Paoli Village Shoppes

Paoli Transportation Center project — Taking Another Step

Monday morning marks the next step for the Paoli Transportation Center project!

Five months ago on January 31, I wrote that SEPTA had awarded a $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming for the design of a new Paoli regional rail station and parking garage.  The plan calls for building the new station 80 feet west of the current train station location to better connect SEPTA and private buses.  The plan will involve high-level platforms and the reworking of Amtrak interlocking system.  PennDOT selected Parsons Brinckerhoff for the interlocking design work on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which include the Paoli Transportation Center. Gannett Fleming design work is to take place through 2014.

At the same time that SEPTA announced its award to Gannett Fleming, the township selected McMahon Associates as the engineering consultant team to complete a study to outline recommendations for the necessary road improvements, including the bridge, needed to support the new transportation center.  The McMahon study will address congestion, public safety and establish a plan for an overall vision for the new train station through traffic calming, streetscape and intersection modifications.  This is a state-funded project and completion is expected by the end of 2013.

Tredyffrin selected Bergmann Associates as the engineering team to design the signal and roadway improvements for the intersection at Rt. 252 and 30.  The design will be based on the 2011 feasibility study.  This design study is state and federally funded and expected to be completed by 2013/14.

Well folks, it looks like the Paoli Transportation project is taking its next step – tomorrow, Monday, June 25 at 7:30 AM, there’s a press conference at Paoli Village Shoppes to officially announce the start of the Paoli Transportation Center project.

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Report from Tredyffrin’s Business Development Advisory Committee … I was hoping for ‘New’ news!

Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and public hearing for the Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance was another marathon 4-hour meeting, ending at nearly midnight.  An overflow crowd along with Channel 6 ABC news crew attended the early part of the meeting, specifically for the swearing-in ceremony of the police promotions of Lt. Leon Jaskuta, Lt. Taro Landis, Sgt. Ryan Scott, Sgt. Michelle Major and Sgt. Tom Bereda.  Congratulations to these members of Tredyffrin’s police department.

The meeting featured the long-awaited presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee.  The Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the committee in April 2011 and the committee of six volunteers has worked together for 6 months to create a list of suggestions and recommendations.

According to the township website, the mission of the Business Development Advisory Committee was to … “provide recommendations to the Township Supervisors to enhance the economic vitality of Tredyffrin Township through business retention and attraction in a manner consistent with the character of the Township.  The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.”

As a small business owner in the township, I wanted the committee to thoroughly review the business climate of our community, talk to small business owners, community members, real estate developers and corporate representatives.  To what degree this was this accomplished … I am unclear.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the named community liaisons to the advisory committee was Donna Shipman and she was not contacted.  Beyond a meeting early in the process with Judy Huey and her brother Rob DiSerafino, owners of Paoli Village Shoppes, what other small business owners were contacted by the committee?  As follow-up to her meeting with members of the Business Development Advisory Committee, Judy provided the group with a list of township contacts with phone numbers and email addresses.  I don’t know how many (or if any) on the list were contacted.  I know at least 3 people (including myself) who were not.

Beyond their financial and corporate backgrounds, another reason that the six volunteers were seemingly chosen for this advisory committee was that these individuals were not already involved in the township – they did not sit on commissions or boards in the township. And as I have stated, it was disappointing that no one chosen was a small business owner.  My guess is that by choosing these volunteers they would bring fresh, new ideas and recommendations for improving the economic business climate of the township.

Stanford Nishikawa presented the report from the Business Development Advisory Committee.  Through a power point slide presentation, the report identified the following advantages for doing business in Tredyffrin Township:

•           Low and stables taxes
•           Diversity of employer
•           Transportation/location
•           Excellent school system
•           Existing township efficiencies

Disadvantages for business in Tredyffrin:

•           Land constrained/redevelopment dependent
•           Paoli traffic/parking/walkability
•           Danger of outdated office product

Nishikawa explained there is a real and existing danger in the outdated office space inventory in the township.  The majority of the corporate office space was constructed in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Now 30 years old, the buildings are no longer able to attract the larger employers.  If there is not an investment in office buildings, the higher quality employers will leave.  If investment dollars do not keep up the office space, these buildings will continue to disintegrate.  According to Nishikawa the only lever to pull – dropping rent – will only result in a continued drop in value of the office space, which will drive down the real estate assessment and thus create a longer term problem.

As explained by Nishikawa, there were lots of ideas and they were challenged to vet them.  Under the recommendation context, the following themes were mentioned:

•           Probability of success versus potential benefit versus cost
•           Suggestion to take a holistic approach
•           Create an environment that is business and user friendly
•           Suggest a proactive approach

The report recommended that the township (supervisors?) do the following:

•           Name a senior leadership business liaison
•           Personal touch
•           Promote advantages
•           Modernize zoning codes
•           Create website for commercial users
•           Offer online permitting
•           Education/interaction programs
•           Support the Paoli Transportation project
•           Residential appeal

Here’s where this report failed to inspire or suggest anything that has not already been said before.  Although Nishikawa states a “personal touch” is needed to encourage business development and that the township should promote the advantages of doing business in the township, how is this accomplished?  The welcome wagon, cheerleader approach to attract business is subjective … more like a PR/marketing campaign than something easily accomplished by staff or elected officials.

Nishikawa returned often to the need for elected officials to support the Paoli Transportation project.  He stated that the project has been sitting around for 30 years and that the township needs to do everything it can to move it forward.  An extremely expensive plan, state and federal dollars are needed and the township must help. This is old news – plus, under their ‘disadvantages’ of doing business in Tredyffrin, the report names traffic, parking and walkability as negative issues in Paoli.  Although the report states that there is community support for the train station project, it is also suggests there is concern for its future and the need for elected officials to help move it forward.

Following the presentation from the Business Development Advisory Committee, the question was where do we go from here?  What’s the next step?  A motion was made by the supervisors to put together a plan and add the discussion for the supervisors August meeting to implement the recommendations.

I wanted this advisory committee to do more … I wanted concrete steps for economic development.  One suggestion listed in the report — to create ‘education/interaction programs’ – What? How?  Another suggestion, develop a ‘holistic’ approach to business development … What?  The report states that the township needs to take a ‘proactive’ approach… How? Where are the specifics? What are the suggested steps? 

I have a friend who always tells me, that just because I ‘want something’ to be a certain way, doesn’t mean that it ‘will be’.  The volunteer advisory committee probably believes that their report accomplishes what was requested and that they met the mission’s goals and objectives, but did they?  I restate from the township website, “…The end result of this ad hoc council will be the development of a series of strategies along with suggested tactics, budgets, resources, and timing required to accomplish the Township’s business development goals.”  I expected, and wanted more, in the way of specifics from this Business Development Advisory Committee.

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I hope to provide other updates from last night’s meeting later today.

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Santa Arrives Early for Paoli Blues Fest … Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau Awards Festival $10,000 Marketing Grant!

Christmas came early this year for the Paoli Blues Fest!

Paoli Blues Fest, Inc. was notified on Friday that we are a 2012 grant recipient from the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau Foundation.  The Chester County Commissioners approved the CCCVB recommendations for grant recipients and Commissioner Ryan Costello confirmed the $10,000  award with a personal note of congratulations.

Thank you CCCVB for choosing the Paoli Blues Fest to receive one of the top 2012 marketing awards and thank you to our county commissioners for  approving the recommendations.

This matching fund award for event marketing will guarantee that the fourth annual blues festival and street fair on Saturday, October 6, 2012 will be even bigger and better than previous years!  Below is the press release for the award:

Paoli Blues Fest and Street Fair is Awarded $10,000 as 2012 Grant Recipient from Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau Foundation

Just in time for the holidays, the Chester County Commissioners approved the grant recommendations of the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau Foundation and the Paoli Blues Fest and Street Fair is a 2012 grant recipient.

Co-chairing the annual blues festival and street fair with Marie Thibault, owner of Partners Advertising, the organization is always looking for funding opportunities.  Costs for the annual event are approximately $50K and the country’s economic climate has caused challenges for fund-raising. In addition to funding challenges, the event marketing and marketing costs continue to increase each year, as John Fattibene, partner in Harvest Financial and treasurer of Paoli Blues Fest, Inc. will attest.  Generous support for the Paoli Blues Fest is received from individuals and local company and corporate sponsorships, including Paoli Hospital, Paoli Village Shoppes, Malvern Federal Bank, PECO and WXPN, to name a few.  Additionally, Paoli Blues Fest receives generous advertising from many sources including Main Line Today Magazine, Main Line Neighbors, Main Line Suburban, the Philadelphia Inquirer and County Life Magazine.

Taking on the role of grant writer for Paoli Blues Fest, Inc., I was thrilled when our non-profit organization was awarded a grant in September from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. This prestigious 2012 Philadelphia Arts Alliance award of $2,000 puts the blues festival among the best arts programs and events in the tri-county region. After only three years, the Paoli Blues Fest has grown to be the largest annual blues festival in the greater Philadelphia region with approximately 15,000 people attending in the festival in 2011.

Encouraged by the grant award from the PA Council of the Arts, I applied for a marketing grant from the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau Foundation for the 2012 annual blues festival. The CCCVB contributes half of the collected hotel occupancy tax to the Foundation and this provides the major source of funding for the grant program.  In addition, individuals and corporations also make tax-deductible contributions to the Foundation.

The Chester County Commissioners approved the 2012 grant recommendations of the CCCVB and I received the notice and a personal note of congratulations for the Paoli Blues Fest from County Commissioner Ryan Costello on Friday, December 17.  The CCCVB awarded a total of $163,300 for 2012 capital grants and marketing and event awards to 21 non-profit organizations.  The grants awarded ranged from $800 for the Brandywine Singers to a capital grant of $20,000 to the Schuylkill River Heritage Center for its visitors center.  In the marketing and event category, the Paoli Blues Fest was awarded one of the top honors with a $10,000 grant.

As anyone who has written a grant application knows, the process can be tedious and time-consuming, especially given our current economic climate.  Because of funding challenges, the competition for grant money has become more competitive and the grant requirements more rigorous. The Paoli Blues Fest Board of Directors and committee are overwhelmed by the generous CCCVB award and honored to be chosen as a 2012 recipient.

The fourth annual blues festival and street fair may not be until October 6, 2012 but the planning will begin in January. The committee is a core group of dedicated individuals who meet throughout the year, planning every detail for the one-day event.  The annual blues festival and street fair is a great way to get involved in the community and we are always looking for new volunteers to join us.  Whether it is serving on the festival committee or helping out in the beer and wine garden on the day of the blues festival, there is plenty to do and something for everyone.

If you are interested in helping with the 2012 Paoli Blues Fest and street fair, email Pattye Benson at  tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com or call 610.644.6759.

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Nothing Says the Holidays Better than a Frozen Custard Pie From Jake’s!

The countdown to Christmas is underway.  Stress is building to get the stockings hung, cards written, presents wrapped and all the cooking that is required for many of us. 

If you are running short on time (and who isn’t) and looking for a special holiday dessert or hostess gift, I have the perfect answer!  Go to Jake’s Frozen Custard in Paoli tomorrow and order a special frozen custard pie for the holidays.  In the last week, I have tried 2 different custard pies – the Caramel Cashew and the Mint Oreo.  The Caramel Cashew custard pie has a regular graham cracker crust and the Mint Oreo custard pie has a chocolate graham cracker crust.  You can get 8-10 servings from each of the frozen custard pies; the price was very reasonable – I think $12.99.

For those that haven’t had the experience of frozen custard, you’ve really been missing out!  Frozen custard is not ordinary ice cream and not soft-serve – just pure heaven.  You can probably call (610.408.0145) in your order to the owner, Missy, and then stop by later and pick up your pie.  Jake’s is located at 31 W. Lancaster Avenue, in front of Paoli Village Shoppes. Jake’s Frozen Custard has only been open 2-1/2 months and your purchase would be helping our local small business community.

And remember . . . nothing says the holidays better than a frozen custard pie from Jake’s! 

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Frozen Custard, Italian Market, Gourmet Coffee, Seafood, Burgers & Fries . . . Fewer Empty Storefronts in Paoli!

Last week State Representative Paul Drucker announced $1 million from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for the Paoli Transportation Center.  This money represents a first step in this major land development project and we’re looking forward to the project getting in to full swing!

In addition to the transportation center funding news, it is exciting to see other positive signs of growth in Paoli.  Under the leadership of Judy Huey and her brother Rob DiSerafino, Paoli Village Shoppes has become the centerpiece of Paoli.  Their creative planning and vision for the future has set the standard for Paoli.  Unlike other shopping locations on Lancaster Avenue, you rarely see an empty storefront or a  ‘for lease’ sign at this location. 

 As space become available in Paoli Village Shoppes, there seems to be a new tenant waiting in the wings to take the empty spot.  Jake’s, a cute frozen custard place is opening next to the Penn Liberty Bank.  Not a traditional ice cream shop, Jake’s is  fashioned after a Wisconsin Custard Stand with a menu anchored by “made fresh daily” Wisconsin Style Frozen Custard.  Jake’s plans to be open by late summer! Another new addition coming to the Paoli Village Shoppes will be Martini’sAn obvious throwback to the DiSerafino Italian heritage, many of us are anxious to have an Italian market in our own backyard.  (BTW – I understand that the owner of Martini’s Italian  Market in Paoli Village Shoppes is the son of the owners of the old Martini’s Restaurant that was on Lancaster Ave.  in Devon for many years).

Seafood USA in Paoli is now open and I understand has great crab legs and shrimp cocktail!  Across from Seafood USA, the old Fellini’s restaurant (which unfortunately closed under Chapter 11),  I see has a  new banner advertising Grappa Cafe hanging across the doorway.  Not sure what kind of food this new BYOB will be serving — I peeked in the window and it looks like new construction is underway.

Paoli Shopping Center has been challenged in today’s economy – they currently seem to have a number of empty storefronts.  Many in the community were disappointed when the ice cream shop, Stone Cold Creamery closed their doors . . . but there’s a new banner, Ashys Burger & Fries, hanging over that storefront. Not sure what to expect from Ashys, other than burgers and french fries; also no indication as to opening date . . . stay turned.

Whirled Peace, q new fun frozen yogurt place with outdoor seating,  has opened on Lancaster Ave. at the former site of Rita’s Water Ice.  Opening just in time for our summer heat wave, Whirled Peace is setting itself apart from more traditional ice cream/frozen yogurt places — they have 4 flavors of frozen yogurt and twists with tons of toppings but it’s a do-it-yourself operation. At the counter you weigh your creation, pay and they hand you a spoon. As a FYI,  be careful with how many toppings you add; I witnessed the surprise expression of a customer’s $8 ice cream! 

I hope that I have encouraged you to pay a visit to Paoli . . . these small business owners are taking a chance and opening up their eaterys along this section of Lancaster Avenue and need our support!

When talking about Paoli, I’d be remiss not to mention one of Paoli’s most vocal cheerleaders!  Always positive and enthusiastic, . .  the face (and voice) behind a lot of the new exciting changes in Paoli is Marie Thibault.  A long-standing Paoli homeowner and business owner, Marie served as the president of Paoli Business & Professional Association for the last 2 years.  Although Marie’s term as president ended in June, her vision and tireless dedication that Paoli be  ‘all that it can be’ will remain her legacy.

Full disclosure — Marie and I are close friends and together co-chaired the Paoli Sings the Blues, Paoli’s first bluesfest community event held last October.  Successful beyond our wildest expectations with 5,000+ attendees, we are well underway in planning the 2nd Annual Paoli Blues Fest scheduled for October 2, 2010.  As part of our fundraising efforts for the annual blues fest, we have scheduled a Paoli Sings the Blues fundraiser for July 30, 7-10 PM at Royer-Greaves School on N. Valley Rd. in Paoli – I will post the invitation and details tomorrow. 

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