MOVING ALLENTOWN FORWARD: 2014 A YEAR IN REVIEW

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City LogoLast 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.

 

HELPING THOSE UNABLE TO SPEAK: TEXT 911 SERVICE EXPANDS TO ALL MAJOR CARRIERS

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Cellphone TextingIf you need help in an emergency and cannot speak for any reason, you can now text 911 on all major wireless carriers anywhere in the City of Allentown as part of the TEXT to 9-1-1 initiative.

Back in April, Allentown became one of less than 100 911 Emergency Communication Centers in the country to provide Verizon Wireless customers an interim solution for emergency help when a person is unable to make a 911 voice call by sending a text message to the 911 emergency number.  Service for T-Mobile customers was added in early June. With the successful deployment of Text to 9-1-1 services with AT&T and Sprint, all customers of the four major wireless carriers within the city are now able to utilize this potentially lifesaving service.

“I’m very proud of the team at our 9-1-1 Communications Center for their diligent work on this project,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “Enhancing our public safety service is certainly a great benefit for the citizens, visitors and first responders of the city.”

“I am happy to see that the Text to 9-1-1 services we have deployed are being successfully used by our citizens to request emergency assistance,” said Superintendent of Communication Michael Hilbert. “The inclusion of Text to 9-1-1 service for all major wireless carriers will now allow the majority of our citizens and visitors access to the public safety services of the city of Allentown when they are unable to make a voice call to 9-1-1.”

The Allentown 9-1-1 Center will now be working with the other wireless carriers operating in our area to provide Text to 9-1-1 service to their customers by the end of 2014.

Text to 911 is intended primarily for use in two emergency scenarios:

o For an individual who is speech or hearing impaired

o For a person who is unable to make a voice call, for example during a medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech, or in the instance of a home invasion, domestic violence, or abduction.

Customers should use the texting option only when calling 911 is NOT an option.
Users should call if they can and text if they can’t speak.   Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help.  One must remember that texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text to 911 situation because of the extra time necessary to process a text message.

In case you are in an emergency situation where you need to text, it is imperative that you immediately provide an exact location and the nature of the emergency in a short, precise message.  Remember that text messages sent to 911 have the same 160-character limit as other text messages, and that you should not send pictures, videos or any other attachments.

Do not use text abbreviations or slang so that the intent of the emergency message is as clear as possible.

The texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire or emergency medical services.

Non-emergency issues should still be communicated to the Allentown Communications Center through its non-emergency line at (610) 437-7751.