Nov 30, 2015
Allentown's Revitalization and Our Frame Of Reference
I suspect that the millennials are most enthused about the changes in Allentown, while the baby boomers are the least. How you feel about what is new there now, is probably based on your frame of reference. We who experienced Hamilton Street in it's heyday are not so impressed with current developments. Although the Whitehall Mall opened in the mid 1960's, Hamilton Street continued on for another 30 years. When the Lehigh Valley Mall opened in the late 1970's, Hamilton Street's decline as a destination was swift. Although the former Hess Brothers store would stay open through Christmas of 1995, most of it's shoppers entered and left via it's own parking deck, never stepping foot on Hamilton Street.
During the next 15 years, the downtown survived by serving the neighboring demographic, which was becoming poorer every year. Five years ago, when I debated about the coming NIZ on Business Matters, one of the NIZ board members actually referred to the stores being displaced and their clientele as a cancer. The same merchants and customers are now considered part of 7th Streets' success, what a difference a few blocks make.
Despite one promotional article after another by The Morning Call, the verdict is still out on the success of the new revitalized center city. Because it is being financed exclusively by public funds, and will be for at least the next 30 years, normal barometers of success cannot be used. I spend a lot of time there, but have yet to feel the buzz.