OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe City of Allentown, the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, eight funding partners including several local banks, foundations and residents recently announced the approval of a new six-year, $3.3 million initiative aimed at revitalizing the remainder of Center City Allentown.

The Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to provide an 80% credit on business taxes paid to the Commonwealth under the Neighborhood Partnership Program.  Through a series of meetings which included input from the public, the City has developed a plan on how communities can be improved through the initiative.

The Center City Initiative has commitments from eight companies over the next six years: Air Products and Chemicals, National Penn Bancshares and PPL have committed $100,000 per year while Alvin H. Butz, Inc., City Center Lehigh Valley, Susquehanna Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo have each committed $50,000.

“The ultimate test of a successful city is the quality of life the city’s residents’ experience,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “We have work to do, there is little doubt, but we have assembled an amazing team of talented people who, with some creativity and financial support, are quite capable of completing Allentown’s resurgence.”

A steering committee, co-chaired by Seventh Street Attorney Rebecca Torres and Don Bernhard, who directs a coalition of business leaders and charitable foundations, will guide the project.  There are seven committees made up of over 100 people working on implementing the plan, which include: Physical Enhancements, Housing, Economic Development and Employment, Education, Public Safety, Marketing, and Arts and Culture.

Some important goals of the initiative include changing the negative perception of safety downtown, encouraging residents to purchase homes or start a business, become more active in civic affairs in the City, and encourage people to visit downtown for entertainment, recreation, arts and culture.  The initiative will cover the area bounded by the Jordan Creek, 12th Street, MLK Drive, and Tilghman Street, which includes Jordan Heights, the Seventh Street Corridor, the Old Allentown and Old Fairgrounds Historic Districts, and the Hamilton District.

The groups behind the initiative hope to accomplish the following results for the designated area:  increased residential property values; reduced crime; reduced housing vacancy; low commercial vacancy rate; increased incomes; decreased unemployment; fewer substandard housing conditions; increased quality of life; increased private investment; more community engagement; and an expanded real estate tax base.