Back

Downtown Allentown Revitalization District Wins Global Award for Excellence

By Colin McEvoy on November 14, 2017

The Allentown Neighborhood Revitalization District has won the Urban Land Institute’s 2017-18 Global Award of Excellence.

The Allentown Neighborhood Revitalization District has won the Urban Land Institute’s 2017-18 Global Award of Excellence.

The success story of downtown Allentown’s revitalization continues to gain national attention, having this week received the land use industry’s most prestigious honor.

The Allentown Neighborhood Revitalization District has won the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) 2017-18 Global Award of Excellence. It is one of only 13 real estate development projects in the world to receive it this year, and one of only eight in the United States.

“Allentown’s comprehensive approach to urban development ensured that the long-term success of the project would not be compromised,” said 2017-2018 Global Awards Jury Chairman Wendy Rowden, president of 42nd Street Development Corp. in New York City.

“Each of these winners demonstrates a thoughtful, innovative approach to urban development that is adding to the sustainability and livability of the communities in which they are located,” Rowden said. “The attention paid to project detail, flexible design, and neighborhood context were among the factors making these entries stand out. They represent the type of development that will withstand the tests of time and change.”

Innovative, forward-looking

ULI is a nonprofit education and research institute with more than 40,000 members in 95 countries representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. Its Global Award of Excellence honors projects with an innovative, forward-looking approach to design and development.

“This is quite an honor and comes from one of the most widely respected organizations in the world,” said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.  “Being placed on an equal footing with other projects known around the nation and the world is very significant.”

The Downtown Allentown Revitalization District was spurred by an innovative state law that created the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), a special taxing district that encourages development and revitalization in downtown Allentown.

The NIZ consists of about 128 acres in downtown Allentown and the Riverfront district along the western side of the Lehigh River. All taxes generated in the NIZ, with the exception of school district and city taxes, can be used to pay debt service on any financed improvements within the NIZ.

A world model

The The 10,000-seat PPL Center hockey arena anchors the downtown revitalization city block.

The The 10,000-seat PPL Center hockey arena anchors the downtown revitalization city block.

State Sen. Pat Browne, the architect of the NIZ legislation, said this award shows that the NIZ is accomplishing exactly what it was designed to do.

“The NIZ incentives have turned a severely challenged downtown into one that is benefiting not only the entire Lehigh Valley but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well,” Browne said. “The ongoing revitalization of Downtown Allentown serves as a world model of what can be achieved through public incentives combined with private investments.”

The anchor of the downtown revitalization is a city block containing the PPL Center, a 10,000-seat hockey arena, with an integrated mixed-use development including retail, dining, health/wellness, hotel, commercial office, two historic buildings, and structured parking.

City Center Allentown, the major mixed-use development by City Center Investment Corp., includes more than 1.4 million square feet among three Class A office towers, the Renaissance Allentown Hotel, the STRATA West and East apartment towers, The Shops at City Center, restaurants, co-working spaces and more than 1,500 parking spaces.

City Center’s total investment in downtown Allentown is $400 million, with additional development of office, residential, retail and green space underway, according to City Center Investment Corp. President J.B. Reilly.

“Downtown Allentown owes enormous gratitude to Senator Pat Browne and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Neighborhood Improvement Zone legislation, which made this city’s revitalization possible,” Reilly said.

Tremendous turnaround

The Allentown Neighborhood Revitalization District also includes the 40,000-square-foot Trifecta building, an early 20th Century building converted into loft-style Class A office suites and retail space, and the seven-story mixed-use Butz Corporate Center Phase Two expansion.

Downtown Allentown’s revitalization has attracted many high-profile businesses to the city, including Lehigh Valley Health Network, BB&T, Air Products, and Bank of America.

“This global recognition validates the tremendous turnaround that downtown Allentown achieved through a unique public-private partnership,” said Sy Traub, Chairman of the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA).

“The best part is it’s still early in downtown Allentown’s transformation,” Traub said. “We’re still growing and attracting more developers and businesses.”

The Allentown Neighborhood Revitalization District is not the only Lehigh Valley project to receive a national economic development award in recent months. This past summer, Bethlehem’s SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus won the prestigious Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.

LVEDC Talent Supply Update: Good Jobs That Pay

Each week, Karianne Gelinas, Director of Talent Supply with the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), will provide an update and additional information a[...]

Continue to Next Page

Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

  • Industry Spotlight

    13.8% of Labor Force
    Employed in Professional & Business Services
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $39.1 Billion

    Gross Domestic Product
    2016

  • Investor Spotlight
    City Center Lehigh Valley
  • Industry Spotlight

    9.8% of Labor Force
    Employed in Manufacturing
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $3.44 Billion

    Exports
    2015

  • Investor Spotlight
    Air Products
  • Industry Spotlight

    1,504 Total Office Buildings
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    $57,510

    Median Household Income

  • Investor Spotlight
    PPL Electric Utilities
  • Industry Spotlight

    1,770 Total Industrial Buildings
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    24,400

    New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

  • Investor Spotlight
    National Penn
  • Industry Spotlight

    5.0% Industrial
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    658,477

    Population

  • Investor Spotlight
    Olympus
  • Industry Spotlight

    7.7% Office
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    342,493

    Labor Force

  • Investor Spotlight
    Lutron Electronics
  • Industry Spotlight

    17.2% of Labor Force
    Employed in Health Care & Social Assistance

  • By the Numbers
    5,073

    Technology Patents from 2000-2015

  • Investor Spotlight
    Mack Trucks
  • Industry Spotlight

    9.1% Increase in exports
    Among top 20 markets nationally in export growth

  • By the Numbers
    25.8 Million

    Total Office Inventory (Square Feet)
    Q2 2017

  • Investor Spotlight
    UGI
  • Industry Spotlight

    10.1% Industrial rent growth
    Second highest in the U.S.

  • By the Numbers
    115.5 Million

    Total Industrial Inventory (Square Feet)
    Q2 2017

  • Investor Spotlight
    NFI