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City Launches Public-Private Facade Improvement Partnership

04/29/2013
City Launches Public-Private Facade Improvement Partnership
The City of Allentown today launched a public-private partnership that will enhance the appearance of buildings and spur investment within city districts adjacent to its Neighborhood Improvement Zone. The partnership is comprised of the city, the Hamilton District Main Street Program (HDMSP), the Seventh Street Development Committee (SSDC), private developer City Center Lehigh Valley and downtown Allentown’s largest employer, PPL.

“As Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) drives redevelopment within its borders, we also need to attract investment beyond them in order to revitalize the entire downtown,” Mayor Ed Pawlowski said. “The mission of this new partnership is to make the neighborhoods around the NIZ more inviting to encourage new businesses, residents and visitors. In other words, the partnership aims to create direct economic benefits to the community surrounding the NIZ.”

The first initiative under the partnership will offer grants to help existing business and property owners improve the facades of their buildings in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Hamilton Street. City Center Lehigh Valley is providing $200,000 in private funding for the first phase of this initiative. PPL will support the initiative through the $100,000 in funding it currently provides for the Main Street and neighborhood-improvement programs on Hamilton and Seventh streets.

The initiative will be administered by the HDMSP, a program of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, with support from the SSDC, a program of the Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, both of which have extensive experience working with Allentown business owners to improve their properties. The first phase will focus on improving 15 to 30 facades over the next 24 months with an average grant size of $15,000. Other districts of the city will be supported as the program grows and more private investors volunteer to provide resources. The City of Allentown, the HDMSP and the SSDC will jointly market the initiative.

“This is an outstanding example of public-private partnership,” Pawlowski said. “It will help educate local business and property owners about the importance of façade quality in improving the overall downtown appearance and give them a financial boost toward meeting that goal. We aim to create a kind of confidence in the city that will ignite further business investment and also encourage pedestrians to stroll, shop, visit arts institutions, attend events, work and live downtown.”

The partnership will follow the existing Hamilton District Façade Design Guidelines. Each property improvement funded by the initiative will be reviewed by a design team that will include HDMSP/SSDC representation, an architect or design specialist, a property owner, the city and the funding entity. That team will assist merchants and property owners with financing as well as façade design with emphasis on historic preservation, quality materials and upscale aesthetic impact.

To be considered for the program, projects must promote the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings, bring substandard building conditions into compliance with basic codes or preserve historic commercial buildings. Projects must be tied to a sustainable business plan and achieve visible results that enhance neighborhood image, marketability and economic vitality.

For more information on partnership grants, please contact
Miriam Huertas, vice president of Allentown initiatives for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce at 610-751-4929 or miriamh@lehighvalleychamber.org.
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