Mar 24, 2023

Covid Funds And Bureaucrats

With the Covid pandemic, the Feds pumped more money into the municipalities than they know what to do with. Never fear, the non-profits and bureaucrats are stepping forward with solutions for that dilemma. 

Allentown City Council is allocating a $millon for affordable housing on the former parking lot of the former Lehigh Valley Club. In more prosperous days of yesteryear, that facility hosted wedding receptions for the well heeled. 

There's another proposal up the block on the county level, to restart the Lehigh County Redevelopment Agency. You would think that after the state diverted a $Billion to Reilly for his privately owned, publicly financed empire on Hamilton Street, we wouldn't need another redevelopment agency.  But let's not co-mingle Reilly's good fortune with bureaucratic opportunities.

Actually, that redevelopment agency might be needed sooner than this post indicates. I believe that current prices being paid for downtown rental units exceeds the cash flow that they will yield. I'm expecting a lot of boarded up buildings, but that will be a post topic in the future.

The postcard shown above is of the dining room in the former Lehigh Valley Club.  Its former parking lot will now  house affordable housing, built by a development company seeking $1million from Allentown's federal Covid fund chest.


  1. Regarding the Hamilton Street property, the recipients of the $million that Allentown is giving for the project are being reported as HDC Mid Atlantic and the Alliance for Building Communities.

    That said, a quick trip to the county assessment records show that 1528 Hamilton Street has been owned by MS9 Holdings, LLC since October 2017.

    Some questions:

    If ownership has not changed hands, I'm assuming that MS9 Holdings will profit by subleasing or selling that parcel of their land to the building developers. Confirming how that works would be nice to know since we're shoveling government funds at the project.

    If ownership did change hands, it would be nice to know when, who the parcel was sold to, and whether the sale was/is contingent on obtaining any government funding for the project.

    Finally, it would be nice to know who owns MS9 Holdings LLC.
    My assumption is that they are the ones who are profiting from the overuse of this sub-parcel, and rumor has it that the LLC has at least one politician among its members.

    Of course, more than anything it would be nice to have a local news media curious enough to investigate these basic questions and report on what they find.

  2. anon@6:47; Local Mark Smith owns the former Lehigh Valley Club. I assume the agreement was contingent on approvals.

  3. Yes, but is he the sole owner of MS9 Holdings, LLC?

  4. anon@7:22, I suspect so, and certainly NOT some council member, as speculated on another comment elsewhere.

  5. “Allentown City Council is allocating a $millon for affordable housing on the former parking lot of the former Lehigh Valley Club.”

    Actually, the project is on the CURRENT parking lot of the Lehigh Valley Club. Which brings up the question, where are all the cars that currently park on that lot going to go?

    The lot currently has a healthy amount of vehicles parking there daily, both for the tenants of the current building and those paying for parking from the surrounding area. I think we all know what effect removing some of that parking and then adding a 55-unit high rise (with new residents and their visitors) will have on parking in that area, although it seems to escape (or just not matter to) those within the confines of City Hall.

    So once again, Allentown City Hall throws current residents under the bus while throwing their tax dollars to developers and nonprofits.

  6. The mayor was all in on this project even though the West Park community was dead set against it for a plethora of very sound reasons. All those concerns were ignored and the zoning board bent over backwards to green light this clearly inappropriate use that would clearly impose hardships on the surrounding community. As a result there is a very high level of frustration and discouragement with the mayor, the Planning Commission, and the zoning board who seem to be guided by special interests rather than the interests of the greater good. Perhaps this sorry episode at least finally removed the scales from the residents eyes.

  7. Possibly off topic here, but I can't help but notice that the campaign finance reports that appear online for candidates for office in Allentown (past and present) now only go back to 2020.

    Why is this important? Well, many incumbents carry balances forward from report-to-report and are elected to four-year terms. By cutting the year off at 2020, there is no easy way to trace what made up those balances back to where the money came from. Also, removing the reports means that interested parties can't go back to see if a donor (like real estate developers) to a current candidate donated to certain candidates (or any candidates) in the past.

    It used to be that these reports were available online (under the council tab of the city's website) going back decades.

    Curiously, the related Statements of Financial Interests posted online for city candidates now only go back to 2022.

    I would argue that all the reports are matters of public record, have an ongoing public interest, and should remain on the website indefinitely.

    I guess transparency and knowing who-funded-who is no longer a concern now that the FBI isn't actively looking at Allentown City Hall.

  8. Parks Department underling/Contrarian/Local Predator/Wildlands Conservancy Grant Writer checking in on this issue. I have to wonder what is going on with this developer and this project that was allowed to be crammed into a parking lot with a letter of support from City Hall and is now getting $1 million from the City. Is the City this desperate for affordable housing that zoning relief has to be granted, $ million handed over and the concerns of local residents dismissed? There has to be more to this story.