Supporting the rise and revitalization of center city Allentown through collaborative partnerships that elevate the quality of life for residents, enhance the experience for visitors and promote a thriving business environment.
Center City Allentown is the heart of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley. We are a culturally and economically diverse business, residential, and entertainment district that reflects the unique local and historic character of the area. Our community is safe, inviting, and full of opportunity. Everyone is proud to do business, live and thrive here.
Allentown’s downtown is thriving due to recent revitalization and investment in the business district, but without healthy neighborhoods and a thriving community, the efforts to reinvigorate the business and entertainment offerings along and immediately adjacent to Hamilton Street will not reach their full potential. Upside Allentown is a Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) aimed at building on the momentum created by recent redevelopment efforts in downtown Allentown that will benefit the neighborhoods directly adjacent to downtown.
Eight companies (BBT, TD Bank, and PPL at $100,000 per year; Alvin H. Butz, Inc., City Center Lehigh Valley, Susquehanna Bank, Lafayette Ambassador Bank and Wells Fargo at $50,000 per year) have committed $550,000 a year over the next six years to initiatives that will:
- increase economic and educational opportunity for residents
- leverage ongoing efforts to change the negative perception of safety in downtown,
- encourage residents to own assets, including a home or a business
- urge residents to become more active in civic affairs in the city
- encourage people to visit downtown Allentown for entertainment, recreation, arts and culture.
The confines of Upside include Jordan Creek, Twelfth Street, MLK Drive and Tilghman Street and encompass Jordan Heights, the Seventh Street Corridor; the Old Allentown and Old Fairgrounds Historic Districts and the Hamilton District.
Upside Allentown has seven functional committees working on implementing the plan: Physical Enhancements, Housing, Economic Development and Employment, Education, Public Safety, Marketing, and Arts and Culture. More than 100 volunteers are involved.
As well, a quality-of-life survey of residents was undertaken in the Fall of 2017 and its results are being reviewed by the committees, with the view to identifying other programmatic actions that may be put on-stream in the duration of the program.
The program will be jointly managed by the City of Allentown and Community Action Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley.
The built environment plays an important role in creating a safe and inviting atmosphere for visitors and residents. Both form (attractive and inviting public spaces and building design) and function (improved traffic, pedestrian and bicycle access and public facilities) are important in shaping a resident’s quality of life and a visitor’s perception of the area. The following strategy builds on recommendations presented in a variety of existing plans; supports areas where investment is occurring; fills in gaps in the public infrastructure and strives to improve the overall physical appearance of the area.
- Improve the overall appearance and functionality of the public realm and street network
- Provide a sense of security and a pleasant environment for residents, workers and visitors to Center City
- Create a walkable and bicycle friendly community
- Ensure sufficient opportunities for parks, recreation and open space
- Improve the built environment through better design of buildings and public spaces and the use of sustainable design and construction techniques
The housing strategy is multi-dimensional in that it addresses the need to ensure the provision of a safe and decent supply of housing for the community, but it also focuses on the need to expand housing choice to meet the potential new market opportunity that the downtown’s revitalization may present. The strategy makes provisions for upgrading the existing housing stock; the elimination of obsolete housing and the introduction of new and substantially rehabilitated market rate housing into the community. This strategy is being advanced as part of a larger city-wide initiative.
- To improve the condition of the housing stock
- To foster homeownership
- To provide opportunities to introduce market rate housing into the area
- Remove obsolete housing
There are two basic components to this strategy; a business development element with the continued objective of strengthening the business districts within the program area and an employment and workforce readiness component that seeks to increase resident participation in the local and regional economies. Both of these tracks are ultimately intended to increase community income, strengthen the city’s fiscal base and continue to make the Center City area an urban place where people really can live, work and shop.
A portion of this strategy needs to take place elsewhere, preferably in adjoining industrial areas where a renewed focus is being placed on increasing those kinds of employment opportunities, or even regionally. In either case or within the program area itself, residents need access to workforce readiness training opportunities and other employment related services.
- Create a downtown that is active by day and night, created with a supportive mix of residences, offices, entertainment and retail uses.
- Foster growth and success of small locally owned businesses facilitating Downtown’s and 7th Street’s retail development, as well as center city neighborhoods to enhance community development benefits.
- Continue the development of 7th Street’s dual role as a neighborhood commercial area and a major downtown gateway.
- Leverage downtown’s growth and future employer base into employment opportunities for program area residents.
- Provide the workforce development infrastructure and educational institutions accessibility necessary to increase residents’ opportunities for employment.
The local crime data underscores the importance of including an aggressive and comprehensive public safety component. The target community represents 23% of the city’s population, however, for the period 2010-2013, the area represented 28.7% of all Part I crimes and 37.3% of all Part II crimes. The public safety strategy focuses on particular crime reduction tactics and includes leveraging the Allentown Police Department’s relationship with county, state and federal law enforcement and residents to increase community safety.
- To increase the safety of all stakeholders living and doing business within the program area.
- To engage the community in becoming partners with the Allentown Police Department in addressing community crime and quality of life issues.
Perception is reality – at least that’s the belief. Despite the good that’s occurring in downtown Allentown, the presumption is that Center City is still a place where people don’t want to be. Actions speak louder than words, but this particular strategy is all about getting the word out and celebrating the good things that are happening in downtown and brand Center City as the place where things are happening and people do in fact want to live, work and play. The thrust of this strategy is to brand Center City as a whole with interrelated, yet independent sub parts that work together. Marketing, events and promotions need to occur in both commercial and neighborhood areas. Another element of this strategy is to improve communications between the program’s stakeholders and the community at large.
- Centralize and coordinate the marketing and promotional message
- Leverage resources of new businesses locating in the program area
- Brand the various neighborhoods within the program area
- Address negative perceptions of the area
- Effectively and efficiently communicate with all stakeholders and ensure the community is engaged.
It can be argued that nothing is more characteristic of safe and healthy neighborhoods than a quality system of education. Today, a healthy community needs to be dynamic, inviting, and a place where good things happen, and an education system that truly empowers all graduates is a critical component of that kind of neighborhood. Many efforts by the community to improve our schools and student performance have been attempted over the years. Despite these efforts, gaps along the education continuum continue to multiply and detract from student performance and persistence. These gaps must be addressed to significantly improve the education environment with Center City Allentown.
This strategy to strengthen the schools and education programs, facilities and support services within Center City Allentown is intended to be comprehensive and aggressive. The goal of this strategy is to develop and support a fully integrated system of education that provides every center city child the opportunity to find success and fulfillment in today’s global economy commensurate with the best of his or her abilities and passions. This system will be tightly linked with its community. It will put kids first; nurturing a lifelong interest and capability toward learning and making sure the kids are all safe, loved, and appreciated. It will provide a seamless path to meet the needs of children from pre kindergarten through high school without bias or prejudice, and link to opportunities beyond. It will be stronger because it builds on collaboration among the diverse ethnic groups and cultures represented. It will foster a dynamic, creative culture and spirit that retains many of its graduates and attracts others as a destination of great opportunity where “why not” is the mantra.
- Champion and support efforts that address the dynamic learning needs, social equity challenges, and global awareness/cultural sensitivity issues driven by the 21st Century interconnected global economy.
- Better coordinate the varied and fractured efforts of multiple organizations and institutions involved in administering, critiquing and supporting educational programs in Center City Allentown.
- Champion efforts to create and sustain a high performing third public high school located in Center City Allentown as an alternative to William Allen & Dieruff High Schools.
- Promote center city early childhood education programs as a fundamental way to improve student performance and persistence.
- Champion and support efforts seeking creative and productive ways to overcome known barriers to learning such as the loss of knowledge over the summer break.
- Champion and leverage efforts already being provided by United Way of GLV, Community in Schools and Allentown School District Foundation.
- Champion and support efforts to create and sustain partnerships between business and education that will give students more opportunities for authentic learning, entrepreneurial leadership, and global connections.
- Work to insure that all elements of the integrated education system regularly collaborate to improve performance and share responsibilities for students, taking the onus off singular entities of teachers, parents, and specific institutions.
- Advocate policy and program changes at the school district, city, county, state, and federal levels as needed to enable the goals of this strategy to be met and to provide adequate leadership and fiscal resources.
- Treat students (our customers) with respect, and honor their perspectives in everything we do.
The Arts & Culture Committee of Upside Allentown has been engaged in the Strategic Planning process since May, 2015. For fifteen months, the Arts & Culture Committee Co-Chairs and the 14-member Stakeholder Leadership Group Executive Committee has been working with their consultants, Corona Insights of Denver, Colo., to gain feedback and solicit insights from multiple constituencies including residents, business, government, education and the artistic community across the Upside Allentown zone and the city.
Over 1,300 individuals have been engaged in the project so far through a series of focus groups, one-on-one meetings, vision walls, public surveys and community input sessions. In the fall of 2015, a formal Needs Assessment was presented identifying the main areas of focus for the strategic planning process that has occurred throughout 2016. Since then, additional research, outreach and evaluation has taken place to craft a four-year plan for Arts & Culture in Downtown Allentown.
From this work, the Arts & Culture Committee has adopted the plan’s vision to create a vibrant, energetic and engaging downtown Allentown with an abundance of diverse community arts and cultural offerings.
The Upside Allentown Arts & Culture Plan VISION 2021 will be officially presented in November 2016 to the city and its residents, with implementation and outreach of three signature initiatives and work on multiple goals beginning in early 2017. For more information on the VISION 2021 Arts & Culture Plan, please visit allentownartsplan.strikingly.com.
Two Exciting Arts & Culture Announcements on Tap April 20 at the Allentown Art Museum
The newly-formed Cultural Coalition of Allentown will announce an exciting new “Authentically Allentown” Artist-in-Residence program on Thursday, April 20 at 4PM at the Allentown Art Museum as part of the Destination Arts: Third Thursday monthly celebration of the arts. A very special announcement and performance presented by the Allentown JazzFest will follow shortly thereafter at 6PM sharing highlights of the upcoming Allentown JazzFest 2017.
David Mickenberg, President and CEO of the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley and Chair of the Cultural Coalition of Allentown, will be making remarks regarding the announcement of the first of three pilot Artist-in-Residence projects serving the neighborhoods as part of the Allentown Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan.
“The JazzFest Preview event on April 20th at The Art Museum is going to have a little something for everyone,” said Bryan Tuk, Executive Director of JazzFest. “Obviously, we are looking forward to the performance by the Dan DeChellis Trio, but also this is really an occasion to recognize JazzFest’s artists, volunteers and sponsors.” During the Third Thursday event from 6PM-9PM, which is free to the public, Mr. Tuk will preview the JazzFest 2017 schedule and reveal the official festival poster.
The Cultural Coalition of Allentown is an independent group of arts, business, education and government stakeholders who recently completed an 18-month strategic plan outlining the role of arts in the economic development of the Upside Allentown neighborhoods of the city. Please visit www.CulturalCoalitionofAllentown.org for more information.
For more information, please contact Sean King at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610.554.0633.
Discoverlehighvalley.com (events, calendars, things to do)
downtownallentown.com (events, calendars, things to do)
www.allentownpa.gov (general city info, resources, about Allentown)
http://www.nhslv.org/programs-services/live-4/ (Live Near Your Work program)
http://cadca.caclv.org/ (additional info on Upside/NPP)
http://www.allentownpa.gov/Neighborhood-Improvement-Zone (NIZ info for businesses, links to developers)
523-525 North Seventh Street.
Allentown, PA 18101