Afternoon in Allentown

Spent the afternoon Downtown. Catalyst a trip to the Social Security office. ¬†Need replacement card so I can get married ūüôā¬†Unfortunately, (and also inexplicably) the office closes (the only day a week it does..) on Wednesdays at noon. But hey, my fault for not checking.

So not having ate yet, I decided I wasn’t going to let the¬†trip go to waste. Belly growling I parked the car and walked up Hamilton.

No secret I’m a¬†cheerleader¬†for the Cities revitalization efforts. Even for a suburbanite like myself I recognize the importance of the city regionally. Healthy Allentown¬†is good for Lower Mac.

I’ve¬†come around to the NIZ. Generally skeptical of “ABC” tax gimmicks I recognize some are better than others.¬†We got the good (CRIZ = keeping money local) and the bad (TIF¬†diverting local money away for future maintenance obligations). And then¬†we have our¬†unique¬†NIZ courtesy of Sen.¬†Browne. Even¬†for the biggest¬†of naysayers it’s now becoming hard¬†not to acknowledge¬†what’s happening. From 7th St.¬†to Hamilton to the Waterfront, NIZ has been¬†a positive¬†catalyst.

Downtown was bursting with action all over. Success can only be measured by¬†walking through the city¬†and feeling it organically in terms of one critical criteria which is people. It’s not measured in millions of dollars spent or brick and mortar laid. It’s people living, working &¬†playing. That’s the measure of success for a downtown. Today it definitely felt like Allentown is well on it’s way.

Here are just a few of the photos I got. The measure of success. People living, working and playing.

Live-work-play: Dining

On my walk from 4th street to Billy's I passed 3 restaurants with packed fill with al fresco dining.

On my walk from 4th street to Billy’s I passed 3 restaurants with packed full¬†with al fresco dining. Pictured here is Billy’s downtown diner.

Live-work-play: Recreation

At least a dozen kids playing in the PPL plaza spray park.

At least a dozen kids with parents playing in the PPL plaza spray park. Others stop and watch.

Live work play: Work

Folks on lunch break enjoying the sunny day taking advantage of the great pedestrian facilities all over Hamilton. Fantastic urban design.

Folks on lunch break enjoying the sunny day taking advantage of the great pedestrian facilities all over Hamilton. Fantastic urban design.

Live-work-play: Shopping downtown!

Shopping once again on Hamilton? Yup. I bet many thought window shopping would never return.

Shopping once again on Hamilton? Yup. I bet many thought window shopping would never return.

Live-work-play working: Small businesses investment to go with the big business investment

And of course a shout out to my friend Josh Macgown and his Mobile Genius store front. Josh, a Lower Mac resident chose to locate one of his storefronts downtown. Mainly because of clutzes like me he is always very busy repairing iphone screens!

And of course a shout out to my friend Josh Macgown and his Mobile Genius store front. Josh, a Lower Mac resident chose to locate one of his storefronts downtown. Mainly because of clutzes like me he is always very busy repairing iphone screens!

Live-work-play: Here come the Phantoms!

The Phantoms are coming! New storefront selling all your phantom gear.

The Phantoms are coming! New storefront selling all your phantom gear.

Live-work-play: Tradition!

Ended my afternoon downtown with an Allentown original Yoccos dog. (make that 3 everything with pickles)

Ended my afternoon downtown with an Allentown original Yoccos dog. (make that 3 everything with pickles)

I wish I had more time to take more pictures today. Speaking of living, working and playing I¬†should have¬†got a pic of my friend Tara who I ran into. Originally from the burbs¬†she’s now literally Miss Allentown. Any demographer will tell you “young professionals” now prefer¬†more walkable urban environments. She represents that. She’s¬†just one of many¬†friends who feel that way, but she’s the poster child. Homeowner in Allentown (West End), works downtown,¬†raising her kid with her b/f there. Committed to downtown.

 

Build where the jobs are needed and returns highest. The Allentown re-industrialization plan.

Allentown city officials unveiled the second phase of a long term plan to bring industrial and manufacturing companies back to the region at a public meeting Thursday. The plan is being crafted by Camoin & Bergmann Associates.

This is important on multiple levels: Smart growth is creating new jobs where people need them the most and where the infrastructure already exists.  When we do this we get the highest ROI on investments. When that happens we keep taxes lower.

With a documented (albeit slow) return of manufacturing jobs to the US, Allentown must position itself to compete. We can help accomplish this by removing the costly array of state, local and federal programs built into the development process that encourage growth in costly locations where taxpayers inevitably directly and indirectly subsidize sprawl.

From the WFMZ link – “Bergman Associates‚Äô planner Dan Sundell says ‘You get a lot of tax incentives and assistance by building [in Allentown],‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a big advantage over open land outside of the city.‚ÄĚ – This is true, but the¬†problem remains that¬†we now also massively¬†subsidize greenfield sprawl. And by doing this, the¬†taxpayer return on investment is alarmingly low.¬†

My preference of course is to remove all development subsidies especially ones that culminate at the federal level. If we would do this and allow the market to work then cities would naturally benefit because of their inherent strengths some of which I mention above. (location, efficiency, services ect.) But a nice first step forward would be to simply reduce sprawl subsidies which currently provide more incentive to build on a virgin greenfield by artificially making it cheaper to do so. Developers have the right to build where they see fit, but they do not have the right to subsidies.

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