Sale of Land of Former Hospital Sparks Controversy

By Doug Shimell and David Chang
|  Monday, Jul 29, 2013  |  Updated 8:07 PM EDT
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NBC10's Doug Shimell reports that the state of Pennsylvania is getting ready to put the old Allentown state hospital on the market, but locals are worried about the economic impact it will have on the community.

NBC10 - Doug Shimell

NBC10's Doug Shimell reports that the state of Pennsylvania is getting ready to put the old Allentown state hospital on the market, but locals are worried about the economic impact it will have on the community.

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Allentown officials are hoping that the sale of a large chunk of land will provide a huge spark to the town’s economy. But not everyone is in support of their plan.

Allentown State Hospital was a psychiatric hospital that was located on 1600 Hanover Street. The hospital closed in 2010, putting 190 acres of land up for grabs. The city of Allentown received the preliminary “okay” from Governor Tom Corbett to get the land appraised and place it up for sale.

Both the city and the school district say the sale of the land could generate up to $3 million in tax revenue. They also see the land as an opportunity to create retail and commercial jobs on the city’s struggling east side.

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“It’s totally off the tax rolls right now,” said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. “It allows us to get all new revenue coming into the city. It’s a large developable chunk. So we’re really excited about the possibilities.”

Dennis Pearson of the East Allentown Rittersville Neighborhood Association fears however that neighbors will get lost in a dollar chase.

“I fear that the city of Allentown would like to make it a cash cow because of all the monetary problems that they do have,” he said.

Other Allentown residents are also wary of the plan.

“I’m worried about what they’re gonna build in the area,” said Meriam Estrella, who lives near the land. “I’m worried about the coming traffic.”

Lanny Vera, another Allentown resident, has a family friendly suggestion for the new development.

“If they do something else for the kids like a playground or something like that for them closer to the house, that would be great,” she said.

Mayor Pawlowski says town officials are open to feedback and ideas.

“It’s gonna go through a natural planning process,” he said. “It has to be rezoned so the neighbors’ input will have a lot of input into this process.”

Regardless of what the city decides to do with the land, Pearson says it’s crucial that Allentown residents are involved in the process.

“That’s what we’re asking the city,” Pearson said. “To include us right from the beginning. Not at the end. Not later. Right now.”

The Pennsylvania Department of General Services is in charge of putting the land on the market. According to a Department spokesperson, they expect to open the land for public bidding within the next two months.
 

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