By Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown
One of my favorite quotes is from Lyndon Johnson, "Yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
"With each passing day, I become more excited and honored to be part of this great City of Allentown. As we head toward our city's 250th anniversary, 2012 is lining up to be a fantastic year. We're a city with a proud history, a strong sense of community, a positive understanding of the present, and a very bright future. With so many areas of the world still trying to find their way, we have not only a vision but a path forward into 2012 and beyond.
Like all great cities, Allentown is constantly reinventing itself. We remain in the early stages of this city's transformation into a city of the new millennium, a city without limits. Currently, the arts and cultural activities are the core of our downtown, anchored by the Allentown Art Museum, Symphony Hall and the new Arts Park. This year the Allentown Art Museum completed a $15 million dollar renovation creating a truly regional asset and a strong anchor for the city's downtown. The Allentown Symphony celebrated its 60th anniversary and came off its strongest season in a decade hosting more than 85,000 visitors and the city is starting an arts district streetscape project to connect the district to the broader downtown community.
This year also ushered in the start of a new neighborhood improvement zone which allows the city to use state tax revenues to rebuild its downtown core and spur millions in economic development and activity. This new zone stretches from Allentown's center city to the Lehigh waterfront. A key project in this zone will be a new 8,500 seat arena for hockey and 10,000 for concerts (the first of its kind in the Lehigh Valley) which will be the home to the Philadelphia Phantoms AHL hockey team and the area's premier location for major concerts, sports and family events.
The Allentown Entertainment District, Arena and Waterfront projects are just some of the many forward-looking projects the city is pursuing to transform Allentown into a "destination city." These projects are designed to bring to our community the much-needed benefits of significant new job creation and a long-term vision and anchor for economic growth and improved quality of life not just here in Allentown, but throughout the Lehigh Valley.
We are already experiencing the fruit of our collective labors. This August, Lehigh Gas announced they chose to locate their corporate headquarters here in Downtown Allentown versus other cities, bringing 70 jobs with them and the anticipated addition of another 70 to 80 jobs. Also, East Penn Real Estate acquired nine properties near the Arena block earlier this year, and plans to build a $60 million office center which is expected to draw hundreds of new workers to the city.
These are exciting times for Pennsylvania's third largest city. Allentown is in the midst of major transformation and this process, like so many of this caliber and significance, is dynamic.
To keep the public informed on these exciting new developments and regional projects, we plan to meet directly with numerous organizations and individuals in the community, representing the many interests of our community -- from economic to social to environmental concerns -- to share information and gather input on the project. We will hold Open Houses, create a website and publish a series of newsletters to make it easier for folks to keep pace with our progress and our vision for the future. We plan to continue to share information as we learn it and engage in conversations about the issues that matter to us all.
Allentown has a proud history and great heritage. From our early roots as a small farming community to being the fastest growing city in Pennsylvania, Allentown is a city that continues to build upon its foundations to create a better tomorrow. As we celebrate our past and look to the future, I am committed to the residents, community and business owners of Allentown to continue to do everything in my power to work earnestly, toward realizing the great potential of this "City without limits."