Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority at Wednesday’s committee meeting approved plans for a seven-story office building expected to bring up to a thousand jobs to the city’s downtown district.
The Five City Center is one of numerous developments being built by City Center Investment Corp. surrounding the currently under construction Allentown hockey arena that will host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers’ minor-league affiliate.
Occupying a whole block of Walnut Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, the complex will be utilized as an office space during the day and for arena-related activities at night.
City Center representatives were recently granted additional tax cuts for further developments, but had to seek board approval before beginning construction.
“A couple months ago this board approved the expansion of our [Neighborhood Improvement Zone] credit facility by $15 million,” said City Center CEO J.B. Reilly. “This building will house potentially 700 to 1,000 workers, which we believe will have a positive impact on the downtown.”
Although currently no tenants have been officially disclosed, Reilly said he is confident the location will be filled and generate revenue for local government and nearby businesses.
“There’ll be new office workers. It’s going to create some demand on residential [and] on retail,” Reilly said. “That will potentially have an impact. I would argue a positive impact.”
Although tentative plans have been laid out before the development authority, officials say there may still be changes before the building’s construction begins in 2015.
“The final dimensions of the building are really going to be driven by the tenant or tenants that will be moving there,” Reilly said. “All of our projects are really driven by tenant demand.”
When questioned by a community member what the impact of the building would be on the surrounding community, Reilly emphasized that the construction site took advantage of previously unused or decaying properties.
“These are vacant lots or blighted properties that are being razed,” said Reilly, who went on to estimate the complex would bring over a million dollars in revenue to the area.
“This development will bring substantial revenue, more than previously existed.”
Community members also took the opportunity to question whether or not Allentown residents would be given a first crack at the incoming jobs associated with the Five City Center.
“What we’ve already done is sent out a letter…to every business in the NIZ and explaining to them that it is our desire to have Allentown residents get preferential treatment,,” said Sy Traub,board chair.
He cautioned, though, that this was a request, and not an agreement.
The City Center CEO, though, expressed optimism that the mere creation of such a building would cause a positive ripple effect in Allentown job creation.
“For every person that’s going to be working in that building, there’s another job that’s going to be created by services,” he said. “The multiplier effect of a project like this is huge. It just takes some patience.”