The effort to reuse the Allentown State Hospital took a critical step forward when more than 4000 people signed the petition started by the folks at Preserve Allentown State Hospital. But, demolition is still the official plan for the site. If you feel the same way that we do, this is not in the best interest of the community, the site, or the environment, please lend a hand! We are asking you to please write letters to the elected representatives making decisions about this large and important community asset.
From an economic perspective, reusing the most historic portions of the complex would create a unique commodity in the real estate market. Community character is a measurable qualitative component of economic development that yields increased property appeal. Across the country, people find rehabilitated historic buildings more enjoyable places to be and have fueled the industry of heritage tourism for more than 50 years. Like many historic properties, this complex is in a densely populated area; anything that happens with this property will have a catalytic effect for the Hanover Avenue corridor. This site was chosen for the first State Homeopathic Hospital because of its unique location, and convenient distance to the downtowns of both Allentown and Bethlehem. Renovating a building can be much more cost effective when compared to building a new property from scratch. Considering the new trade tariffs, renovation can help alleviate the costs of the steel and aluminum required to construct brand-new properties. As a certified historic structure, rehabilitation costs are eligible for both State and Federal Historic Tax Credits, a financing opportunity that would be lost if the buildings were demolished.
Regarding the environment, demolition of this property would be devastating. Demolition of an average building yields 155 lbs of garbage per square foot. The 35 buildings in the complex estimated total is 600,000 square feet, which do not include the utility tunnels that connect the complex. Demolition of Allentown State Hospital would produce roughly 93 million pounds of garbage. There is no green building technique, or “LEED” certification, that can compensate for that amount of lost materials. Additionally, asbestos and lead have been identified on the property, which is typical of buildings this age. Removing those materials may seem like a requirement for any reuse, but that is not the case. Asbestos, considered an airborne toxin, is very time consuming and expensive to remove because removal makes it airborne. Encapsulation has become the preferred remediation method in renovation projects because it is cheaper and safer. Lead remediation depends on the location and stability of the material. If it is somewhere it cannot harm anyone and inert (not deteriorating) it is also left in place.
The adaptive-reuse trend is growing for a reason: advantages outweigh drawbacks. We believe that devising a redevelopment plan that includes reuse would not only help save history, but the environment and some money as well.
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CITY, PA ZIP CODE
I am writing to express my disagreement with the planned demolition of the Allentown State Hospital. The building was built with public funding for public use, and I believe that the public should have a say in what happens to the site. The Pennsylvania Constitution states “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.” This right of the people is echo’d in the State History Code, stipulating that state agencies “Seek the advice of the [Pennsylvania Historical and Museum] Commission on possible alternatives to the demolition, alteration or transfer of property under their ownership or control that is on or may be eligible for the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places.”
It would be more responsible to conduct two studies, which can happen quickly and simultaneously. A feasibility study could identify which portions of the Allentown State Hospital are most historic, and which buildings can be removed to maximize the flexibility of the site. A Highest and Best Use analysis would identify the uses would be best for the historic buildings, the site, and the community at large. This second study would evaluate any uses for the site with four criteria; is the use physically possible, legally permissible, financially feasible, and maximally productive. Without this study any assessment of property value, with or without the buildings, cannot be accurate.
“It has been said that at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” –William Murtagh, first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places
Thank you for your consideration,
ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO CONTACT:
Governor Tom Wolfe
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Senator Pat Browne
702 Hamilton St #101
Allentown, PA 18101
Representative Mike Schlossberg
2030 West Tilghman St. Suite 100,
Allentown, PA 18104
Senator Lisa Boscola
1 E Broad St #120
Bethlehem, PA 18018
Representative Jeanne McNeill
1080 Schaet Ave.
Whitehall PA, 18052