It's oh so So Do So Pa. Shula's shuttered, according to The Morning Call
. I hear that Crust, located at the PPL Center, might bite the dust as well. J.B. Reilly claims the NIZ is "definitely working."
It is for him.
What's your take on this latest development in the Land of NIZ?
Color me shocked-/- NOT!!!
I gotta believe that the Moravian Book Store is next. Cut your losses!
Negotiations are underway to bring a dollar store into that prime location.
Could be a winner.
ReFind is gone by September.
Shula's was overpriced for this area. Wasn't doing very well in Promonade either. Laws of restaurant natural selection apply. But to O'Hare, this news is just another ball of mud he can throw in Allentown's face. He is a pathetic man who resents the success of others next to his own failed life.
You forgot to mention that I'm a disbarred alcoholic who lives in a hovel.
I agree that natural selection applies--but here's the challenge of the NIZ right now. Do you go through all these gyrations just to put in another set of TGI Friday's/Olive Garden/Chili's that are moderately priced but could be found at any shopping mall? How does that succeed either?
The bigger issues is that the NIZ looks like a wealthy shopping district for a region that doesn't have that kind of money. A largish-sized restaurant looking for $75 diners in the Lehigh Valley is either going to be a destination/special event restaurant or out of business. Absent a large number of corporate headquarters with entertaining requirements, where's that market going to come from?
Perhaps Johnny Mañana's will return?
Lol- love how the developer thinks it is all working out just fine and dandy.
sure it works when he cuts a deal to have tax payers literally pay his mortgage.
the dominos will continue to fall.
the greek guy who owns this franchise is a real pos.
First, he doesn't pay rent in one location , for years or what ever.
Next he is found to owe 1.7 million, settles out of court for 1/3rd owed and then gets rewarded with a NIZ deal ??? in fact he was wined and dined by some of the areas finest
just wondering what was the cost to the tax payers versus the cash, made by the developer versus the cities take versus campaign contributions from this guys group.
Follow the money !
The three best restaurants in Allentown were there
long before NIZ. You need reservations for all of them (one does not accept reservations but always has a line)The food is consistently good.I would go to any one of them before I would venture downtown. They are not at all "cheap" restaurants, but I've never left any of them hungry or unfulfilled. You don't have to go to a parking deck to park. I wish no ill will to the downtown restaurants, but I'm very content to stick to Henry's, Wert's and Youell's.
Most people don`t want to go into Allentown at night because of it`s history of violence plus paying for ridiculous parking fees. Let`s see what it s like 10 years from now.
Just wait for that man slab guy. He'll take care of everything.
I was at the Hamilton a couple of times.
I'll never go back again.
Nobody likes to see well known restaurants close. However as someone who has consulted in the retail marketplace,it was totally predictable. it was a well known maxim in the trade that restaurants follow where the people are, not the other way around. Despite all the NIZ incentives which created a false pro-forma for businesses, Shula's Steakhouse has closed. I'm sorry to see that happen but I think it will be years before enough residential mass is achieved downtown to warrant these high end businesses.
MezzaCrappedHerPants has a nerve calling someone else's life "failed".
Hot dogs, anyone?
Bring a Waffle House in to replace it.
Something for the real people of Allentown.
They have a gret New York Strip steak for $9.95 with hash browns and two eggs.
Not much of a surprise.
THEY knew but were hoping that gentrification would take root and clear us "urban undesirables" out... The thing with gentrification is that people with "real" money, like in NYC, Philly, and NJ, have to move in . There is no REAL money interested in Allentown, PA at the moment. (The political scandals, lost public trust, and compromised leadership took care of that) . REAL money doesn't want a metropolitan-like experience or a city-like lifestyle or nightlife, THEY go to NYC, Philly, or NJ. Period. Who pays $75.00 - $100.00, on a regular basis, for a meal just to walk out onto Hamilton and 7th Street in A-town ? Sheesh!
- Alfonso Todd III
The owner Kostonopolous is a major Republican sponsor.
As others have noted above, there is a very limited market anywhere in the Lehigh Valley for multiple very expensive restaurants. The link above describes how Shula's fell far behind in rent at the Promenade in Center Valley, before they moved to Allentown. I had predicted last year that some of the very expensive restaurants would change over to cheaper alternatives.
Also, keep in mind that non-franchise restaurants have a high failure rate, which it is so hard to get bank financing for them.
I'm going to Billiys for breakfast and think about this.
Billiys is still open isn't it?
No one did their homework. How many tax dollars (if any) went into this restaurant venture? Does anyone know? Suspect there is something political about that
American Hotel vs. powers that be.
"The link above describes how Shula's fell far behind in rent at the Promenade in Center Valley, before they moved to Allentown."
Mr. Shula allowing his name on the business should make good the past due rent, pay all the bills and send an apology. Many ate there thinking of his sports career and reputation.
Do you think a lack of outdoor entertainment contributed to Shula’s closing? I’ve heard that many diners enjoy Beach Boy tunes from the sidewalk.
Maybe that guy will come back now to sing the Beach Boys song “Shut Down”.
Random thoughts . . .
The restaurant owner was essentially paying the downtown location's rent with money saved by 'sticking' his Promenade landlord. Still wasn't enough to keep going!
The Shula's brand includes a less expensive, more sports bar-like franchise called 347 Grill. Might have been a better option at that location.
THIS closing blows a big hole in the NIZ promise and bravado.
Still can't get the vision of the Linden Street side of Strata Apartments being totally dark during a recent, early evening drive by out of my mind. Something doesn't compute.
Some of the other restaurant start-ups never look busy.
Average people DO dislike parking decks in areas with unsafe reputations.
The American economy, despite the media deception, is showing its true weak condition as stress on family budgets is now too big to hide.
The arena events are too few, also too expensive for a typical couple/family to also dine out at places like this, and there aren't enough hours during one evening to do such a thing.
For a wide variety of reasons, Americans have become more comfortable 'just staying home.'
The NIZ excitement has probably plateaued, and several 'anointed' people will be turning to heavy drinking for solace!
I ate at the Shula's in the Promenade shops on several occasions. You're right. They were very special occasions. Anniversaries and Birthdays. The steaks were simply the best I ever had. The food was of the finest quality and when I was there, so were judges, and many upper crust of society. Sorry to see Shula go under. Should have stayed at the Promenade Shoppes Mall.
Who could have seen this coming? Only those with eyes to see and an objective mind. Of course no one likes those kind of people in Allentown.
I'm going to reserve judgment until Alan Jennings speaks for the people.
If only Allentown had a monorail. I heard they have one in Shelbyville?
Any equipment purchased with NIZ dollars should remain for the next tenant.
A functional downtown cannot be "engineered" the way center city Allentown has. There needed to be real community & valley-wide interest, buy-in by all as well as investment in & by existing businesses, start-ups, etc.
This would have required strong leadership and use of the NIZ in an above-board manner. Not back-room deals or half-cocked quick fixes by desperate politicians in a downtrodden city, but a long-term one requiring the effort of many.
Shula's was an overpriced rip off from the get-go. They did not move to Allentown for any reason other than what they thought was their own financial benefit. They lost the Saucon Valley crowd and Olympus business. Dumb move to save on rent and erode the top line. Dumb. The space will be backfilled with something more reasonably priced.
Allentown is more of a Western Sizzlin' than a Shula's kind of city
I suspect the owner of Shula's was basically bribed by Reilly to move from Saucon Valley to Allentown. He was promised subsidized rent to the point he probably paid little or nothing. His expenses were primarily to his suppliers and his payroll.
Anyone with half a brain understands that the people who live in the Seventh and Linden area are not the same as those in Saucon Valley. The income level is dramatically different. The clientele that live in Downtown Allentown do not have the money for the $1200/month apartments upstairs and $100 steak dinners downstairs.
The fact is that I suspect most of the apartments in Strata Flats are staged but empty. They may be "leased" but few people actually reside in them. The darkness at night isn't because everyone goes to bed at sunset.
The bottom line being that income was not > expenses. Even with basically free rent. Economic B.S. does not generate profit.
Obviously, the Lehigh Valley has enough money for high end restaurants - Blue, Edge, Melt aren't cheap. The reason I go to those and never went to Shula's was that I don't want steak for dinner. It sounds like Shula's was in deep trouble before ever making this move. Downtown Allentown's revitalization will take more than a relocated restaurant and a couple stores. They need more retail and more reasons for bodies to actually go there. I'm willing to wait and see what happens. It will take years for people to get confident enough in the safety of the area to go back. Perhaps some outdoor street fairs or markets will help with that.
Locating the restaurant in an alley probably didn't help.
Most everything about the new downtown Allentown is artificial. Reminds me of a guy who pays people to be his friend. Many if not all of the new businesses are in Allentown because of the great deal they received (rent), not because of anything else.
Should have listened to that old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
The lure of 'free' money skews one's thinking.
Mr. Reilly needs to get something, actually ANYTHING, in there quickly. He will.
Look for an announcement within 30 days, I think.
I wonder if they are going to relocate or are they closing permanently?
No surprise here. People well-heeled and willing enough to drop a hundy or more for dinner can do it in far more convenient places with plentiful, free parking and no fear of crime. The three most important words in real estate are location, location, location. Despite the millions spent, downtown Allentown is still a shitty location. The Potemkin village is being exposed. The emperor has no clothes.
I heard the owner of city wok is interested in moving from south park
Gary W. Gorman writes:
I guess Jim Ochse won't be singing Barbara Ann outside this restaurant any more. Good Riddance, Shula's. Look at the demographics in Allentown, especially downtown. Many people who live in center city can barely afford to splurge and feast on McDonalds. If the NIZ was working as JB Reilly insists, money should be pouring into the neighborhood for philanthropic purposes, not into the pockets of developers and crooked politicians (and consultants).
The only steaks Allentownians are interested in are in a bun at Zandys.
Anon 8:33 - Allentown isn't Western Sizzlin'...we're Golden Corral!
There will be failures in the Fantasyland that is the NIZ, just as there are in the real world. For some reason there was a thought that rich people wanted to go to downtown Allentown often for expensive dinners, and that the NIZ subsidy would be sufficient to offset the downside. This was and is false. Mike Molovinsky has written about this often.
Options that may work? Ones that are in short supply in the burbs. For example, a really good Mexican restaurant. We haven't had one since Amigo Mio closed.
Wonder how long Hooked will hang on? It's in the real world competing against Fantasyland a mere block away....
A few issues: being close to an arena, who is going to fight for parking on event evenings to go pay for an expensive dinner, especially when there are as good and more available parking elsewhere.
It is an "event" restaurant, not an every-day eatery. It's too expensive.
Until the millennial crowd starts moving into Allentown (which may or may not happen) I don't think many of these historically staid restaurants will maintain. Now, maybe if it was another brewpub or something, different story. Hipsters love beer you've never heard of.
Just my anecdotal observations...
Sometimes I'd get invited along with management folks from our office in the 'burbs to few dinner "meetings" per year at Shulas' at the Promenade. People would also sometimes mention going there for special occasions with their families. Since they moved to Allentown we never went there again and I haven't heard of anyone mentioning going there.
Suburban working upper middle class people who live in 4BR 2.5BA colonials just don't want to go to downtown Allentown, I don't care how much lipstick you put on it. They are more comfortable in the suburbs, or Main Street Bethlehem where it isn't a hellhole if you stray a few blocks away. The people (all 10 of them?) who live in Strata Flats don't have the money for $50 steaks or $12 drinks either. I predict the Hamilton, Roar, and the Dime will be gone within 2 years.
"I heard the owner of city wok is interested in moving from south park"
ShittyWok? I love their Shitty Chicken. That Asian Fusion Landmark can't be in the NIZ soon enough.
Yes, prime location near historic city allentown
Anon 1150am, there are so few events at the arena that the impact event parking has is not a concern.
There were only 40ish hockey games and about 30 events last year. That's another of the NIZ fallacies, we were going to have 200+ nights/year of fabulous entertainment!
But when do people go out to eat the most (weekends) and when does the Center have most of its events (weekends)?
Visited the NIZ at 4:30 pm on 12/22/25, paid $2 to parking meter to walk 2 blocks to Starbucks, which had about 3 people inside. Moravian Bookstore: 0 customers, Sage: 0 customers, Shulas: couldn't tell but looked pretty empty. The sad thing about both the Moravian Bookstore and Sage is that the original locations have/had very unique interior layouts/designs that made them special. The stores in Allentown are white boxes with merchandise set up for sale. I won't be at all surprised if more businesses close. At some point you need customers.
1240pm, good point during hockey season. Outside of it there are many weekend nights that are open. for a 12 month block, it's a mix.
They won't let a Waffle House in, it would kill Billy's, and he is a big campaign donor, You have to be one of THE CHOSEN.
Billy is a major Tea Bagger and Hobby Lobby supporter. I spent my dollar elsewhere.
They closed or moved stores that had neighborhood support. Now we have gentrified restaurants that 96% of allentown will never visit. The rest will follow
What about city wok?
A harbinger of things to come��
Good news: I've heard that a new restaurant featuring organically grown food is quite interested in that spot. The potential proprietors are named Mr. Hankey and Mr. Angle. They'll offer fresh food selections and veggie dishes grown in PA DEP-approved biosolids. Shit ain't just for mushrooms anymore. I smell a winner. NIZ works!
If you look at demographics, the best bet is a ,"Golden Corral". Now that would fit the neighborhood.
Someone should check out the rumor that the lawsuit between Shula's and The Promenade was settled and paid for with NIZ dollars, i.e. with our tax dollars. If so, it will show how much funny money was created by that economic development scam.
Maybe they could get House of Chen to come back.
You leave now!!! You been here 4 hours!!!
That would be great! I really liked that place.
Maybe city sushi and city wok next to historic city allentown.
Just entered this shit slinging advertisemental Representational tool implimented as positive of
allentown gentrification started with the removal of the cancer now thriving more abundantly than any other of the multiple realestate flops by allentowns democraticle dysfunktional tools employeed by this sectors snakoil salesmen¿!($
Just hopping the snakoil salesmen story sonn gets put to print, call me craZy but the anticipation is so suspenseful it is like waiting for Genral Hospital for a weekend when luke and laura were both about to bust a nut¿!($ This shit just drives me nutZ as there are none hanging anymore in allentowns city coinsil¿!($
Busy putting to print opinions¿!($
redd for Republican
I'm still not clear on whether Kostas actually owned Shula's. I have heard that JB Reily actually owns most of the restaurants down there, including Starbucks,and brought them in to make it 'appear' that big brands were just lovin the new Allentown. Anybody able to clear this up?
One of the big difficulties about the NIZ and the New York Yuppies living downtown is that the intercity buses take too long from Allentown That extra half hour from Easton was reason enough to move to the eastern part of the valley. Local Yuppies now have a choice to pay $1,200 monthly rent for a place at 7th and Linden above an abandoned restaurant, or the same rent in a modern complex in nearby Breinigsville that boasts free Club House privileges, swimming pool and tennis courts.
No more like, OCB for the gluttnous full figured men and women so they can eat til they burst like the first crime seen in the movie seZen. That took place in the worlds cistern allentowns older bigger sister city releasing into the hudson than to the ocean.
Hey shit maybe thats why the nj shore is not the spirtual experiance it once was, what with green murkey and all. Take a good look at ChriZty on the tube, hell he'll be comming downtown.
No doubt the sale of the neighboring bank to a big North Carolina concern didn't help the prospects for Shula's. In one fell swoop it went from a corporate headquarters to an 'annex' of an out-of-town bank. Lost will be most of the more highly paid executives; remaining will be the millennials with their $40,000 salaries. NOT the stuff of $75 meals.
It's interesting that the NIZ nazis are not 'willing' to listen to the owner of the Americus, isn't it?
Place was shite anyway. Mortons, Ruth's Chris or Peter Lugers all day everyday.
I was only at Shula's once. It was at the old location, the Promenade. I don't like shopping there because it is so fake, but I was invited by Fred, one of the best commenters. I ordered the cheapest steak i could find on the menu, and do believe it is the best steak I ever had. It was finally topped last year at a restaurant in Easton's circle, where you can cook your steak with some kind of stone. Shit, I think I owe Fred a dinner.
Heard today that most of the Strata apartments are leased by Corps as places for their visiting VIP's to stay, and to use for meetings. There are really only eleven, possibly thirteen true tenants that live there. Anybody with onsite knowledge want to comment or debunk that?
My minions are reporting to me that Riellys in Whitehall will honor Shula's gift certificates. My understanding is they will be only worth half of their value(which makes sense) I haven't confirmed this myself yet.
Hank, Yes, The Morning Call is reporting precisely what you just wrote.
Good on them for stepping up!
I agree about the artificial vibe at the promenade , if you ever are in Nyc go to Lugers,get the tomato and onion salad , German potatoes, creamed spinach and their house steak. It is world class.
I was at the Thai restaurant at the promenade once as well, this time as the guest of Ron Angle. That place isn't even really Thai. It's some watered down American version of Thai food. I do not really like expensive restaurants, though, no matter where they are. I prefer family establishments.
Anyone who has to park in the Linden St parking deck can tell you real people with real cars live at the Strata. By 8:20 am you are on the roof since the apartments opened.
Sad to read about Mayor Donchez being phoney about his open door policy. Attended events where he spoke highly of his plan. Now to discover just a joke.
"Next he is found to owe 1.7 million, settles out of court for 1/3rd owed and then gets rewarded with a NIZ deal ??? in fact he was wined and dined by some of the areas finest"
Not going to excuse this conduct but believe this is the same person that opened his once-owned Airport Hotel to thousands of homeless every Christmas for years.
Gifts, food, clothing.
Sure seems like someone is trying to excuse NIZ conduct bring up gifts, food & clothing for the Homeless at Christmas.
"Sad to read about Mayor Donchez being phoney about his open door policy. Attended events where he spoke highly of his plan. Now to discover just a joke."
What s your basis for that statement? Is it an anonymous statement that you likely posted yourself?
If you want want MUCH better food, dining and top notch service...go to Blue Grillhouse...period! I've eaten there on more then a few occasions to see Judge Smith there and other elected officials. No riff raff, beautiful atmosphere and I don't need to travel to the Ghetto's of Allentown either.
Yeah, I was there once when I tried to impress a lady. Didn't work.
"Anyone who has to park in the Linden St parking deck can tell you real people with real cars live at the Strata. By 8:20 am you are on the roof since the apartments opened."
So you mean the Strata Flats is not populated with environmentally-conscious millennials who won't bring their fossil fuel-based cars to the NIZ? Oh my....call Joyce Marin!
Henry's isn't just good by Allentown standards -- their food could compete with NY or philly restaurants that charge 50 percent more. Admittedly the ambiance is still Allentown-esque.
Word on the street is that a high end, sit down Taco Bell will go into Shula's. Based on the demographics of the area they feel it will be a sure thing.
The same JM who didn't say peep during Allentowns great water sell off, inspite of all the meetings and reporte Renew did on the issue?
Please spare me.
She lived downtown for a few months than split for Europe.
Joyce Marin was no longer involved with local matters at that time. She was in Spain several years living with her husband. When she returned, she worked with the school board. Get your facts right.
Joyce Marin was a member of Renew and involved with the regional water committee, and very much in the Lehigh Valley, through the water debate. She was MIA in the conversation, as she was in the conversation over the magical trash to power debate....of course she had been an enthusiastic member of Fed Ed's inner circle.
She's an outspoken activist when the issue has no powerful opposition, when the stakes are high she backs the money boys and the suits or runs for the hills.
One wonders what she has shared with the FBI investigation.
Everything is overpriced. From the cost of hockey tickets, concerts, parking, and most restaurants. Lower level seats at glass in Wilkes Barre and Hershey are 25 bucks. Not 55 like Allentown. Parking is free in Wilkes Barre and 8 bucks in Hershey for a paved lot right at arena and u get right out. No one fears a thug will come out of an ally there as well.
The newness has faded and people in the Lehigh Valley have grown up going to these other venues for minor league sports paying minor league prices. The NIZ and players behind it busted out tax dollars for their benefit and should all be ashamed and some inprisoned!
These players forgot the one rule of economics...the more money consumers have the more they consume.
There is absolutely NO question that both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears charge FAR LESS money for the same seat locations as compared to what the Lehigh Valley Phantoms charge.
The real kick in the teeth is that the Penguins and Bears both play good hockey and frequent the Calder Cup often whereas the Phantoms are on course to miss out on the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year in a row (which is kind of hard to do considering pretty much half of the league's teams qualify every season).
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' product on the ice has been decidedly sub-par and tickets, parking, concessions, etc., ARE rather expensive by typical AHL standards.
However, it is a fact that attendance at the PPL Center has actually been extremely strong for the first year and a half of the team's existence in Allentown. Last season, Lehigh Valley finished fourth in the 30-team AHL by averaging 8,163 fans for 38 home games. This season, the Phantoms are again ranked fourth at present, averaging 8,021 fans for the team's first 18 home games thus far.
On the other hand, it should be noted that when the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins initially placed their AHL farm in Wilkes-Barre at the start of the 1999/2000 season, the WBS Penguins did rather well at the box office for a certain period of time. The team had a solid seven-year stretch averaging more than 8,000 fans per game (from 2000/01 thru 2006/07) but has hit some sort of invisible wall and not been able to reach that attendance plateau since. Moreover, there has been a noticeable and consistent decline in the last dozen years :
04/05 ... 8,196
05/06 ... 8,131
06/07 ... 8,030
07/08 ... 7,667
08/09 ... 6,984
09/10 ... 6,270
10/11 ... 6,360
11/12 ... 6,028
12/13 ... 6,038
13/14 ... 5,804
14/15 ... 5,708
15/16 ... 5,206
Only time will tell what kind of attendance figures the Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be able to show from their 12th AHL season, if they haven't already gone the way of Mayor Pawlowski's beloved Johnny Mananas by then, of course.
The ASD figured Ms .Marin out rather quickly.
I think this is really the truth for all minor-league sports--they start out strong when everything is new and novel and come down strong when everything isn't.
The real hard thing to sustain is season-ticket sales, since tickets quickly become not scarce, and in truth the games really don't "matter" since the parent club can completely manipulate the roster of the minor league team for its own benefit. How awesome is it in all honesty for Talen, Air Products, etc. to take customers out to see the Iron Pigs?
The teams that succeed for the long term, i.e. Reading Phillies and Hershey Bears, do so because they continue to innovate on the field, they build longstanding relationships with area groups and businesses, and the team becomes a community project.
The arena has all the ambiance of an airport terminal, the team seems to be trying to build inroads, but if anyone thinks this team will succeed at these prices as a "Flyers Jr. Team" on regional hockey passion alone, that probably isn't going to happen
I am SOOOO down for a LOUISIANA CHICKEN OPENING IN THE OLD SHULA"S SPOT. Its a perfect space and perfect clientele and if they get a chick-a-fil its a home run!. Where else can you pay 8 bucks to park for a chicken sandwich and get robbed by some goon or get acosted by some street creep
I attended the Phantoms game yesterday. They announced attendance as a sellout of 8440. After the second intermission, I started counting the empty seats. If there were 6k people there, that would have been a stretch. Half the luxury boxes were completely empty. Sure they sold the tickets, but the people didn't show. If the team doesn't start playing competitively soon, they won't be able to build on the inaugural season. The connection isn't quite there.
I am guessing around 10 percent of the Strata units are corporate-owned.
Unknown @ 8:48 PM,
You bring up A LOT of excellent points.
Chris Casey @ 12:08 PM,
We do that all the time, discuss how many people were actually at the Pawlowski Palace of Sport as compared to what the official attendance is listed as. The official attendance is always the number of tickets sold, not necessarily the number of people actually at the stadium, of course. It is important to remember that "No Shows" don't spend money in NIZ Land either before or after the game, no doubt about that.
Can anyone name one corporation that has leased one apartment at the Strata?
I'd really like to know where all these companies are in the valley. Must be plenty of great jobs around here if so many companies are leasing apartments.
Part 1 of 2
It would be easy to make a lot of jokes about the Shula's closing (and I admit to getting an "I told you so" grin across my face upon reading of its demise) and it would be equally easy to hammer the shit out of the NIZ goon squad in general (including our pal Alan Jennings). I believe I probably already did so on this blog somewhere along the line back when the plans were originally passed and the physical fabric of the neighborhood started imploding.
Instead I'd like to make some rather simple statements - backed by decades if not centuries of empirical evidence about city development - that get to the heart of the issue. Most successful places in America were built by past generations with not much college education or access to credit - and they were built before anything known as federal grants, FHA mortgages, interstate highway funds, zoning ordinances, building codes and planning commissions to say nothing of KOZ's, TIFS, NIZ's, LERTA"s and most of the currently taken-for-granted procedural trimmings of modern life.
How then did we end up with such great urban places: public buildings, libraries, town squares, public parks, shop-lined main streets, tree-lined residential blocks? Two major reasons: First, people built simply and cheaply on a small scale and then incrementally densified and intensified while also improving the material qualities and increasing the heights of their buildings as needs arose. This was by trial and error; and as bad ideas failed they went away (sometimes including entire towns) while better ideas stuck and thrived. This certainly cost a lot of people some amount of money and misery but, since the efforts came from personal savings, it was their money and their misery and hence limited in scope to a degree where they could pick up, go someplace else and try again.
Second, they followed principals of city-building that had been successful for literally thousands of years - they did not reinvent the physical manifestations of civilization. The Greeks, Romans and others had a pretty good record of doing that very well and all that was needed was some informed emulation. My point here is that neither cities nor their entire CBD's spring out of the ground fully-formed. The successful ones were experiments - undertaken incrementally and elaborated on over time - that became the great places they did due to many players making a large number of small bets spread across a well-defined area. When an area reached a certain level of success and maturity then the next increment of horizontal growth could begin, but not until the vertical growth, densification and intensification of the original unit was achieved.
End Pt 1
Part 2 of 2
This is why Bernie senses the patina of artificiality in places like Promenade Shops and why the new arena, Strata Flats and their surrounding, downtown additions somehow fall flat with people's expectations of what a "real place" feels like. What I have just described, as briefly as I could, was the essence of a presentation by Chuck Marohn of the Strong Towns website, given as the keynote at the recent RenewLV Summit for Smart Growth event held at the new hotel complex. It is more than ironic that his presentation warned against just such mega-project/publicly financed/ Ponzi scheme mentalities that built the hotel/arena complex in the first place...while we sat there eating our lunch under its roof.
I was chafing at the bit, waiting for someone to mention the elephant in the room. The question finally was raised during Q&A. Marohn's answer was polite, discreet and non-confrontational (he couched it in the example of similar mistakes made in his home state of Minnesota) but he left no doubt where he thought the answers to Allentown's success lay: in the great physical fabric of the neighborhoods (though distressed and ignored) and in the great traditional shopping streets of the downtown. Pawlowski, in typical knee-jerk reaction style, got up and went on a five minute rant in defense of his methods, which only left one with the distinct impression that he hadn't heard a word of the presentation nor is ever capable of breaking out of the same old thinking that created the NIZ and formerly resulted in most of the other failed "growth" schemes of Allentown's decline.
Bottom line: cities are messy places that can't be created out of whole cloth. They are too complex for simple funding schemes like NIZ or big, top-down management. We must work on a small scale; on many things at once by many people; spend money incrementally on experiments to see what works and what doesn't; allow for failures without fixing blame; not throw good money after bad; and ACTUALLY MEASURE real return on investment at the municipal level and STOP building things based on "growth projections" and job creation" promises.
My trip to the RenewLV event was my first time on the ground in Allentown since the arena's completion. It took 30 seconds to assess and realize that it isn't working on many levels. I don't think it ever will and thats a damn shame when thinking about what was lost to create it. You can't put the downtown under a social/cultural/economic glass dome and expect it to grow like a hothouse tomato. As with Shula's, it can only whither and die.
Apologies for only including my initials (DRL) in the previous two-part comment on the Shula's closing and the associated failures of the NIZ. For the record I am a dues-paying member of Strong Towns.org as well as a former Planning Commissioner of Easton (2010-2015) and have been a Realtor in Easton since 1995.
I have also been a citizen activist here since 1999 and have been involved with Easton The Shade Tree Commission (chairman), Easton Weed & Seed Program (TALL Team member), zoning rewrite task force (founding member) and West Ward Neighborhood Partnership (Project Director) as well as participation in the public processes for the design of all major development here over the past decade or more, including the Simon Silk Mill and the Delaware River waterfront redesign.
My main involvement has been mostly in the area of preventing typically horrible development schemes and the critiquing of their equally awful design process. These experiences have steeped me in a brew of skepticism and devil's advocacy necessary to deal with the typically half-assed thinking that has become normal in America.
Allentown is not alone in covering up its problems with a thin veneer of "downtown renaissance". Easton has equal problems if only on a smaller scale. We are all in big trouble in this country. No amount of restaurant development can altar those facts.
Very informative, Mr. Lieb!
I am grateful you took the time to prepare this analysis. The NIZ development is of high interest to me. I have many years experience with several of the people and components involved in this effort. I'd like to emphasize one key measure of success for such development schemes.
Success is best represented by the amount of NEW DOLLARS generated. Until the NIZ produces revenues to the state greater than what the state would normally have received, before the NIZ, this investment (financially) will remain a loser for nearly every Pennsylvanian.
Certainly Allentown LOOKS better, has more options, and feels better about itself. But, at what cost to everyone else? And, can it last?
Until Allentown's enhancements come from actual, NEW market demand, rather than just SPENDING gifted state tax dollars, the viability and attractiveness of the city is somewhat false, and certainly limited.
The NIZ reminds me of the old 'chain letter' scheme that made the rounds in neighborhoods and at the workplace. Only those who got in at the very beginning have chance for real gain. Those plans were flawed and destined to flame out over time. But, that didn't matter to those who wrote and sent the first chain letters. It was a gimmick, and so was the NIZ.
I am pleased the NIZ legislation was changed.
The Executive Director of Renew LV is a proud
graduate and devotee of the Pawlowski machine.
She never has anything to say when the rubber meets the road.
Let's all talk about a train to the big city.
RePhrase that ReCidivisim ReNue ReVolving door and don't dig in either cistern didn't your daddy never tell you not to dig in the outhowse hole¿!($ This is ofcourse if you take your head out of the anal canal with your neck being chocked out by the spinkter surrounded by a boil, cyst and zit all letting lose at the same time¿!($ Hence letting lose palumpas democratical dysfunktional fermenting political blue juice that has tainted with soiled depends under the kings gown¿!($
redd for Republican
Dennis nails it.
Preach on Brother Lieb! Preach on...
I just deleted yet another personal attack aimed at Joyce Marin. Some coward has already anonymously attacked her two or three times. Enough is enough. Take a pill or something.
Redd sez it better than anyone.
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