2019 Year in Review

Michelle Reid on January 2, 2020

2019 was a busy year for the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority and its public and private sector partners. The Authority conducted 12 public board meetings throughout the year in fulfillment of its mission to administer Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone and fund development and improvements within the 130-acre zone pursuant to the NIZ Act.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the completion of the Five City Center office tower where Fortune 500 company ADP, a leading global technology firm providing human capital management solutions, has established a new Inside Sales Center of Excellence. ADP leases floors 4-13 of the new 300,000 square foot office building developed by City Center Allentown utilizing the development finance tool available in the NIZ. ADP initially moved 850 employees into the building. By year end the company employed approximately 1,200 with room for additional growth. The Five City Center building is part of a mixed-use campus that also includes residential development. Construction of a 95-unit apartment building, Center Square Lofts West, is currently wrapping up and construction of the 169-unit Center Square Lofts East is well underway.

2019 also saw construction activity at the Americus Hotel. The redevelopment of the historic hotel by Americus Investors L.P. is expected to add 85 new hotel rooms to downtown Allentown in 2020.

The year was also one of significant investment in the public realm made possible through ANIZDA’s public improvement investment program. As of the end of the 2019, over $3 million has been invested in projects that enhance public spaces, improve connectivity, and leverage other investment in the NIZ. The lighting of the iconic Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Center Square; construction of the Artswalk Hamilton Connector; installation of parking pay station kiosks throughout the NIZ; and construction of public improvements in conjunction with the adaptive reuse of the Klein Building were all substantially completed during 2019.

There were also some very exciting announcements during 2019 regarding future development. The Da Vinci Science Center announced the selection of a site within the NIZ to develop a new 70,000 square foot science center with exhibit and program spaces expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors downtown annually. While Developer City Center Allentown capped off the year by unveiling updated plans for its next office building, One Center Square, expected to rise 11-16 stories above South Seventh and Hamilton Streets.

None of this development occurs without thoughtful planning. 2019 was a year to recognize the planning efforts that preceded as well as a year to plan for the future. In the spring, Allentown earned a Gold 2019 National Planning Achievement Award for Urban Design from the American Planning Association. The award recognizes the Downtown Allentown Development and Urban Design Plan that was originally adopted by the city in 2014 and helps guide development to this day. Throughout the year, city staff, consultants, and a steering committee worked on Vision 2030, the City’s new 10-year Comprehensive Plan to guide growth going forward. ANIZDA was represented on the steering committee by its Executive Director. The plan was unanimously adopted by City Council in December.

The year came to a close with the news that PPL Center, downtown Allentown’s multi-purpose arena owned by ANIZDA, had once again been ranked among the top 200 arenas worldwide by Pollstar, a leading trade publication for the concert industry. PPL Center ranks number 3 in Pennsylvania in the year end ranking of the top 200 arenas by number of tickets sold for venues of all sizes.  It is the fourth highest arena in the US with 10,000 seats or under.  2019 was the busiest concert year since the arena’s opening in 2014.