Paoli Business and Professional Association

Cowboy Tattoo Ranch is Gone but Will Parking Prove Difficult for Paoli Town Center Project?

Following up on June 16 post, Cowboy Tattoo Ranch no more . . . Paoli Town Center Project Coming to Paoli! I have learned a few more details on the Paoli Town Center sale.

Rather than an individual buyer, the E. Lancaster Ave. block of buildings was purchased by Paoli Town Center, LLC. , a partnership of three local real estate investors. The property owner, Tim Bruni (of Bruni Tailoring) sold the 18,000 sq. ft of properties for $925K to the investors. The lower level is commercial space and the upper floors are currently used as apartments. The property consists of six retail stores, nine residential apartments and two offices. Jacobs Realty Group represented the buyer in the real estate deal and Sam Pilotti of Metric Realty represented the seller.  According to the sign on the storefronts, Jacobs Realty is the leasing agent.

Clearly, the new owner is going to spend money to upgrade the property. As I mentioned in the last post of the topic, the plan call for some much-needed face lifting for the group of buildings, including exterior painting and re-stucco and interior renovations to the lower commercial space and the apartments.

The selling price struck me as rather low for a commercial strip across the street from the Paoli train station.  In checking around, I saw that the original asking price for 2 -18 E. Lancaster Ave was $2 Million but the selling price was less than half.  I wonder if the discounted selling price reflects a ‘sign of the times’ or could it be the perceived parking problems associated with these properties?

The seller’s agent Sam Pilotti and I were on the Paoli Business and Professional Association Board together and he often spoke of the difficulties of finding tenants because of the parking situation.  Today, I received the following comment from Sam which underscores the parking problems and suggestions for improvements. Although I agree that parking could be improved – I would maintain that with the right tenants, people would find the needed parking.  What do you think, if an upscale bistro or a wine bar took the corner space, would you walk a few blocks?  Or, do you think that without additional parking spaces, there could be problems for the new owners?

Here’s Sam Pilotti’s opinion —  

Dear Community Matters,

Any upgrading of the façade of this new “Paoli Town Center Project” will certainly be an improvement; however, it will not take care of the real problem which is insufficient parking for the employees and patrons.

The new owners need to convince Tredyffrin Township to purchase a property nearby within walking distance for a municipal parking lot similar to what other towns have done with store fronts close to the highway and apartments on top and lack the parking. They have from Ardmore, Wayne and West Chester built many parking lots to accommodate parking for the retail locations that previously lack parking.

Tredyffrin is one of the only townships that have absolutely no municipal parking. The township needs to be convinced to buy the 2 properties on So. Valley Road that are nearest to this project and then I believe you will have a successful Town Center Project.

Sincerely,

Sam Pilotti,
Metric Realty
(has managed property for the last 25 years)

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Public Meeting Held Last Night for Paoli Transportation Center . . . Update

The Paoli Business & Professional Association held a public meeting last night on the Paoli Transportation Center.  As both a PBPA Board member, small business owner and interested resident; I had wanted to attend this preliminary public meeting.  Due to a personal schedule conflict (last night was the monthly Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust board meeting) I was unable to attend.  However, my friend and Paoli resident Tim Lander attended the Paoli Transportation Center meeting and very generously offered his summary for Community Matters.  Thank you Tim for your detailed notes!  I would encourage others who attended to weigh in with their personal thoughts on the meeting and the project.

Paoli Rail Yard Update – Delaware Valley Friends School, April 7, 2010

Panel:    Marie Thibault, President , Paoli Business and Professional Association; State Rep. Paul Drucker; Bob O’Leary, Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission and Paoli Rail Yard Task Force; Peter Monaghan and Brad Tate, Strategic Realty Investments (SRI)

Also in attendance were township supervisors JD DiBuonaventuro of Tredyffrin and Norman McQueen of Willistown. Total audience numbered about 40.  

After opening remarks by Marie, Rep. Drucker discussed the role of the state and federal government in funding the project.  Bob provided a brief history of the site as it transformed from an active rail yard, to a federal superfund site in the 1980s, to a remediated brownfield in the ‘90s. Peter gave an overview of SRI, highlighted several local projects completed by the firm, and took questions from the audience.  He emphasized that the chance to redevelop twenty acres in an existing town center is extremely rare, and he views this as a great opportunity to build something very special for the community.

Project Information:  After Philadelphia, the Paoli station is the busiest in the state, with heavy SEPTA and Amtrak usage. That makes this one of the highest-profile transportation projects in Pennsylvania.  At present, there is nothing official to share with the public or the township planning bodies; as formal plans are developed the review process will be open to public participation.  SRI hopes to produce a concept plan later in 2010. Redevelopment of the existing train station property on the east side of North Valley Rd. will be a separate project; SRI’s plans will only address the property west of North Valley Rd.

Funding: Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships are forming a joint municipal authority to coordinate the various sources of public funding for the project. SEPT A has been planning to fund the parking garage, but the recent decision by the federal government to deny the state’s bid to toll I-80 will likely delay SEPTA’s ability to contribute.  Amtrak is not expected to provide any funding; only the land.  It is expected that the state will need to raise its debt limit to float bonds for transportation funding to be used for this project and others. A special session of the state legislature may be called this summer to deal with transportation funding. Federal funding is subject to the whims of whichever politicians are in office at the time, making it hard to predict what gets funded. Local funding typically covers about 10%, meaning that Tredyffrin and Willistown would jointly need to fund about $10 million of the total $100 million in projected public contribution.  Private funding would be used for the bulk of the project.

Traffic:  There is currently parking for about 500 cars. The new parking garage is expected to hold about 800. Residents in attendance voiced concerns about the additional traffic the redevelopment would bring and reinforced the need for significant road improvements. It was also emphasized that E. and W. Central are residential neighborhoods and should not be expected to bear increased commuter traffic. Key to any traffic relief is the widening of the Rt. 252 underpass at Rt.30, for which a study is underway. Road improvements will be funded by state and federal sources. It will be up to all of the participating parties to coordinate the road improvements with the rail yard redevelopment; they are essentially separate projects.

The word “premature” was used freely during the evening, and it was emphasized that the meeting was in response to a request by the Paoli Business and Professional Association, not as a formal step in the planning process.  More formal public meetings will be held once there is more concrete information to share. A quote from Peter regarding public input: “Communication and collaboration are keys to any successful development.”  Bob O’Leary commented that we are very fortunate to have a local developer managing this project; someone with a stake in the community .

References:  The Tredyffrin Township website contains numerous documents related to the Rail Yard development.  During the presentation it was noted that the Master Plan developed in 2001 is essentially obsolete, although SRI may re-use some aspects of it. 

See http://www.tredyffrin.org/departments/community/planning/paoli-master-plan/

Strategic Realty Investments: http://www.strategic-realty.com/1

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Local Restaurants Close . . . New Restaurants Open . . . Let's support our local business community

The economy continues to take its toll on our local business community; the restaurant business particularly hard-hit.  We know of some closings in the area but it is also exciting to mention restaurant openings.  I say a brave move on the part of these resturantuers.  There are some pockets in the area that have done remarkably well; based on downtown Phoenxville a couple of Saturdays ago, you wouldn’t even know that there was a problem with the economy.  Their restaurants were full and people were waiting on the streets for tables.  However, on our side of the mountain from Malvern to Wayne, some restaurants have not enjoyed that same degree of success and there have been closings.  But there have also been some recent openings. 

Fellini’s Cafe in Paoli closed at the end of the year, under a cloud of Chapter 7.  However, Fellini’s Cafe in Berwyn (my understanding is that the 2 locations were not related) continues to have a great following and is busy most nights.  In fact, Fellini’s in Berwyn is a local favorite of our State House Rep and his wife.

Next to Fellini’s Cafe in Paoli, there has been a makeover of a long-standing shoe store in to Seafood USA.  Construction has been underway for several months.  Curious about its opening schedule, I called their other location (330 W. Lancaster Ave, Wayne).  First I was told they would open by the end of this month; but after hearing I would mention the opening on Community Matters, the owner decided it was probably safer to say opening will be April 2010.  Fair enough, and we look forward to seafood in Paoli.

Rocco’s Steaks opened in Paoli on Lancaster Ave — formerally it was  Tradewinds Coffee (before coffe, the place was Polish Water Ice).  Originally, I think the building may have been an early Dairy Queen.  Anyway, the point is that it is a drive-through cheese steak place that some are comparing to Gino’s and Pat’s in the city.  Not being a connoisseur of cheese steaks, maybe some of you would like to try the place and offer your opinion.

A new authentic Middle Eastern restaurant, Cedars Cafe www.cedarscafepa.com has just opened in Malvern, in the Westgate Plaza (next to Staples) on Lancaster Ave.  My husband and I vacationed in Istanbul last August, so I will be anxious to stop by that restaurant.  Also in Westgate is Jimmy’s BBQ www.jimmysbbq.com  a very authentic barbeque resturant, especially good for take-out for that warm summer night (don’t we wish!) and a great catering menu.  I noticed that Jimmy has now added a blog to his website with recommended beer to drink with his barbeque.

For those of you who want to have one last dinner at Trattoria San Nicola, Berwyn — I called to check on their closing date.  The doors will close on April 17 but the San Nicola in Paoli will remain open.  Sorry to see San Nicola shuttered in Berwyn, I have enjoyed that restaurant.  But walking distance from San Nicola, a new tea shop has opened. The Royal Tea House,http://www.royalteahouse.net/  has recently opened in the turn-of-the-century building that until very recently housed a  coffee shop.   Stop by Royal Tea House for a hot cup of tea and a wonderful pastry . . . but also stop by to shop; they have a great assortment of loose tea and tea accessories.  Royal Tea House is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM  (closed Sunday & Monday).

Looking for a special treat on a March weekend — for the last several years, some of the wineries in Brandywine Valley have featured tastings of the new vintages in barrels, buckets, bottles and more!  ‘Barrels on the Brandywine’ is a Passport Event (visit their website for details and ticket purchase).  These special wine weekends give you the behind the scenes tour; allowing visitors a chance into their wine cellars, see the new wines firsthand and participate in pruning demonstrations, seminors and more. For further information:  http://www.bvwinetrail.com/trail_events.cfm

As a small business owner and a board member of Paoli Business and Professional Association, I understand firsthand the crisis facing our local businesses as they struggle to stay open.  We are reminded as we drive by the empty storefronts on Lancaster Avenue, we are reminded of the many closings that have occurred.  I would encourage everyone to support our local businesses — whether it is the hardware, dry cleaners, hair salon, or restaurant.  By keeping the flow of business in the neighborhood, everyone can play a vital role in regenerating the economic growth of Tredyffrin.  Supporting our local business community of Tredyffrin Township supports everyone!

If you know of a new business in the community, please send me an email with the specifics,   TredyffrinCommunityMatters@gmail.com  To show support, I would like to offer them exposure on Community Matters.

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Just in . . . Paoli Business & Professional Association Supports Reinstatement of Fire Company Budget Cut

I am on the Board of Directors of Paoli Business and Professional Association and I am pleased to report that our organization has approved the following statement of support for the reinstatement of the fire company budget cut. A copy of the statement will be emailed to each member of Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors.

__________________________________________________

Dear Tredyffrin Township Supervisors,

Our organization supports the Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor Fire Companies and the volunteer firefighters. Our support does not include Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 5% reduction in contributions for local fire and emergency services. We ask that the Board of Supervisors maintain the 2010 fire company funding at the 2009 level.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors
Paoli Business and Professional Association

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