Completing an initiative that has been in the works for two years, the state Department of Transportation announced Friday it will move its District 5 office in February, bringing 222 white-collar workers to downtown Allentown.
State officials announced the plan to move the offices from Lehigh Street near Interstate 78 to 10th and Hamilton streets in late 2004 as part of a policy of trying to move administrative offices into downtown areas.
Young said workers will begin gradually moving to the building in early February, completing their relocation by Feb. 20.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski welcomed the long-awaited move, saying that combined with the recent move of the Alvin H. Butz Corp. downtown, it puts an additional 400 white-collar workers in the area of Hamilton Street during the day.
''PennDOT is key,'' Pawlowski said. ''It is another piece of the puzzle we need to revitalize the downtown.''
Pawlowski said the city will start promoting the thousands of white-collar employees who work downtown at legal offices, PennDOT, Butz, PPL, Lehigh County Government Center and Allentown City Hall in order to draw new businesses downtown.
The additional employees will help support downtown restaurants and also enhance the sense of safety on Hamilton Street, he said.
After initially budgeting basic renovations at about $1 million, the state spent $6.5 million in a complete overhaul of the former Van Sciver furniture store at 10th and Hamilton streets.
The newly renovated, 70,000-square-foot building features new heating and ventilation systems, a first-floor public meeting room and modern offices where Van Sciver once displayed sofas and dinette sets.
The state purchased the building from PPL in 2004 for $1.4 million. It will sell its old Lehigh Street location for development.