Allentown Art Museum president/CEO resigns

David Mickenberg, president and CEO of The Allentown Art Museum for nearly seven years has stepped down. (PHOTO/FILE) –

David Mickenberg, president and CEO of The Allentown Art Museum for nearly seven years, has resigned. The nonprofit museum’s board of directors hired Diane Scott, former superintendent of the Allentown School District, as interim executive director.

Mickenberg left to pursue other options, said Chris Potash, manager of marketing and public relations for the museum. He declined to provide further details.

Mickenberg has served as the president and CEO since October, 2013.
Although he could not confirm the salary for the position of the new president and CEO, Mickenberg’s salary was nearly $176,000.

The museum board will determine the salary of the new president and CEO, he said.

Potash said the search for the new person will start right away, with a candidate chosen within six months.

Scott is a past board member and helped the Allentown Symphony Association as the interim executive director on three occasions, said Michelle Stringer, chairperson of the museum’s board of directors, in a statement. Her service there makes her a knowledgeable and experienced leader to ensure the stable operation of the museum during the recruiting process and transition, Stringer said.

The board will conduct a national search for an executive director who can provide a balance of leadership, management, fundraising and other capabilities.





City Center and Lafayette College collaborate on real estate mentoring program

City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown and Lafayette’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted a ribbon cutting for The Real Estate Lab last week. The program teaches downtown Allentown residents about real estate investing. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED) –

A major downtown Allentown developer and Easton’s Lafayette College are collaborating on a program to mentor at-risk youth to invest in real estate and manage properties in their community.

On Jan. 30, City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown and Lafayette’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said they launched The Real Estate Lab, a program to teach downtown Allentown residents about real estate investing, with the goal of helping them become successful.

“We’re targeting at-risk youth,” said J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center. “We’re trying to get young people that live in these neighborhoods to get involved in entrepreneurship, people that want to get out of gangs and re-focus their lives.”

The two partners are interviewing candidates for the program and the lab plans to begin offering classes in February.

“We’re trying to identify those young people that are looking for opportunity and purpose in their lives,” Reilly said. “We thought this was a great way to share our expertise and train and mentor young people who live in these neighborhoods.”

The Lafayette College program came about because the director of its Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Yusuf Dahl, was an at-risk youth himself. After hearing his story and seeing how it aligned with the Dyer Center’s mission, Reilly noted how that fit with the goal of The Real Estate Lab.

In 2017, Dahl graduated with a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University, having studied urban development and housing, but before that he operated a network of drug houses as a teen in Milwaukee and had been sentenced to prison for more than a decade.

After serving time, he eventually became a real estate investor, a response to foreclosures in his neighborhood. It’s those types of success stories that the partners behind The Real Estate Lab are hoping to highlight.

To provide a place for the initiative, City Center renovated a space at Sixth and Linden streets in downtown Allentown, Reilly said.

The space will offer several free programs, including a 10-week First Time Investor program, a Real Estate Entrepreneurship Access program and an Investor Club. The participants will learn how to acquire, rehabilitate and manage properties and learn about the additional business opportunities in the industry.

Allentown Mayor: Business is booming

Allentown had 486 new businesses open in the city in 2019, an increase of 19% from 2018, according to Mayor Ray O’Connell.

Packed house for Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell’s annual State of the City Address on Jan. 31. – PHOTO/DAWN OUELLETTE NIXON

O’Connell made the announcement during his 2020 State of the City address, hosted on Jan. 31 by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The mayor spoke to a packed house at the East Side Youth Center on East Clair Street, where he said “Do I need this job? No. Do I want this job? You’re damned sure I want this job. I love Allentown…I bleed Allentown.”

During the roughly 20-minute speech, O’Connell highlighted several business development initiatives, including the increased promotion of affordable housing and medium density residential development.

O’Connell also stated that the city’s business privilege tax collection exceeded expectations by ten percent, and business privilege tax collection has increased by 20 percent in the past three years.

He also said that he expects the 2020 census to show an increase in Allentown’s population, “at a time when most cities are showing population decline.”



BSI Corporate Benefits to match donations to St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus

BSI Corporate Benefits will match donations made to the St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Sacred Heart hospital campus in downtown Allentown. BSI, a national employee benefits firm headquartered in Bethlehem, will match every Heart of the City campaign leadership gift of $1,000 or more up to $250,000. 

Heart of the City is a $3 million dollar fundraising campaign for facility improvements to the hospital, at 421 W. Chew St., as well as to implement new specialty services and behavioral health resources there.

Anthony DaRe, CEO of BSI Corporate Benefits, was inspired to help Allentown by supporting the hospital. “Supporting a high-quality, low-cost hospital system in the heart of our city changes the lives of Allentown residents and aims to lower company healthcare costs by eliminating the need to travel to Philadelphia or New York,” he said.

DaRe’s parents were Allentown Central Catholic High School sweethearts who instilled within him the importance of supporting the community they called home.

“I am deeply committed to St. Luke’s both professionally and personally,” said DaRe. “My family immigrated to the United States more than 100 years ago and settled in Allentown, and it has been our home ever since. My children were born at St. Luke’s, and years later, when my middle daughter experienced a significant medical emergency, St. Luke’s was there to care for her.”

DaRe founded BSI Corporate Benefits in Detroit in 2003, and moved the headquarters to the Lehigh Valley in 2010.

Allentown receiving $315K for recycling efforts

Allentown’s curbside recycling programs reach all 36,675 households. –

The City of Allentown is receiving a performance grant of more than $315,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the 18,125 tons of recycled residential and commercial waste in 2018.

The grant is based 100 percent on performance according to Ann Saurman, manager of the city’s Bureau of Recycling and Solid Waste.

“The residents of Allentown and our business community have been enthusiastic participants in the recycling program,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell in a press release.

Pennsylvania Act 101 mandates curbside recycling in municipalities with a population over 10,000 and offers grants to be applied toward recycling program sustainability and enhancements.

The city’s curbside recycling programs reach all 36,675 households. Approximately 500 businesses also participate in a once a week city curbside collection program.

Allentown offers curbside recycling of newspaper, cardboard, paperboard, magazines, catalogs, mail, phone books and all types of white and colored paper; plastic bottles, jars, tubs and containers marked with numbers #1 through #7; glass bottles and jars; aluminum cans, foil and pie plates; and steel cans, all of which count toward the performance grant.

The goals of Act 101 are to reduce Pennsylvania’s municipal waste generation; recycle at least 35 percent of waste generated; procure and use recycled and recyclable materials in state governmental agencies; and educate the public as to the benefits of recycling and waste reduction.

Medical building going up on Hanover Avenue

Workers welding the outer structure of the planned medical office building on Hanover Avenue in Allentown. –


Construction is underway on a planned medical office building on Hanover Avenue in Allentown across from the Allentown State Hospital.

The building is being constructed by Sage Design Build of Upper Macungie Township, for Pannenbier, a national developer of medical buildings that is based in Atlanta.

The 12,000-square-foot building is going up on a space that was formerly a used car lot and is in an area that hasn’t seen a great deal of development in recent years.

The shell of the building is expected to be complete by spring.

Other health care buildings developed by Pannenbier include Ohio General Hospital in Hillard, Ohio and UCHealth Broomfield Hospital in Broomfield, Colorado.

Details on the final tenant for the building have not yet been released.

NYC developer selects Serfass Construction for Allentown Grand Plaza project

Somera Road Inc. of New York City has selected a construction firm for the renovation of Allentown’s Grand Plaza on Hamilton Street, which includes renovating the outdoor plaza. (Submitted) –

Now that Somera Road Inc. of New York City has selected a construction firm for the renovation of Allentown’s Grand Plaza on Hamilton Street, the developer is eyeing a June completion.

Basel Bataineh, vice president of Somera Road said the company chose Serfass Construction, a local firm to perform the construction and renovation work for the project, which includes creating an eight-vendor food hall within the retail space and renovating the interior floors for Class-A office space.

The project got a “thumbs up” from the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority’s project review committee on Thursday, which is step one in the process, Bataineh said. That committee will make a recommendation to the full board, he added.

The next step is for Somera to submit additional application information to the ANIZDA board. In addition, Somera will borrow $17.5 million through ANIZDA to help fund the project.

Most of the money will go toward the renovation and interior fit-outs for office spaces tenants will lease and a smaller portion will go toward renovations to the existing plaza and lobby, he said.

“The objective is to finish before the Blues Brews and Barbecue Festival,” Bataineh said.

The outdoor festival, scheduled for June 13, attracts thousands to the downtown.

“The last thing we want is a large construction site during the festival,” Bataineh said. “We’d like to be completely finished before the date of the festival.”

Aside from Serfass, Somera is working with ESa, an architectural firm based in Nashville, and Hawkins Partners Inc., a landscape architect also based in Nashville.

“They’ve worked on really high profile landscape projects,” Bataineh said. “They are going to redesign the exterior plaza.”

The building has about 240,000 square feet available. The building was in foreclosure when Somera bought it last April.

“We’ve had a lot of leasing interest in the market, both from tenants in the area and tenants outside the area,” Bataineh said.

The company invests in and redevelops properties around the country that have either been abandoned or blighted and puts them back to active reuse, he said.

“We love to take a building that was once a symbol of hope that has fallen on some tough times over the past few years and breathe some life into it and add some jobs,” Bataineh said.

Built in 2002, the building, formerly known as PPL Plaza, is in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, a tax incentive that spurred more than $1 billion in construction and renovation in downtown Allentown.

Matthias Fenstermacher, vice president of Serfass Construction of North Whitehall Township, said the firm hopes to break ground and start construction in March.

“The current drawings call for demolition of the entire plaza and converting that back into green space, a flexible space,” Fenstermacher said.

The firm will also work on renovations to the entrance and interior fit-outs as they come up, he said.

Serfass will have about 20 to 30 employees working on the construction at any given time, he said.

In 2018, Serfass Construction completed another downtown Allentown project, 520 Lofts, a six-story building on Hamilton Street that included 68 upscale apartments.



Talen Energy completes $155M sale of pipeline

Allentown’s Talen Energy, which spun off from PPL Energy Supply in 2015, has completed the sale of its Interstate Energy Co. LLC pipeline to Adelphia Gateway LLC, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources Corp.

Talen said it received about $155 million, which was in addition to the $10 million it received when it announced the transaction in October 2017. The money is expected to be used for debt reduction.

“The sale of IEC marks the last in a series of planned sales of non-core assets that were announced shortly following Talen Energy’s take-private transaction in December, 2016. These sales allowed the company to monetize underutilized assets to generate incremental cash flow, and drive greater efficiencies,” said Ralph Alexander, chairman and CEO of Talen Energy.

The IEC pipeline is an 84-mile pipeline between Marcus Hook and Martins Creek in Pennsylvania.

As part of the agreement, Talen Energy subsidiaries signed contracts with Adelphia ensuring that the northern portion of the pipeline will continue to supply natural gas to Talen Energy’s Martins Creek and Lower Mount Bethel generating stations.

The southern 50-mile portion of the pipeline will be repurposed by Adelphia to send natural gas to the greater Philadelphia region.

Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba moves into downtown Allentown

The front desk at Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba’s new downtown Allentown office. (Photo submitted) –

The latest Lehigh Valley law firm has made the move to downtown Allentown.

Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba officially moved into its new 20,000-square-foot offices in Suite 800 on the eighth floor of Two City Center.

The firm had been headquartered in a former school house building off of route 309 in Center Valley, but it had outgrown the space, leading the firm to lease space in an adjacent building for its back office operations. Now, all 75 staffers are under one roof.

Partner Joseph Bubba said relocating the downtown is also helping the firm with its recruitment efforts, especially with younger professionals who are seeking a more urban environment.

“Our ranks of young attorneys and young staff members is growing exponentially,” Bubba said. “The downtown Allentown office gives them the opportunity to live in place, work in place and play in place.”

He said a good number of the law firm’s clients have also been relocating into the downtown and so the new office makes them more convenient.

He said, like many of the firms that have relocated to the downtown in recent years, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba was also eager to get involved in the urban revitalization going on there.

“We think Allentown is critical to the Lehigh Valley,” he said.

FLB will continue to maintain office space in Center Valley and Easton for the convenience of certain clients, but those will not be staffed full time.

Allentown gets $70,000 state grant to help pay comprehensive plan consultants

Aerial panorama of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Allentown will use a $70,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Grant to help pay consulting costs associated with its Allentown Vision 2030 Comprehensive and Economic Development Plan.

The grant will help pay for technical consultants from evolve environment + architecture, Fourth Economy and Faces International, which helped draft the plan. The city had budgeted $150,000 for the project, which included the matching grant.

The plan, which was approved by City Council last month, addresses housing, workforce development, economic opportunity, social equity, environment and conservation, community development, transportation, land use, historic preservation, open space, and a range of other issues.

The plan contains a set of “Catalytic Actions” that span all five urban systems (economic development, housing, accessibility and connectivity, services and amenities, and living systems), that will start within its first three years.

There will be a yearly Allentown Vision 2030 Report Card to track the progress and impact of the Allentown Vision 2030 Plan prepared by the Bureau of Planning & Zoning and presented to the community, City Council and mayor.

Gov. Wolf talks mental health care with visit to Lehigh Valley

Pennsylvania’s need for increased access to mental health care was the focus of Gov. Wolf’s visit to the Lehigh Valley on Jan. 3.  As part of a new mental health initiative called Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters, Wolf spoke with mental health advocates, providers, legislators, and others at a roundtable at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf – file photo

“It’s incredibly important to hear from the people on the front lines of mental wellness care,” Gov. Wolf said.

Those joining the governor for the round table included U.S. Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-Lehigh), Pennsylvania Representatives Mike Schlossberg (D-Allentown) and Pete Schweyer (D-Lehigh), Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Thomas Parker, superintendent of the Allentown School District and Mike Slack, CEO of KidsPeace, a pediatric behavioral health hospital based in Orefield.

“If my own experience about talking about my own depression and anxiety challenges have taught me anything, it’s that these conversations matter deeply,” said Schlossberg. “They can better inform government officials about what we need to do to reform our behavioral health care system. More importantly, they can shape public conversations about mental health. The public has to realize that emotional challenges are every bit of deserving of our compassion, care and investment as physical ones, and I applaud the governor for leading this effort.”

According to the state, additional roundtable discussions throughout Pennsylvania will be scheduled as part of the Reach Out PA initiative and announced in the coming weeks.

Steven & Lee, Stevens & Lee/Griffin name new chairman

Ernie Choquette

Ernie Choquette has been named chairman of Stevens & Lee and Stevens & Lee/Griffin.

The companies, which have offices in Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster and Reading among others in the Mid-Atlantic, said Choquette will succeed Joseph Harenza, who held the roles for more than two decades.

“This transition has been planned for some time and is part of our overall leadership succession strategy,” said Choquette.

As part of a multi-year succession and transition plan over the past two years seven new Stevens & Lee practice group leaders have been named, including Steven D. Buck, E. Thomas Henefer, Edward C. Renenger, Lisa M. Scidurlo, Stacey A. Scrivani, William P. Thornton, Jr., and Jay R. Wagner.

Matthew T. O’Leary was hired last year as CEO of Griffin Financial Group.

Steven M. Mauro, an experienced law firm administrative executive, has also been hired as COO.

Stevens & Lee/Griffin describes itself as a multidisciplinary professional services platform which consists of Stevens & Lee, a 180-lawyer, full-service law firm; Griffin Financial Group, a FINRA-licensed investment bank and SES ESOP Strategies, a national ESOP firm.