Jun 9, 2023

Allentown Officially Becomes Reillyville

Yesterday the PPL Corporation announced that they are moving into a Reilly NIZ office building and putting the tower for sale.  The tower is more than  just an iconic building, it is the symbol of Allentown, and has been since 1928. 

The first question of course is what will become of the tower?  I suspect that J.B. Reilly has some insight in regard to that question.  With a glut of new office space available,  no commercial entity besides the PPL would have any use for it.  Its future is certainly residential, and its new owner I suspect has already been determined.

The second question is --what is really going on with our diverted taxes and the NIZ? If Reilly's first building at 7th and Hamilton has the room to accommodate the PPL, how much empty space is there in the subsequent buildings? 

Although this post is heavy on the questions and light on the answers, one thing is for certain...the Allentown of pre NIZ no longer exists.

shown above PPL Tower from the era of classic postcards


  1. PPL finally admits its electric bills to continue living in the old tower have become too high !

  2. Since that building represents PPL world head quarters and they are now moving into the diverted tax zone. Will this now become a phone number that taxes on electric world wide will become the Reilly revolving account monies while the rest of the city suffers usery.

  3. Perhaps low cost housing would be a good alternative? A vertical collective of characters who do not or hate to pay rent. Put bars on the windows, a no jump zone. Or maybe an environmentalists dream, a self contained building with each floor housing an individual residence and requisite support resources. Owners would never have to venture out side. The ideas are boundless. just ask the folk on city council, the honorable mayor, or Bat Sht Cwazy and the professional focus group of the only neighborhood in Allentown, The Promise Zone

  4. Absolutely the greatest poach in NIZ history - PPL moves east 3 blocks and all those tax revenues go right to City Center's pockets! I wouldn't be surprised if City Center is giving them free rent, just to get access to all the associated tax revenues generated from PPL. Of course, PPL claims the move is meant to save their customers money...I can't believe they even made that ridiculous claim! So now the speculation starts about what will become of the PPL building. I've seen numerous demands on social media to convert it to affordable housing for seniors and disabled people. My response to that is: Who will pay for that??? My guess is that the building will need to be demolished, but it ought to be an interesting story to follow in the coming years.

  5. What concerns me the most is the PPL building tower itself. It was built in 1928. We all seen what happened to the old Bethlehem Steel Martin Tower building. Will this building suffer the same fate? After all if Martin Tower built in 1972 had asbestos problems imagine the lead and asbestos which may be in this building at 9th and Hamilton. I can't imagine it being converted to apartments if those elements are present.

    Also of consideration would be the plumbing and electric wiring which was not designed to handle the load apartments would require. It ain't looking good folks.

    1. Would federal funding be found if this housing units were "affordable "? My guess is yes.

  6. So many aspects to this story, so I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this comment. Here’s Part I:


    Sorgi’s a bean-counter by background, and he’s making a decision that’s true to form. At the time Sorgi was named CEO, I believe it was noted that he was the youngest ever to ascend to that position. Now he is the most despicable as well.

    While he’ll likely be able to justify his position with a spreadsheet, that spreadsheet won’t show that the company’s roots (and heart) are being ripped from it. Almost a century’s worth of employees has worked there, and many retirees remain in the Valley.

    While Sorgi might portray this move as being due to the company not needing the space of the tower building, why is that? Could it be that the company has been slowly moving positions (a.k.a. jobs) to other locations outside the state as PPL has grown? It wasn’t too long ago that PPL was an expanding company IN THE CITY, even building an ADDITIONAL office building across Ninth Street to accommodate the growth of a new subsidiary. But under Sorgi’s leadership, the number of employees working downtown has suddenly fallen to the point where they now need only half the capacity of the tower?

    While I wish that those loyal retirees and current employees also own enough PPL shares to show Sorgi the door, I’m sure that’s not the case. But I do hope that Sorgi’s name becomes synonymous with being a back-stabbing fraud, and people across the Valley think of him accordingly.


    Once again, greed knows no bounds. After years of poaching smaller tenants from outside the NIZ, or having NIZ boundaries redrawn to include profitable entities, he’s now poaching the most visible business in Allentown. Not that I’d expect anything less from Reilly. Maybe the Baron of Bland can add some of the leftover materials from his many “Strata” buildings to the tower building to help it blend in with the other non-descript buildings he’s built downtown.


    Kudos to former (republican) State Senator Pat Browne for drafting a “one-of-a-kind” law that’s ultimately going to do more damage to Allentown than ever imagined. Yes, the NIZ brought great enrichment to Browne’s long-time friend, but now we’re seeing that greed (and a lack of foresight) knows no bounds.

    On that note, after years of silence by democrat state reps regarding making changes to the NIZ law, how ironic that the Reilly is now poaching the city’s most iconic company from just a few blocks away. Many of those reps supposedly represent Allentown and have said nothing while neighboring communities had their tax bases gutted by taxpayer-subsidized rents in the city. My, how that worm has turned.

    The only solace politically is that Republican voters took care of Browne in his last primary election, although our new democrat governor undid the will of the people and softened Browne’s landing with a cushy cabinet-level position in Harrisburg. I guess the governor couldn’t risk someone talking about where the (figurative) bodies - from both sides - are buried. To me, it’s just further evidence of what a cesspool Harrisburg is.

    Unlike the republican voters who removed Browne from office, democrat voters continue to blindly elect anyone in office with a ‘D’ next to their name. The silence of those state reps was bought with the paltriest amount of campaign contributions imaginable. Yet their voting base will continue to ignore the obvious and reward them with re-election until the vultures rip the last bit of flesh from the city’s dying carcass.

  7. Here's Part II:


    The new Mayor stated that he’s happy PPL is keeping employees downtown. What he’s not mentioning is that it’s far fewer employees than the company has had there in the past. What he’s DEFINITELY not saying is that he’s happy they’re not ALL leaving during his time in office. A twenty-year lease buys some time to spin the narrative, I guess, but we know where this decision is taking the tower, and the city.

    I am severely concerned about Tuerk’s statement that the tower gets converted into housing. That statement needs to be greatly elaborated on if that’s his “vision”. What kind of housing? How will the residents it attracts raise (instead of lower) the standards in Allentown? Will there be strict limits as to the size of any housing units to ensure it doesn’t become an urban slum? How many extra children would it put into Allentown’s struggling and already bursting school system? How would the school district handle those extra kids? How will converting that building to housing affect a downtown commercial district that’s had every plan that’s ever been created for it showing that building as remaining commercial?

    I’m sorry, but I’ve seen what our major cities have become with high-rise housing. I certainly don’t trust a new mayor with no track record of creating anything to set the agenda for what the most visible building in the Lehigh Valley will become. Of course, as MM alludes to in his post, that decision may have already been made behind closed doors. This is Allentown after all.

    So will City Council members now step up to fill the void and advocate for something beyond their narrow constituencies and for something that will serve the city for the next hundred years? Ok, I couldn’t even finish typing that sentence without laughing. But we all can dream.


    After a decade of rosy reporting on the NIZ and how it will save Allentown, the Call is once again being proven wrong with what’s actually happening. Not that they’re even aware of or going to report on what’s actually going on. Once again, their crack reporting staff appears to have had little inkling that this was coming, unless they were helping out by keeping the news silent. Either way, it’s not a good look for the local “watchdog” in the press. While I appreciate the Call printing PPL’s and City Center’s press releases, it would be nice if they actually did some digging and a heck of a lot of follow-up on what’s actually happening downtown. How a supposedly full City Center 2 can accommodate a new tenant the size of PPL (as MM noted) might be a good place to start.

    Until those types of articles start to appear, the Call continues to appear to be a stooge for insider interests and unworthy of anyone’s subscriptions. Maybe that’s what they’re going for. If so, mission accomplished.

  8. This abandonment of the PPL Building should be 100% blamed on Pat Browne. While I always thought poaching local businesses from the suburbs was questionable, who could have imagined Reilly poaching PPL from 9th & Hamilton??? This move will erode the credibility of the NIZ permanently. What a sad story.

  9. As alluded to by anon@7:31, in addition to PPL salary state taxes, will Reilly be able to harvest taxes on our electric bills? Either way, with so much state tax implications, was the new Director of Revenue for Pa., Pat Browne, involved in this transaction?

    1. That would seem like a timely analysis from our “watchdogs” at the Morning Call.

      Similarly, how about an article on ALL the taxes (property, earned income, business privilege, local services, etc) that are currently collected by the city from PPL? And then an analysis of how each is affected by the move into the NIZ.

    2. Sorry, the sentence should have read:

      “That would seem like a great subject for a timely analysis from our “watchdogs” at the Morning Call.

    3. Now not only will it be state diverted taxes, it has become a world wide tax theft cashcow. Did the writter of the Zone rewrite law remember to rewrite this clause in the original law or is it one of the ever changing rewrite.
      Sorry USA and world your electricity tax has now become reillyvilles revolving unlimited credit card without repayment obligations ever written into the schedule.

    4. PPL customers pay 5.9% Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) on bills. This map:


      Shows that the PPL building is not part of the NIZ.

      And this 2022 tax report for the NIZ:


      Shows GRT on page 2 as included in “…miscellaneous taxes attributable to the NIZ…”. So one could assume that, with PPLs move into the NIZ, all GRT collected by PPL will now be harvested by the NIZ. That’s huge!

  10. A great post, with many great comments and questions. So what aspect is the Call focusing on today at MCall.com?

    What will happen with the Christmas lights going forward.

    The Mayor even said that asking a future developer to keep the display is a “reasonable” request by the city.


    Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen far more “reasonable” - and far more important - things to ask a future developer.

    But this is apparently what they (the Call, City Hall, the unnamed “future developer”, etc.) are going to use to divide any opposition and placate enough residents when they push though the new plan.

    Until residents demand more from their politicians and press, that’s the best they’ll get - the crumbs that fall from the table.

    1. The west end voters think everything's just great. These people are the cause of the endless reign of corruption, self service, and ineptitude.

    2. West End voter here. Don’t be sure about that.

  11. A very sad day for Allentown. It’s a deal that makes PPL subservient to Reilly. And the tax dollars? This is probably the end of PPL as a viable corporation. I have to assume the company is up for sale if a buyer could be found. Too bad the “gee-wizz” mayor doesn’t even understand what just happened.

    1. You are right about this mayor. He is clueless.

  12. Per the City's 2021 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR):

    PP&L ranked #9 in Principal Property Taxpayers (Page 136), with $21,509,700 in assessed value.

    (Note: This would be for ALL PPL buildings in the City, not just the tower. I don't know what other buildings that PPL has or may have had during that time period; and I don't know if the former Talon Energy building at the NE corner of Ninth and Hamilton was still considered a part of PPL in 2012).

    PP&L ranked #6 in Principal Employers (Page 143). Additional detail shows that PPL had 874 employees (1.54% of all City employment) in the city compared to 1,872 (3.62%) in 2012.

    (Again, I don't know what buildings or entities - like Talon - make up the employees included in those numbers. So it's tough to get a handle on employees in the Tower building itself.)

    1. To 10:06: Nice catches on the CAFR. “I don’t know what other buildings that PPL has ...” Would land and equipment in substations count?

  13. As an investment of tax dollars, the NIZ has been a LOSER ever since the first shovel of dirt was taken. Even a simple knowledge of math will show this.

    So, how many NEW dollars have come to our state and Allentown as a result of this NIZ failure? Dollars that were not already coming into Pennsylvania. Answer is . . . NONE.

  14. Michael,
    Soooo Many Thoughts concerning this news!!!
    The irony is… on Monday morning as I was driving thru downtown on Hamilton. I was sitting at 9th and Hamilton at the light. Looking to my left at the street scape I silently thought( how the properties on the north side of Hamilton looked ripe for the pickin) quite a few empty store fronts. But never in my wildest imagination did I think the PP&L Iconic Tower Building would also be the subject of 69 WFMZ news, and what’s left of the Morning NIZ Call.
    I realize it costs a considerable amount of money to keep that property in the excellent shape that it is in… at this time.

    The questions that I keep thinking about as the news reports continue… so when PP&L leaves the building…
    Who will be responsible for the maintenance on the building?
    Who will heat and cool the building?
    Who will keep tabs on the plumbing in the building?
    Who will make sure that the electrical systems are functioning properly in the building?
    Who will be the security for the building?
    Who will remove the graffiti from the building?
    Who will take care of the broken windows of the building?
    Who will make sure the street and sidewalks are cleared in the winter during ice and snow storms?
    Who will weed and remove weeds that grow in the cracks of the side walk?

    From all my years of being a downtown merchant, the PP&L buildings have always had some kind of construction project going on. Recent projects included the replacement of exterior windows, waterproofing the concrete panels and updating the iconic lights on the top, with halogen low cost programmable lights. I believe the roof was replaced along with the flagpole.
    I have 7(Seven Uncles) that were electricians with the IBEW Local-375 my Grandfather helped with the building of the PP&L Tower building (he also help start the IBEW Local-375 back in the day) Those uncles at one time or another would be called in to work at the Tower. From the stories that they told about the building…it would cost a small fortune to convert that building into another use. Just the HVAC system alone would be a huge undertaking, The elevators are another issue. That building was built as an office work area! Not a high rise apartment building as the Mayor has envisioned from reports on 69 news. Sorry for the lengthy comment. My last thought!
    When PP&L leaves the building??? Will they remember to turn out the lights??? Just Sayin!

  15. Heard the word on the street is that LVIA is starting to get "migrant" families shipped in. Those families are going to start to inhabit the PPL Tower. The Tower will become Sanctuary Tower.

  16. I can't help but wonder when the city will claim the facade is falling off the PPL building and erect 'canopies' to protect the pedestrians... ala the Americus... if you recall that silly fiasco... anything to piss in someone's coffee... that's our city when it doesn't quite get it's way, Babyland personified!!!
    One good thing is the idiots will be in one place and maybe our non policing police can make some arrests???

  17. I hear “call me Doctor Batts” and Happy technician Pas Simpson are going to move Promise Neighborhoods into the PPL Tower to fight crime

  18. The classic Art Deco PPL Building is a unique asset and should be treated as such. It deserves better than a backroom deal by an inexperienced Mayor to have it "converted into housing".

    Why don't our city leaders get off their asses and poach a large company from NYC? Better tax situation here, and still close enough to NYC if they need to get there in person. They should have been doing this from Day 1 of the NIZ, and probably would have if they weren't all in bed with Reilly.

    Instead, we'll likely get the same lazy approach, with the same tired "developers", and the same disappointing results that we always get.

    1. We need the train. To the average CEO/CFO in NYC we might as well be Mars without a rail connection.

    2. Remember, our cities "needed" the interstate highway system and all it did was allow people to flee the city for the suburbs. What if we spend hundreds of millions on a NYC train which was then used mostly by New Yorkers to buy cheap houses in the Lehigh Valley. What New Yorker would kill to buy a suburban tract house in Forks Township for $500,000???

    3. We HAD trains... they went belly up because of low ridership... freight is the only thing that kept them going and keeps them going!!! The only thing that keeps Amtrak going is taxpayer money, which will be needed (if not ALREADY in the mix) if passenger service is renewed... you can take that to the bank!!! When rail was king, they paid their own bills with no taxpayer money.

  19. PPL looks like it is “singling up all lines,” and “shifting from shore power to ship’s power.” For all those political hacks and business wannabes who have said so often that Allentown needs to “right the ship,” if you don’t know the difference between freeboard and a gunwale, or how to pronounce them, without looking it up, don’t try to play Cap’n Quint, or Commander Queeg. By going from owned property to a lease, PPL could be compared to a ship about to leave the pier, then shifting location to drop anchor in the harbor, and the harbor master says they are still in port. As for the building, all the endgame speculation is adrift without knowing how the interior has been maintained and renovated over the years, and what both residential and commercial markets see as requirements for their own contemporary development. However, the structure is probably like a rock, on a rock, and with some serious infrastructure that would be rare in straw or wood construction. Has PPL considered leasing out its extra space, and why or why not? I don’t recall reading that.

  20. It's rather amazing and at the same time, puzzling, that not too long ago they built the annex and years later the PPL Plaza... they then bailed from the Plaza and now are bailing from the tower... what a travesty,,, General Trexler is twirling in his grave... bad enough he would be upset about his parks, now his electric company...

  21. Low income housing that will inevitably fail, will never be able to cover the maintenance costs. Perhaps another unique quality/attraction of the new Allentown will be the worlds highest vertical slum in the midst of a sea of manufactured modular rental housing that is grossly over prices. The apartment factory fit for the next lockdown control strategy. I heard Mayor Matt is trying to work a deal to attract the emerging alien influx to Allentown ala Joe Dadonna. Hah! Hah! So I would like to know who REALLY wrote the NIZ proposal?

  22. The tower is 100 years old. Totally out of date, totally irrelevant to today's office standards. And then the pandemic put a huge percentage of the workforce at home, permanently. Look around - there's a worldwide glut of office space, thanks to the pandemic. If PPL can get out of paying for outdated, unwanted office space, why wouldn't they? They're a for profit company - their shareholders do not care about sentimental buildings. What makes anyone think maintaining this tower would have been a good business decision? From PPL's perspective, this makes sense. The best our city's skyline fans can hope for is that the facade of the building is maintained while the interior is completely demolished for whatever purpose they devise. Residential is its only hope, but that's not an easy conversion at all, and it may not even be possible.