December 21, 2016 / Last Thursday, I attended the dedication of the new mural on the ArtsWalk at City Center and it really got me thinking about how unique our community is in Downtown Allentown. The ceremony had been moved into the lobby here at STRATA Flats due to inclement weather. By the start time, the lobby was filled with residents, downtown employees and diehard fans of downtown that were not going to let cold temperatures and some rain dampen the mood for this event. As we all looked out the big picture windows in the lounge area at the newly installed mural and the sculptures in the pocket park, the sense of neighborhood pride swelled in all of us. I mean, it was really palpable.
A true ArtsWalk
Part of what makes our neighborhood’s renaissance so authentic is that it is tapping into the local arts scene and inviting the regional arts community to check out downtown. The colorful new 67-feet-tall mural on the public parking deck was designed by Amber Art and Design of Philadelphia, whose proposal was selected for The ArtsWalk Mural Project, an initiative approved by the city’s Public Art Committee and made possible with the support of City Center Lehigh Valley, which provided $40,000 for the mural’s creation. It is all part of City Center’s efforts to make art more accessible to the general public and to enhance Downtown Allentown for residents and visitors. Other efforts include unique arts programming, such as the new Third Thursday events by Hamilton District Main Street Program, which have been wildly successful—and fun!
Allentown’s pedestrian-only ArtsWalk begins across from the PPL Center on Seventh Street, near the recently opened Queen City BBQ, and runs east past STRATA Flats apartments to Sixth Street, then alongside Miller Symphony Hall and through the Arts Park. It comes to an end at in front of the Allentown Art Museum on Fifth Street. There are also six gallery and studio spaces for local artists in City Center within a few minutes’ walk of STRATA, including Creativity Lab, MEZZ Gallery, Gallery 724, Roey’s Paintbox, Gallery on the Walk, and Ann Schlegel’s Studio 740.
While this list of venues is impressive, what is really remarkable is the atmosphere. The people that make up the backbone of this community are truly the “secret sauce” to the neighborhood. Welcoming and diverse, this cross-section of local residents, downtown employees and regular visitors want to share their neighborhood with you, which is a part of a city’s rebirth that you just can’t build with concrete and bricks. Downtown Allentown is where people are gravitating to connect and collaborate, befriend and belong. I love it!
Deck the Rails letting residents channel their inner artists
Here at STRATA, we are in the midst of our second annual Deck the Rails Contest. This is one of my favorite events, because it lets residents show their creativity to add holiday flair to the balconies of the building. By doing so, they also enter to win prizes. Here’s how it works:
- STRATA residents decorate their balconies for the holidays.
- Next, they upload pictures of their balconies to STRATA’s Facebook page using the hashtag #decktherails2016. The deadline for posting is January 1, 2017. (Don’t have Facebook? Email your photo to us and we will post it on our page for you!)
- The resident with the most likes will win 17 tickets to City Center’s suite in the PPL Center for a Phantoms Game!
If you have not done so yet, come down and check out the beautiful balconies here along the ArtsWalk and Seventh, Linden and Church streets after a meal at one of Downtown Allentown’s great restaurants, or after doing some pre- or post-holiday shopping at The Shops at City Center. You can also see them while you are here to cheer on the Phantoms at PPL Center. Or while you’re here to take in a show at Miller Symphony Hall or an exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum or Liberty Bell Museum. Or while you are here for any of the great arts and entertainment venues. Whatever the reason for your visit, know you’ll be joined by lots of us FODAs (Fans of Downtown Allentown), new and old, who are not just witnessing the area’s renaissance. We are an integral part of it.