Jan 14, 2015

Allentown's Tower Of Babel

I was at the Allentown Planning Commission meeting for the arena. To say that it was a rubber stamp procedure is exaggerating the commission's integrity. The only question they asked was how the garage door would look on the service entrance. Likewise, the chosen one J.B. Reilly, only gets green lights by all the bureaucracies; One only look at the wooden framed apartments on top of the steel first floor at 7th and Linden. Another developer, one from yesteryear, Bruce Loch, is not getting the same reception for his proposal. He's still trying to get to first base with his tower proposed for 9th and Walnut. He should make Reilly his partner. While I'm back on the subject of Reillytown, let me express doubt about the Lehigh County Community College announcement. Supposedly, their building on Hamilton Street across from the arena no longer suits their needs, but Reilly isn't interested. This blogger predicts that at the end of the transactions Reilly will in fact own the building. If the students study and follow that deal, they would get a real education.


Anonymous said...

At this point, the ANIZDA is just a division of City Center and the NIZ is akin to Berlin after World War II. The Jaindls get the Riverfront, JB gets downtown. No room for anyone else. There will be no sharing. I suppose it doesn't have to be fair. I suppose ANIZDA has no obligation to foster a competitive marketplace.

Just give us pretty buildings!

It looks terrible that a single developer has a monopoly of NIZ funding and ANIZDA acts as the 100 foot tall wall for anyone else.

You'd like to think it's not intentional or deliberate but appearances say otherwise.

ANIZDA will run interference just long enough for JB to take the market away from Loch and Abdouche and anyone else who dares to build downtown.

Is Loch's idea any more preposterous than an idea of building hundreds of apartments downtown on pure speculation and dreams?

Anonymous said...

Who is financing these projects ?It would seem there is too much space available now.

michael molovinsky said...

@11:08, all the state taxes, including income tax from the workers in the building, may be used by the developer to pay his mortgage. it's a no brainer real estate wise, but apparently only a few developers are allowed to play.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for the explanation of how these projects are financed.I moved from Allentown 8 years ago and have been trying to follow this Renaissance.I remember a local cigarette wholesaler was bought and the cigarette taxes went to N.I.Z..This is the first I heard state income taxes went to this private group.

Anonymous said...

To know how much is being collected the state has a site just for the NIZ. PA State Revenue Department NIZ reports show the taxes collected were just north of $44,000,000. The reports can be found at http://bit.ly/parevniz. Look at the NIZ Program Reconciliation Record -- NIZ Program Reconciliation Record report.

-Steven Ramos

Anonymous said...


Potemkin Village is more like it.

Moving quickly onto far more important stuff, when is the next exciting minor league ice hockey game at the luxurious new Pawlowski Palace of Sport?

Anonymous said...

ANIZDA has always maintained that part of the "process" was having some tenants lined up. JB has shown this for 2CC (Nat Penn) and 3CC (Norris McLaughlin). Re the new tower I don't believe any tenants are locked in, maybe his track record is sufficient at this point?

Re Loch, he has no track record and I haven't heard of any tenants "locked in". I'm wondering if this is part of the hold up?

I believe this is the same problem with Abdouche at Americus, AZIZDA won't release funds on hunches and gut feelings. Both of these developers need to secure tenant leases and I believe the NIZ funding will follow

michael molovinsky said...

@10:25, i have revised my previous comment, i believe that you acknowledge that reilly also has no tenants lined up for 7th and walnut, yet the ANIZDA has no problem with it. fyi, loch is an experienced developer, going back to the daddona era.

Anonymous said...

We need a full accounting:
1. Are any of the tenants being subsidized by the tax payer?
2. Are any of those subsidies coming out of monies that were targeted for development?
3. Are any of JB's royalty payments coming out of funds ANIZDA authorized that were targeted for development?

Since none of these entities are reporting how they are using the funds authorized, besides the bits we get in local papers, it's hard for us to know whether we have a true marketplace or whether it's a taxpayer driven shell that will collapse as soon as they run out of credit or max out what they collect in taxes.

The ANIZDA needs to be more transparent. We shouldn't have to go to state agencies to know what's being collected in taxes. They should have monthly statements on the ALLENTOWNPA.gov ANIZDA page of all monies authorized, projects denied or approved - with reasons, and if any audits are being conducted to ensure that approved monies are being used appropriately.

-Steven Ramos

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ramos,

I remember the days when local media served in the public interest. When our newspapers were serious about investigative journalism. A time when reporters asked thorough questions and then followed-up those questions when necessary.

There really WAS a 'checks and balances' layer, right here in Allentown! Now, press releases are mostly printed exactly as written by the promoters.

It's pretty sad, I think. Dangerous, too.

Fred Windish

doug_b said...

Off the subject..

Congrats to PA for now having the highest gas tax in the nation!

AuH2O said...

How can we expect the Morning Call to do investigative work on the NIZ whey they are loaded down writing puff pieces on Obamacare? It doesn't seem to matter who is the beat writer on health care news, all we get is how wonderful it is.

Anonymous said...

Michael- Last year the CFO of the ASD put an extra $3,000,000 into the budget for property taxes emanating from the new NIZ development coming on board. As co-chair of the finance committee, I have asked the CFO repeatedly to reconcile this amount and provide an ongoing audit of how close we are coming to this estimation. Nothing so far. I was told at one point there were too many parcels in Allentown and the only record they had was in a PDF. I provided the CFO with an Excel spreadsheet with all of the parcels in the NIZ. They are still stalling and will not provide the information. The amount of money ASD pays their legal counsel and their tax collector is significant. The fact that they cannot come up with this data befuddles me. If they can not accomplish this simple task I can only question their ability to monitor the budget they are responsible for. And now we have $11,000,000 in found money. Anyone surprised?

David Fehr Zimmerman