Three years. Hundreds of volunteers. Seven corporate funders. Tax credits from Pennsylvania Community and Economic Development Department. Foundations, trusts, private funders, and non-profit agencies. Dozens of corporate leaders. And thousands of residents in Allentown’s center city neighborhoods who have felt the impact of Upside Allentown’s initiatives aimed at increasing quality of life, wealth and home ownership in the neighborhoods surrounding Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone. Upside Allentown presented its annual report to the community today detailing the outcomes to date while laying out the initiatives for continual improvement in Year Four of the campaign.
Several residents gave testimony to the impact Upside programs have had on their lives, including a homeowner whose façade was improved and a student of the Allentown Police Youth Academy.
Detailed reports were given on the improvements that had been made in the neighborhoods since the start of the initiative in 2014 through Neighborhood Partnership Program supported contributions provided by seven private businesses, as well as additional funds from the City of Allentown, Trexler Trust, Century Fund, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Rebeca Torres, an attorney whose practice and home is on 7th Street, and Co-Chair of the Upside Allentown Steering Committee, outlined accomplishments made in the 2016-2017 program year including:
- Completed 800 code inspections
- Transferred ownership of 12 vacant/blighted properties for rehabilitation
- Completed rehabilitation of 1116 Maple Street into an owner-occupied property
- Installed pedestrian streetlights and trees on four blocks of Turner Street
- Completed 7 residential and 4 commercial façade improvement projects
- Completed construction at Stevens Park and redesigned Valania Park
- Awarded 7 “Love Upside” grants to neighborhood groups for beautification projects
- Conducted 2, 19-week Start Your Business courses for 69 students, of whom 12 graduated and 9 businesses were started
- Provided support to The Literacy Center for GED preparation and career counseling
- Supported deployment of 25 foot patrol and bike patrol police officers along Seventh Street
- Supported the enrollment of 55 middle school students in Youth Civilian Police Academy
- Installed 9 porch lights and 10 solar lights on eligible houses on narrow streets
- Organized the first Upside Allentown “Family Fun Fest” at Sacred Heart’s Sigal Center for more than 400 Upside residents
- Launched 2 Artist-In-Residence programs in Jordan Heights Neighborhood and Old Allentown Neighborhood
- Funded improved summer learning activities for 118 low-income children and youth attending Cleveland and McKinley elementary schools in center city
- Supported 5 community engagement meetings in partnership with the Allentown School District to obtain parent and community input to the new ASD Strategic Plan.
Upside Allentown’s corporate funders include BB&T at $150,000 a year, TD Bank and PPL at $100,000 a year, and Alvin H. Butz, Inc., City Center Investment Corp., Lafayette Ambassador Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank at $50,000 a year.
Representatives from the Education and Arts and Culture subcommittees also reported on two significant and innovative projects that were recently launched. Sean King, representing the Arts and Culture Subcommittee, shared results of the Allentown Arts & Culture 20:21 Plan that will be implemented over the next four years in Downtown Allentown and beyond. Jill Pereira, co-chair of the Education Subcommittee, reported on their initiative to work with the Allentown School District on engaging the community in the conversation and implementation of the Strategic Plan.
Don Bernhard, Executive Director of Downtown Allentown Community Development Initiative and Upside Allentown Steering Committee Co-Chair, highlighted key outcomes of three years of initiatives in downtown Allentown. Upside is halfway through its six-year program and has shown encouraging outcomes in response to strategic investments. Outcomes are identified in categories such as increased residential property values, crime reduction, reduction of residential and commercial housing vacancies, improved quality of life, accessibility to arts and culture, and employment opportunities, among others, as outlined in the attachment.
“We have concrete evidence after three years that these initiatives are touching people, changing lives, and improving quality of life in the neighborhood,” says Bernhard. “We have much more work to do in some areas such as increasing incomes, where we are only beginning to have an impact, however, we believe the data so far supports our goals and proves that additional investment in Allentown beyond the Neighborhood Improvement Zone will produce a return.”
Mayor Ed Pawlowski lauded the group of mostly volunteers who have contributed countless hours to this effort.
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About Upside Allentown: Upside Allentown is a comprehensive approach to community development to ensure that Allentown’s NIZ and its surrounding neighborhoods grow and thrive together. More than 100 individuals representing dozens of groups and, perhaps most importantly, neighborhood residents are working together toward a common goal of a thriving city with abundant opportunity, quality, affordable housing, safe streets, active civic participation and lots of fun. It includes eight corporations contributing $550,000 per year and receiving tax credits from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, city government, the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, local philanthropic foundations like the Harry C. Trexler Trust, The Century Fund, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation and the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, the Downtown Allentown Community Development Initiative, Allentown School District, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and others.