The Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) announced that the “Downtown Allentown Revitalization District (including PPL Center Arena Block & City Center Allentown)” was one of 13 real estate development projects worldwide to win the Urban Land Institute‘s (ULI) 2017-2018 Global Award for Excellence, which is widely recognized as the land use industry’s most prestigious award.
The winners, each of which demonstrates an innovative, forward-looking approach to design and development, include eight projects in the United States, two in Canada, one in Europe and two in Asia. The Downtown Allentown Revitalization District is the only winner in Pennsylvania and one of just two in the Northeast United States.
“This global recognition validates the tremendous turnaround that downtown Allentown achieved through a unique public-private partnership,” said ANIZDA Chairman Sy Traub. “The best part is it’s still early in downtown Allentown’s transformation. We’re still growing and attracting more developers and businesses.”
“Downtown Allentown owes enormous gratitude to Senator Pat Browne and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Neighborhood Improvement Zone legislation, which made this city’s revitalization possible,” said City Center Investment Corp. President J.B. Reilly.
“Receiving the ULI Global Award for Excellence is proof that the NIZ is doing exactly what it was created to do,” said Senator Pat Browne. “The NIZ incentives have turned a severely challenged downtown into one that is benefiting not only the entire Lehigh Valley but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well. The ongoing revitalization of Downtown Allentown serves as a world model of what can be achieved through public incentives combined with private investments.”
The Downtown Allentown Revitalization District was spurred by an innovative state law that created the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). The anchor of the revitalization is a city block containing PPL Center, a 10,000-seat multipurpose arena, with an integrated mixed-use development including retail, dining, health/wellness, hotel, commercial office, two historic buildings and structured parking. Following significant initial public investment in the Arena Block, additional investment by private developers has reversed Allentown’s decline and transformed it into a sought-after destination to live, work and play. Since its completion in 2014 by the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority, the Arena Block redevelopment has been the catalyst for extensive additional private development, led by City Center Investment Corp.
City Center’s major mixed-use development, City Center Allentown, is helping reposition downtown Allentown into a regional center of excellence for business, culture and metropolitan living. City Center includes more than 1.4 million square feet among three Class A office towers, the Renaissance Allentown Hotel, the STRATA West and East apartment towers, The Shops at City Center, restaurant space, historic renovations, coworking spaces and more than 1,500 parking spaces. City Center’s total investment in downtown Allentown is $400 million, with additional development of office, residential, retail and green space underway.
The revitalization also includes the 40,000-square-foot Trifecta building, an early 20th Century building converted into loft-style Class A office suites and retail space. Additionally, the seven-story mixed-use Butz Corporate Center Phase Two expansion is 95-percent leased. Downtown Allentown’s revitalization has attracted many high-profile businesses, including Lehigh Valley Health Network, BB&T, Air Products and Bank of America.
“Allentown’s comprehensive approach to urban development ensured that the long-term success of the project would not be compromised,” said 2017-2018 Global Awards Jury Chairman Wendy Rowden, president of 42nd Street Development Corp. in New York City. “Each of these winners demonstrates a thoughtful, innovative approach to urban development that is adding to the sustainability and livability of the communities in which they are located. The attention paid to project detail, flexible design, and neighborhood context were among the factors making these entries stand out. They represent the type of development that will withstand the tests of time and change.”
“Cities are about people—the way we interact, get around, and go about our daily routines. Great cities are made of great places that make the urban experience easy and enjoyable,” said ULI Global Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips. “These projects reflect the highest standards of design, construction, economics, planning, and management. But most important, they are improving people’s quality of life.”
Contributing to the win for the Downtown Allentown Revitalization District (including PPL Center Arena Block & City Center Allentown) were developers/owners the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority, Hammes Company, City Center Investment Corp., Alvin H. Butz, Inc. and Charles Street Capital, and designers Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects, Elkus – Manfredi Architects, Wallace Roberts & Todd, The Gettys Group, Jane Heft, Roberson Butz Architects, DxDempsey Architecture, R & D Architects, et al.
The Awards for Excellence program, established in 1979 and subsequently expanded to a global program, recognizes real estate projects that achieve the highest standard of excellence in design, construction, economics, planning, and management. Widely considered the centerpiece of ULI’s efforts to promote best practices in real estate development, the program recognizes the full development process of a project, not just its architecture or design. The criteria for the awards include leadership, contribution to the community, innovations, public/private partnerships, environmental protection and enhancement, response to societal needs, and financial viability. More information about ULI’s Awards for Excellence program and previous winners is available here.
Other 2017-2018 winners include: Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain; Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas; Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, Illinois; Emeryville Center of Community Life, Emeryville, California; Half Moon Village, Half Moon Bay, California; Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City, Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan; Marine Gateway, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Milwaukee RiverWalk, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore, Singapore; Pearl, San Antonio, Texas; University Center-The New School, New York, New York; and West Don Lands, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
In addition to Jury Chairman Rowden, the 2017-2018 Global Awards for Excellence Jury members were Stuart Ackerberg, chief executive officer, Ackerberg, Minneapolis; Toni Alexander, president and creative director, InterCommunications, Inc., Newport Beach, California; Jeff Barber, principal and managing director, Gensler, Washington, D.C.; Ame M. Engelhart, director, Hong Kong Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Hong Kong; Michael Grove, principal, Sasaki, Shanghai; Sophie Henley-Price, managing director, STUDIOS Architecture, Paris; Lynn Hoffman Carlton, regional director of planning, HOK, Kansas City, Missouri; Lance K. Josal, chief executive officer, Callison RTKL, Dallas; Roger G. Orf, partner, Apollo Management LLP, London; Alex J. Rose, senior vice president, Continental Development Corporation, El Segundo, California; and Rebecca Stone, managing principal, OZ Architecture, Denver.