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Upside Allentown Highlights Accomplishments, Plans to Strengthen City’s Neighborhoods

By Colin McEvoy on September 14, 2018

Allentown Police Captain Glenn Granitz Jr. speaks about the accomplishments of the Upside Allentown program.

Allentown Police Captain Glenn Granitz Jr. speaks about the accomplishments of the Upside Allentown program.

Four years into a six-year campaign, Upside Allentown showed how it has used more than $500,000 in corporate contributions from this past year to strengthen the neighborhoods and improve the quality of life in downtown Allentown.

During their fourth annual report on Sept. 13, the neighborhood partnership program highlighted the significant changes and accomplishments that have taken place around the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) as a result of Upside Allentown’s efforts.

Those changes have increased the accessibility and visibility of arts and culture opportunities in the downtown over the last four years, and have led to dozens of facade improvements to residences and businesses.

They have also included lighting and parks improvements, a reduction in crime in the center city, and increased engagement of youth with the Allentown Police Department, according to Rebeca Torres, co-chair of the Upside Allentown Steering Committee.

Looking forward, the group plans to shift its focus in the campaign’s fifth year to improving the city’s housing stock and engaging parents in children’s education.

Alan Jennings, Executive Director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV), said improving Allentown’s housing stock is perhaps the most pressing need in the neighborhood, and that his agency expects to spend more than $1 million on the effort over the next two years.

“This neighborhood deserves more of our attention, more of our creativity, and more of our resources,” Jennings said.

Upside Allentown is a neighborhood partnership program that supports the rise and revitalization of downtown Allentown through collaborative partnerships that elevate the quality of life for residents, and enhance the experience for visitors and businesses.

The program covers a portion of the city from 12th Street east to Jordan Creek, and from Tilghman Street south to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It includes such Allentown neighborhoods as 7th Street, the Hamilton District, Jordan Heights, Old Allentown, and the Promise Neighborhood.

Over the past year, Upside Allentown has identified several blocks for the new housing revitalization initiative behind developed by CACLV that will perform property-by-property rehabilitation in targeted, pre-selected blocks for income-eligible homeowners.

Click here to see a detailed list of other accomplishments from the Upside Allentown program in 2017-18.

Allentown Police Captain Glenn Granitz Jr. said over the past year, homicides have dropped 75 percent in the Upside Allentown areas Robberies have dropped by 27 percent, aggravated assault by 14 percent, burglaries by 25 percent, stolen cars by 35 percent, and overall thefts by 7 percent, which accounts for hundreds of incidents.

The Allentown Police Department has supported the deployment of 40 bicycle patrol officers and 43 walking patrol officers for 981 hours during the spring and summer months ni the Upside Allentown neighborhoods, Granitz said. It has also supported the enrollment of 51 middle school students in its two-week Allentown Police Youth Academy.

Upside Allentown has completed nine residential facade improvements and five commercial improvement projects over the past year. It has installed pedestrian lighting, street trees, and ADA-compliant curb ramps on Gordon Street, widened tree wells on North Sixth Street, and completed a master plan to redesign Valania Park.

Additionally, the program launched a new Start Your Business module class format, providing comprehensive entrepreneurial training to individuals interested in starting a new business or expanding existing businesses. Seventy-five students completed the module and eight businesses were started as a result.

An initiative of CACLV subsidiary Community Action Corporation of Allentown, Upside Allentown is funded by a consortium of local businesses, the contributions from which are supported by tax credits from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Neighborhood Improvement Program.

BB&T commits $150,000 each year to Upside Allentown. PPL and TD Bank each contribute $100,000, and Alvin H. Butz, City Center Investment Corporation, Lafayette Ambassador Bank, and Wells Fargo each contribute $50,000 each year.

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