Allentown has new, high-rent housing

     Crowds gather outside of the PPL Center in downtown Allentown on opening night Friday, September 12, 2014. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Crowds gather outside of the PPL Center in downtown Allentown on opening night Friday, September 12, 2014. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    There are people willing to pay $1,400 a month to live in an apartment in downtown Allentown.

    You could live comfortably in Philadelphia for less than that. You could live in parts of New York for that price. You could even pay a house mortgage for that kind of money.

    And apartments in Allentown are drawing that price?

    The Morning Call had a story today about new, upscale housing developments in the city’s downtown.

    This summer, City Center Investment Corp. will open a 170-unit building this summer called The Strata. Its website boasts the apartments’ nine-foot ceilings, glass range stovetops, walk-in closets, “luxury bathrooms,” and a rooftop party deck. The website also says the building will have a bike share program, details TBA. 

    The rent: $1,050 to $1,280 a month for a one-bedroom and $1,200 to $1,600 a month for a two-bedroom.

    City Center hopes to start construction on another upscale building in June. 

    City Center CEO J.B. Reilly says millennials, empty-nesters and retirees are expressing interest in higher-rent apartments, and there aren’t enough buildings to meet the demand, the Morning Call reports.

    The new, high-rent apartment buildings are popping up thanks to the Neighborhood Improvement Zone program, a state tax incentive program that’s helping the struggling city reinvent its downtown

    The NIZ program incentivizes development by allowing developers to use state and local tax dollars that would have gone to the government to pay off the debt on buildings they construct and rehabilitate. The Pennsylvania legislature passed a law establishing the NIZ in 2009. As part of the NIZ, in September 2014, the city opened a $200 million hockey arena called PPL Center with an Eagles concert. Ten thousand people showed up for the event.

    Higher-rent, upscale housing was always part of the plan for the NIZ. 

    Of course, neighborhood residents have concerns. An influx of higher-income residents can increase property values across the neighborhood, pushing out lower-income renters who have lived in the city for years. As The Morning Call reported in a previous story, one-bedroom apartments in the area rent for $575 to $676 a month, according to a local landlord. Two-bedrooms cost about $650 to $825.

    The city notes that it offers subsidized housing in downtown Allentown.

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