The most successful regions in the US and World are built on collaboration, partnerships and a collective understanding that everyone is an owner. The Lehigh Valley is extremely successful, as evidenced by our development activity, city and borough revitalization and the continued desire of people and businesses to move to the region. Local leaders are advancing policy and investment around economic mobility, technology, housing attainability, rethinking infrastructure systems, climate change, resiliency, workforce training and education. The entire region is diligently preparing for the future.
The LVPC has been dedicated to that effort since 1961, and we’re committed to fostering the kind of partnership and collaboration needed for us to build the best possible future. Our optimism for that future comes from our experiences of a past in which the Lehigh Valley had always overcome any challenges that arose, while taking advantage of the opportunities presented.
We operate on the belief that the future is now. We must be leaders. We can create the future Lehigh Valley we want and need together.
what is the
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) addresses current and ongoing regional planning issues while fostering cooperation between governments, private sector and non-profit organizations and the general public. As the bi-county planning agency for Lehigh and Northampton counties, the LVPC works closely with a variety of groups, including the 62 municipal governments, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and environmental protection agencies, the federal government and regional transportation providers, municipal and non-profit housing agencies, county conservation districts and other state, county and federal agencies.
We also partner with the public, non-profit and for-profit organizations and the educational institutions in community and economic development, environmental protection, infrastructure, hazard mitigation and land use.
Managing a growing municipal technical assistance program, the LVPC is regularly in the region’s municipalities, providing information and guidance in addition to responding to daily inquiries on relevant planning topics, such as design of logistics facilities and zoning for tiny houses. Core planning activities include: subdivision, land development, stormwater and transportation plan review and municipal ordinance, comprehensive and specific plan reviews. The LVPC staff also manages FutureLV: The Regional Plan, the seminal development and conservation strategy for the region.
what is the
The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) is a federally mandated, designated and funded Metropolitan Planning Organization focusing on transportation management and investment in the region. The LVTS’s role was formalized in 1964 on the heels of the first regional comprehensive plan, which laid out Interstate 78, Route 33 and other key local and regional transportation corridors. Recognizing the complexities of transportation planning and investment, the work of the LVTS integrates road, bridge, transit, rail and air assets, as well as walking, biking and rolling into a comprehensive and managed system that supports all aspects of the regional economy and society.
The LVTS allocates federal and other transportation funding resources that reflect the region’s shared vision for the future. Adequate transportation planning requires a comprehensive examination of the region’s future and investment alternatives. As a Metropolitan Planning Organization, the LVTS acts as a Council of Governments, in that it facilitates collaboration of governments, interested parties, and residents in the planning transportation process. In other words, the US government requires that federal transportation funds be allocated in a manner that has a basis in metropolitan plans developed through intergovernmental collaboration, rational analysis, and consensus-based decision-making.
The LVTS has planned more than $2.48 billion in transportation investments over the next 25 years through FutureLV: The Regional Plan. The LVPC Team staffs the LVTS, playing an active role in monitoring, planning and managing programs for safety, maintenance, development, hazard mitigation and resiliency, as well as freight and technological advancement, supporting mobility for all people in the Lehigh Valley now and long into the future.
travel farther by standing on the shoulders of the past
a growing region
population in 1960
population in 1970
population in 1980
population in 1990
population in 2000
population in 2010
population in 2019, a 57% increase in
In the six decades since the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Transportation Study were formed, this bi-county region has become arguably one of Pennsylvania’s most successful areas, built on a foundation of three principals: Managed Growth, Resiliency and Quality of Life.
Once a part of Bucks County, the Valley annexed itself in 1730, and by 1812, the two counties were formed. Always an area of cultural growth, it became home to immigrants of German, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Swiss and French descent - a diversity reflected in the development of its three cities. Bethlehem would become a hub for trade and industry, Easton would be a political and economic capitol and Allentown would be a place of refuge and strength during times of war. Inland from major commercial centers, the area was known for more than just its bustling cities; by 1830 agriculture ruled the region. Yet with its natural resources, strong economy and opportunity to start anew, the area soon found itself growing at an exponential rate.
By the LVPC’s formation in 1961, the 25,197 people who populated the region in 1830 had grown to more than 428,000 living in the 726-square miles that make up Lehigh and Northampton counties. That growth helped build economic powerhouses like the Crane Iron Company in Catasauqua, Mack Trucks in Allentown and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. And as its manufacturing economy evolved, so too did its population. The Lehigh Valley’s population of Hispanics and Blacks grew in the 1970s as the region’s population increased to over 450,000 people. Yet with all its growth, the 1970s and 1980s were a difficult time for the Valley. High inflation, foreign competition, an energy crisis and growing unemployment adversely affected industries and people employed in the area.
Yet, the region still grew quickly, as thousands of new homes were approved in the 1980s to accommodate the thousands of people moving from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia in search of more land, a bigger house and a higher quality of life. Even as housing and industry expanded, the Lehigh Valley’s farming economy remained strong, occupying 65% of the Valley’s land, with agricultural activities remaining a key part of the economy. In addition to its value, the presence of farmland near urban places helped to create an attractive, uncongested environment that accelerated the migration of people into the region.
By the 1980s, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Routes 33, 22 and Interstate 78 were established corridors that supported commuting between adjacent regions and solidifying the Lehigh Valley’s place in the northeast megalopolis.
Consistently, areas like the Appalachian Trail, Bake Oven Knob and Delaware Water Gap were top recreational attractions in a region that has more than 1,000 miles of waterways and 123 natural heritage areas. As the region developed, Lehigh and Northampton counties began taking steps to preserve these lands.
By 1989, AT&T, Air Products and Mack Trucks helped grow the employment market, population pushed past 500,000 people and 7,274 acres of the region’s agriculture and vacant land was converted to residential use over a six-year period.
Still a region of growth in the 1990s, the area hit a population of more than 550,000, and residential development soon became the top land use in the region. However, the 1990s continued the downturn of the area’s top economic driver, Bethlehem Steel. By 1995 the plant closed, marking the first time in over 120 years that steel was not being made in the Valley. Yet, just like in the 1970s and 1980s, the region showed its resiliency. Pivoting with the times, an area once dominated by manufacturing jobs soon welcomed a new era of economic development, healthcare, retail and education.
By the early 2000s and 2010s, healthcare was the leading employment industry in the area, as transportation and warehousing grew with online shopping and overnight delivery. Companies like Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Olympus and B. Braun Medical soon helped diversify the region’s growing economy, as global companies like Amazon, Walmart and FedEx Ground moved into the region’s expanding logistics industry.
As the region’s economy has diversified, so has its people. A population that was 99% White in 1961, now includes 18.7% of people who identify as Hispanic, 6% who are Black and 3% who are Asian. With a population today of 674,000, the growth of nearly a quarter-million people over the past 60 years represents the equivalent of adding nearly the populations of Allentown, Bethlehem and two Eastons combined.
Today, in the 2020s, the new Lehigh Valley is accented by its history and character. Now, one of the nation’s fastest-growing corridors for the increasing amount of goods ordered online for two-day delivery, the region works to balance its prominent place in the new global economy, against the natural lands, open space and agricultural conservation that helps define its identity. Managing that balance will be the single-greatest challenge for the 62 municipalities who make up Lehigh and Northampton counties.
As the Lehigh Valley navigates the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as a global Pandemic, it will do what it always does – adapt, evolve and remain one of the nation’s best places to live, work and play.
Managing the balance between the Lehigh Valley's role in the new global economy with natural land, open space and agricultural preservation will be the single-greatest land use challenge for the 62 municipalities over the next decade.
The Joint Planning Commission was formed in 1961; Lehigh Valley Transportation Study formed in 1964
JPC recommendation results in LANTA being formed in 1972
ushered in housing boom, with nearly 5,000 homes approved in 1989 alone
stormwater management plans developed for 12 of 15 region watersheds
second housing boom with 27,000 homes approved before the Great Recession in 2007
LVPC launches its social media platforms, rebrands the LVPC and overhauls its website
The concept seems so simple now, but the idea that planning would be more effective if we did it as a single region, rather than two separate counties, was actually rather innovative in 1961. That concept would soon yield Pennsylvania’s first metropolitan area plan and helped guide one of the state’s most consistently growing regions through seminal changes that have included Route 22 becoming one of the state’s busiest roads, two housing booms that reshaped the region and, most recently, the Lehigh Valley’s place as one of the nation’s most important freight corridors.
As the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission celebrates its 60th anniversary, a look back over time reveals an extraordinary history of planning accomplishments, strengthened by regional and local collaboration and public engagement. Since its formation, the LVPC’s primary focus has been promoting the health, safety and general welfare of the region’s residents through its planning efforts and establishing relationships with local communities and stakeholders.
created Pennsylvania's first regional comprehensive plan
first regional public opinion survey on growth and development is done
second regional plan completed
began Route 33 extension planning study
This regional effort didn’t happen all at once. In January 1961, Lehigh and Northampton counties established individual county planning commissions, consisting of nine members each, for the purpose of preparing their county comprehensive plans. As each commission began to develop a planning program, the counties recognized that it would be ineffective to plan independently, leading to the formation of the Joint Planning Commission (JPC) of Lehigh and Northampton Counties in the summer of 1961. It wasn’t until 1967, when organizational changes were required by federal mandate, that the two county planning commissions were dissolved and the JPC became the sole regional planning agency. To ensure representation across all of the region’s municipalities, membership increased to 29 members, which included municipal elected officials and county representatives, before it was later expanded to 37, with the addition of citizen representatives.
During the 1960s, the main objective of the JPC was to prepare a regional comprehensive plan for the growth and development of the area. Adopted in 1964, this was the first metropolitan area plan to be adopted in Pennsylvania. During this time, the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) was also formed to maintain a transportation planning process necessary for the region to be eligible for federal transportation funding. That was followed by the adoption of the region’s first long-range transportation plan.
the 32-mile section of I-78 through the Lehigh Valley opens
developed guidelines for region's first traffic impact studies
third regional plan completed
developed geographic information system (GIS) program
In the spirit of collaboration, the JPC began to provide planning assistance for local municipal planning projects, an effort that remains central to the Commission today.
Recognizing the interrelationships between land development planning and social conditions, the JPC became active in social planning during the 1970s and established working relationships with major social planning agencies, such as the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley. Significant projects completed during this decade included numerous housing studies, and regional storm drainage, solid waste management and recreation and open space plans.
Even as the 1980s ushered in a housing boom that saw nearly 5,000 homes approved in 1989 alone, expanding regional efforts included the development of stormwater management plans through the 1990s for 12 of the region’s 15 watersheds, with the remaining three developed later.
In 1994, the Local Government Academy - now renamed the Lehigh Valley Government Academy - was created to promote intergovernmental cooperation and educational opportunities for municipal officials. Then in 1997, to further emphasize a united region, the Joint Planning Commission changed its name to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC).
completed Route 22 Tomorrow corridor planning study
fourth regional plan completed
completed state's first regional hazard mitigation plan
Return On Environment report completed
Major accomplishments in planning continued in the 2000s, including working with the counties to create Pennsylvania’s first regional hazard mitigation plan, collaborating with municipalities on multi-municipal comprehensive plans, and preparing a series of model regulations focused on providing communities with best practices on environmental, housing and land preservation issues.
That happened all while guiding a second housing boom in which more than 27,000 new homes were approved by the time the Great Recession began at the close of 2007.
In the decade beginning in 2010, the LVPC’s engagement with the community accelerated as the organization launched its social media platforms, rebranded the LVPC and overhauled its website, all during 2013. In 2014, the region’s first climate change goals and policies were established in the LVPC’s Climate + Energy Element. It marked a progressive decade that included developing the groundbreaking regional sustainable communities plan 1LV, crafting a $2.5 billion Long-Range Transportation Plan, measuring the real dollar value of our environment with the region’s first-ever Return on Environment report, developing the first regional freight plan, creating the first WalkLV: Sidewalk Inventory and beginning an annual celebration of municipal planning with the creation of the Lehigh Valley Gala + Awards.
The decade closed with the adoption of FutureLV: The Regional Plan, one of the nation’s first plans linking land use planning policy with transportation funding, creating a blueprint that guides the Lehigh Valley to 2045 and beyond.
Now, the LVPC and LVTS look toward a future in which the region makes the most of its many assets to create a Lehigh Valley where everyone has access to health, opportunity and a livable neighborhood.
MoveLV, first regional freight plan developed
Livable Landscapes plans developed for Lehigh + Northampton counties
Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan adopted
leadership that is knowing, going and showing the way
Greg Zebrowski, Chair
Steven L. Glickman, RA, CSI, Vice Chair
Pamela Pearson, MBA, Treasurer
Phillips Armstrong, Executive
Geoff Brace, County Commissioner
Percy H. Dougherty, PhD, County Commissioner
Bob Elbich, County Commissioner
Michael Harakal Jr.
Kent H. Herman, Esq.
Leonard Lightner (alt.)
Richard Molchany (alt.)
Christina V. Morgan
Lamont G. McClure, Jr., Executive
Kevin Lott, County Council
William McGee, County Council
Dr. Christopher R. Amato
Charles W. Elliott, Esq.
Darlene Heller, AICP (alt.)
Carl Manges (alt.)
Salvatore J. Panto, Jr.
Tina Smith (alt.)
Brendan Cotter, Chair
Jim Mosca, Vice Chair
Becky A. Bradley, AICP, Secretary
Leonard Lightner (alt.)
Darlene Heller (alt.)
Salvatore J. Panto Jr.
David Hopkins (alt.)
Christopher J. Kufro, PE, Chair
Brian Hare, PE, Vice Chair
Becky A. Bradley, AICP, Secretary
Craig Messinger (alt.)
Michael Alkhal (alt.)
Salvatore J. Panto, Jr.
David Hopkins (alt.)
Richard Molchany (alt.)
Lamont G. McClure, Jr.
Michael Emili, PE (alt.)
Becky A. Bradley, AICP
Director of Administration
Tracy L. Oscavich
Director of Development
Geoffrey A. Reese, PE
Director of Environmental Planning
Michael Hanes, LEED AP
Associate Director of Transportation
Planning and Data
Chief Community Planner
Senior Environmental Planner
Susan L. Rockwell
Senior Environmental Planner
Jill Seitz, LEED AP
Senior Community Planner
Graphic Designer/Publication Coordinator
Senior Planning Technician
Executive Administrative Assistant
the work you produce today will create your future
the regional plan
FUTURE LEHIGH VALLEY
It is the product of more than 240 public meetings, events and strategy labs attended by nearly 10,000 people from every corner of the Lehigh Valley. It is FutureLV: The Regional Plan, and it is a blueprint to guide the Lehigh Valley to 2045 and beyond.
The plan is designed to manage a region that’s growing by more than 3,000 people a year, while protecting the farmland, natural resources and recreation areas that define its character and help maintain a high quality of life.
FutureLV marks the first time in Lehigh Valley history that the comprehensive plan of Lehigh and Northampton counties and federally required Long-Range Transportation Plan are merged into a single plan for the future, so that land use planning can be balanced with the region’s $2.5 billion transportation investment program.
FutureLV was developed in partnership with the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, Northampton County Council, Lehigh County Commissioners, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, US Department of Transportation,
62 municipalities, 39 sewer and water authorities, 17 school districts, and more than 200 businesses. This collaboration is critical to meeting needs, harmonizing interests and working through challenges now and over the next 25 years. With the world changing rapidly, this plan will be updated every four years.
With FutureLV goals, policies and actions as the foundation the public, private and non-profit sectors are rethinking the Lehigh Valley as emerging and evolving.
active transportation plan
A seamless transportation network where roads, trails, sidewalks and technology connects everyone to every place – even if they don’t have a car. That’s the mission of Walk/RollLV, the region’s first-ever active transportation masterplan.
Walk/RollLV is designed to create a transportation system that welcomes pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities. Its mission is to create safer intersections, walkable neighborhoods and a network that promotes healthy living, while encouraging people to get out of their cars and connect to transit, sidewalks, trails and bikepaths.
Completed in 2020, the plan was more than a year in the making by the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, consultants Toole Design Group and Traffic Planning and Design, dozens of community partners and a community-based working group in which more than 250 people participated.
Over the next 25 years, $2.5 billion will be spent to repair, improve and expand the Lehigh Valley’s road, bridge, bicycle, pedestrian and transit system, and the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study will play a key role in deciding how the money is spent.
FutureLV: The Regional Plan outlines how transportation dollars will be spent, with investments reaching into every corner of the region, from a Route 22 that sees over 115,000 motorists a day to the smallest bridges in our rural townships.
The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) approved a nearly $452 million, short-term Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to implement the first four years of FutureLV in July. The funding, provided by the US Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT), maintains the Lehigh Valley’s transportation system with a high priority on increasing safety, preventing congestion, efficiently allocating limited resources and promoting the growth of a diverse, multimodal network.
In addition, the LVTS is required to create an annual list of TIP projects in which funding was obligated towards implementation. Across the region, 49 projects were obligated in 2020 in the amount of $87,010,624. Obligations are a measure of the progress being made towards the completion or sustainability of transportation projects within the TIP.
transportation improvement program
adapt to a continuously changing world
Where you live in the Lehigh Valley has a big impact on your access to the American Dream. The LVPC’s Equity Analysis, created in 2018 and updated in 2020, was the first of its kind for this region, and one of the first in the nation to provide a statistical look at who has access—and who does not—to housing, education, transportation and employment.
The analysis, derived from 14 key data sets taken from every Census tract, paints a picture of a region with lots of positive aspects – and lots of work to be done – to ensure that every person has a fair shot at reaching their goals. In 2020, the data was transformed into an online interactive analysis tool, allowing anyone to customize searches and compare data on access to opportunity. The Equity Tool now serves as the foundation of all LVPC/LVTS work and allows for tracking our progress.
The LVPC’s equity work included analyzing the survey results from thousands of Allentown School District (ASD) families to locate students without computers or internet access, giving the School District and its business and non-profit partners the information they needed to ensure computers, tablets and internet connectivity for the District’s 17,000 students. We partnered with ASD by using Geographic Information System mapping and data analysis to identify 7,200 students that didn’t have internet access, to help bridge the digital divide so students could continue school remotely. The partnership not only addressed the short-term problem of getting students back to school during the Pandemic, but gave them the tools they’ll need to become the future leaders of Allentown, the region and beyond. This immediate need project continues an LVPC/LVTS commitment to equitable and expanded access to the internet that began in 2018. Connectivity is at the heart of a prepared region, and a continued focus on broadband and cellular expansion across the Lehigh Valley will remain a central focus of the LVPC/LVTS work program.
Our equity work has now expanded to developing United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley age-friendly projects designed to help communities adapt to changing needs of our aging population and to enhance the United Way’s 211 line, that’s become so vital for families in need by connecting them to the social service programs that can best help them. The United Way is also working with the LVPC to improve food access across the region. At the request of Northampton County, the LVPC worked with the United Way to use its GIS analysis capabilities to map out where people can find food pantries in the region. The effort is supporting the rising need to provide food and supplies to the region’s low-income.
An Age-Friendly Communities Plan is being developed as part of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s membership in the World Health Organization/AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities. The plan acknowledges diversity, fights ageism and ensures that all 251,244 residents age 50 and over have the opportunity to fully participate in their communities. To support the United Way’s effort, and implement FutureLV: The Regional Plan, the LVPC is conducting an analysis of access to outdoor recreation, LANTA service and other factors important for the aging population’s quality of life.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic left much of our municipal partners looking for answers, the LVPC opened our virtual doors to community conversation to find them. By year’s end, our most used webpage was one that didn’t exist before March, and our most attended public meetings were the ones that weren’t on the schedule until after the Pandemic made them necessary.
The LVPC’s COVID-19 health page was updated daily to not only track new infections and deaths, but how the Pandemic was affecting everything from traffic to the economy to air quality.
Our Pandemic webinar series in April, May and June provided a forum for legal experts to help municipalities navigate new Pandemic regulations, sort out the future of post-pandemic transportation issues and provide a picture of how the Pandemic could change housing and land development.
As the COVID-19 Pandemic extended into 2021, the series continued with a webinar/podcast of experts discussing how the region can navigate the vaccine roll out.
COVID-19 Pandemic response
Pennsylvania climate assessments predict that rainfall events will become more extreme over the next century. Hurricane Isaias passed through the Lehigh Valley on August 4, 2020, delivering nearly five inches of rain measured at the LVIA Airport, the sixth-highest daily rainfall amount since 1922. Higher amounts of as much as ten inches of rain were measured in various parts of the Valley.
Northern Lehigh County appeared to be especially hard hit as the Jordan Creek crested with the highest runoff recorded in 75 years and bridge and road infrastructure were damaged.
The LVPC collected data and analyzed the rainfall event to better understand the impact of such events on our streams and rivers.
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
real innovation happens in context
annual development summary
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
Development is a central issue in the Lehigh Valley, and the LVPC is uniquely positioned to track what it is, where it’s happening and what might be coming in the future.
Since 2015, the LVPC has done nearly 3,500 land development, subdivision and stormwater plan reviews alone on behalf of Northampton and Lehigh counties. The plan review expertise of the LVPC is vital in managing growth and preserving natural areas and farmland. These reviews help us make sure development follows the law and allows us to advise municipalities on the type of development they accept, where it should go and how it relates to the community.
That includes reviewing every land development plan filed in the region for consistency with FutureLV: The Regional Plan, as well as reviewing stormwater plans for water quality impacts and to protect the region from flooding. Additional reviews include municipal zoning or subdivision ordinance changes and collaborating with Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA), Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA), school districts, municipal governments and the communities as a whole to put special focus on Land Uses of Regional Significance. As the bi-county planning agency, the LVPC also performs a variety of other reviews to fulfill county, state and federal requirements.
Rather than tucking away in a spreadsheet all the data gleaned from hundreds of reviews annually, we produce BuildLV, the region’s most comprehensive look at every development proposal in the region.
BuildLV, and the monthly subdivision snapshots that support it, inform our understanding of where the region is today and where we’re headed in the future. Despite Pandemic-related shutdowns, the 453 subdivision and land development plans reviewed in 2020 was the most since 2009 and two more than in 2019. There were 150 stormwater reviews last year and the last five years indicate that proposals are generally trending upward. In addition, street vacation proposals in 2020, most of them from the City of Allentown, began laying the foundation of tomorrow’s pivotal, multimodal Riverside Drive and the Waterfront business, apartment and retail complex along the Lehigh River in the City.
BuildLV is among the LVPC’s most popular products, and it will continue to be key in managing a successful region’s future growth. Both BuildLV and the monthly snapshots are available at lvpc.org.
total subdivision + land development plans reviewed by LVPC in 2020
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection permitted project reviews
municipal ordinance and plan reviews
state or federal grant funding review letters
stormwater management proposals
sewage facilities planning documents
traffic impact studies
Delaware River Basin Commission sewerage discharge or water withdrawals
traffic impact assessments
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
Since the Great Recession that ended shortly after 2010, the Lehigh Valley housing market has become more diverse. No longer dominated by the single-family detached home, housing over the past decade has included a growing number of townhouses and apartments.
Even so, 2020 saw nearly double the number of proposed detached single-family homes as 2019. This reflects a strong interest in this housing type, even as the market becomes more variable with growing demand. We expect for this to continue in 2021 and into the future, if trends remain the same and developers continue to build more inventory.
This trend offers insight into where we’re likely going over the next several years, as communities focus on densification of housing to preserve farmland and open space. Though not a strong market force, twin development has remained steady since 2012, offering a nod to the region’s character and history. However, the annual volume of all units approved is still at half the rate seen in the early 2000’s, limiting housing opportunities throughout the region when coupled with steady population growth and the trend of smaller household sizes. From 2019 to 2020, the density of single-family detached proposals remained the same, while apartment density decreased from nearly 18 dwelling units per acre to approximately 12 units per acre. It’s a decrease that was expected after 2019’s apartment boom was dominated by Allentown’s burgeoning high-rise market. While 2020 included a 40% increase in apartment proposals, they were of varying sizes spread across a range of municipalities, supporting infill development, revitalization and housing for all.
The year 2020 continued the trend of diversifying housing types in the Lehigh Valley, with nearly half of all units proposed consisting of apartment units. All of the apartments being constructed are fulfilling a need, but are also only providing an opportunity for people to rent.
residential units reviewed in 2020
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
The LVPC reviewed more than 12.2 million square feet of non-residential development in 2020. That makes it one of the busiest non-residential review years in the region’s history, surpassing Pandemic-adjusted expectations. Planned investments by the private sector, primarily in the suburbs of Lehigh and Northampton counties, remained steady. However, preliminary proposal volume was much greater than approved plans. Nearly the same as 2019, there were 787 acres included in 2020 approved plans.
Commercial development has slowly, but steadily been increasing over the last 10 years. The proposed hotel expansion at the Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem and Mill Creek Hotel in Upper Macungie Township are two of the larger commercial developments approved in 2020.
As developers likely question the need for new office space in consideration of changing remote-work environments, office square footage was down in 2020. However, office square footage tends to fluctuate from year to year, so it’s too early to call this a trend.
The Pandemic accelerated the ‘death of retail’. With so much retail vacancy created in 2020, it’s more likely that businesses seeking space are utilizing existing retail space, rather than pursuing new construction. Nevertheless, several smaller retail developments were proposed in 2020 and largely part of mixed-use complexes.
The last several years, in particular, have demonstrated the public and non-profit sector’s commitment to the region through sustained public and quasi-public development proposals. Notably, the region saw quite a few educational proposals, demonstrating a commitment to the expansion of academic offerings and social opportunities. Proposals from three public schools and a charter school will expand capacity and equity for the Valley’s youth. Higher education facilities proposed services for students, including a community center at Lafayette College and a ballfield complex at Muhlenberg College.
While the region saw a more diverse mix of non-residential development in 2020, with increases in recreation, agriculture and transportation projects in 2020, the Lehigh Valley's place as one of the nation’s busiest freight corridors means it’s non-residential development will be driven by industrial.
If the past five years continue into a 10-year trend, industrial development will remain steady—with expected new proposals totaling 5 million annually—while public/quasi-public and commercial proposals will continue to increase.
non-residential square feet reviewed in 2020
industrial; 7,928,289 of it is warehousing
approved industrial + warehouse growth
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
The Pandemic has accelerated the move to an online and on-demand economy, and the industrial sector continues to respond.
Over the past six years, 26.7 million square feet of new warehouse space has been approved by local governments in the region and another 10.3 million square feet remains in the approval pipeline. Fueled by location within a single truck driver shift of 100 million potential consumers, the Lehigh Valley is on pace to see a nearly 50% increase in total warehouse square footage, just since 2015, and there’s no indication the trend will end anytime soon. In fact, industrial developers are finding new ways to move goods into and out of the region more quickly.
Automated and taller, or High Cube, warehouses emerged in 2020 as a new land use as more goods are ordered directly, skipping the stop at a physical store location. These ‘robotic’ and high-volume warehouses will change the face of freight in our region.
Data from commercial real estate firm CBRE Group shows that lease rates are relatively low compared to the Lehigh Valley’s peers along the Eastern Seaboard, an indication that development pressure will continue.
Closer to home, the region’s interstate access and proximity to major metropolitan areas mean the aggregated lease rate of just over $5 per square foot is higher than Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Evidence of this is a budding industrial area in Upper Mount Bethel Township being marketed by CBRE as ‘the largest industrial development on the East Coast’. At the same time, lease rates now at eight years on average are shorter than they previously were, meaning less guarantee over the long-term that industrial spaces will operate in the same manner as now.
Traffic volumes, number of employees, need for transit, emergency management services needs and even tax revenues could change in under a decade. Changes are not isolated to one or two areas, but instead spread across the seven existing and three emerging industrial districts spread across the Lehigh Valley.
Communities will need to keep an eye on the future when considering industrial proposals for these large structures and how they might be used over the next couple of decades.
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
Few issues have a greater impact on the Lehigh Valley economy and daily life than housing sales. They affect land costs, where people live and work, the growth of our economy and ultimately the region’s quality of life. That’s why every two years the LVPC produces a report based on every housing sale recorded anywhere in Lehigh or Northampton counties. As the only comprehensive report based on all recorded sales—including those that do not go through a realtor—it allows us to track trends of the type, size and location of home sales.
Every two years, we add in a Census-based analysis on all rental units in the region, providing a good view of how rental prices are changing. The next update will be available at lvpc.org in the spring of 2021.
Paired with housing sales data, it provides municipal, school district and development leaders, as well as buyers and sellers, a clear picture of where the market may be
headed and how the region may need to adjust. Online interactive maps make it easy to find the information most relevant to your community.
The Lehigh Valley’s housing unit sales have increased steadily—averaging an increase of more than 450 sales per year—since the recovery from the Great Recession began in 2011. After several years of modest median price increases, limited inventory created by a wait-and-see approach by developers in recent years caused median sales price to skyrocket in 2020. Despite a slight drop in the number of homes sold in 2020, likely caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, median sales price increased by $25,000 in 2020—an amount equal to the combined median price increase of the previous six years. Though developers in 2020 proposed building the most new homes in a decade, an improving economy and a continued low inventory of available homes for sale is expected to keep prices rising through 2021 and beyond.
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
The private sector’s interest in townhouses, attached single-family and apartments over the past several years reinforces the type of denser housing that is called for in FutureLV. The last decade generated the lowest home-building volume in at least 80 years, but if the first year of this decade is any indication, then we should prepare to surpass that number quickly. With levels of residential proposals not seen since before the Great Recession, if 2020 is repeated throughout the decade, it would yield double the residential units that were approved between 2010 and 2020.
Median sales prices and unit proposals soared in 2020, as housing density increased, ensuring the best use of our limited land resources and making ‘space’ in the market for the varied and income-appropriate housing the Lehigh Valley needs. This suggests we’re in for continued escalation of housing prices until more inventory is constructed to meet market demands.
jobs + housing
BUILD LEHIGH VALLEY
When the impacts of the COVIC-19 Pandemic put thousands of Lehigh Valley residents at risk of losing their homes, the LVPC developed a Foreclosure and Eviction tool designed to help government and non-profit agencies direct resources where they’re needed most. LVPC analysis showed that over 81,000 households were paying more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs—a condition known as ‘cost-burdened.’ The tool identified the neighborhoods with the greatest risk—and need—and showed that Valleywide, 51% of all renter households and 24% of homeowners are cost-burdened. That led to a partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which analyzed data on Lehigh Valley industries to determine the number of jobs put most at risk by the Pandemic. These are jobs that require employees to regularly work within six feet of other employees or customers. Overall, the analysis shows that more than 78,000 jobs have been put at risk by the Pandemic.
Combining housing and employment data gives the clearest picture of the Lehigh Valley’s most vulnerable neighborhoods so government and non-profit agencies can target available housing resources, which may include federal, state, local or other programming, into those areas.
In 2021, the LVPC, through the community-led WorkshopLV: Housing committee and other partners will be working to further address housing. These activities and partnerships, inside and outside the region, can help the Lehigh Valley adapt to the rapidly changing needs of our growing population.
begin with fact-based optimism
one stop data repository
DATA LEHIGH VALLEY
The LVPC is home to one of the region’s most extensive data repositories on land use, the environment, transportation and demographics, but for all that data to have the most impact, it has to be accessible to everyone. That’s why we launched DataLV in 2017, giving people 24-hour access to important information and interactive maps that can’t be found anywhere else.
DataLV is a carefully crafted story of the Lehigh Valley, told through the prism of key data points. That story is displayed on separate webpages that describe Who We Are, Agriculture, Development, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, Housing, Tourism and Transportation. But DataLV is more than the story it tells. It’s also the power provided by LVPC staff expertise that allows them to analyze the data of the past to predict the future.
DataLV became a key location for new analyses, research and information to be communicated to the public as in-person meeting and events became impossible due to the Pandemic. New customizable tools, supporting the public and our partners needs, were also added. These interactive mapping and analysis tools are critical to supporting housing and equity improvements Lehigh Valleywide.
improved development process
New form, easier access, quicker turnaround potential, with the same fees.
The revamped LVPC Subdivision and Land Development Application now enables people to use an online form that guides them through the sometimes-complicated process of applying for new development projects or changes to existing ones.
The new Subdivision and Land Development webpage, made live January 1, 2020, gives developers, engineers, architects and municipal officials access to resources and a fillable application that not only gathers their relevant information, but automatically calculates the required application fees.
The new process is the first major revamp in more than two decades. Declines in submittal volume aren’t expected, so the streamlined process will improve efficiency as the LVPC continues to serve the community.
focus on outcomes
truck parking roundtable
A greener, more environmentally conscious future has always been part of the LVPC’s land use, planning and development policy, but more recently, new technology enables us to have a greater impact on extending those policies to transportation. A result of that new focus came in 2019 when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the LVTS’s request to designate Interstate 78 as an Alternative Fuels Corridor. The designation puts I-78 in line for public and private funding to install alternative fueling stations and signage, making the highway, and the Lehigh Valley in general, more attractive to people with electric or compressed natural gas vehicles.
Our work doesn’t end there. The LVTS has asked PENNDOT and FHWA to consider Routes 22 and 33 as Alternative Fuels Corridors during the next round of designations. And in 2020, the LVTS joined with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council and seven other Metropolitan Planning Organizations to map and make available alternative fueling locations from Connecticut to Pennsylvania.
In August 2020, the LVTS joined the FHWA and PENNDOT to host one of the nation’s few Truck Parking Roundtables to tackle a growing problem by finding strategies that can be used not only in the Lehigh Valley, but nationwide. The event, attended by more than 60 individuals and agency representatives from across the country, led to new partnerships, new ideas and an action plan with 16 recommendations of how we’ll overcome the truck parking challenges through LVTS’s WorkshopLV: Freight in years to come.
Also in 2020, the multi-state Metropolitan Area Planning Forum, along with the FHWA, held a special Truck Parking Roundtable to organize and facilitate interstate freight parking needs between the Lehigh Valley, northern New Jersey, New York City and Connecticut.
transportation investment performance measures
Transportation Performance Management (TPM) is a strategic approach to evaluate the progress of transportation network investments by comparing results from policy decisions against established goals designed to reduce injuries, save lives and better manage maintenance of the region’s transportation network.
Performance metrics are assessed, considered for revision by the LVTS, and provide a measure of success in achieving both regional and national goals. Each year, the LVTS, in partnership with PENNDOT, establishes a series of three Performance Measures to address safety, road conditions, air quality and congestion.
Annually, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will determine whether PENNDOT and LVTS have met or made progress in meeting their goals. The end result is a project selection process rooted in data and analysis.
The FHWA utilizes the metrics to determine how and if the LVTS and PENNDOT have created goals and policies invested in projects that improve safety and air quality, and reduce congestion. Performance Measures support the strategic allocation of limited public dollars for the improvement of the transportation system.
The Lehigh Valley has more than 4,170 miles of roadway, and keeping accurate data is key to maintaining it. The LVPC does that through its Traffic Count and Segment Inventory program.
Through our partnership with PENNDOT, every year we take detailed traffic counts on more than 100 roadways across Lehigh and Northampton counties. We also take detailed road, signage and right-of-way data on another roughly 180 roadways, giving a clear picture of existing conditions, whether today’s roadways still match PENNDOT’s data, and whether upgrades will be needed. And when things change, we adapt, so this year we’re tracking how the COVID-19 Pandemic is affecting traffic.
The LVPC’s partnership with PENNDOT is a key component of the more than $100 million invested each year in the region’s transportation network.
traffic count + roadway inventory
fill the space between people with collaboration
inspired leadership rooted in cooperation
The Lehigh Valley is one of Pennsylvania’s most desirable regions. It’s why thousands of new residents move here every year. Local leaders are advancing policy and investment to prepare for the future.
However, no public, private or government entity can rise to the social, technological, environmental, economic, educational, health, equity or infrastructure challenges or opportunities on their own.
For that reason, the LVPC forges partnerships each year, including some that reach well outside our regional borders. For the past three years, the LVPC has held a seat on the Metropolitan Area Planning Forum, for the first time enabling us to share best practices and plan across regions with nine other planning organizations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
It’s among the many collaborations that help keep the Lehigh Valley competitive regionally and nationally.
build + upward mobility programs
The LVPC and LVTS, in addition to regional planning, support the implementation of FutureLV: The Regional Plan. One of the key ways is through implementation partnerships that focus on combining and growing financial resources. In 2020, two important initiatives were undertaken, both to improve equity, knowledge, resources and mobility.
The first on-going funding partnership effort is to complete the Riverside Drive Multimodal Revitalization Corridor, a 3.5-mile project that will create a robust, multimodal commuting network stretching from the City of Allentown through Whitehall Township. As the single most significant public-private partnership in the Lehigh Valley today, the project has the capacity to create more than $100 million in new economic activity, while supporting more than $400 million in new development that will bring 2,900 jobs to the area. Over 20 partners from the local, county, regional and state governments, as well as the private and non-profit sectors, requested $24 million in federal funding from the US Department of Transportation BUILD Grant program, one of the most competitive in the nation. The partnership is continuing to work towards the development and funding of the Riverside Drive Multimodal Corridor as big projects take resources built over multiple years.
The LVPC’s key implementation partners include Waterfront Partners, City of Allentown, Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Northampton County, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA), Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, Wildlands Conservancy and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The second initiative is a partnership data and implementation application to the Urban Institute and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Upward Mobility Cohort. This program provides technical assistance to counties to increase access to opportunity and improve equity. The LVPC was advanced through the request for information stage to the proposal stage of the process and gained critical insight on how to measure punitive policing and community health. Both subject area metrics will be included in the update of the Access to Opportunity Analysis on DataLV, continuing the commitment of the Commission and our partners to improve equity throughout the region.
LVPC’s key implementation partners include the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley and Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.
There is always strength in numbers, and the LVPC is here to assist any municipality that’s chosen to work with its neighbors. Through multi-municipal comprehensive plans, communities can address common priorities, while maintaining local autonomy and control. That can mean sharing costs for goods and services or partnering on issues that cross municipal borders, such as roads or economic development. Perhaps the biggest benefit is the ability to collectively manage development.
The LVPC completed the Southwest Lehigh County Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan in 2016 and is currently working on three additional efforts that include ten communities in the Nazareth area, six communities in the Northern Lehigh area and ten communities in a first-time effort Slate Belt Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan. Another five communities in the River Central area kicked off a first-time planning effort in 2020 as well. Whether preserving agriculture and open space or fostering downtown redevelopment, we’re honored to help more Lehigh Valley communities prepare for a balanced, successful future.
key collaborations and partners
Planning for a successful region like the Lehigh Valley is not only important, but it’s a big job that requires help from a lot of partners. Expert partners not only help the LVPC understand the needs of the region and aid us in crafting policies that best fit the community, but they also help us promote and advance those policies, including those recommended in FutureLV: The Regional Plan and the region’s first-ever active transportation plan, Walk/RollLV. These organizations and initiatives foster cooperation and collaboration among private and public entities through their meetings and events.
The LVPC/LVTS Team is an active member of several working committees of transportation issues affecting the region and Commonwealth. As a planning partner, the LVPC/LVTS is active on the Freight Work Group and helped to develop new statewide guidance on Freight Planning, and one of the key contributors and presenters at the Statewide Freight Summit in 2020. The LVPC/LVTS Team is also active on the Planning Catalyst Team, which guides interagency coordination between PENNDOT and metropolitan and rural planning programs across the state.
In 2020, Executive Director Bradley also concluded her two-year term as the statewide Metropolitan Planning Organization representative on the Pennsylvania State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC). The STIC facilitates the rapid implementation of proven, well-researched and documented state, regional, national and international technologies, tactics, techniques and any other innovations that are new to Pennsylvania.
LVTS staff also helped organize and participated in a Local Technical Assistance Program problem-solving workshop on truck restrictions and safety in Lower Mount Bethel Township. These “Tech Assists” are a critical partnership activity that the LVPC/LVTS and PENNDOT offer to local and county governments in the Lehigh Valley.
The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) is one of the LVPC/LVTS’s primary planning partners. LANTA provides critical transit services to the region, and its work and plans for the expansion of the system factor prominently in FutureLV: The Regional Plan. In 2020, LANTA and LVPC/LVTS worked at connecting the sidewalk and trail networks to transit through the newly adopted Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan. Also, the partnership is extending to advancement of LANTA’s Enhanced Bus/Bus Rapid Transit Plan, which will bring next generation, high-frequency and volume transit to the region in support of the growing population and workforce. LANTA is a key member of the LVTS, and with the LVPC’s support, is advancing the complete switch to an alternative fueled bus fleet in 2021.
Northampton County Historic and Cultural Assets Plan
The LVPC is managing the consultant and Historic and Cultural Assets Plan development with the Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development.
Work continued on this effort in 2020 and will be the first of its kind in the region. The draft plan, which will establish goals and actions to document, preserve, incentivize and leverage historic and cultural buildings, sites and communities as assets, is expected to be released in 2021. No other plan in the region, and very few in the Commonwealth, bring together so many components of community character and quality of place. It is expected that this will become a model guide for local and county governments, non-profits and the private sector to retain, enhance and market core historic places and communities in the years to come.
Northampton County Parks, Recreation + Open Space Advisory Board
The board provides recommendations on land acquisition projects and grant awards, based on the Northampton County Livable Landscapes Grant Program. Additionally, 12 farms totaling 685 acres were preserved through the Northampton County Farmland Preservation program in 2020, bringing the County’s total preserved farmland through 2020 to 17,449 acres (214 farms).
The LVPC serves as an advisor on the board, providing technical expertise on application reviews, as well as guidance on the farmland and open space policies found in FutureLV and Walk/RollLV.
Lehigh County invested CARES Act resources into the LVPC in 2020 to support accurate data analysis, research and policy making on housing, multimodal transportation, age-friendly communities and to support closing equity and digital divide gaps. This work is assisting the region to move through the Pandemic and prepare for a successful recovery.
Sterling Raber Agricultural Farmland Preservation Board
Lehigh County Farmland Preservation preserved 11 farms totaling 763 acres in 2020, bringing the County’s total preserved farmland through 2020 to 355 farms and 25,406 acres. The LVPC sits on the board, providing guidance on farmland matters and promoting FutureLV policies that include the preservation of farmland.
THE LINK Trails Coalition provides support for THE LINK, an interconnected network of multi-use trails offering residents and visitors the opportunity for year-round outdoor recreation, alternative transportation and healthy living. In 2020, the Coalition has provided support through increased social media efforts and marketing. The LVPC is a permanent advisor on the Coalition to promote implementing FutureLV policies that include developing a connected, multi-use trail network throughout the region.
Delaware Basin Regional Water Resources Committee
Pennsylvania, with the Department of Environmental Protection as the lead agency, is in the process of updating the State Water Plan. The Delaware Basin Regional Water Resources Committee is guiding the development of and recommendations to the Statewide Committee of the Regional Plan component of the State Water Plan. Executive Director Bradley was re-appointed by Governor Wolf to the committee, which in 2020 began developing priorities, including an enhanced focus on the effects of climate change on water availability and quality to the impacts of development on the same. Work on the State Water Plan will continue through at least 2021.
In January 2020, the LVPC partnered with Lehigh and Northampton counties and PennEnvironment on a press conference to raise awareness of Lehigh Valley air quality issues.
PennEnvironment’s report showed that the Lehigh Valley, in 2018, had more high pollution days than Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, in part because of its valley topography and its increasing amount of truck traffic. The report recommended the promotion of renewable energy, increased air quality regulations and public transportation.
Climate Action Plan
The LVPC supported the City of Bethlehem as part of a working group for the development of a climate action plan. The plan will serve as the City’s comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change in Bethlehem and will identify targeted policies, programs and projects that will both mitigate Bethlehem’s contribution to climate change and help the city adapt to the effects of a changing climate. A final plan is anticipated in spring 2021.
Climate Action Plan
The LVPC is supporting Lehigh University in the development of a Climate Action Strategy as part of an external advisory group. The strategy is to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and is scheduled for completion in spring 2021.
Climate Action Plan
CREATE Resilience is a multi-disciplinary collaboration led by The Nurture Nature Center to engage youth and community to increase knowledge of weather and climate science, the risks from local hazards, and strategies for hazard mitigation, while storytelling and co-creating a vision for community resilience. The project, which runs through September 2022, has components for education and action for high school students, and community adults and families. To engage high school students, the project will build teams of CREATE Resilience Youth Ambassadors in the Easton, Wilson and Bangor Area school districts.
The Lehigh Valley Partnership is a conglomerate of the region’s largest companies' Chief Executive Officers, College and University Presidents and lead public sector officials and agencies to coordinate resources to implement initiatives that support regionalism, improve the business climate and enhance quality of life. LVPC Executive Director Bradley is a member and, in 2020, supported the Partnership’s development of priorities including support of: infrastructure improvements, equity and inclusion, streamlined regulatory processes and regionalism. Each of these Partnership priorities, in addition to others, aligns with the goals, policies and actions outlined in FutureLV: The Regional Plan.
The LVPC/LVTS and Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce (GLVCC) are partners to bring together government with the business community to do everything from crafting and influencing transportation investment policy to furthering the understanding of land use and development to advancing green initiatives regionwide. The LVPC/LVTS are active members of the Chamber’s Public Policy, Transportation and Energy and Environment Committees, and LVPC Executive Director Bradley joined the Board of Governors in late 2019. LVPC/LVTS was a content contributor to the annual Energy and Environment Summit, Transportation Forum and Real Estate Summit in 2020, building awareness of community needs and supporting the implementation of the policies of FutureLV: The Regional Plan with the business community.
The Workforce Board Lehigh Valley’s Next Generation Manufacturing and Logistics committees are designed to bring together employers from the industrial sector with key government, educational and regional agency partners, like LVPC, to listen and problem-solve on everything from specialized training and employee retention to the dynamics of a global economy and the Lehigh Valley’s role in it.
The Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (LVLRI), an arm of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, is focused on promoting economic development through the reuse of abandoned and underutilized commercial and industrial properties, also known as brownfields. The initiative holds a US Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Assessment grant that assists projects with their site due diligence during the development process. The LVPC has been a part of this committee since inception in 1998 and reviews projects against FutureLV: The Regional Plan. In 2020, LVLRI’s two ongoing projects included completing a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment on the site of the former Easton Iron and Metal, and continuing work on a redevelopment plan for the former Allentown State Hospital.
In 2020, the LVPC partnered with the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation as co-leads with over a dozen governments and non-profits in a regional working group to gain a complete count as part of the 2020 Census update that is important to funding and services across the Lehigh Valley.
Additionally, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation (LVCF) supports non-profits throughout the region, providing funding and technical support to a variety of initiatives that support the implementation of the regional plan. The LVCF recently formed a Board of Associates to build understanding and a cross-sector knowledge base supporting the region. The LVPC is a member associate and has presented on the state of transportation and land use, the regional plan and gained knowledge and deeper connections to allied agencies on issues affecting the region.
The LVPC supports Green Building United’s Lehigh Valley Committee through monthly meetings and event partnerships that actively promote a sustainable, healthy and resilient built environment throughout the region.
LVPC staff participate in monthly meetings of the Pennsylvania Chapter, Lehigh Valley - Berks Section of the American Planning Association. Each month public, private and volunteer planning professionals discuss emerging trends, best practices, advocacy measures and regional happenings.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) is an important cross-sector professional organization that convenes real estate and development, planning, legal, architecture and engineering, and banking professionals to support and build healthier, greener, more sustainable and resilient communities. ULI connects the LVPC to regional, national and international sources for responsible development and allows the Commission to build awareness and support for regional planning, especially, FutureLV. Additionally, the LVPC contributes to local technical assistance charrettes, designed to bring in professionals across sectors to problem-solve and set a path forward for specific community land use challenges, from attracting investment to disinvested blocks to redevelopment plans for vacant industrial and commercial properties.
work on what it stands for
lvpc gala +
lehigh valley awards
What better way to recognize the goals and values of the Lehigh Valley community than by awarding projects that exemplify them? Every year since 2014, the LVPC has held a fall gala to give out Lehigh Valley Awards to communities and their private and non-profit partners that help make the region a better place to live, work and play.
The awards are our way of bringing together nearly 300 municipal officials, community organizers, developers and contractors each year to celebrate excellence in planning and community collaboration, and to show examples of best practices that can be emulated across the region.
Nominees are evaluated by the Awards Committee on quality of design and planning, collaboration and citizen participation, as well as the positive overall impact to a community. And one community that’s shown a long-term commitment to planning excellence is named that year’s Community of Distinction. To date, 140 projects, plans and communities have been recognized for their collective achievements.
In 2020, we had to do things a little different, but the theme for our first-ever virtual gala was the same -- to celebrate the great work of our municipal partners. It was like no event we’ve done before as community leaders, including Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong and Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, gathered – virtually, of course – to celebrate a region that worked together not only to get through a difficult year, but to make the Lehigh Valley one of the best places to live. The 72-minute video, which streamed on YouTube October 13, was shot at 40 of the region’s most scenic locations, and included collaborative works by all 62 municipalities. It culminated in the awarding of our first-ever FutureLV Heroes Award, given to the Youth Leadership Program at Community Bike Works for their advancement of multimodal transportation policies. Congratulations Community Bike Works kids! Our future is bright in your hands. The 2020 Gala can be viewed in full at lvpc.org.
Every LVPC and LVTS meeting is open, but we take the extra steps to get our data and analysis to the public, where it can be useful. That includes writing columns for the Morning Call and Lehigh Valley Business Journal, making regular television and radio appearances on WGPA and WDIY, producing a monthly newsletter, being active on social media and placing advertisements, including some printed in English and Spanish inside all 83 LANTA buses.
We keep in touch with our more than 7,300 social media followers with daily posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. An LVPC website that garnered more than 80,000 views in 2020 serves as a vehicle for our latest data, with updates last year that included our Eviction and Foreclosure Tool, Equity Analysis, every project on our $452 million Transportation Improvement Program and a COVID-19 page that tracks daily infections, deaths and other Pandemic impacts.
In addition, our staff make dozens of presentations each year at community gatherings that range from a handful of people at group functions to hundreds of people at ticketed events such as the annual Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Transportation Forum and the annual Real Estate & Development Symposium to even bigger crowds at regional and national events, such as the Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference and the National Association of Regional Councils Annual Conference.
Beyond that, through our popular WorkshopLV series, we bring people from across the region to the table to help us find solutions for the important issues of Housing, Environment, Freight and Multimodal. Each workshop is designed to support open, public dialogue and collaboration on issues affecting the region. The workshops replaced the exclusive steering committee and are open to all to create more equitable dialouge and action regionwide.
WorkshopLV: Housing’s purpose is to improve access to attainable housing by diversifying the type, location, cost and other metrics of housing to meet the social, economic and future needs of the Lehigh Valley. The open table group met three times in 2020, focusing first on the size and cost of housing units in the region, moving on to assessing the Valley’s households, workers and incomes, before closing out the year by providing a forum for how regional housing experts can begin evaluating the impacts of COVID-19.
WorkshopLV: Multimodal was convened to further the policies of the Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan, which is aimed at creating a connected road, trail, sidewalk and transit network that’s safe and convenient for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and transit users. WorkshopLV: Multimodal met seven times in 2020 to assist finalizing the Walk/RollLV Plan and begin discussing implementation. Walk/RollLV was adopted by the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study on June 3, 2020. Implementation discussions included the LANTA Enhanced Bus Service initiative, Pennsylvania Department of Health benefits of physical activity, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation trail crossings and the America Walks funding program.
The Lehigh Valley is made up of 62 very different municipalities with a lot of common challenges, opportunities and solutions.
The LVPC started the Lehigh Valley General Assembly in 2018 to bring together at least one elected official and staff members from each municipality to discuss the important transportation, development and planning policy issues that impact every community. It gives us a chance to share our latest data and analysis and gives our municipal partners an opportunity to weigh in on the issues they’re facing now.
Subjects covered during the 2020 General Assembly included COVID-19 impacts, the state of Lehigh Valley development, truck parking and the importance of multi-municipal planning. The Lehigh Valley General Assembly is held at least once a year and more as needed.
WorkshopLV: Environment is designed to bring people together to tackle important issues regarding the protection of the region’s land, water and air – all central to the Lehigh Valley's quality of life. The group met twice in 2020 to discuss the Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan and impacts assessment; ongoing state and federal plans, proposals and studies such as the Pennsylvania State Water Plan, Francis E. Walter reservoir operations and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; Lehigh Valley air quality trends, online water monitoring tools, and the rainfall impacts of Hurricane Isaias.
WorkshopLV: Freight is intent on promoting and developing a functional and efficient regional freight system and advising the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study on all goods movement issues, including relevant studies and projects. WorkshopLV: Freight met twice in 2020. One meeting was to discuss the impacts of warehousing and grant funding options available by the Environmental Protection Agency to promote greener practices by relying on alternative fuels. It included presentations by real estate firm CBRE Group and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The Workshop was also the venue for the 2020 Lehigh Valley Truck Parking Roundtable in August.
education + training
Hundreds of people each year take advantage of our education and training opportunities. Some come to our Planning on the Menu series to discuss important issues, while appointed and elected officials attend our Lehigh Valley Government Academy classes to learn about how planning, zoning and development is done.
And in this age of COVID-19, we’ve taken all of those appearances online, when our community needed it most, producing such online webinars as our expert panel of lawyers giving municipal officials instructions on navigating the new Pandemic rules on conducting public meetings and meeting Development Application deadlines, as well as our Pandemic Predictions series on such topics as Housing, Transportation and Development.
One of our longest running programs is our 12-year partnership with PENNDOT to host Local Technical Assistance Program classes that provide transportation network maintenance and best practices information free to hundreds of engineers, municipal workers, and elected and appointed officials each year. With all of our programs, we provide data, instruction and information, and people give us important feedback that helps us shape policy based on the values of the Lehigh Valley residents.
With social distancing remaining a must in 2021, we’ve moved all of that education and engagement with our community to an online platform, where we are rebranding our Planning on the Menu as Transformative Talks and updating our Lehigh Valley Government Academy.
today is a child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow
As we commemorate our 60th year, we know that one thing has always remained consistent. At the core of the Lehigh Valley’s success is the ability to agree to a common set of ideals that serve as a foundation for management, preservation and growth of the region. This is reflected in the Lehigh Valley’s ability to overcome challenges like the decline in the demand for slate and closing of Bethlehem Steel. We have always come together during times of change—positive, negative and everything in between. Really, we have always been one Lehigh Valley. We have evolved our organizational and management structures to adapt to changing needs. We’ve done it through the formation of organizations like the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority and Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. We’ve enhanced it with the development of multi-municipal partnerships like the Nazareth Area Council of Governments and Colonial Regional Police. We’ve built cross-industry partnerships through entities like the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley and Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and we’ve marketed our many assets through Discover Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.
Consistently, through a system of cross-sector cooperation and collaboration, we have planned for, implemented and benefitted from being simultaneously independent and inter-connected. In the face of so many future forces, whether it’s globalization, the shared economy, energy diversification, living longer, substantial population growth or a global pandemic, we will do what we’ve always done: Rise to the challenge, innovate, adapt, evolve and succeed.
As the region’s planning authority, the LVPC and LVTS look forward to another 60 years as a partner, convener, collaborator, supporter and investor in this remarkable Lehigh Valley.
view pdf of full report
view 2020 subregional + municipal subdivision + land development activity
This report serves as the annual regional and multi-municipal activities report, as required by under Article XI, Section 1104 (a) (4) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code