By Carly Giacoio
Allentown has been having an identity crisis–a former bustling industrial city, it has been trying to reinvent itself, most notably with a revitalization project called the NIZ. The NIZ (Neighborhood Improvement Zone) in Allentown is a taxing district created in 2009 to transform 128 acres downtown, the Waterfront, and most notably, the 8,500-seat PPL Center on Hamilton Street. The NIZ, marketed as a “revitalization” of Allentown, became home to “respected” corporations such as the Renaissance Hotel, Tim Hortons, ADP, and other large businesses. These businesses are funded by taxes from Pennsylvanians. These tax breaks are an economic benefit for businesses, but the benefits for Allentown residents are difficult to see. Along with the benefit the NIZ gives to businesses, the city markets the NIZ as a trickle-down effect and pro-growth for the people who live and work in Allentown, not just for corporations. With these points curated by Allentown officials and the Allentown NIZ website, it is still difficult to see how these businesses are benefiting the Allentown community. According to the Morning Call, Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach says the NIZ has led to the destruction of affordable housing for working-class families on Walnut Street. Center city formerly provided affordable housing for Allentown residents, but those homes have either been demolished or seen increases in rent to keep up with the big businesses taking charge of the area.