- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - In the center of this city’s downtown is a Civil War monument complete with a sailor, artilleryman, infantryman and a cavalry soldier.

It is very similar to the one in Lancaster’s Penn Square, but larger.

That’s fitting for a city with twice the population and twice the land area as Lancaster.

And for a city that has experienced proportionally larger swings of fortune.

Unlike Lancaster, Allentown hasn’t seen an influx of young, hip residents. Nor has it seen older empty-nesters move in. Or the growth of arts and entertainment venues.

What Allentown is seeing are cranes and construction workers.

The Lehigh Valley city, about 70 miles from Lancaster, is moving to stop a decades-long downward spiral.

At Center Square, a recently completed office building overlooks Allentown’s Soldiers & Sailors Monument. It now is the headquarters of National Penn Bank.

A nearby building will house the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Across from the bank building, a new Marriott hotel is under construction.

The nucleus is another new structure, the PPL Center. The 8,500-seat hockey arena soon will be the home ice of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the minor league team of the Philadelphia Flyers.

That ice will be covered with seats for the first scheduled event, a concert by the rock band the Eagles on Sept. 12. Cher performs three days later.

And that’s just the beginning of the revitalization being fueled by Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

That program, passed by the state legislature in 2009, allows state tax revenue generated in the designated zone to be used for redevelopment.

The program provided Allentown with $50 million this year.

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