxpayers. that said, it's a case of legal favoritism, but not anything criminal or corrupt.


As a resident of Center City (right on 5th and Turner, I can tell you why gentrification won't work. People aren't willing to move because even if they raise the rent it's still cheaper and more convenient to live in Center City Allentown, PA than NYC, NJ, and Philly. Period. Also, take a look at the average income in the A.B.E. area. Luxury and semi-luxury locations aren't even in many individual's vocabulary. Do I want the Arena plans to fail, NO! But I would love to hear about a PLAN B or C.
As far as gentrification is concerned: Gentrification is for locations that have options and transit systems that work well for the residents which the Lehigh Valley does not. Of course this is not what many want to hear, but the "powers that be" knew this already and like many have mentioned prior, they have no real investment in the area. So,whether it works or not, oh well. (Projects fail all the time, but the rich can move on and write it off as a loss, unfortunately we residents aren't that lucky)

The only way we can prevent getting "snake eyes" with this roll of the dice, is if WE residents and businesses take our future in our OWN hands and not DEPEND on THEIR hopes but build on what they are doing and CREATE our own reality with events, national/international PR, and creating true investment from the outside world.

Alfonso Todd



Get involved Be empowered

Anonymous said...

"...however, the plan won't work because allentown, unlike manhattan, is not landlocked. there's no reason for the young single middle class to live in center city, because off an arena?"

We can't predict if it will work, but there is no denying the plan. From the moving of the urban bus stops, to providing all kinds of tax incentives designed by and for the benefit of upper class investors, it is clear to me that they intend to start in the center and reclaim downtown, with a gradual push oyward from 7th and Hamilton. Is it nice? Is it fair? Does it smack of desperation? No, No, and YES. But Allentown, after about 40 years of decline, needs "something" and this is it.