Hidden in plain sight, the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh is on the rise. Many are familiar with Mt. Washington and its iconic inclines and spectacular vantage point of the city, however, its neighbor to the east is going through a renaissance that you will not want to miss.
Allentown stretches between Mt. Washington, starting at (and including) Grandview Park, and the Beltzhoover area, while sitting above the South Side. This area was originally predominately inhabited by German immigrants who would travel down to the South Side to work in the steel mills on an incline that is no longer there. During the urban renewal projects that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, the population in Allentown decreased and became impoverished.
Up until two years ago, the area had been excluded from the rebirth of the Steel City, but since then has been on the upswing. I sat with Siena Kane, the Allentown Business District Manager, to discuss the resurgence in the Allentown.
She told me that recently two non-profit organizations, the Hilltop Alliance and Allentown Community Development Corporation, have joined together and applied for federal funding. These monies are being used to get Allentown and other surrounding communities back on their feet and get traffic through the area. These grants help not only the business district, but also allows for residential initiatives, programs provided by the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, and other programs in conjunction with the Brashear Association.
Although the population of Allentown is only about 2500 people, there has been renewed interest in the area by artists, first time home buyers, small businesses, and the younger generations of Pittsburghers. Siena told me that the business district, which runs mainly along Warrington Ave starting at Beltzhoover Ave. and wraps around to Arlington Ave., has stayed intact throughout the years. With the programs and initiatives that the Hilltop Alliance have organized, there has been a surge of new businesses coming into the area.
One of these programs is their rent abatement program. A business owner or group will submit their business plan along with an application and other supporting documents to the Hilltop Alliance. If approved by the business district committee, the program pays half the rent of an available storefront, up to $400 per month for one year. For most small businesses, the first year can be the hardest and this program helps prevent owners from closing because of property cost issues.
Another program is “Open in Allentown”. This program is a series of social gatherings that allows people to experience Allentown and to features some of the open storefronts that are available. These events also help existing business get more clients and gets more foot traffic in the community. By getting people into the neighborhood, they can see that this is the new place to be and allows them to see that Allentown is part of our most livable city. This program is occurs quarterly and the most recent installment featured a makers market in what used to be a floral shop on the corner of Arlington and Warrington Avenues on Small Business Saturday.
Other programs in Allentown include Fresh Fridays on the Hilltop which provides fresh produce to families, Property Stabilization Program, and the Annual Hilltop Summit.
To learn more about Allentown, visit PGHHilltopAlliance.com, AllentownCDC.org, or better yet – GO VISIT!