East Chestnut’s Revival Could Get Huge Boost From Big Project

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich http://www.flickr.com/photos/10396190@N04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The way John Columbo saw it, East Chestnut Street in Center City was a ghetto. From 8th to 13th, the once-beautiful and bustling street brimmed with empty storefronts with graffitied windows and bottom-feeder businesses like dollar stores and check-cashing joints. Drug dealers jockeyed with street hustlers for sidewalk space.

It was the perfect place, he and his business partner Mike Lewis decided six years ago, for their gourmet cupcake bakery, Philly Cupcake. “You look at what everybody else is doing and do the opposite – place luxury right in the center of the ghetto,” Columbo said of their business philosophy.

While a few other brave merchants followed their lead, the changes weren’t always positive and a rebirth remained elusive, Columbo said. A sex shop moved in a few doors away and filled its storefront windows with space-age vibrators and near-naked mannequins to tempt passers-by. Farther east, some cheered the closure of the old Funk-o-Mart electronics store, only to see another dollar store move in.

“They want this to be Woolworth’s, and we’re trying to be more Chanel,” Columbo said of the battle to revitalize Chestnut Street.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131020_East_Chestnut_s_revival_could_get_huge_boost_from_big_project.html#V6VUDBO8eBGus08i.99

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Proposed 33-Story Tower In Allentown Draws Mixed Reaction

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to imagine: a tall, pencil-like building that would jut into the Allentown sky, permanently altering the city’s landscape.

Lehigh Valley Developer Bruce Loch’s proposal to transform a 4,000-square-foot grassy plot in the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone into a 33-story high-rise is so unusual it has spurred conversation across the region.

For many, it’s an exciting prospect — a sign that developers have faith in Allentown’s urban core. Others have questions about the proposal, such as how a footprint so small could support a structure that would eclipse the Lehigh Valley’s tallest buildings by at least 20 feet.

Amy Hawley, an Allentown commercial and industrial real estate broker, commended Loch for wanting to build downtown, but questioned whether local businesses are ready for such a radical change in floor plan.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-landmark-tower-office-space-20130328,0,5118434.story