Allentown Redevelopment Seeks Attractive Businesses - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Allentown Redevelopment Seeks Attractive Businesses

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It's a billion-dollar development project, including a brand new hockey arena. Allentown is thrilled to have this new arena, and they've been working for years to get people and businesses to come downtown. So why is there a special committee that may try to prevent certain businesses from opening?

"Wouldn't it be nice if moral issues and money issues went hand-in-hand? We're essentially trying to do that," says Alan Jennings, who's part of the board of directors for the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority.

Allentown's Downtown will be the future location of the former Philadelphia Phantoms, a professional ice hockey team.

"We're expecting about 750,000 to 1,000,000 people coming into downtown Allentown just for hockey and related events," says Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Its all being developed inside a special tax zone created to stimulate downtown Allentown's economy. Several developers are part of the deal, and about a half dozen projects in addition to the arena are in the works.

"Basically what it allows us to do is capture all state taxes for the next 30 years to be used for development. If you have a business that's paying X number of dollars in state taxes, the developers can utilize that to pay for the debt services in the building, which is obviously very attractive," says Pawlowski.

Attractive and effective, which is why Alan Jennings and others on the board of directors for Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone and Development Authority want to make sure it stays that way.

"And not finding ourselves in the same spot in another 10 years from now with another bunch of business nuissances that attract blight," says Jennings. "Pawnshops, check-cashing stores, strip clubs, those types of businesses that don't really have any redeeming value."

It's nothing more than a concern right now. That special tax zone already prohibits adult entertainment businesses, but the commission isn't really sure if they can keep out other legal businesses they deem undesirable.

Mayor Pawlowski didn't want to talk about it on camera, but said he's confident in the developers and in the power their projects have to bring people from across the region to Allentown's downtown.

"The first season ticket holder was a Philadelphian," says Pawlowski.

The project will be complete by October of 2014. As for all of the other businesses that will surround the arena, the mayor says that there's little his commission can do to influence the developers. But he's pretty confident that when they're spending millions of dollars, they won't put in low-end businesses.

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