Housing, retail could be heading to old State Hospital site

The Allentown State Hospital before it was demolished. PHOTO/FILE – Christopher Holland

City Center is looking to move east, tackling what is considered to be the largest development opportunity in Allentown. 

Last week, Pa. State Sen. Pat Browne proposed a resolution that would allow for the sale of the more than 195-acre East Side Allentown property that formerly housed the Allentown State Hospital to the Allentown developer for $5.5 million. 

J.B. Reilly, president of City Center, told Lehigh Valley Business that if the sale is approved by the legislature his company would work with city planners to develop a project that creates various housing options, public green space and retail and would bring jobs and local tax revenue to the property that has been dormant since it was closed in 2010. 

“We are excited and honored to be considered as the developer of this vital site in the city,” said City Center President J.B. Reilly. “As the local company behind the redevelopment of downtown Allentown, City Center is uniquely qualified to responsibly redevelop this important site.” 

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the order to demolish the more than 100-year-old main building and other structures on the site back in 2019. The aim was to make the property more attractive to developers. 

The cost of the demolition was estimated to be around $15 million. 

There had been local protests against the demolition of the buildings from local historical preservationists. The main building gained a bit of fame in recent years after it was featured in the Bruce Willis Movie, “Glass.” 

Previous attempts to sell the property by competitive bid had failed. 

Sports & Social owner says Allentown’s impressive growth lured the restaurant downtown

Downtown Allentown’s newest dining and entertainment venue, Sports & Social, is now open at Seventh and Hamilton Streets. 

But earlier, Reed Cordish, principal and partner of venue’s parent company, The Cordish Companies, sat down to talk to Lehigh Valley Business about why the company chose Allentown for the newest location of the national brand.  

The Cordish Companies is a Baltimore.-based real estate development and entertainment operating company, which owns the Live! Dining & Entertainment brand nationwide. It boasts a number of casinos, restaurants and arenas around the globe. Its properties include Xfinity Live in Philadelphia and it has Sports & Social locations in major cities around the country. 

So why did Cordish choose Allentown for its newest Sports & Social? 

He said Allentown is becoming a bigger player than many local people may realize. 

“For people who live here it might not seem so special,” Cordish said. “But the amount of development at this City Center in the last seven or eight years has been very impressive. More people and more companies are looking to locate downtown.” 

He said he expects that growth in the City Center area to grow even more over the next seven years and said those people living and working downtown will need entertainment. 

“I think it’s also our job to be a destination that will make people want to travel to Downtown Allentown,” he said. 

Cordish said he became aware of the opportunity after being introduced to J.B. Reilly, president of Center City Investment Corp, who has developed the majority of new properties downtown, including the space that Sports & Social is now located.  

“He pitched us the idea that Allentown would be a good location for a Sports & Social. I really think it’s a good marriage,” he said. 

Reilly said he knew The Cordish Companies would be able to offer a venue that would help bolster the redevelopment downtown. 

“We built this critical mass of people living and working in the downtown. It’s the right time to support a world class sports facility like this,” Reilly said. ”When you look at Sports & Social you know you’re looking at the industry leader in this space.” 

He said he expects the sports bar, restaurant and entertainment venue to be a success, because The Cordish Companies have experience in bringing such properties to cities undergoing revitalization. 

“They have been part of urban revitalization. They were really vital in the redevelopment of Baltimore with Baltimore Live!,” he said. “They understand what it takes to be successful. 

Cordish, said that understanding includes the knowledge to not put all of a venue’s eggs in one basket. 

Sports & Social locations are often paired with or located near sports venues, such as the nearby PPL Center, but Cordish said the arena, while important in attracting the company to the city, wasn’t the only deciding factor. 

Besides offering a scratch-made menu of food ranging from cheesesteaks to tacos, and a full bar of craft drinks, Sports & Social aims to be the “go-to” place for watching sports as well as a place to “pre-game” for Phantoms hockey games at the arena. 

But it also will have entertainment, including live music, several times a week. There is an assortment of mostly retro video games, including skee ball, which are aimed at bolstering the social environment. 

The goal is to have a big enough variety of entertainment that the venue stands on its own. 

Besides regular dining, Cordish said the venue also promotes itself for social events including parties and corporate gatherings. 

He said the 10,000-square-foot venue is large enough that several events can go on at once. 

“It’s not just a place to watch a game or for people coming to a hockey game. We want it to be a great draw to the downtown when there’s nothing going on at the arena,” Cordish said. 



City Center makes $1M challenge grant to United Way

J.B. and Kathleen Reilly of City Center Investment Corporation will lead the 2020 United Way campaign for United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is kicking off its 2020 campaign with an extra boost. City Center Investment Corp., the company behind much of the development going on in downtown Allentown, pledged a $1 million matching gift through its Building Community initiative.

J.B. Reilly, president of City Center, and his wife Kathleen, are co-chairs of this year’s campaign.

“These are unprecedented times and we hope through your support of United Way, you’ll help us make an even greater impact with the City Center Match for Our Community,” Reilly said in a release.

City Center will provide a dollar-for-dollar match all new and increased gifts, up to $1 million, to United Way’s Community Building Fund or to support United Way’s work in the areas of education, food access, healthy aging and emergency services.

Building Community is the community-engagement initiative of City Center and its employees. The initiative aims to revitalize downtown Allentown and its surrounding neighborhoods by providing financial support, in-kind donations and volunteer service in three key areas: the arts, education and community development.

In 2019, CCIC donated more than $2.2 million total to 120 organizations and its 23 employees volunteered at nearly 45 organizations, donating more than 2,000 total hours.

Since CCIC launched Building Community three years ago, it has donated more than $9.8 million total, mainly to organizations in downtown Allentown.

J.B. and Kathleen Reilly to Co-Chair 2020 Campaign for United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley

J.B. and Kathleen Reilly of City Center Investment Corporation will lead the 2020 United Way campaign for United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


J.B. and Kathleen Reilly will co-chair the 2020 campaign for United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV), it was announced Thursday. J.B. Reilly is president of City Center Investment Corporation, a real estate development and management company located in Allentown.

The couple urged community members to step up as much as possible this year to provide support for those who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports indicate at least 40 percent of households in the Greater Lehigh Valley are facing serious financial instability and food insecurity due to the pandemic, according to UWGLV.

“We’re asking long-time and new supporters of United Way to dig deep and do the most they can do this year,” said Kathleen Reilly. “This really is the time to step up in the biggest way possible, so that we can get support into the communities that need it most.”

The campaign, which runs through March 31, 2021, will raise funds to meet community members’ basic needs such as housing through critical services in the areas of education, emergency services, food access and healthy aging.

“As long-time supporters of United Way, we’re honored to be co-chairs of this campaign,” said J.B. Reilly. “Given the extraordinary circumstances this year with the pandemic, our community needs are greater than ever, and we need United Way’s leadership more than ever. When you support United Way, you’re going to see that the community gets the biggest possible impact of your generosity.”

David Lewis, president of UWGLV, said the Reillys, who have been active with a wide array of regional community and charitable organizations for more than 25 years, are well-suited to lead this year’s important campaign.

“It will take months, maybe even years, for our families to recover from the pandemic, and I can’t think of anyone better to rally support than J.B. and Kathleen,” Lewis said. “They are truly devoted to building our community and providing those critical resources for our children, families and older adults.”

The Reillys have been recognized for their longstanding support of various local organizations, including the YMCA, The Baum School of Art, the Boys & Girls Club, Valley Youth House and Communities in Schools. The couple’s philanthropic support recently helped establish the Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital.

J.B. Reilly is a trustee of Lafayette College, a former trustee of DeSales University and a former board member and chair of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Kathleen serves as a trustee of DeSales University and The Baum School of Art. She is a former trustee of Moravian Academy and a former member of the Tocqueville Society’s Advisory Cabinet.

City Center Investment Corporation is credited with generating mixed-use development and community partnerships that have been instrumental to the revitalization of downtown Allentown.