Back

Lehigh Valley Offers Both Urban Vibe and Small Community Flavor

By Colin McEvoy on July 31, 2017

the 10-acre ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks holds hundreds of concerts and numerous festivals and community events each year

The 10-acre ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks holds hundreds of concerts and numerous festivals and community events each year

This story first appeared in the third issue of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development magazine, a publication developed by LVEDC and Journal Communications. This magazine highlights the region’s competitive advantages for targeted sectors, as well as providing an overview of the region’s business climate, livability, transportation infrastructure, and other economic assets.

You can’t spell Lehigh Valley without using L-I-V-E. The region blends urban amenities, small-town charm and relaxed rural environments to create an inviting place to live (and work and play).

“Lehigh Valley offers individuals a multitude of prestigious job openings and a number of higher-education institutions, but with the cost-of-living of a small town,” says Zachary Jaindl, COO of Jaindl Enterprises in Allentown. “So you see a lot of people looking at the Lehigh Valley specifically because they can afford a lot more here, and still get those things they’re seeking in a big-city environment. It’s a prime location.”

Allentown is an ideal example of the revitalization efforts that are taking place throughout Lehigh Valley. The city’s development was recently recognized by the Urban Land Institute, which cited Allentown as an illustration of how a smaller community can successfully transform itself into a thriving urban area.

This can be seen in Jaindl Properties’ new The Waterfront project, a 26-acre former industrial site along the Lehigh River that is being transformed into a mixed-use facility that will include six office buildings, three residential apartment complexes and nearly 150,000 square feet of retail and dining options.

“Our goal is to increase the urban vibrancy of Allentown, while still offering the original amenities that most people are looking for,” Jaindl says.

The project is being built in an official Neighborhood Improvement Zone, which allows some of the taxes generated by the site to be used to pay debt service on any financed improvements within the NIZ. Jaindl says this enables Jaindl Properties to offer rental rates to tenants that are as much as 40 percent less than the standard market rate.

Small Communities, Big Attractions

Communities throughout the Lehigh Valley are experiencing a renaissance, as smaller towns add the types of shops, restaurants and entertainment options that formerly could be found only in the major metros of Philadelphia and New York. “The things we used to travel for, now we have them in the heart of the Lehigh Valley,” says Jessica O’Donnell, Main Street Manager for the city of Emmaus.

For example, in 2015 the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP) helped open the Easton Public Market, complete with 14 artisanal food vendors, a farm stand and a demonstration kitchen. The new Public Market is designed to complement the Easton Farmers’ Market, which was established in 1752 and is the oldest, continuously running open-air market in the United States.

“The Easton Public Market is the type of thing you’d expect to see in Manhattan,” GEDP chairperson Graham Simmons says. “The idea was to create a place to serve not just the burgeoning downtown population and the younger population moving in, but also the community at large. It emphasizes local food and gets people thinking about what they are eating. It’s become a jewel as far as being a place where people want to be.”

For entertainment, the 10-acre ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks holds hundreds of concerts and numerous festivals and community events each year. It also is home to ArtsQuest, a nonprofit organization that provides access to cultural programming such as art exhibitions, dance performances, photography and independent film showings. All these events take place on the grounds of the former home plant of Bethlehem Steel, with the historic blast furnaces providing a towering backdrop.

This blend of old and new permeates throughout Lehigh Valley. In Emmaus, which was founded in 1759, longtime mom-and-pop stores now share downtown with an upscale French restaurant called 187 Rue Principale. “It’s well known across Lehigh Valley,” O’Donnell says.

In Nazareth, old standbys such as the Nazareth Diner and the Martin Guitar Museum are being joined by hip newcomers like Xpresso Café and the Smooch on Main boutique.

“We’re identifying the types of shops our residents and people all over the Lehigh Valley are looking for,” says Smooch owner Stephanie Varone, who also is the downtown business coordinator for the Nazareth Economic Development Commission. “This store is a direct result of the community asking for the downtown to have its own boutique.

“We’re not a big urban city,” Varone added. “But we can be a hip little town that still gives you that warm, community feeling.”

Lehigh University’s LaunchBayC Program Immerses Students in Innovation

Michelle Zhong entered Lehigh University’s LaunchBayC program with a lofty goal: she wanted to address the gender gap in the engineering profession. So the 19-year-old [...]

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