Last year proved to be quite the year for progress here in the City of Allentown, from the revitalization of the downtown area to the start of construction of the American Parkway Bridge, Allentown saw a year of moving forward like no other.
“What a year,” said Mayor Pawlowski. “We saw the creation of Allentown 4.0 before our very eyes. The most exciting part is this is just the beginning. Allentown 4.0 continues this year, and I can’t wait to see what our city looks like at the end of next year. What a great time to be in Allentown.”
The most significant achievement was the opening of the new PPL Arena, with a concert by legendary rock band the Eagles in September. The City celebrated with the “Rise Together Allentown” arts and cultural community celebration the weekend after the concert. The Philadelphia Phantoms played their first regular season game in October to a sell-out, capacity crowd. The first building to open in the Arena complex was One City Center on Hamilton Street, which houses the Lehigh Valley Health Network Sports Medicine and Fitness Center.
Two City Center opened shortly afterward across the street from the arena complex, becoming the headquarters for National Penn Bancshares, with other tenants filling it to capacity. The year also saw the construction of Center City Three on the old Colonial Theater site, and City Center Four, which will house STRATA Flats,which will have 170 luxury apartment units.
Last year, the city booked its first convention for the now-open Marriott Renaissance Hotel when the Pennsylvania Municipal Leagues Annual Convention comes to town in June.
The revitalization of downtown has resulted in over $1 Billion in development, hundreds of jobs for local construction workers, and when completed, bring thousands of permanent jobs and new downtown residents as well. It is also expected to attract over a million visitors a year who will dine, shop and attend events at the new arena, making center city Allentown a prime destination once again.
The City made it easier to find a job by launching TweetMyJobs, a new online jobs platform that revolutionizes job recruitment by offering an easy and user-friendly online tool to find employment by combining mobile technology and social media. Allentown also announced a new six-year, $3.3 million initiative aimed at revitalizing the remainder of Center City and surrounding area.
Speaking of dining, several new restaurants opened in the city last year. The seventh Street Corridor, from Tilghman to Hamilton, saw many diverse ethnic eateries open, too many to mention. Hamilton Street saw the opening of Crust, Chickie’s and Pete’s, Tim Horton’s Coffee and Donut shop, Roar Social House, Tony Luke’s, Johnny’s Bagels, and the Hamilton Kitchen. We also received the news that Shula’s Steakhouse will relocate from Center Valley to the first floor of the STRAT Flats at Four City Center building this year, and more new, exciting dining choices are soon to follow as well.
Last year also saw the re-opening of a bigger and better Youell’s Oyster house, which was burned to the ground in a devastating fire, and the return of the Shanty to 19th Street. Several new stores have opened around the City as well, including the upscale New York Fashion clothing store on Seventh Street near Tilghman. Shopping and dining became easier with the introduction of the AMP (Allentown Merchant Payment) gift card, which can be used in many businesses in the greater downtown area.
The City saw many other major highlights besides economic development. Public Safety was increased with addition of more police officers and security cameras. The Emergency Operations Center re-opened with over $15,000 in renovations and enhancements. The renovated East Side Fire Station on Irving Street also re-opened with a three-bay, two-story building that can accommodate up to eight firefighters and two paramedics. The Allentown Fire Department also received a $365,000 grant to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses.
The City also saw the implementation of Text to 911, a service for those who are unable to speak to seek emergency help from the Emergency Operations Center.
The Quality of life for residents of Allentown were improved with the opening of a new warming shelter inside Alliance Hall at 6th and Chew for those seeking shelter from the cold weather.
In June of 2014, Mayor Pawlowski was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the White House to join her in announcing the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. He joined other mayors from across the country to pledge to work together to end this growing problem.
The City of Allentown will open the Lehigh Valley’s first Community Center for the LGBT Community. The Bradbury-Sullivan Community Center will be located at 1021 W. Turner St.
The Inaugural Cops Meet Block Basketball Tournament was held with police officers and young adults playing side by side to further enhance the positive relationship between the two groups.
The City of Allentown was recognized for its premier park system with the designated a Playful City USA for the 6th consecutive year, and the City purchased a portable Skate Park which can be quickly assembled for block parties and community events.
Allentown also received a boost to its fiscal health. The City saw no tax increase for the 10th straight year, and a stronger fiscal position than is has been in decades thanks to the success of the water and sewer lease. Allentown also saw a $280, 000 recycling performance grant, awarding the city for keeping the streets clean through an aggressive and efficient recycling program.
Mayor Pawlowski received several honors during the year: He was appointed to the US Conference of Mayors Advisory Board; received the Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania Municipal League; recognized by the National League of Cities (NLC) for the completion of several health and wellness goals for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC).
Finally, the City received national attention when Allentown’s own Andre Reed, a Dieruff High School graduate, was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To say that last year was significant in Allentown’s history is an understatement. The progress that was made is just the start. We all look forward to what this year will bring, with the completion of the American Parkway Bridge and the beginning of the Waterfront Development. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.