Lehigh Valley

ANIZDA hears downtown Allentown parking plan

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - When the new hockey arena opens in center square Allentown this September, it's going to get significantly harder to find a parking space on downtown streets especially for local residents on arena event nights.

The Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) Wednesday afternoon heard a downtown parking presentation from Tamara Dolan, executive director of the Allentown Parking Authority.

 "We have ample infrastructure to accommodate demand," stated Dolan, referring to a national study on inner city parking averages for special events now specifically tailored for Allentown. 

She explained based on approximately 10,000 persons attending any given arena event with three persons per car....this totals 3,600 vehicles arriving downtown for an evening out.

And currently in center city, said Dolan, there's a total of 4,874 parking spots which specifically includes five parking garages containing 2,848 spaces, 13 lots with 1,017 openings, and lastly 14 downtown streets offering 1,109 spots now frequently occupied by residents.

She also noted the parking plan includes plenty of directional signage, specific event travel lanes outside garages, and even a special "where to park" website especially designed for smart phones and internet (I-pad) tablet devices. 

Several board member almost immediately voiced their concerns whether there would be available parking for parents and students attending evening art or music classes offered in close proximity to the arena.

"Where will you park for Allentown Symphony Hall or the Baum School of Art at night?", questioned board member Robert Lovett. He added, " And how many more downtown schools are open at night?"

Dolan remarked, "This is a welcomed challenge," referring to the increased traffic and demand for parking downtown once the new arena is in full operation.

Board member Alan Jennings said the city's goal is to create and sustain "a thriving urban community."

With regard to the parking shortages for downtown businesses and residents and the accompanying traffic woes, he commented, "This is what it is, and we'll just have to make adjustments, but I'm especially concerned about the parking for residents."

Board member Seymour Traub added, "Of course there's going to be growing pains here, but we want a thriving downtown."

Allentown resident and board member C.C. Gerlach said the parking plan offers little to downtown residents, especially for event nights when residents returning home from work find their parking spaces occupied by arena visitors.

Paulette Hunter of Allentown said, "Parking is going to be a disaster. You'll go to work in the morning, and when you come home at night you won't be able to find a parking space."

She suggested forcing visitors to park only in lots and garages and prohibit them from on-street parking designated only for residents.

Board member Sarah Hailstone said ANIZDA also is working with the Lehigh and Northampton Counties Transportation Authority (LANTA) on alternative downtown transportation ideas.

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