The Effectiveness of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) has conducted a thorough analysis on the effectiveness and impacts of the City of Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Following months of data gathering, the assessment was presented at the public board meeting of the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) on May 14. The report examines the magnitude of development, the significance of density, and the community impacts of the NIZ since its inception in 2011 and the completion of the first development projects anchored by PPL Center almost ten years ago.

The report states “the development-stimulating tax incentives of the NIZ are tied to 128 acres of downtown core and riverfront which have previously seen decades of economic decline and disinvestment. The incentives have been pivotal in the City’s economic resurgence as a regional hub for business, development, and activity.”

The analysis, which examined not only the area within the NIZ boundary, but also the neighborhoods within the larger surrounding census tracts, revealed:

  • $1.15 billion of investment completed
  • Over 5,000 employees
  • 4 million visitors to PPL Center to date and more downtown visitors to come upon completion of the Da Vinci Science Center and Archer Music Hall projects
  • 1,287 new apartment units developed in the NIZ and 243 new units in the surrounding neighborhood
  • Smarter, denser development has concentrated 4.3 million square feet of occupiable space including class A office, retail, restaurant, and entertainment space, apartments, hotels, and parking structures
  • Funding used to improve streetscapes, parks, plazas, infrastructure, and other amenities downtown and along the Lehigh River
  • Increased business, resident, and visitor traffic within the region’s core
  • More eyes to the street, which has contributed to a 50% reduction in violent crimes, outpacing the rest of the city, surrounding communities and other Pennsylvania cities
  • The properties within the NIZ boundary generated $4,661,095 in real estate tax revenue for the Allentown School District in 2012. In 2023 the annual amount had risen to $10,036,141.
  • Over $23 million in approved public infrastructure and improvement projects
  • A decrease in poverty from 49% in 2011 to 33% in 2021 and a 58% increase in median household income
  • Expanded interest in community development projects and events
  • Greater access to critical services including medical and educational facilities, parks, recreational and community arts facilities.

Read the complete report.