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New improvements could be headed for waterfront

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 22 2011 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 23 2011 09:37:04 AM CDT

City officials in Allentown are ready to dive into developing the waterfront.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

City officials in Allentown are ready to dive into developing the waterfront.

There's been talk about an improved river front for years and Mayor Ed Pawlowski says all the pieces have finally fallen into place.

For years, the missing piece of the puzzle was financing.

Now, the city should have the money thanks to grants and the newly approved Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).

The goal of the first meeting was to come up with a plan for the waterfront that all Allentown residents can be proud of.

"We're looking at doing a master plan for the site, we're getting community input of what that plan should be, setting the road map for the future," said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Pawlowski said some plans for the waterfront go back as far as twenty years.

Each hit a snag when it came to financing, a hurdle Pawlowski feels the city has jumped over thanks to grants and help from Harrisburg by approving the Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

"Let's say you get a company that's paying $7-8 million in state tax per year," said Pawlowski. "They could take that $7-8 million and put it into paying for debt service on their building. They could build a $70 or $80 million dollar building with that amount."

"Allentown has a wonderful opportunity to develop this," said Allentown resident Richard Hyde. "There's a lot of opposition at this meeting and definitely valid community concerns but I think people should be more optimistic."

The crowd for this meeting was a mix of residents.

Some said the waterfront needs to just be cleaned up, and others said they see a financial gain floating right on the banks of Allentown.

"I think there is a lot of opportunity for the waterfront," said Hyde.

A comprehensive waterfront plan should be complete in eight months.