2021 Year in Review

Michelle Reid on December 29, 2021

2021 was a year of renewed momentum as the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) and its public and private sector partners continued collaborative efforts to advance revitalization.

In many ways, it was a year of “firsts” in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

2021 saw the first vertical development at The Waterfront made possible by the issuance of $61,455,000 in Senior Tax Revenue Bonds in January for the 615 Waterfront Project. By June, The Waterfront Development Company had taken delivery of steel; and today, the first of 12 planned structures is rising 6 stories over the western banks of the Lehigh River. Upon completion the new 125,000 square foot class A office building will include first floor retail and restaurant suites.

Nearby an affiliate of The Manhattan Building Company is undertaking its first development project in the NIZ. Riverfront Lofts Phase I and the financing thereof were approved by the Authority board in August. When complete, a vacant industrial building located at 207 N. Front Street will be converted to 25 residential apartment units and approximately 16,000 square feet of office and commercial space.

2021 was also the first time hotel guests had stayed downtown in the historic Americus Hotel in 19 years. The newly restored hotel reopened this summer after extensive renovations by owner Albert Abdouche funded in part through the NIZ. The 85-room property originally built in the 1920’s includes modern amenities, dining, and banquet facilities and is part of the Trademark Collection by Wyndham.

Another “first” for the NIZ and the Authority was the use of forward delivery bonds to lock in favorable interest rates during 2021. In the summer, ANIZDA priced Series 2021 (federally taxable) and Series 2022 (forward delivery) Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds to refinance the bonds originally issued in 2012 for development of the PPL Center arena and related arena block projects. The $165,695,000 refunding will result in an annual debt service savings on the arena bonds of approximately $2.6 million.

As these important milestones were achieved, prolific NIZ developer City Center Allentown was busy taking investment in downtown residential to a new level. The Nines, a 78-unit apartment building located at 950 Hamilton Street, was completed during the year. Construction of two more ANIZDA-approved projects to include approximately 358 apartment units, The Gallery and The Hive, are well underway. Perhaps even more significant, City Center Allentown has continued to invest in new residential projects in the neighborhoods just outside the NIZ.

Through the end of 2021, over $10.2 million has been approved by the ANIZDA board to fund public improvement projects within the Neighborhood Improvement Zone. In the fall, a ribbon cutting was held to celebrate the opening of a redesigned Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority bus terminal at the Allentown Transportation Center. It is a safer, more user-friendly, and efficient bus terminal funded through ANIZDA’s public improvement program.

The business of the Authority was conducted in 11 public board and committee meetings during 2021.

Looking forward to 2022, the Authority is working with the Da Vinci Science Center on a revenue bond issue authorized in 2021 in an amount not to exceed $20 million to support the development of the Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion. This impactful $65 million development proposed for downtown Allentown will feature exhibition space and a STEAM learning center expected to attract over 400,000 visitors annually.