Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett awarded City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, or CRIZ, program designations to Bethlehem and Lancaster.

Corbett signed the CRIZ program into law in conjunction with the 2013-14 state budget to spur growth in cities that have struggled to attract development, help revive downtown areas and create jobs for residents in the regions.

It is patterned after the neighborhood improvement zone in Allentown, which Mayor Ed Pawlowski said is spawning $1 billion in private development centered around an 8,500-seat arena scheduled to open Sept. 1. Commitments there include a 180-room Marriott Renaissance hotel next to the arena, and companies such as National Penn Bank, Lehigh Valley Health Network and Lehigh Gas Corp. to relocate within the zone.

Local officials in Bethlehem and Lancaster will work closely with the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Revenue to identify priority projects within their applications, Corbett said in a Dec. 30 statement.

Through the CRIZ program, vacant, desolate or abandoned space can be developed for commercial use, thereby creating jobs, increasing personal incomes, growing state and local tax revenues and reviving local economies.

Cities eligible to apply for CRIZ designation based on local economic indicators include Altoona, Bethlehem, Erie, Lancaster, Reading, Wilkes-Barre and York. Delaware County, a home rule county, was also eligible to apply for a CRIZ designation for the City of Chester.

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