Allentown’s Downtown Plan Receives American Planning Association’s Highest Urban Design Award

The urban design plan responsible for guiding and supporting the dramatic transformation of downtown Allentown, PA, has been honored by the American Planning Association (APA) with its highest national urban design honor: a 2019 Gold Achievement Award for Urban Design. The plan, authored by Goody Clancy, is helping city officials and developers make thoughtful decisions for Allentown, where downtown has seen some $675 million in real estate investment over the past seven years, with more still to come. The award also honors the 2009 state-level economic incentive legislation that established Allentown’s Neighborhood Investment Zone (NIZ) and sparked large-scale commercial investment.

The Downtown Allentown Development and Urban Design Plan repositions the area as a mixed-use neighborhood to appeal to employers and residents alike, prioritizes new market-rate housing in the downtown, improves the quality of architectural expression, and creates a “culture of care” around the design of downtown. As a result, downtown has become more walkable, more active, and offers new open space amenities that are attracting people to Allentown to live, work, and play.

The plan has guided the significant investment spurred by the NIZ. The NIZ enabled Allentown to undergo a dramatic transformation with at least 22 development projects totaling over 2 million square feet of floor area. The plan prioritizes downtown housing for long-term economic development and identifies public space improvements to provide more neighborhood amenities and invigorate downtown streets. State taxes generated by the 128-acre NIZ are used to pay debt service on financed improvements within the district, effectively reducing the cost of real estate development and infrastructure.

A rigorous design review has also been established to ensure NIZ incentive developments enhance the urban character of the renewed downtown neighborhood. To compensate for the city’s limited capital improvement budget, Goody Clancy worked with the NIZ development authority and city to establish a competitive matching grant program supporting investments in parks, streetscape, and multi-modal transportation. View an electronic version of the Plan on the project page here.