“Playing a role in the revitalization of my hometown has been extremely gratifying,” says J.B. Reilly ’83. “It continues to motivate me.”
Reilly heads City Center Lehigh Valley, the development company deeply invested in transforming the core of Allentown, Pa., reversing decades of decline. His firm is enhancing a five-block area with 650,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of upscale retail and restaurant space, and 350 apartments. City Center has invested more than $400 million to date.
Reilly understands the potential for this monumental project and is willing to take the risks. He imagines the sidewalks filled with people as they were during his childhood.
“The streets were bustling. It was a vibrant environment, and that is what we’re trying to bring back. It’s rewarding to know it will have a positive effect on the downtown community and surrounding neighborhoods,” he says. “City Center’s construction around the new arena has created jobs, and more jobs will be created by our new restaurants, stores, hotel, and apartment building.”
Allentown’s newly opened arena, the $177 million, 10,000-seat PPL Center, is home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the American Hockey League’s affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, and will host concerts and other events. It is owned by the city.
“Trying to create the type of scale required to transform an entire downtown has been challenging to do in such a short timeframe,” Reilly says. “Luckily, we have had the benefit of support from many of the area’s major companies. Their commitment to lease City Center space has allowed us to plan and build even more space over a relatively brief period of time.”
Highly motivated and focused from an early age, Reilly ran a lawn mowing business as a boy and worked part-time jobs throughout high school and college. An economics and business major at Lafayette, he went from College Hill to Arthur Anderson, where his experience auditing the books of real estate partnerships piqued his interest in that business.
While working on his law degree at Fordham University, Reilly and a longtime business partner bought and renovated row homes in Allentown to use as rental properties. He went on to develop other companies and build thousands of apartments, homes, and office buildings in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas.
One of Pennsylvania’s largest developers of housing for seniors, he cofounded Traditions of America, which includes active adult lifestyle communities in the commonwealth and elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region.
Reilly and his wife, Kathleen, are the parents of three children, two of whom are enrolled at Lafayette: Tricia Reilly, a junior, and Jack Reilly, a freshman. The Reillys were honored by the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown in 2012 for their longstanding commitment to the club and the city.
Reilly’s commitment to the community also includes nine years as a trustee of Lehigh Valley Health Network, three of them as board chair. He has served as president of Lehigh Valley YMCA and as a member of the boards of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, DeSales University, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, and the Allentown Economic Development Corporation.
Also a Lafayette trustee, Reilly is vice chair of the board’s External Affairs Committee and plans to lead a committee focused on the Lehigh Valley region and the College’s role in it. His undergraduate years made a lasting impact on him.
“I developed a lot of confidence, particularly through Lafayette’s study abroad program at the London School of Economics,” he says. “Lafayette College’s low ratio of students to professors gave me great access to mentors, and the liberal arts education taught me how to think, analyze, and reason logically.”