2022 Year in Review
Development activity in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) remained strong during 2022. It was a year that saw significant investments in both the private and public realms.
The Hive, a 2-builidng, 4-story, apartment complex developed by City Center Allentown on North 7th Street added 250 modern residences to a growing downtown portfolio funded in part through a portion of the proceeds of the $116 million Subordinate Tax Revenue Bond, Series 2022 issued by the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) in June.
Elsewhere in the NIZ the owner of Butz Corporate Center, Developer EPC-Allentown, LLC, completed fit-out of 4 floors in phase III funded in part with a $2.5 million financing through ANIZDA. The modern office space serves as the new headquarters for innovative insurance marketing and technology company Ideal Concepts.
Investment in public spaces complemented and leveraged the private investments made by real estate developers and businesses throughout the NIZ. The Authority’s Public Improvement Investment Program funded new ADA compliant sidewalks, lighting, street trees, plantings, trash and recycling receptacles, bike racks, benches, parking kiosks, and pedestrian crosswalks. Streetscape improvements at 6th & Linden Streets and 7th & Turner Streets in the city block that is home to The Hive and the new Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANta) public transit facilities at the Allentown Transportation Center approached substantial completion at year-end. As did streetscape improvements constructed along the 500 and 600 blocks of Hamilton Street. The work in the 900-1100 blocks of Hamilton Street started this year will pause during the winter months with plans to resume streetscape construction in the spring of 2023. Implementation of consistent design standards and continued investment within the public right-of-way has improved physical connectivity for residents, employees, and visitors and is contributing to creating an environment that attracts additional investment.
A major milestone was reached during 2022 with the commencement of construction of The Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion, a regional center of excellence for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education expected to attract approximately 400,000 visitors annually to downtown Allentown. When completed and open to the public in 2024, the new science center will feature interactive exhibits and a learning center with classrooms outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and an expanded array of STEAM programming designed to excite young minds and serve as a community hub.
Development of the new $72 million science center is funded from a variety of public and private sources. ANIZDA issued $17.45 million in term loan notes in December for the project. The proceeds of the tax-exempt loans will be used by Da Vinci Science City, LLC for construction of a portion of the core and shell of the approximately 67,000 square foot, three-story science center.
Activity at PPL Center increased during 2022 as more and more performers resumed touring and playing arenas after a pandemic-induced hiatus. The arena is an important downtown anchor owned by ANIZDA. The Authority was able to take advantage of favorable interest rates to refinance debt incurred to develop the arena. In February ANIZDA closed on $151 million tax-exempt Forward Delivery Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds Series 2022. The refunding combined with the taxable Series 2021 resulted in average annual debt service savings of approximately $2.6 million. The Authority also entered into a new parking facility management agreement for the garages in the arena block that serve PPL Center, the Renaissance Hotel, and One City Center office building effective at the beginning of 2022. ANIZDA subsequently approved the installation of a new Parking Access Revenue Control System in the parking garages. The investment in new technology and equipment will greatly enhance the experience for parkers in the arena block.
The Authority conducted 10 public board and committee meetings during 2022 in fulfillment of its mission to administer Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone and fund development and improvement within the zone in accordance with the NIZ Act.
Looking forward to 2023, real estate developers investing in the eastern portion of the NIZ expect to have new commercial and residential buildings ready for occupancy. The Waterfront Development Company will complete the 615 Waterfront Drive office building and developers Urban Residential Properties and Manhattan Building Company plan to complete the mixed-use Riverfront Lofts I project.