The High Cost of Poor Design...

“The developer has to figure out a way to have the inside and the outside come together in something that works for everybody,” – Peter H. Brown, How Real Estate Developers Think: Designs, Profits and Community

If you live near Allentown, PA, you've probably heard of the most recent project proposed within the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), Tower 6 at 6th and Hamilton Streets. This project proposes mixed use in the dense urban core of the city, and plans include demolition of four historic buildings, two of which (602 and 608 Hamilton) are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Tower 6 project was recently approved by the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA), but the design was not approved by the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB), the body responsible for reviewing proposed demolition of historic properties along Hamilton Street. Hamilton Street is a “historic demolition overlay zone,” meaning that demolition requires, in essence, a zoning variance.

The Allentown Preservation League supports this project in concept. The development happening in downtown Allentown is exciting and the opportunity for more robust businesses and residences in a Legacy City (post-industrial urban center) is a welcome sight. However, the rate of demolition at the heart of downtown is distressing. Historic buildings tell the story of Allentown. They tell visitors and residents alike that the city has thrived before, as the new buildings show it will thrive again. Although the buildings downtown are privately owned, the exteriors of the buildings are public domain. The designs shape the way we, the community, interact and feel about our town. This is called “Sense of Place,” and it is what distinguishes our town from Anytown, USA. This uniqueness, or character, is why the Allentown Preservation League, the demolition overlay zone, and the three historic districts exist.

The Allentown Preservation League does not and cannot support the design for Tower 6 as proposed. We propose instead that the façades be saved as they are. By preserving only the first 10 feet (depth) of the buildings the rhythm of storefront façades that makes Hamilton Street recognizable as Allentown would remain while allowing the new development to happen in the bulk of the space. Please join APL in requesting that  the Zoning Hearing Board (Monday August 15 at 7pm in Council Chambers) require that the design of Tower 6 incorporate the existing buildings, and therefore preserves the unique character of Allentown.

As a side note, ANIZDA has a contract with a real estate planning and design firm based in Boston. Goody Clancy of Boston, MA, created the NIZ Master Plan titled “Downtown Allentown Development and Urban Design Plan” in 2014. The plan outlines prioritized action steps. One item, listed as a high priority initiative, states (L6., p. 104):

“Require NIZ projects to preserve/restore historic architectural features in the historic building overlay.”

Goody Clancy recently conducted a design review of the Tower 6 project on behalf of ANIZDA. Their report states:

“Historic buildings add important value to downtown Allentown, and their potential removal deserves careful consideration as to whether new development offers sufficient benefits to justify their removal ... we strongly recommend documenting and salvaging the façades to enable their reuse elsewhere in downtown Allentown.”

Why reuse them elsewhere? APL thinks the facades are great right where they are.


Architectural Salvages

Here are some other Architectural Savage businesses from around the greater Mid Atlantic region. Businesses posted on this list are not endorsed by the Allentown Preservation League but are provided as a resource for you. So, be sure to check their websites or call for business hours as this information changes from time to time.

Demolition and construction make up 25% of landfill contents. Thanks for helping reduce, reuse, and recycle!

  • Second Chance Inc 1700 Ridgely Street Baltimore, MD  21230 410-385-1101  
  • Oley Valley Architectural Antiques 2453 North Reading Road Denver, PA  17517 717-335-3585  
  • Artefact Architectural Antiques 790 Edison Road Furlong, PA  18925 215-794-8790  
  • Architectural Antiques Old Home Parts 3080 Bedminster Road (Rt. 113) Perkasie, PA  18944 215-795-2616  
  • Architectural Antiques Exchange  715 N. Second Street  Philadelphia, PA  19123 215-922-3669  
  • Provenance  Old Soul Architectural Salvage  912 Canal Street Philadelphia, PA  19123 215-925-2002   
  • ReStore
  1. 1053 Grape Street Allentown, PA 18052 610-776-7499
  2. 5370 Allentown Pike Temple, PA 19560 610-921-1315
  3. 3016 East Thompson Street Philadelphia, PA  19134 215-634-3474   
  • Found Matter 1320 N. Fifth Street (by appointment only) Philadelphia, PA  19122 215-701-3949  
  • Philadelphia Salvage Company 542 Carpenter Lane Philadelphia (West Mt. Airy), PA  19119 215-843-3074  
  • Recycle Shack 814 Second Ave. Royersford,  PA  19468 610-948-2939 email:  
  • Old Good Things 400 Gilligan Street Scranton  PA  18508 570-341-7668  
  • refindings 465 Prospect Street York, PA  17402 717-854-7152  
  • Emporium Design Concepts 24 North Hanover Street Carlisle, PA 17013 717-243-7500   
  • Salvage Goods, LLC. 24 South 3rd Street Easton, PA 18042 610-258-8176


New Hours!

Beginning in February 2019 the Allentown Preservation League Salvage Warehouse will no longer be open on Thursday evenings. Please come visit us on Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 2pm.

Stop in and shop around! Our inventory is constantly changing!


Welcome to our new Website!

Thank you so much for visiting our new website and taking an interest in what the Allentown Preservation League has to offer. We look forward to more news, events, and maybe even some educational classes in the near future. Check back here as well as our Events Calender for upcoming activities!


Volunteer's Corner

My wife Connie and I are the first-Saturday-of-the-month staff at the APL warehouse and have been for several years. It's a joy.

Visitors want to share details of what they hope to do in fixing up their property. Their words brim with pride in what they are explaining. And we are willing listeners. Sometimes in the course of conversation, they mention items sitting in their garage or cellar. Do you take donations? Yes.

For questions we can't answer, a call to one of the board members usually brings the anwer. But if none are available, we give their phone or email address to the customer. 

Some APL tooth-fairy type puts some of the new acquisitions on the internet (craigslist). That brings the customers. One such recently was an lavender bathroom set. A woman came in, looked at it, and promptly plunked down cash for the ticketed price. "My son will be back next week to pick it up," she said. Not an hour later, a man arrived wanting to buy the lavender bathroom set. We had to tell him he was too late by about an hour.

Who thought there'd be a run on lavender bathroom sets?

In summer, that same APL tooth fairy has the air conditioning unit running when we arrive.

For large or heavy pieces like doors, we open another set of warehouse doors with drive up access to haul purchases away. It provides a chance to explain how our building was built in the 1920's to provided sheltered parking for visitors to the nearby Hotel Traylor.

Maybe, because its's so much fun, APL should charge us to work there.

                                                                                                    -Dick Cowen