May 9, 2016

Allentown's Future

Contemplating Allentown's future seems somewhat bleak, certainly compared to its past. The All American City of the Mack and Western Electric era resulted in a large middle class,  which  supported three large urban department stores.  Now, we deem some office workers, poached from the suburbs, as a measure of success. The second NIZ, at the waterfront, will now poach their anchor tenant, Talen Energy, from the Hamilton Street PPL Plaza.  Our current leadership is under a cloud of alleged corruption.  Even our newspaper has been for sale for the last decade.

Before Mayor Pawlowski started working for his predecessor, Roy Afflerbach, he headed the Alliance For Building Communities. When he covered the front of their historic brick building in dryvit, I knew that he had no sense of history or aesthetics. He then gave City Line Construction a grant to smear the stuff on their building. Even our historical society, rather than featuring our history,  has shows on Abraham Lincoln. This week I will attempt to garner some interest in preserving the iconic Wehr's Dam, which has been a destination for over 100 years. The dam is again under threat by the South Whitehall Commissioners, who are likewise clueless about history.

We who care about such things as ethics, beauty and history,  face a difficult challenge.  We must stand fast,  despite the indifference of the elected officials,  and the preoccupation of a public which is struggling just to get by.  


Dave said...

One does have to question the wisdom, and perhaps sanity of Talen Energy management of deciding to move from its current prestige address at 9th and Hamilton to the sixth ward.

Back in its day, when Allentown was that prosperous, All-America City that we were proud of to both live in and come from, businesses would move from the south side of Hamilton Street to the north side, as the north side was considered to be more prestigious.

Now, though a decision-making process that defies logic, at least honest logic, we have businesses leaving Hamilton Street to a former steel plant site in one of the lesser-off parts of the city; although it will have a view of the Lehigh River and Tilghman Street Bridge.

Of course, my father used to run the former Atlantic Station at Front and Allen, just down the street in the 1950s and early 1960s. Today it's a vegetable market. However the neighborhood has changed since then.

But then, I'm a 20th Century Man living in the 21st Century World.

michael molovinsky said...

dave@7:31, the move will be justified as saving rent in consideration of the share holders of talen stock. it will have a devastating effect on hamilton street, since the plaza was constructed specifically to accommodate PPL before the energy sector broke off into talen. the building was designed as a showcase, i.e. grass covered roof, but not designed for smaller or multiple tenants. it will depreciate greatly with talen's departure, and the lunch crowd for the restaurants will shrink. one end of the NIZ cannibalizes the other end.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

This is the policy of the near past and the future, redistribution of not only money but businesses, not fostering a climate to encourage new business, but either through tax breaks or penalties encouraging business to move from one area to another. It is all short term thinking, this is what we have on all levels of government. As far as Whers dam they will analyze and destroy , just for the profit involved in the work, if there are no profits to be made building, maybe there are profits in destroying.

Robert Trotner said...

Michael, I'm not quite sure how Reilly got to be appointed messiah of choice for Allentown or how far flung his real estate and other empires are. Could you write a blog on thst?

michael molovinsky said...

robert@3:48, reilly was an accomplished real estate developer before the NIZ. certainly all the pieces came together in an unprecedented way with this state funded private/public subsidy. he had a relationship with pat brown who sponsored the legislation, who really engineered it is unknown. he was former chairman of the hospital board, which rents his space above the public portion arena entrance, and his hotel also adjoins the public portion. who does the prorating and any accountability on the public (taxpayer) behalf is questionable. the arrangement has made a millionaire a billionaire (my phrase which has been borrowed by others). the hospital has cooperated by locating their department heads there in ghost offices (my discovery, unreported thus far by the MSM) being the highest paid hospital employees allowing reilly their state income taxes. while pawlowski was just a ribbon cutter, reilly was happy enough with his good fortune to pledge $50k to pawlowski's campaign fund. years ago i used to say that it was good to be butz, now i say that it's better to be reilly.