Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Allentown News

Mayor wants to convert Allentown's iconic PPL Tower into housing

Jason Addy
PPL is set to move out of its longtime headquarters in downtown Allentown this fall. The corporation is relocating to Two City Center, a few blocks east.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Hours after PPL announced plans to move its headquarters several blocks from its iconic tower in downtown Allentown, Mayor Matt Tuerk started floating the idea of turning the Lehigh Valley’s tallest building into housing.

PPL said Thursday that this fall, it will relocate its operations two blocks east to Two City Center, at the corner of 7th and Hamilton streets.

  • PPL announced Thursday that it will move its headquarters this fall
  • The corporation’s HQ is moving two blocks east to Two City Center
  • Mayor Matt Tuerk said the PPL Tower at 9th and Hamilton streets could be an “ideal conversion” from office space to housing

The corporation said it is “right-sizing” after almost 100 years in the PPL Tower. The building first opened in 1928.

Living in PPL Tower?

Tuerk told LehighValleyNews.com that he sees “a real opportunity” to convert the 24-story building into residential units.

Allentown is facing a housing crisis while many offices are sitting vacant or underused throughout the city and region after the pandemic, he said.

“The idea that somebody might come in and occupy the Tower as an office user is just … I can't even see it.”
Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk

“The idea that somebody might come in and occupy the tower as an office user is just … I can't even see it,” Tuerk said. “I think it's much more suitable as a residential property going into the future.”

The mayor said there is “a tremendous need for housing” in Allentown.

“We're not building fast enough,” he said. “What we have now is an opportunity to convert this perfect building into residential.”

The mayor said he’s spoken to architects about what buildings can be converted from office space to housing.

“And they pretty much described PPL,” Tuerk said, calling it a potential “ideal conversion.”

Each building conversion “presents its own design challenges,” but the project to transform the PPL Tower “is going to attract world-class architects” who want to work on a building that’s “as iconic as the tower is on the skyline,” Tuerk said.

He said he’s already imagining the views residents would have from their rooms in the tower.

“PPL — or as the old-timers might call it, PP and L — is wrapped into the DNA of the city of Allentown. PPL is Allentown.”
Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk

Allentown City Councilwoman Candida Affa said she learned about PPL’s impending move in a call with LehighValleyNews.com. Her immediate reactions were shock and concern over what will become of the city’s tallest landmark.

“Oh my god, what are we gonna do with that big building?” Affa said.

She said she would support turning the Lehigh Valley’s tallest building into housing, “but it would have to be affordable housing.”

Affa said she “can’t imagine” any other corporation would be able to take over the building if it was too much space for PPL.

'PPL is Allentown'

Tuerk said his initial reaction to news of the move was more about PPL staying in downtown Allentown than the company moving out of its longtime headquarters.

He said he was “excited” and “happy” that hundreds of PPL employees will return to downtown Allentown in the fall, though he admitted he’s somewhat “disappointed” they are not moving back into the “iconic” tower.

“PPL — or as the old-timers might call it PP&L — is wrapped into the DNA of the city of Allentown,” Tuerk said. “PPL is Allentown.”

Tuerk also posted on Facebook Thursday night predicting a "second act that will knock your socks off."

PPL has been in the tower at Ninth and Hamilton streets for almost a century. Company spokesman Ryan Hill said the upcoming move to 7th and Hamilton streets was “really driven by our strong focus … on operational efficiency.”

The corporation has signed a lease that will keep it at the new location for two decades, Hill said.

“We've been in our town for nearly 100 years,” Hill said. We're "very committed to Allentown, and it was very important to us to maintain our headquarters in the city.”

PPL will soon start the process to sell the building, Hill said, adding it will have no control over its use after the sale.

Hundreds of employees to return to the office

About 1,200 PPL employees work in the Lehigh Valley. As part of the move, the company is set to direct about 400 headquarters employees to return to the office at least three days per week, Hill said.

That additional foot traffic each day would be “great” for downtown Allentown, Tuerk said, joking that the Starbucks location in Two City Center would likely have to hire a new barista to keep up with increased demand.

PPL’s decision to stay in downtown Allentown despite leaving its longtime headquarters shows “there’s continued demand to be” there, the mayor said.

“Allentown is the Lehigh Valley's commercial core” and offers “excellent” Class A office space, amenities and dining, Tuerk said.