Long Awaited Report from Tredyffrin Twp Business Development Advisory Council … Soon to be released

Because of increasing empty storefronts and vacant corporate buildings, I wrote a post fourteen months ago asking if there was anything that could be done to attract new businesses and stimulate long-term, stable, economic growth in our community. In the February 2, 2011 article, I said,

I wonder if a township business task force would help . . . a volunteer group of local retired executives, small business owners, and corporate representatives.  The group would meet monthly with a mission to spearhead ways to improve existing relationships and provide assistance and a resource for township businesses.  This important support group for the business community could provide regular updates and suggestions to the Board of Supervisors.  Just an idea . . .

A couple of months after this article appeared in Community Matters, the Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a Tredyffrin Business Development Advisory Council in April 2011.  Supervisors Michele Kichline, Phil Donohue and Mike Heaberg held meetings with local companies, real estate and leasing representatives, etc. and designed a model for this volunteer advisory group.

Following the establishment of the criteria, community members wishing to participate were asked to submit letters of interest for consideration.  From the 20 applications received, six residents were chosen to serve on the advisory board including Dan Fishbein, VP of BNY Mellon; Eric Kleppe, Turner Investments; Stanford Nishikawa, junk-bond analysis and private investor; Jim Sanborn, Gen Manager, Interstate & Ocean Transport Company; John Susanin, SSHH Real Estate and Bill Thomsen, Urban Engineers. In my November 15, 2011 Community Matters post, I provided the announcement of the advisory group members and their mission,

“This group was chosen for its cross section of business, strategic, planning and marketing expertise.  They are highly skilled citizens who do not currently serve on our boards and commissions and have agreed to take a critical look at all aspects of the Township that relate to business development and business retention.  This includes, but is not limited to zoning, transportation and marketing.”

In addition to supervisors Kichline, Donahue, Heaberg, and the six citizens listed above, four community liaison members were named to assist the group – Tory Snyder, Planning Commission; Beth Brake and Donna Shipman, Community Affairs and Small Business; and to represent the Paoli Business community, Dave Rowland.

As explained last fall by the supervisors, the group would work together for 4-6 months and then present their findings, which were to include recommendations and suggestions.  As follow-up to their public report, it was intended that a long-term business advisory group would be created.  It was recently announced that the advisory group is completing their study and will present their report at the supervisors meeting on June 18.  I look forward to their report and am hopeful that there will be some positive news.  However, I was troubled to learn yesterday from one of the named liaisons to the group – Donna Shipman that she was never contacted by the advisory group nor was she asked to provide input.  According to Donna, she contacted several supervisors to express her concern but there was no follow-up from the advisory group.

This information is concerning … was Donna’s experience as a liaison to this advisory group an isolated situation?  Were the other three liaison members involved and part of the process?  As they conducted their research, who in the community was contacted by the advisory group?  Did they speak with members of the small business community, corporate and real estate representatives, the township staff? I believe that there was potential for the Business Development Advisory Council to make a difference in the community through outreach and research … did the group achieve their mission?  

We are all interested in the revitalization of our community and the current economic climate presents unique challenges.  The political influence of elected leadership is critical to helping communities stay the course toward a vibrant economic future. Dedicated leadership is needed to raise awareness, help develop and communicate a common vision and motivate the community into action.  Our elected officials have opportunities every day to effect change and promote a strategic vision of economic growth for their community growth. Is this a priority of our elected officials and if so, how successful are they in meeting the objective?

At a friend’s suggestion, I recently spent some time driving and walking around downtown Malvern. By the way, I would encourage everyone to take the time and visit this place … talk about economic redevelopment!  Wow. It is so exciting to see all the changes and development, including adaptive re-use of existing buildings and new construction, in their town center.  As an example, the original old Malvern fire company building, off King Street, was restored and retrofitted for mixed-use; the lower level commercial and upper level residential condominiums. Brick walkways, Victorian light posts and flowering planters line the downtown area the length of King Street; a total renaissance is occurring in this small borough,  next-door to the west of us.

I want what Malvern has managed to achieve, for ‘our’ community.  Malvern, Phoenixville, Wayne, West Chester, Media – all these places are faced with similar economic issues as ‘us’, yet these places are moving ahead in spite of the challenges … so why can’t we?

Looking forward to the public report from Tredyffrin Township’s Business Development Advisory Council on June 18; I want to hear the group’s ideas and suggestions on ways to revitalize and stimulate economic growth in our community.

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  1. Thanks for this post, Pattye.
    I have one unrefined opinion: the places you admire are one town, one problem, one solution places with a clear center of attention.
    Tredyffrin is Paoli, Berwyn, Strafford, Devon — and with all the attention lately, Daylesford. It is Chesterbrook. Maybe this business development advisory group will have some ideas about how to draw business into the area, but I’m guessing most of their focus will end up on office building space currently available. As Warren Kampf pointed out in his recent posting on his webpage, PA ranks last in the country on business attraction due to our corporate tax structures. So local efforts have to simply make Tredyffrin more attractive to other businesses already in PA.

    I think your original idea would be better served by Paoli Redevelopment, Bewyn Redevelopment, Chesterbrook Redevelopment….we know Devon has gone the route of car dealerships.

    I too look forward to the report, but given the composition of the committee (largely corporate and corporate related), I dont’ see much opportunity for small business growth. Jake’s Custard is soon to reopen as Nudy’s (if it hasn’t already). The businesses in Malvern, from what I can observe, are local entrepreneurs. I’m guessing the new train station gives it a community feel, but the town is just that — a town. Do you think people who are not from directly around the area consider it a destination?

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  2. Pattye,

    One of the common items all those towns have that Paoli, in particular, doesn’t is parking. Even little Berwyn seems to have more parking comparatively for the smaller number of stores it has.

    Until/unless you make it convenient for people to use Paoli stores, they will go elsewhere.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Yes, in all of these towns there is municipal parking. Municipal parking may not have been always available in these towns, but with a vision and support, parking became part of the plan of these individual towns. Today I drove from Malvern to Wayne and it was so sad to drive along Lancaster Ave. through Paoli and Berwyn, so many vacant storefronts. But once I got to Devon, it dramatically changed, such a sense of prosperity. It had been several months since I traveled on Rt. 30 — and I could not believe that the Chili’s in Wayne has been completely rebuilt since their fire last September. How quickly they were able to rebuild and signs indicate that their are hiring and ready to re-open.

    Seriously, the difference is dramatic when you get to Devon traveling east on Rt. 30 and then travel west on Rt. 30 to Malvern and again People have talked about the parking problem forever in Paoli but nothing changes. Seeing Malvern and all that they are doing actually made me angry about Paoli — people seem to just accept that nothing can be done because the parking issue is too big to overcome … how very sad is that.

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    From The West Reply:

    Paoli has areas for municipal parking, but it would be incredibly expensive for the township to acquire and would have other adverse effects.

    If the township could get the wells-fargo building (expensive) or tear down the library (something many will howl about) and replace either/or with a parking garage, it would be great. They could make floors 1-2 or 1-3 for public parking for stores and sell monthly permits for top floors for train station.

    Again though, the solutions are often things people in our community don’t want to hear.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    There is a nice paved “road” running next to the fire station with 4 or five shops, including Walter Cook Jewelers. Plenty of parking. Empty storefront or two. Paoli Shopping Center has plenty of parking. The Shoppes at Paoli (behind Burger King) has plenty of parking. The Plaza (across from Wawa) has plenty of parking. Malvern is a village — a small town. It’s lovely, but again, is it a destination? A parking garage on the Library site would accomodate who/what? The developer that bought the buildings had every opportunity to buy the parking behind them. He got a great deal on the buildings because of the down market, so buying the parking would have been an investment for those buildings. Where else would you like to go in Paoli that municipal parking there would help?

    I sound opposed — I’m not. I just find municipal parking as a tax drain to enhance developer value. I think Septa and Amtrak can and should have more parking….but since the township has no mercantile tax to reap any benefits from additional “shoppers”, I don’t see a pay-back for local taxpayers. A Paoli merchant association could certainly form a partnership and attempt to add parking — if there was a location where parking would make a difference.
    I agree that the 5 or so storefronts across from the train station struggle as retail for lack of parking. But the Pretzel Factory had plenty, and it left. Jakes Custard had plenty. It left. If people wait for the government to do it, they lose sight of their own power. IF Malvern succeeds, it has a lot to do with location….St. Pat’s is right there. Monument Field is right nearby. But except for the occasional restaurant, I see Malvern as quaint and lovely, but not a destination. (People don’t go there just to go there…they go there for a purpose).

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    My understanding is that the revitalization of Malvern includes a Whole Foods — I think you would be surprised by the many shops (antiques, women’s clothing, gifts, etc) that are already in place. I think it is well on its way to becoming a destination; I’m actually considering contacting a real estate agent. I think an investment property in Malvern is going to pay off big time — within 5 years, I predict the prices will be way out of my range!

    From The West Reply:

    TR —

    I don’t really support a municipal owned garage and think if private developers want parking, they should do it. I was just pointing out the fact it’s there.

  3. Pattye:
    Does Malvern have a mercantile tax or anything like it? Wayne certainly does, and that money and the money from meters is clearly reinvested in Wayne. I’m not sure how Tredyffrin pays for a decision to provide municipal parking? There is nothing stopping any developer from building in Paoli as long as they acquire the land behind it for parking. We have a bit of a caretaking mentality here I think What can the government due to spur investment? How about what can investors do to spur development?
    Did you really get inspired by Devon’s “development?” Drive out to Thorndale and see a line of car dealerships too. I understand Anro is going that direction as well (Banter?) Waterloo closing at the end of the year….not sure car dealerships are what master planning would hope for. Maybe the nursing home can be developed on that night, so close to Devon Family Practice (which once upon a time was in a house on or near the site of the office building it now occupies).
    And the rest of Rt. 30 on the way to Wayne has always been sem-commercial K-Mart is about the 3rd thing to be in its location since the closing of Main Line Drive Inn. I don’t accept that nothing can be done, but in this time of tax strangling, I do accept that municipal and school priorities are to keep things afloat. It’s a fine balance. (And Chilis has only recently been rebuilt — it was empty for quite a while, and went up quickly using what appears to be the standard blueprint for the facility)

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    I was inspired by Malvern — they do have a 1% EIT.

    People need to drive to Malvern and see what their redevelopment — it is amazing. Without a significant corporate base like Tredyffrin, what Malvern Borough has done is unbelievable. And remember they also were able to get their train station project schedule moved up and completed. As for Chili’s – the fire was the end of August, 10 months ago and it is now rebuilt. With all the obvious insurance, inspections, etc. that must have been required, I think that’s fairly quickly. Just look at the Paoli Transportation Center project, what’s it been 20 years of talking about it and talking about revitalizing Paoli.

    Sure we all know that the township and school district have serious budget issues … but what do we do? Just sit back, tread water and wait for the economy to improve? And watch other places like our next-door neighbor Malvern just pass us by?

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  4. I agree with your despair…guess living here for 50 years and seeing mediocre businesses last forever, and good businesses come and go just tells me that the Main Line doesn’t change easily….But keep on pushing! I just don’t know where the money will come from.

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  5. Paoli is a major parking Nightmare! I drive to Hamilton NJ to go to Manhatton because parking in Paoli is impossible.

    We are a car based culture….if you can’t park the car easily there are other places to go!

    The Chesterbrook Shopping Center is another study in parking hell! They never got it right and the business went elsewhere. The employees parked in front of the stores and there was never any parking. I went elsewhere where I could run in quickly. Even today with virtually no shops….the employees take the existing parking spots. DUH!!!!!!!!

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  6. Paoli and Tredyffrin could have long been enjoying the benefits of a vibrant town center with abundant parking, better traffic patterns, and improved rail stations and rail transportation. I’m talking community-wide lifestyle and revenue benefits. The towns and cities you mention continue to move forward in difficult times knowing that delay will only mean missed future opportunities as the economy improves. Our time is now. We can, and must, do better. With public and private cooperation, we can have a revitalized, business friendly and pedestrian welcoming Paoli. No, it won’t be easy. But commitment and action will bring us the town center that we Tredyffrin residents deserve.

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    From The West Reply:

    No offense Murph, but if I have to choose between walking the Paoli area (basically on 30) or Malvern (on less heavily – and slower – trafficked King St), I’d pick Malvern for safety.

    I understand the appeal of “walkability” but it isn’t always as appealing as other alternatives.

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    MurphWys Reply:

    You are correct for today’s pedestrian unfriendly Paoli. Our future Paoli would go a long way toward addressing your concerns, introducing traffic calming techniques to help cross-Lancaster retailers, providing off-Lancaster walkways and green area (and parking), and expanding, enhancing, building and beautifying existing and planned north side off-Lancaster mixed-use areas. A little positive vision would not hurt. Let’s think and act tomorrow instead of yesterday.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    And again — Malvern is a single location/borough that is developing itself. Paoli is one of many, many areas in the township. I would much prefer someone bring Chesterbrook back to life before spending a dime to help me cross the street in Paoli. And as someone else posted here — traffic in Paoli means infinitely more traffic on all the short-cuts required to avoid Paoli now. Make it a destination and we’re all toast. So I understand Murph that you are pro-paoli redevelopment, but again, I wouldn’t put it on my top 3 for redevelopment efforts in the township. And that, sir, is why “pro paoli” is not enough to win the day.

    flyersfan Reply:

    malvern has anthonys. never had a bad meal there! Try the mussels marinara…appetizer.. then go for the veal parm. None better in my book!

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  7. Pattye – I won’t pretend to understand every facet of this issue but I do find it problematic that residents will protest almost any new business even when it is apparent that traffic issues can be kept to a minimum.

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  8. If Tredyffrin was just Paoli, that might make sense. Perhaps that is the piece missing here — because Paoli is an afterthought to many residents of Tredyffrin.

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    From The West Reply:

    Perhaps market forces aren’t there to support Paoli – or Chesterbrook for that matter.

    Over the past several years, businesses with adequate parking have started and failed in the Paoli business center area.

    There may be no real solution — because it may be that the buying public isn’t interested in supporting those shops. Yes, Malvern is doing OK (not great if you talk to several shop owners) but how many boutiques, etc. can an area support?

    Big-box, massive retailers, etc. supply most goods and they aren’t coming to Paoli. Other areas with better parking, etc. have the boutiques covered.

    Is it possible there is no real “solution” to the Paoli issue because the “problem” is larger than anything that elected leaders, etc. can truly do?

    I hate to think that, but reality has to come into play at some point.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    I pointed out Ardmore a year ago. Rt. 30 in Ardmore is busy, but still plenty empty storefronts. And they have plenty of municipal parking.

    The purpose of this post was to tell us that the report is due in. Attracting business is the goal. Attracting retail is a Chamber kind of thing. I wish it was all like it was when I grew up — but the drive in is gone, there are office buildings where the miniature golf course in Devon was, and people drive to school rather than take the bus. Devon is developed, but as a stretch of car dealers? Anro is gone. The Dairy Queen that was in Devon and moved to Devon/Berwyn is gone. But people have TV screens in their cars, so no danger of the kids getting bored.

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