ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The old Colonial Theater is a place linked to Allentown's glory days and its hard times, but now the site is getting a new tenant as the downtown renaissance continues.
When the blighted theater on Hamilton Boulevard was torn down in 2005, many people saw it as a symbol of what was happening to Allentown, but now, it has become a part of the City Center project.
Mayor Ed Pawlowski said residents have said for years they would know the city was turning around when the property was redeveloped.
"Well, I'm going to tell folks that building is down, the site if being developed, the city is on an upswing," said Pawlowski.
Developer JB Reilly officially broke ground on the site, which is now Three City Center -- 167,000 square-feet of office and retail space with underground parking.
It won't have a theater, but Reilly said it will speak to the arts in downtown Allentown.
"What this building is going to do is it's going to help activate the arts park," said Reilly, noting that the building will have a large lobby leading to the arts park.
His team is also talking with members of the arts community about incorporating art throughout the building and outside.
"It's going to help galvanize the arts community and create a lot of activity right here at the arts park and the Baum School and Art Museum and Symphony Hall," said Reilly.
It's a metamorphosis many, including Pa. Sen. Pat Browne., have been waiting years to happen. Browne said the site will bring pride to the city, just like the Colonial did back in the day.
"But today, ladies and gentleman, the ground on this site will again give rise to Allentown's claim to a fine city, will again be turned to renew that claim," said Browne.
Three City Center already has two tenants, one of which is a law firm that had an office swallowed by the Corporate Plaza sinkhole.
Reilly says he expects Three City Center to be complete sometime in early 2015.