Malvern Redevelopment Project — So close, and yet so far away (from Paoli)

Reading Aubrey Whelan’s article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, ‘Malvern apartment complex nears completion after 10 years in the works’ had me thinking about Paoli, and the long overdue  intermodal transportation center.  Malvern … so close, and yet so far away from Paoli.

The Eli Kahn development project in Malvern is transforming – with an estimated $45 million price tag there’s 25,000 square feet of new construction stretching 1,400 feet along King Street.  The mixed-use buildings plan has retail shops and restaurants on the first floor with 190 luxury apartments above.  Even a Kimberton Whole Foods is planned that may give Wegmans, down the road some competition.

We all understand that projects such as Malvern’s King Street development don’t come without their challenges … how to revitalize in the midst of quaint Victorian facades and street lights … how to move a town into the 21st century without losing the charm of its 18th century roots.  Change is never easy and not everyone has shared the vision for Malvern’s future.   Media, Phoenixville, Wayne, West Chester – I am sure that all these communities saw their share of resistance to change.  But today these towns are testaments to those who had the vision to believe in ‘what could be’ and the passion to ‘make it happen’.

I know that Eli Kahn’s project in Malvern is not the same kind of development as the Paoli Transportation Center. However, Malvern’s mixed-use commercial and residential buildings in the King Street business district (within walking distance of their train station) creates a model for Paoli’s redevelopment plans, beyond just a new train station.

I checked the Paoli on the Move website,  and there are no additional updates since the Paoli Transportation Visions Open House at the township building with SEPTA last October. Frustrated, I sent an email to Michelle Kichline, as chair of the Board of Supervisors, and to John DiBuonaventuro, as the western district supervisor, asking for an update on the project. I also sent an email to Lucille Songhaim, Septa’s Community Relations Coordinator asking the status on the Paoli Transportation Center.

I received a response from Michelle, thanking me for my inquiry and stating, We have been working on a joint update/ press release with SEPTA and Representative Kampf’s office. We expect SEPTA to release it soon. As soon as they do, I will have Bill Martin make sure you get a copy.”  I asked for a project update at the BOS meeting on February 11, and I am pleased to report that township manager Bill Martin emailed that he will add the update to the meeting.

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.

Old-fashioned Antiquing Saturday in Tredyffrin! Special Spring Barn Sale in the Great Valley . . . Not to be Missed!

Twice a year, in the Fall and Spring, my friend holds a special ‘Barn Sale’ at her beautiful historic home on Yellow Springs Road in Malvern.  Saturday, May 14, 9 AM – 4 PM is the Spring Barn Sale . . . You don’t want to miss this opportunity. 

Come see the amazing assortment of antiques, quilts, benches, primitives, garden and patio items, including herbs, . . .  even some ‘yard sale’ goodies. 

There’s nothing better than some good old-fashioned antique hunting . . . this opportunity only comes twice a year, so don’t miss it!  Everything from primitive to traditional – all with a country feel.  For the best ‘pickins’ be there early in the day! BTW, the prices are fantastic!  You don’t want to miss this!

Location: 2205 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, PA – located 1 mile west of N. Valley Road and 1 mile east of Route 29, adjacent to the PA Turnpike.  Look for the ‘Barn Sale’ signs.

Malvern Power Couple Heading to Harrisburg

Noun 1. power couple – def: a couple both of whom have high-powered careers or are politically influential 

Just yesterday, it was announced that Gov-elect Corbett had selected Carol Aichele to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of the Commonwealth.  Today we learn that Carol will be able to carpool to Harrisburg with another Aichele family member. 

Corbett has selected Carol’s husband, Steve Aichele, to serve as the state’s Chief Counsel.  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of major Philadelphia law firm, Saul Ewing, Corbett will oversee the Commonwealth’s legal department which employs 500 attorneys and represents the governor and 32 executive and independent agencies.

Epitomizing the phrase, ‘all in the family’, Carol and Steve Aichele are certainly Malvern’s newest power couple going to Harrisburg.

All in a Name . . . Patriots Path Plan

Following tonight’s Board of Supervisor Meeting will be a Public Hearing for the Patriots Path.  The Patriot Path Plan is a proposed trail network which will connect historic American Revolutionary War sites within East Whiteland, Malvern Borough and Tredyffrin Township via the Chester Valley trail system. The path would connect East Whiteland’s Battle of the Clouds Park, Malvern Borough’s Paoli Memorial Grounds and adjacent Paoli Battlefield, which was the site of the infamous Paoli Massacre, and Valley Forge National Historical Park.

The Board of Supervisors adopted the Tredyffrin Township Park, Recreation and Open Space Plan (PROS) in 2005.  The PROS plan was included in the township’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan. The primary benefit of incorporating the Patriots Path Plan in the Comprehensive Plan is for help with future funding opportunities.  As part of the multi-municipal effort, the Patriots Path funding opportunities could be increased.  That said, tonight’s discussion does not imply a commitment to build the trail, nor impose any timeline on further action.

The purpose of the public hearing will be to consider the adoption of the Patriots Path Plan as part of the Tredyffrin’s Comprehensive Plan. There are two segments of the Patriots Path that are located within Tredyffrin Township:

  • Valley Forge Segment: 1.8 mi. connection from the Chester County Trail to Valley Forge National Historic Park through Tredyffrin Township
  • Cedar Hollow Segment: 1.8 connection from Chester County Trail to Cedar Hollow Preserve and Cool Valley preserve via the Warner Spur Trail and then extending an additional mile to East Whiteland to connect to the Valley Creek Segment.

There is concern among some of my Great Valley neighbors over the proposed Patriots Path and the proximity of the path to their properties.  Tonight’s discussion should be useful for members of the community who are ‘for and against’ the proposed path. Sometimes misunderstanding of the facts can be at the root of the problem; tonight’s information session should help both sides with any misinformation. 

For many of us, we will recall the years that some Radnor Township residents spent in argument over the 2.2 mi P&W Radnor Trail.  There were resident that lived next to the abandoned railroad tracks that were very much opposed to it and the trail debate lasted decades (lawsuits, gag orders, etc) and became a major political issue. The Radnor Trail finally became a reality and many of the resident’s earlier fears have not materialized.  In fact, I’m thinking that many of the neighbors probably use the Radnor Trail themselves and the trail certainly stands as a success story and attribute to the Radnor community.

The success of Radnor Trail aside, we need to look at the Patriots Path Plan and make sure that concerns/questions of Great Valley residents can be answered by the township staff and the Supervisors.  Good open discussion is always helpful — here’s hoping that tonight’s public hearing will provide that kind of forum.

I thought it might be useful to give some links to those of you who like to read further about the proposed Patriots Path Plan.  Tim Lander, member of the Open Land Conservancy and also on the Sidewalks, Trails and Path Committee offered helpful information, including articles concerning the Radnor Trail and providing a vintage photo (below) of the trestle bridge over Valley Creek.  I encourage people to attend the Public Hearing tonight and if interested, review the following documents:

former trestle across Valley Creek, with nothing but farmland in sight (foreground is now the OLC Cool Valley Preserve);
The former trestle bridge across Valley Creek in the Great Valley, with nothing but farmland in sight (foreground is now the Open Land Conservancy’s Cool Valley Preserve);
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