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$1.1M grant for Allentown brownfield will help turn 'pile of dirt into jobs': Gov. Shapiro

Jason Addy
Gov. Josh Shapiro (center) announced a $1.1 million grant on Wednesday, May 8, to help prepare a site at 928 American Parkway for development. Shapiro is seeking $500 million in next year's budget for the program he launched Wednesday in Allentown.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — An uneven “pile of dirt” in Allentown's Sixth Ward is set to be the first property transformed by a new state program to spur development, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday.

A $1.1 million PA SITES grant will help turn a 6.5-acre property at 928 American Parkway into a “shovel-ready” site for an industrial or commercial tenant, the governor said.

“We’re turning this pile of dirt into jobs."
Gov. Josh Shapiro

The Allentown Economic Development Corporation plans to invest up to $12 million to prepare the American Parkway property for an industrial building with at least 50,000 square feet that could offer dozens of “good-paying jobs,” AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger said.

Crews must connect the site to existing lines for electricity, water, sewer and gas, while also leveling it out. That work could take two to three years, Unger said.

“We’re turning this pile of dirt into jobs,” Shapiro said Wednesday, calling the PA Sites grant a “big win” for Allentown and the Lehigh Valley.

The American Parkway property embodies the potential Allentown could unlock with tens of millions in federal funding, Mayor Matt Tuerk said.

The city’s application for funding from the Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program pinpoints the property as part of “our effort to lower the barrier to Allentonians getting good jobs,” he said.

“When we develop, we create walkable jobs for people who live in the immediate area,” Tuerk said.

Allentown is in the running for a $20 million federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to boost employment in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods, like the Sixth Ward that includes the American Parkway property.

Back to the launch site

The grant announced Wednesday is the first of seven Shapiro's administration will award this month, and he's asking the state legislature to fund the program with $500 million in next year's budget.

"There is power in these pads. There is power in the Lehigh Valley as you're powering our economy forward."
Gov. Josh Shapiro

Shapiro said his administration launched a $10 million pilot program last year to prove the demand for "shovel-ready" pads; State officials received more than 100 applications totaling about $235 million in requested funding, he said.

"There is power in these pads. There is power in the Lehigh Valley as you're powering our economy forward," Shapiro said.

The governor's visit comes a little over three months after he launched his economic development plan — Pennsylvania Gets It Done — at OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem Township.

State Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger came to Allentown to tout a huge increase in funding for a program to boost Main streets.

Siger called Main streets “the heart of a local community [and] the heart of a local economy” as he laid out Shapiro’s plans to allocate $25 million to the Main Street Matters program.

State officials say that funding would “build upon and modernize” Pennsylvania's Keystone Communities Program, which is meant to spur economic development by fostering public-private partnerships.

The Allentown grant is the first of seven Shapiro’s administration will award this month, and he’s asking the state legislature to fund the program with $500 million in next year’s budget.

State Rep. Josh Siegel said that level of public funding “will set the stage for billions more” in new economic activity.