The New York-based commercial real estate firm that bought the building formerly known as PPL Plaza said it is working to rebrand and reposition the mostly vacant building.
Somera Road Inc. has hired local leasing and marketing agencies to breathe new life into the LEED Gold-certified building, which was built in 2002 as one of Allentown’s earliest revitalization projects.
With an eye to appealing to a millennial, urban workforce, the firm has hired JLL vice president Matt Dorman and executive vice president Phil Shenkel to lease the property.
“We are embarking on an exciting, full-scale transformation for this building and it is critical to our strategy that we partner with experts who have local insight and expertise from a rebranding and marketing standpoint,” said Ian Ross, managing principal of Somera Road.
Dorman said his team, as well as the building’s owners and architects, will be working on a master plan for redeveloping what he called a valuable piece of downtown real estate. They even reached out for help from the building’s original architect, Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.
Dorman said they want to take their time in redesigning and leasing the 240,000 square feet of available space in the building.
“We want to do this thoughtful and not just sign the first tenants that come along,” he said. “We want this to be a center in Allentown.”
Somera Road has hired Altitude Marketing of Emmaus to help with the renaming and rebranding of the property.
The building at 835 Hamilton St. had fallen on hard times, due in large part to its exclusion from the downtown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone and the tax breaks that come with it.
A handful of tenants remain in the building, including some PPL offices, a deli, a BB&T bank branch and the Gold Credit Union.
Dorman said new tenants will have access to the benefits of the NIZ as well as a Class A office space.
PPL Corp. of Allentown has promoted Vincent Sorgi to president and COO. He will take on the new role as of July 1.
The company said Sorgi will lead execution of PPL’s long-term growth strategy and be responsible for the overall operational performance of PPL’s seven utilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Sorgi has served as PPL’s CFO since 2014 and has been in the utility industry for 25 years.
Sorgi will report to William Spence, who will continue to serve as PPL chair and CEO, positions Spence has held since 2012 in addition to serving as president since 2011.
Taking over the CFO role will be Joseph P. Bergstein Jr., who also has been named senior vice president.
Bergstein served as vice president for investor relations and corporate development and planning since 2018, and previously as treasurer.
He will be responsible for PPL’s accounting, treasury, financial planning, tax, risk management and investor relations functions.
Michael Hawkins, 37, is CEO of Netizen Corp. in Allentown. He founded the company in 2013.
Hawkins, a U.S. Army veteran, previously worked for federal agencies including the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, leading developers, testers and analysts in the engineering and security of health-related systems and applications across the nation.
He has a degree in computer science and business administration from the University of Maryland.
Outside of work he enjoys working with technology and cybersecurity, reading non-fiction novels, and creating and developing new software.
He also has a strong interest in aeronautics and astronautics. He participates in amateur rocketry.
LVB: What have been some of Netizen’s biggest challenges and opportunities? What are some of the perks of being a veteran-owned business?
Michael Hawkins: We’ve had great experiences with the Lehigh University SBDC/PTAC and LVEDC/AEDC organizations. Outside of that, it seems there is little real support in the area for businesses that aren’t developing apps or manufacturing products, for example. Companies that are predominantly service-based, though they are the chief engines of job creation in the country, are looked down upon even by state-funded venture organizations and incubators in the area whose primary mission is, ironically, to create more jobs. A lot of institutions in the area also don’t understand our primary market, the federal government, so it is hard to get places like banks to understand how we operate.
As far as opportunities, the biggest ones for us lie in our expansion into the commercial and defense sectors with products to help companies and federal agencies manage their cybersecurity risks more effectively.
One of the perks, if you will, of being a veteran-owned business, besides set-asides for government contracts, is the sense of camaraderie you get with other veteran-owned enterprises. We are a community that supports one another, generally, and like to see each other succeed. We understand the sacrifices each has made in their lives, and, as such, we give back to the community and fellow veterans as much as we possibly can.
LVB: What is your guiding philosophy as a business leader?
Hawkins: I have two – one is “give first” and the other is, simply, “proceed as if success is inevitable.” Give first, which I learned from a TechStars program called Patriot BootCamp I participated in life, promotes the free and open exchange of ideas, information, experience and advice with no expectation of anything in return. It has been one of our defining mantras at the company. The other philosophy, “proceed as if success is inevitable,” is one which has helped me through the lean times early in the company’s life – it is designed to motivate someone to push through the difficult parts of entrepreneurship, as too many people simply give up when the going gets tough.
LVB: What have been some of the most notable projects that you’ve completed on a local level?
Hawkins: We support a number of large customers in the region – ones that have been in business for decades or longer and are well known across the nation or world. We also support small and midsized companies across the area and beyond. Each project, in its own way, is “notable” to us. I will say, however, that supporting Lehigh Carbon Community College programs and scholarships has been one of the most rewarding and fruitful parts of our community outreach programs.
As any marketer will tell you, advances in digital technology are rapidly changing (and enhancing) the way marketing tactics are delivered, the insights at our disposal and the way consumers are exposed to a brand. But in today’s digitally evolving world, our marketing focus must shift from the traditional model, revert to a “back to basics” approach, and become more people-centric.
A decade ago, a marketer’s mantra was to deliver the right content at the right time to the right audience. The fundamentals of this still ring true, but how we execute needs to change. In the past, there was a very clear distinction between business-to-business (B2B) marketing and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. B2B marketing had the reputation of being stagnant, boring and stale, while B2C marketers got to have fun, take risks and be creative. But the old distinctions between B2C and B2B are dissolving, and a major factor that is contributing to this shift is social media.
What started as a way to organically engage with consumers and allow for a two-way conversation online, social media is taking a more prominent role in proactive marketing, no matter the business type or industry. B2B marketing was once tactical, transactional and informational; now it’s become more experiential and relationship-driven thanks, in part, to changing attitudes in a socially-driven digital world.
While developing content for your target audience will always be important in the B2B world, the way to approach content development could use an overhaul. Content should be rooted in thought leadership, educating prospective buyers rather than solely touting product features and benefits. B2B brands should engage users, speak to their emotions and interject some brand personality into the mix. This has value regardless of platform, but one way to do this has been the incorporation of video. Before the age of social media, video was all about product features, maximum production value and taking as long as necessary to get your message across. Today’s buyer — with a dwindling attention span and an expectation for the immediacy social media affords — simply has no time for this traditional approach.
According to Cisco’s annual Visual Network Index (VNI) forecast, video may comprise over 80 percent of all internet traffic by 2021, and research from Google indicates that 70 percent of B2B buyers are seeking videos as part of the buying journey. Product videos, demos and explainers are the most common types of videos created for B2B, but these formats can be turned on their heads by taking a more social approach. Live streams, for example, can be a way to answer questions in real time, demo a new product and give your audience a chance to meet the team of real people behind the brand.
With more millennials becoming part of the B2B purchase process, those companies looking to stand out should also explore platforms not normally associated with B2B. For instance, Instagram is becoming a channel rooted in authenticity and storytelling. Whether sharing customer stories or going “behind the scenes,” Instagram can serve many purposes in the context of a larger B2B strategy. It can also be a go-to for cultivating and sharing user-generated content (the social media version of “word of mouth” marketing).
The emergence of social media in the B2B space has also fostered the diversification of content formats (interactive, mobile-friendly, podcasts, vlogs, etc.). The internet has long been the primary destination to conduct research prior to making a buying decision, and social media has become a natural extension of this journey. It is important to prioritize the audience’s informational needs over sales/promotional message and incorporate interactive features into content. This is the 360-degree marketing with a fresh coat of paint.
With this newfound investment in content, you may be wondering how to go about evaluating its success. Luckily, emerging social media tactics and tracking capabilities are strengthening the connection between the content of a post or tweet and a sales lead. B2B organizations should explore ways to take advantage of tools like dynamic remarketing, custom audiences, and native lead forms to both personalize marketing efforts and precisely attribute social media to lead generation.
How your brand responds to the changing landscape of B2B versus B2C marketing will be critical to your success going forward. Companies must recognize and adapt to shifting trends in order to keep up and stay relevant. If planned properly and executed efficiently, social media has the power to strengthen thought leadership, deepen the customer relationship and maximize brand awareness.
Steve Groller is a social media manager at Klunk & Millan, a marketing communications firm in Allentown.
At least it seems that way: The rancor in Washington, the early snippiness over Campaign 2020, the firestorm about reproductive rights, the recent rise in gasoline prices. All seem to occupy a lot of newsprint and airtime these days.
The media’s rule of thumb used to be, “If it bleeds, it leads.” But now, with virtually everything bleeding, it may be time for another catchphrase.
Maybe: “If it churns bile, let it rest awhile.”
In other words, in the name of balance, it’s appropriate for media to rally around the good news in our homes, businesses, neighborhoods, cities and even nation.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has adopted this outlook in a Sunday section called “The UpSide.” It is four pages of positive stories that celebrate unity, collaboration and selflessness. Likewise, CBS Philly airs “Brotherly Love” segments, spotlighting heartwarming stories.
Here in the valley, public relations professionals are stepping up to provide upbeat content.
Samuel Kennedy, director of corporate communications for St. Luke’s University Health Network, says that keeping an eye out for uplifting stories has been “woven into our corporate culture. The people we work with know that they’ve got to be part of the ongoing process of distinguishing St. Luke’s, especially in this competitive market.”
According to Kennedy, St. Luke’s pitches these stories routinely and also posts them on its own blog, strengthening the messages through social media.
We here at Lehigh Mining & Navigation worked to highlight the positivity of another area health care provider – Lehigh Valley Health Network. Last year, we earned a PR industry award for telling the story of LVHN’s treatment of a young father whose prolonged illness rendered him unconscious during the delivery of his second child.
I encourage colleagues in public relations and corporate communications to search for uplifting content and promote it. I look forward to sharing these stories – and their goodwill – in future columns. It may help swing the pendulum of current sentiment against the doom and gloom that seem to be everywhere.
Dan Weckerly is director of public relations at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected]
Expecting a record year for lending and more growth, the Lancaster-based Community First Fund has been adding staff and restructuring its executive team.
The nonprofit economic development organization recently hired Michael Carper, the former CEO of the Housing Development Corp. MidAtlantic, to be its chief credit officer.
Community First Fund also contracted with a finance expert from Chicago to serve as CFO until it hires someone to the post full-time.
“We’re adding and growing dramatically,” said Dan Betancourt, the organization’s president and CEO.
Community First Fund provides financing for small businesses, affordable housing projects and nonprofit organizations located in low-income communities and serving disadvantaged groups, including Latino and African-American entrepreneurs.
And the need for services is rising.
The organization, which started out serving Lancaster, now covers 15 counties in Central Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley and suburban Philadelphia. Its staff has grown from 20 to 40 over the past five years and it is making more direct loans to businesses, with volume rising from about $10 million to $30 million in the past three years.
The nonprofit also has opened new loan offices in Allentown and Philadelphia where it would like to add more people to expand lending.
“We expect to go deeper into markets we are in,” Betancourt said.
But depth, he said, requires a bigger team. That starts at the executive level.
In addition to adding new execs, the nonprofit has made some internal promotions.
COO Joan Brodhead was recently named senior executive vice president and chief strategic initiatives officer, while senior vice president of lending James Buerger was elevated to executive vice president and chief lending officer.
Community First also has hired staff to work under each of the C-suite executives.
The growth comes at a time when Community First has been positioning itself as a go-to resource for investors and developers interested in the federal opportunity zone program, in which investors can get a tax break on capital gains by investing in projects in qualified distressed areas, dubbed opportunity zones.
The investments typically will flow through what are known as qualified opportunity funds. Community First has been working to develop such funds, which could work in combination with other state and federal incentives.
Among the most notable of those is the New Markets Tax Credit program, a federal tax credit program operated by the U.S. Treasury Department that helps support large urban redevelopment projects.
Community First did not get any credits this year but hopes its clients still can take advantage of the incentives.
“We plan to work with clients and try to help them find an allocation through another organization,” Betancourt said.
And it has snagged other kinds of funding. Community First recently received a $1.5 million federal grant from the Treasury’s Capital Magnet Fund, a grant program that helps finance low-income housing projects.
Betancourt said the plan is to use that grant as seed capital in the form of low-interest loans to support developers who receive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority in Harrisburg.
Community First, meanwhile, will kick in $4.5 million of its own funds, bumping the total to $6 million. Betancourt said he hopes to be able to help finance about 400 affordable housing units across the organization’s footprint.
Community First also has rolled out an online application for small businesses looking for loans. Betancourt said this will help the organization process applications more quickly and at a higher volume, hopefully steering some small businesses away from predatory online lenders that charge higher interest rates and fees.
Community First is looking to cut a 60-day application process down to about 30 to 45 days, Betancourt said.
“I think we will be able to work with more clients,” he said.
A CPA from New Tripoli has been named president of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Martin Levin, a managing partner at RLB Certified Public Accountants in Allentown, was elected Monday and will serve as president of the organization for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which started May 1.
Levin leads RLB’s audit and business valuation groups. He is also an adjunct business professor at Kutztown University.
Levin told Lehigh Valley Business that, as the institute’s president, he hopes as to address a number of important issues in the accounting industry, with technology at the top of the list.
“Things are changing rapidly technologically and it’s seriously changing our profession,” he said. “Things like artificial intelligence, bloc chain and robotics are all putting pressure on the CPA profession.”
As a result, he said, the industry needs to look at what kinds of skills will be required of people entering the field over the next 10 to 15 years.
“These people may need to be more technologically focused, not just financially,” he said.
He said he is also concerned about a trend nationally – but not in Pennsylvania – in which many states are trying to roll back professional licensure requirements.
Levin said licensing in some states may be overly burdensome, but he doesn’t see it as a problem in Pennsylvania and wants to proactively keep the issue out of the state.
He said rules for professionals such as doctors, attorneys and accountants are vital and he wants to protect the standards – although he would like to see reforms that make it easier for young people to become CPAs.
Levin said about 50 percent of current CPAs are expected to retire in the next 10 years, but fewer young people are choosing to become licensed CPAs.
They may be put off by the cost and time that are involved.
He said it takes about the equivalent of a five-year college degree and 400 hours of study to be able to take the licensing test. Also it costs $200 for each section of the four-section CPA test, with many needing to retake sections several times before passing.
“That can be expensive and it can discourage a lot of young people from taking the test,” he said.
He said he wants to see what can be done to lessen the time and cost burdens to bring more students to the profession and encourage more to become licensed CPAs.
A past president of PICPA’s Lehigh Valley Chapter, Levin is a member of the statewide CPA-PAC Committee and is on the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation board.
Other CPAs elected officers at the PICPA annual meeting in Philadelphia this week are: Jill E. Gilbert, an audit partner with RKL LLP in Lancaster, president-elect; Timothy J. Gooch, partner with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP in Wellsboro, vice president; Aaron R. Risden, CFO and treasurer of Vision Benefits of America in Carnegie, vice president; and Frances A. Aitken, senior vice president for finance and operations with Berks County Community Foundation in Reading, treasurer.
In her own words, Dr. Elizabeth Meade was not bred to be ambitious.
Growing up, she was a bright young woman who followed her love of language into academia. It was there, inside a world of classrooms, lectures and faculty meetings, that Meade was able to fully realize her unique leadership qualities.
Today, Meade is the 14th president of Cedar Crest College, a private liberal arts college for women in Allentown.
At a time when the value of higher education is being questioned, she is leading Cedar Crest and a generation of women into the future.
Lehigh Valley Business sat down with Meade to learn more, from the changing role of higher education, to the criticism of women in power, to redefining leadership.
LVB: Let’s start at the beginning. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up just outside of Boston in a town called Belmont. I always wanted to be a teacher. But I will say that when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, the only careers that I saw being open to women were teachers, nurses and secretaries.
I didn’t see women in any other careers, so those seemed to be my only options.
As I got older, I got interested in languages and my undergraduate major in German literature brought me into constant contact with philosophy. I liked thinking about big ideas. At that point I knew I would go into academia. I loved teaching and I loved writing.
LVB: Let’s talk about women’s colleges. Their numbers are dwindling, just 34 in 2018. Cedar Crest seems to be thriving. Why do you think that is?
One reason is that we diversified early on. We started a program for women returning to college in the 1960s, before it was on anyone else’s radar. That gave area women the opportunity to return to college years after graduating high school and gave us another population of students even when the traditional population of students was declining.
We also added graduate programs. It has kept us with diverse-enough revenue streams to not be threatened with going out of business.
LVB: How can a women’s college still be important/relevant in today’s world?
It is massively important. I think selling a women’s education is not nearly as hard now as it once was. Enrollment at women’s colleges and historically black colleges is increasing.
Sure, the world is co-ed, and we need to know how to exist in a co-ed world, but there is still a large disparity in the work world for women. The C-suite is very male dominated. Women are overrepresented in elementary school teaching and nursing, until you start getting up the ladder in management and then things are male dominated, even in traditionally “female careers.”
Women are underrepresented in the legislature at a shocking level. We don’t really live in a coed world. Women are still at an enormous competitive disadvantage.
A way we are going to achieve parity is with institutions like women’s colleges that prepare women to change the dynamic. I think that’s what we do.
LVB: Why do women choose to come to Cedar Crest instead of a coed institution?
Truthfully the number one reason why is for the high quality of our academic programs. We have some students who come despite the fact that we are a women’s college, but every single one is converted to understanding the enormous power of a women’s college.
We have had students who were marginalized in high school because they were intelligent.
It’s sad to me that even today women feel they are sort of forced to choose between being attractive and intelligent.
LVB: Some reports state that 50 percent of colleges could close within the next decade. In an age where you can google the answers to most anything, and there are so many ways to learn besides going to a college class, is a college education still valuable? And is a college education worth the cost?
Information is available everywhere. Learning isn’t. The internet is a fire hose of undifferentiated information. What colleges do is teach students to evaluate information. In our world we desperately need people who can evaluate information. That is education’s purpose, 100 percent. Its relevance hasn’t diminished but if anything is more critical. People face a steady stream of misinformation now.
Affordability is something we are all working on.
When it comes to college, what it costs to provide is more than what most people can afford. The same is true for health care and child care. How do we bridge the gap between need and what it costs to provide?
We are doing what we can. We have very generous financial aid. We have a program where if you have a certain grade point average, your tuition will be no more than the Penn State tuition. That can only do so much, however, and we are working on more solutions.
LVB: How is Cedar Crest staying relevant and forward thinking as a school of higher learning?
We started the valley’s only nurse anesthetist program, and it is a desperately needed program. There is a shortage of nurse anesthetists. We also have a doctor of nursing program, Programs like those help our younger undergraduate students see what they can move on to achieve.
We are in the very early stages of a crime science masters.
Watching enrollment is challenging. There are a declining number of kids coming out of high school today. There is negativity all throughout media and society questioning the value of higher education.
Yet what I do is so rewarding. You see how four years of time and education transforms these students, their confidence and their maturity. Hands down, commencement is the most rewarding time of year.
LVB: Some say that there is a growing generation gap today between older and younger people. As someone immersed in the academic world, do you see this? And what is the younger generation better at than we are? Conversely, what can they learn from us?
There is always a generation gap; it just feels worse when you are the older generation. Our parents thought our music was too loud, and that we wasted too much time watching TV.
A generation gap is a healthy thing in society and part of the next generation defining itself. I think young people today are amazing. They are increasingly driven to have a meaningful and purposeful life. They are less driven by material pursuits. They want to measure success in terms of their impact versus their bank balance.
One of the challenges of higher ed is to meet this new normal. Young people are good at multitasking, they are accustomed to having an answer to every question available at the blink of an eye. Higher ed has to move past thinking of themselves as content providers, because content is everywhere. Higher ed has to move to a place where students learn discernment, analysis and synthesis.
Younger generations can always learn from older generations. The thing I most deeply miss in this current generation is reading. They don’t read as much as earlier generations because there is just so much more to do now. There is a loss there. When you read a lot, you absorb the lessons of grammar and debate, and now we have to try and teach it laboriously after the fact.
If I could fix that, I would.
LVB: The U.S. still has not elected a female president. Why do you think that is?
I think it comes down to a lack of women in boardrooms and positions of power in the C-suite, in the legislature. We as a society do not accept easily women in positions of authority.
In 2008, when Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama were in their primary battle, I knew for a fact that Barack Obama would win, because I knew that sexism is much harder to get over than racism. People will accept a black man in a position of authority a lot easier than a woman.
As a culture, we treat women who hold power very badly. We are very harsh critics of them. It is a deeply systemic sexism. I think women’s colleges have an important role to dissolve that.
LVB: What advice do you have for women in today’s workforce, whether they are just starting out, are mid-career or are starting over?
I went into my professional career not having any particular ambitions to go into a leadership role. I was not bred to be ambitious.
One of the things I think a lot about these days is broadening our understanding of leadership. Women may have leadership characteristics in themselves that they may not conceive as authoritative.
Don’t allow your efforts to be marginalized or deemed less important.
I wasn’t deterred by the fact that society’s definition of leadership didn’t match who I was.
I’m here because I was able to successfully redefine what leadership meant for me.
As plans to demolish the Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in East Allentown get back on track, Allentown’s Democratic state Rep. Mike Schlossberg is saying it’s the right thing to do.
“We need to move forward with demolition,” he said.
State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Allentown) introduced legislation June 3 that would call for a competitive-bid sale of the nearly 200-acre property, but only after demolition of all structures on the property, except for a state-owned air monitoring station.
Original demolition plans were put on hold last month after an Allentown developer, Nat Hyman, filed a lawsuit against the project. He withdrew a preliminary injunction against the state after it agreed to put the demolition on hold and give him 30 days’ notice if it restarted demolition plans.
Schlossberg said part of the bill does address the issues brought forth in the lawsuit and is aimed at getting the demolition back on track and the property sold.
Hyman had relied on a local ordinance in his original lawsuit, but the legislation introduced by Browne directly states that it would supersede any local ordinances, taking the wind out of Hyman’s legal challenge.
The bill also would terminate negotiations with TCA Properties of Doylestown, which had been awarded a contract to purchase the property at a negotiated rate after the demolition was complete.
Schlossberg said since the state announced that it would be demolishing the property, a number of new parties have come forward and he expects there will be interest in buying the land once the buildings are gone.
He noted that prior to that notice the property had sat vacant with little to no interest for a long time.
“For nine years people would tour the property and say, ‘Nope. We can’t do this in a way that is economically responsible.’ It’s time to move on,” he said.
Hyman, who has redeveloped a number of properties in Allentown, has said he can successfully rehabilitate the vacant properties and he disagrees with those who say it can’t be done.
Hyman said he was unsure if there was anything he could or would do to continue his fight if Browne’s bill becomes law.
“I will be talking to my lawyer,” he said. “This is very disappointing.”
Besides Hyman’s interest there had been other public outcry over the demolition of the 107-year-old hospital on the property.
The property and its main building got a great deal of attention after the release earlier this year of the M. Night Shyamalan movie “Glass,” which was filmed on the property in 2017.
That shined a spotlight on some of the structure’s historic architecture, and a number of petitions were circulated in the Lehigh Valley calling for its preservation. Those petitions gathered several thousand signatures.
But Schlossberg said the important part of the proposed legislation was that it puts a guiding hand over the future of the property.
Under the legislation, a committee would be established to review bids. On the committee would be Browne and Schlossberg, the state secretary of General Services and a representative of the city of Allentown.
The committee would take bids, but consider them based on what is best for the community and not just the highest dollar bid.
Plans to demolish the Allentown State Hospital on Hanover Avenue in East Allentown appear back on track.
State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Allentown) has introduced legislation that would call for a competitive-bid sale of the nearly 200-acre property, but only after demolition of all structures on the property, except for a state-owned air monitoring station.
Original demolition plans were put on hold last month after an Allentown developer, Nat Hyman, filed a lawsuit against the project. He withdrew a preliminary injunction against the state after it agreed to put the demolition on hold and give him 30 days’ notice if it restarted demolition plans.
Hyman called the legislation “clearly directed at my lawsuit.”
He has repeatedly expressed interest in buying the property and redeveloping it with its historic buildings intact and called the latest legislation a setback for his efforts.
“The only thing I really wanted to do is have them not demolish it,” he said. “I don’t care who buys it.”
The bill also terminates negotiations with TCA Properties of Doylestown, which had been awarded a contract to purchase the property at a negotiated rate after the demolition was complete.
Hyman had relied on a local ordinance in his original lawsuit, but the legislation introduced by Browne directly states that it would supersede any local ordinances, taking the wind out of Hyman’s lawsuit.
Hyman said he was unsure if there was anything he could do to continue his fight if Browne’s bill becomes law.
“I will be talking to my lawyer,” he said. “This is very disappointing.”
In addition to Hyman’s interest in the property and his subsequent lawsuit, there had been some public outcry over the demolition of the 107-year-old hospital on the property.
The property and its main building got attention after the release earlier this year of the M. Night Shyamalan movie “Glass,” which was filmed on the property in 2017.
Under the legislation, a committee would be established to review bids. On the committee would be Browne and state Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Allentown), who has supported the property’s demolition. The other two members would be the state secretary of General Services and a representative of the city of Allentown.
The committee would take bids, but consider them based on what is best for the community.
One thing that won’t be locating at the former state hospital is a casino.
The legislation bars the property from being sold for gaming uses.
Efforts to reach Browne and Schlossberg were not immediately successful.
St. Luke’s has launched its newest fitness and sports center, one designed especially for athletes.
The 30,000 square-foot building is located on Union Boulevard in Allentown and is expected to open in September.
The objective of the $3 million to 4 million project is to offer an indoor facility for youth up through high school to improve their athletic skills, according to details released at a May 31 press conference at the St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center on Cetronia Road in Allentown.
“It will be different from our other four centers in that its primary focus will be on sports skill development and sports field training,” said John F. Graham, senior network administrator for fitness and sports performance at St. Luke’s University Health Network.
The building will include 18,000 square feet of turf-field space with goals for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and other sports, along with baseball and softball cages, in addition to a spectator area running the length of the fields.
“I’ve seen some schools in Allentown who have three teams going on one field at one time; that’s not right,” said Terry Bender, an investor in the project. “We as business people aren’t giving the youth what they deserve. We are stepping up to the plate with St. Luke’s to provide for the community.”
David Akers, former Hall of Fame kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles, is another investor in the project.
“Health care is a great opportunity for investment,” he said. “We all get older and get injured. Physical therapists, physicians, training, it will all be in-house and affordable. You don’t have to go to multiple places. It’s a community effort.”
“As an entrepreneur,” he continued, “when you find a need out there, you want to jump on it, and since St. Luke’s is already doing this and it’s growing so much, why not be a part of it.”
For Lehigh Valley corporations, the center will offer wellness programs with specialized training designed to improve employee health.
“It’s been shown statistically that the employee who exercises spends $1,500 less a year on health care costs than the employee who doesn’t,” said St. Luke’s Graham.
Tactical fitness training for first responders will also be available, in addition to traditional fitness components for the general public, including group classes and senior sports like bocce and paddle tennis.
The Allentown facility joins other St. Luke’s fitness centers in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Phillipsburg.
Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown has joined a coalition of activists in a lawsuit challenging a proposed federal rule that would allow doctors, nurses, emergency workers and other medical providers to deny treatment and services to patients if it conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.
The rule was issued earlier this month by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Health care facilities that do not comply with the rule, which goes into effect in July, risk losing federal funding.
The lawsuit was filed May 28 by Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights organization based in New York City, Americans United for Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
In addition to Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the following other entities have joined the suit; California’s Santa Clara County; Trust Women Seattle; Hartford GYN; Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles LGBT Center; Center on Halsted in Chicago; Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia; GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists; Medical Students for Choice and various physicians.
“This is an unconscionable rule that causes harm to all Americans,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. “It is making health care harder to access for all, not just the LGBT community. We must stand up to defend our community and our health care.”
Despite the growing opposition to the rule, Jeremy Samek, senior counsel with the Pennsylvania Family Council in Harrisburg, believes the rule will protect health care workers from being fired for refusing to participate in procedures they do not believe in.
“The purpose of the rule is not to deny medical care,” Samek said. “People cannot be forced to participate in abortions or elective sex-change surgery. That doesn’t equate to someone being denied needed care because they are transgender. There is no evidence that that is happening.”
The lawsuit, however, argues that the rule is unconstitutional because it advances specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violates patients’ rights to privacy, liberty and freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and contributes to the detriment of patients’ health and well-being.
The lawsuit also asserts that the Department of Health and Human Services violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in creating the rule by failing to consider the impact on patients.
“We hope to block this rule,” said Shanker. “It is unconstitutional to create a system where patients are prevented from seeking care. Not only is it bad for patients but it is bad for the facilities that want to provide care.”
“Discrimination in the delivery of health care can be a matter of life or death,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City, in a news release. “This new policy could threaten anyone seeking medical care in this country, but will fall particularly hard on women and LGBTQ patients.”
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