Jan 19, 2014

Further Than The Farr Lot

I rented a storefront from Harvey Farr in the late 1970's. During the earlier heydays of Hamilton Street,  Farr, along with The Morning Call's Donald Miller and John Leh, controlled downtown and owned Park & Shop, a series of surface lots serving the parking needs of their customers. They built the first parking deck in America, now the police station at 10th and Hamilton. As the end of Allentown's dominance as a shopping mecca became apparent, they sold the lots to the newly formed Allentown Parking Authority. This is a story of pulling strings and having connections, which only molovinsky brings you in Allentown; You will not read these unvarnished truths in The Morning Call.

The parking situation in Allentown was well managed by two or three meter maids who worked for the police department, patrolling the meter zone with golf carts. Farr, Miller and Leh prevailed upon then mayor for life Joe Daddona to bale them out of the parking business, and thus The Allentown Parking Authority was created. At first the Authority serviced the meters, but soon purchased the surface lots as originally pre-planned.

The Parking Authority continues as a political entity. It's board of directors are appointed by the current mayor for life, Ed Pawlowski, and are among his biggest cheerleaders. A recent article in The Morning Call states that Lee Butz and company was the only bidder for the Farr surface lot, which stretches from 8th Street to the east side of the PPL Plaza. It doesn't reveal that Butz actually initiated the sale by approaching the Authority with a request. As residents of Allentown wonder how the arena patrons will cope with both perceived parking and traffic problems, the Authority will be selling the last surface lot adjoining the new arena. Existing businesses, such as the Farr Loft Apartments and The BreWWorks depend on this lot for convenient parking. Just as The Parking Authority was formed 35 years ago by pulled strings, today it still accommodates those with connections.


urban_lv said...

Isn't a parking lot the best place for a new building? To me this seems much better than knocking down an existing building. Plus, there is a huge parking garage right next door.

michael molovinsky said...

urban cheerleader@1:41, there's no lot next door, that's all one lot. their recommended alternative space would be the hess's deck.

urban_lv said...

Yeah, I meant the Hess's deck. Sorry I should have specified. There's also the deck behind the Holiday Inn.

I think we all want the city to strike the right balance between new investment and the preservation of old buildings. Development of a parking lot with no historic value seems like the best case scenario.

michael molovinsky said...

@2:55, i disagree. the balance is retaining some surface parking. i'm still dizzy from the last time i used the hess's deck corkscrew ramp, 30 years ago. for the Farr Loft tenants, the surface lot is across from the side entrance of the building. anything less convenient will greatly degrade the desirability that building. i don't buy your historic building apology, they tore down some iconic buildings for the arena. there's plenty of buildings that have seen much better days on walnut, 8th and 9th street. however, j.b. reilly has already purchased most of them. this Authority parcel will cost considerably less than buying buildings from reilly and tearing them down, but is it in the best interests of center city?

i rejected a reply from urban-lv who said that some the farr tenants would be glad to walk a little further to the hess's deck, in exchange for a more vibrant allentown.

Rich Fegley said...

We still have many guests tell our staff at Brew Works, "Oooo, where do you park when you go to Allentown? If I have my party at Brew Works, where will my guests park?"

It is so difficult to explain to them that there are surface lots and parking decks.

Are they easily found? Well marked? Uniform in visual style? Eh, not really.

The City owned (Parking Authority?) deck behind the Bethlehem Brew Works cannot handle all of our guests there, but the two parking decks within a block or so are fairly modern and just like decks people would find in other cities.

In Allentown there is the Hess deck. The Holiday Inn deck. The Sixth St. deck will be great for the Arena but is a little too far from Brew Works...without a trolly in town.

I can only hope the the new City Center buildings will provide sufficient parking for the employees in the buildings that they build downtown. I've heard that City Center Three will have 500+ space under the building.

Surface lots and metered spots are what merchants need. Parking for 1, 2 or 3 hours. 15-minutes sometimes. Bethlehem uses a smartphone app to pay for parking. I don't have a private space myself when I visit BBW. I park in the deck behind BBW, pay on my iPhone for 2 or 3 hours, plus a 35 cent service fee. I can extend from my table at the Brew Works. Too cool!

Who plans the parking in the City of Allentown?