Jun 21, 2016

The Misconception of Hamilton Street

There's not many mid size cities that can boast having two national chain stores within one center city block, Allentown could. Not too many cities could say that one of those stores was one of the biggest producers in a chain of over 7000 stores, Allentown could. There's not many cities that are ignorant enough to tear down their most successful block, a virtual tax machine, Allentown is. This horrible mistake took a combination of political arrogance and public misconception. The arrogance is well known, so let me concentrate on the misconception. The perception was a few undesirable people, buying cheap things. The reality is Family Dollar sells the same merchandize in their suburban and rural stores. Rite Aid fills the same prescriptions and sells their standard merchandize. The new upscale stores, visioned for the arena front, will never produce the sales tax produced by Family Dollar and Rite Aid. The arena will never have that amount of employees, nor produce that much earned income.* The traffic congestion and lack of parking for arena events will destroy the new restaurants. Welcome to the white elephant, welcome to the ghost town.
Shown above and below is the early morning delivery to Family Dollar, every week of the year.
*sales tax and earned income currently going to city and state will now go to debt service for arena
reprinted from December 5, 2011

ADDENDUM: While The Morning Call promotes Allentown's new NIZ zone, only this blogger documented the reality of the former Hamilton Street. While the Moravian Book Store could be restocked from a small hand basket once a month, the previous Family Dollar Store needed a full tractor trailer every Sunday.


Scott Armstrong said...


What is your guess on the longevity of the new restaurants?

Monkey Momma said...

I am guessing that Family Dollar and a pharmacy will be back on Hamilton within the decade. Those are the businesses that can thrive organically on that street. Shula's, Tony Luke's, Johnny Mananas, the various cafes in the PPL Plaza spot, American Hairlines, and Pop Mart are some examples of why businesses need to be born in response to market demand - not politician's dreams.

Jamie Kelton said...

It's quite clear that the Mayor discriminated against the businesses because he felt that they were beneath what should be in a prestigious city such as Allentown. They did, after all, serve the lower classes of residents in structures that dated to the early part of the 20th Century. Clearly, in order to create a city more suited to his vision, all this had to go.

Thus, eminent domain was invoked to get rid of this garbage.

Now we have a Central Business District that the Mayor can run on as a stepping stone to higher office, Governor, perhaps United States Senator? You know things that matter that a man such as Ed can use to make a name for himself.

Oh, that darn FBI.

I agree with Mr Armstrong and Monkey Momma. The businesses on Hamilton Street will return to their pre-eminent domain state within a few years, the balance of life will be restored on Hamilton Street. Fundamental economics will not be denied.

Although the will have newer buildings to conduct business in. All will be well again.

doug_b said...

Cities grew because of commerce. It was a small world, transportation and communication were slow. Today it has all changed. We have telephones / faxes / internet / email / scanners / next day delivery - the banker doesn't have to be next to the lawyer. So the proximity of many businesses is not important.

The NIZ is an attempt to rebuild an idea (a downtown) that is dying.

Other cities do this also: Build sport palaces, theaters, restaurants in the downtown, trying to force the energy into a circus like atmosphere.

Allentown got screwed.

michael molovinsky said...

doug@3:05, revitalization of allentown was somewhat of a pretense. the direct channel between pat brown, who designed the NIZ, and J.B. Reilly, its main benefactor, is well known. the taxpayer subsidized buildings will bode immensely well for Reilly, regardless of how allentown does.

george schaller said...

It is all just a illusion, can anyone say Circus Sticks, living three and four families in a single family dwelling not even mentioning the same for 1 bedroom apartments?! Please tell me how many misconceptions and tall tails can a one story town fit in a can of beans?!

George Ruth said...

I fully agree with the premise of this post, with the single exception of the sales tax. Local municipalities don't get any of that tax. I have long supported a local sales tax of some small amount earmarked (one should pardon the word) for special purpose. Yes, I understand the concept of the 'slippery slope.' Several years ago the state did allow for a tax of up to 1% to be used only to create or improve public transportation. I don't think any city or county has levied such a tax.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Business's succeed that supply a need. A need for the people who live in the city, the arena would be more successful if it was on the edges of the city not in the heart of the city. As you have stated, Dollar General and Rite Aid supplied an existing market. As the transplanted businesses die off the natural businesses will sprout.