What Should Go in the Hanover Hole?

The NIZ and the arena are probably going to prevail, so this thought experiment from Bernie is kind of pointless.

But if the Commonwealth Court for some reason decides to stick Allentown with the Hanover Hole, despite the obvious economic damage that would inflict on the city, what should get built there?

I’ll just link to this old post, arguing that high rise office buildings are the best possible use of that land. If the NIZ funding mechanism makes it through this intact, building tall buildings in the zone is the best possible way to milk this thing for all its worth.


  1. Jon:

    Again, and respectfully, your post makes it seem that Hanover and others are “anti-arena” or “anti-hockey”, or “anti-Allentown”, when I am betting it is less about that than the money grab. Also, I am betting that if the mayor and others wanted to demolish a central block and build a hog rendering plant, it would be no ones business, besides having a personal opinion. This is about how the decision to fund anything in Allentown with outlying tax dollars was met with intense scrutiny. That’s what responsible elected officials do. On the other side of the “what do responsible elected officials do” question, Pawlawsky, Browne et al are posted boys for how not to govern.

  2. Pawlowski Pit.

    Jeff, you know it’s not about the money. It’s about your client lying, cheating and stealing.

    Pawlowski dug it. It’s his fault.

    And by the way Junior, you’re right. The worst possible use for that property is the arena, it’ll be a boat anchor on the entire region for decades. Office buildings (and a much smaller NIZ, a ban on poaching, and restrictions on the amount of spec office space that can be built) were always the way to go.

  3. Jon- You are delusional if you think the NIZ/Allentown will prevail. The Atty General is giving this the ole treatment and barely making an effort to fight it. If they were fighting it for real, we would have seem other Preliminary Objections such as a demurrer/failure to state a claim.

    That said, the hockey arena will end up in the hole after the state legislature re-writes the law to make the scope of the NIZ smaller in both time and area.

  4. The rhetorical device of “lets divide costs over number of taxpayers” gambit is the surest sign of a weak argument.

    It fails on two levels. First, it mistakes the current value of the EIT for the future value (which, in theory, could be bigger), so who cares what it is now?

    More importantly, it isn’t the per capita cost that matters–it is the aggregate cost, and the opportunity cost that goes along with it. I’m sure I could take, say, the Afghan war and break it down to a very reasonable per day/per person cost and it would tell us absolutely nothing about whether doing that project is a good idea or even money well spent.

    If it is the small amount of money the proponents argue it is, then it should be quite easy to replace by a less legally controversial means. But since I haven’t seen even one plan for how much income is needed from EIT to make bond repayment projections, I doubt anyone has a clue.

    In general, since I haven’t seen any reference to a neutral, third-party study on what an arena will do for Allentown, its hard for me to believe this is good public policy anyway.

    • What the hell are you talking about–you can’t divide the cost out per capita and get a reasonable figure for the sake of debate? Of course you can, it’s all a matter of perspective. I grant you, if you are an internal bean-counter it doesn’t make much sense, but in a democracy, every person should have some understanding of their individual contribution and whether they consider that contribution worth the money they are being asked to spend. For instance, if I live in Bethlehem Township and hear like $3,000 a year, that’s kind of dramatic, because I think in terms of household in-and-out. But, when I learn that my individual contribution is $0.10, it becomes much more real to me and if they want to levy a millage increase to pay for it, that’s more than fine. Of course, its so small its a millage rounding error but whatever. Now, when I do the same thing for the Afghan war and come up with about $1,700 per U.S. citizen so that we can expand American Imperialism and kill a bunch of people without remorse because they are not “us” I start to wonder if I could have spent that money better myself.

    • I will respond quickly because you do make a point of saying per person per day. O.k., it is true that you could make a reporting period so insignificant temporally that it would skew the meaning of the statistic. Therefore, it would seem the statistical period should be commiserate with some length of human experience that can contextualize the amount spend. (Granted I think I just made a tautological statement). I am going to argue that a year-long reporting period seems appropriate because that way it is possible for me to gauge the cost of a single program in relation to the net amount of taxes I am paying within a single reporting period. This “feels” reasonable to me–which honestly is about the best you are going to be able to say. So, in our cases, the EIT lost is $0.10 per person and the Afghan war is about $170. Once again, even if I thought both programs were absolute horseshit (unprincipled neighborhood rejuvenation vs. death and imperialism), I still wouldn’t mind paying the $0.10 a year whereas I would mind paying the $170.

      The point is, as with almost all economic decisions, you have to ask how this loss of income is going to effect people at the margin. And to do that, they need a reasonable time horizon in which they can conceptualize their financial position. Year-to-year seems reasonable to me. But, hey if you want to look 30-years into the future, it is still only gonna cost me $3.00 if I am Bethlehem Township resident. So, whatever, I’d give up that snow cone.

  5. I wouldn’t argue that the per capita figure has no value, but I would argue that other numbers are far more relevant to the debate.

    1. The pro-arena folks of this blog openly argue that a successful arena project will pull business from the suburbs to the center city. I personally don’t think that is going to be the case in a meaningful way–but if I’m a township, you can’t just compute today’s cost–but you have to compute lost EIT from businesses that relocate to Allentown from the township and lost EIT from people in new businesses who work in Allentown but live in the township. So the .10 figure really doesn’t tell the whole story.

    2. I’m not making a value judgement on Afghanistan or any other policy choice. I’m just saying that people boil things down to a nice-sounding contribution without ever addressing if the idea itself has intrinsic value.

    3. Most people assume that the arena will be “good” for Allentown and the region. In the absence of any sort of evidence, I don’t accept that assumption. Still waiting for a third-party assessment that actually makes this claim.

    4. Still waiting for hard data on how much EIT the city is counting on to make bond payments. If I’m a township, maybe today the cost is $.10 per person, but the pro-arena folks on this blog would openly say that an arena that falls short of revenue projections would need to make a “justified” demand to surrounding communities to stand in solidarity or whatever. So maybe communities are sensibly trying to limit their future liability.

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