Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy
Fourth Economy Consulting, with support from evolveEA, was engaged by the City of Allentown, the third largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to create a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan.
The City of Allentown is currently experiencing a renaissance in its downtown business district, attributed to the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) Tax Incentive Program. The current City Comprehensive Plan was adopted by City Council in 2009. Allentown has shifted from an industrial city to an emerging hub for office space, retail, key services, and entertainment. The updated Comprehensive and Economic Plan will reflect the dynamic nature of the city and identify a pathway for continued growth, redevelopment, and opportunity for all residents.
In addition to the NIZ, several other factors contributed to the unique situation that drove Allentown to expand the scope of the traditional comprehensive plan. It is the anchor city of a growing region with a rapidly diversifying population. Most parcels in the city are utilized, which affects land-use decisions. And, most people who live in Allentown work outside of the city limits, indicating the need for efficient transportation, and potentially a need to add jobs in the city. The process of writing the plan includes four community meetings, eight facilitated Build Sessions (attended by over 200 people), and a community survey in both English and Spanish.
The plan was approved in the fall of 2019, and celebrated with a final community meeting. The city will be able to use the plan to coordinate with the private and nonprofit entities in the city to prioritize action and align themselves around a vision. Next steps include a revision of the outdated zoning code and a reorganization of planning processes to focus on neighborhood engagement.
The plan was recognized with a Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence. The city’s Vision 2030 comprehensive planning effort was determined to best exemplify the theme of "Innovative Planning and Sound Land Use Practices."