Station Square

Paoli’s Station Square Redevelopment Project Proposes Apartment, Office & Retail Complex

Paoli Station aerial view

In early 2014, Home Properties, a Philadelphia-based developer proposed a 250+-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan for Station Square, the 7.475 acre commercial site at the corner of Central and North Valley Roads in Paoli, owned by the Palmer Group Properties.  Although the current Town Center District zoning allows for 135 apartments on the property by right, the developer sought approval for greater density.

The proposed 4-story apartment complex was viewed as a radical change for the immediate community and concerns were raised as to whether this high density project was a good fit for the neighborhood. Major issues surrounded the proposed project, including increased traffic, density, height, change to the character of the neighborhood, impact on school district, public safety, etc.  Ultimately, faced with many unanswered questions from the Planning Commission and major pushback from the local residents, the proposed 2014 redevelopment plan quietly disappeared.

The Station Square office building complex remained for sale with a $9 million listing price and the tenants on month-to-month leases. On April 21, 2016, Linden Lane Capital Partners appeared before the Planning Commission to present a new redevelopment plan for the Station Square complex.  Following a lengthy discussion and public comment period, no action was taken by the Planning Commissioners and the application received an extension until the May meeting.

On Thursday, May 19, Linden Lane Capital Partners will present its conditional use application for the redevelopment of Station Square to the Planning Commission. The proposal is to construct three new mixed-used buildings, with structured and surface parking.  Uses include apartments and rental space for office, retail and/or personal services.  Linden Lane is seeking a recommendation from the Planning Commission for approval by the Board of Supervisors. Upon recommendation (for approval or denial), Linden Lane will appear before the supervisors for a Conditional Use Hearing.

In 2014, residential neighbors of Station Square were successful in their efforts opposing the proposed multi-story apartment complex.  Knowing that increased traffic in their neighborhood was a major concern for Paoli residents, the 2016 redevelopment plan seeks to address those concerns. According to the conditional use application, the developer will work with the township and the PA Department of Transportation to mitigate the traffic issues although no specifics are given. With respect to the parking, the applicant intends to provide for a minimum of 75% of the required parking with a structured parking facility.

$9 million for 7+ acres in the heart of Paoli – Will buyer build multi-story apartment buildings?

 

Paoli Station aerial view

Station Square aerial view, photo courtesy of HFF

In early 2014, Home Properties, a Philadelphia-based developer proposed a 250+-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan for Station Square, the 7.475 acre commercial site at the corner of Central and North Valley Roads in Paoli, owned by the Palmer Group Properties.  Although the current Town Center District zoning allows for 135 apartments on the property by right, the developer sought approval for greater density.

The proposed 4-story apartment complex was viewed as a radical change for the immediate community and concerns were raised as to whether this high density project was a good fit for the neighborhood. Major issues surrounded the proposed project, including increased traffic, density, height, change to the character of the neighborhood, impact on school district, public safety, etc.  Ultimately, faced with many unanswered questions from the Planning Commission and major pushback from the local residents, the proposed 2014 redevelopment plan quietly disappeared.

Station Square is back in the news – According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Palmer Group Properties has retained Holliday Fowler (HFF) to sell the 7+ acre land site with four existing multi-tenant office buildings. Marketing the project for apartments, by utilizing the Town Center District Zoning, which allows up to 135 multi-unit housing units by right, the four aging office buildings that exist on the site need to be demolished prior to the development. Current asking price for the Station Square property is $9 million.

Approximately one acre of the Station Square property will be transferred through eminent domain to Amtrak and SEPTA for the proposed $36 million redevelopment of the Paoli Transportation Center and realignment of a bridge over Valley Road.

According to HFF sales literature, the property is being offered as a “strong development opportunity” and that the “Demand for multi-housing remains healthy throughout Greater Philadelphia, however, a scarcity of Class-A transit-oriented development opportunities exist within The Main Line. With a new development opportunity focused around an affluent population and dynamic location, Paoli Station represents a unique investment opportunity.”  HFF states that “the site is ideal for residential development due to its location, accessibility and strong demographic profile.”

Speaking of the Paoli Transportation Center, I have heard no news on that front.  A check of the Tredyffrin Township website, does not indicate any new or updated information but it does state that Phase I (of the three phases), the Station Accessibility Improvements is set to begin in the Summer of 2016. This construction includes a new center high level platform, elevators and ramps, pedestrian overpass, parking lot improvements, ADA improvements to the existing station building and improvements to the existing rail infrastructure. So, if the township website information is correct, that means this time next year we should see forward movement on the train station project.

Tredyffrin Twp Planning Commission agenda — Chesterbrook Shopping Center project & Plans for 250-unit multifamily building in Paoli!

The upcoming Planning Commission meeting on Thursday has a couple of major township redevelopment projects on the agenda for discussion – Chesterbrook Shopping Center and 250 unit multi-family building with structured parking in Paoli.

The applicant for the Chesterbrook Shopping Center project, 500 Chesterbrook Boulevard, LP is back in front of the Planning Commissioners regarding the proposed text amendments to the Town Center District (TCD).  The proposed TCD changes included amending the standard for building height, sidewalks, parking, building façade and the steep slope regulation, to differentiate for manmade steep slopes.  The Planning Commission originally approved the TCD zoning changes on November 21 and sent it to the Board of Supervisors for review at their December 16 meeting.  However, after discussion and community input, the supervisors sent the proposed TCD text amendments back to the PC for further work that will happen at Thursday’s meeting.

One of the sticking points in the proposed zoning changes is in regards to steep slopes; the current TCD ordinance differentiates between natural and manmade slopes but makes no distinction from a regulatory standpoint – both have the same requirements.  It is the suggestion of the applicant that if the slope is manmade because of a prior development (which is the case at the Chesterbrook Shopping Center), it should not need to be preserved – especially when considering that much of the development affected by this will be redevelopment.  For those that don’t know, the backside of Chesterbrook Shopping Center (Wilson Farm Park side) is multi-story; the slope created as part of the original development plan when the center was constructed.

Ever since Genuardi’s closed 3-1/2 years ago, the center has continued its spiral downward. Unlike the retail stores that may close along Rt. 252 or Lancaster Avenue, the Chesterbrook Shopping Center is the core of Chesterbrook – it’s their town center.  The redevelopment of the Chesterbrook Shopping Center is very overdue – this project is going to be a win-win for the neighboring residents, the corporate employees working in Chesterbrook and other township residents, who like I drive through the area regularly.  I hope that the 500 Chesterbrook Boulevard, LP developer can successfully maneuverer any remaining obstacles regarding the text amendment zoning changes and this exciting project can move forward!

I wish I could say that I was as positive about the proposed Paoli redevelopment project as I am about the Chesterbrook Shopping Center.  The owner of Station Square (a group of dated office buildings at the corner of East Central and N. Valley Road), the Palmer Group is proposing a 250-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan at this site adjacent to the Paoli Train Station.  Having just praised the plans for the Chesterbrook Shopping Center, my objection to the Station Square project has nothing to do with not supporting redevelopment.

There are so many issues surrounding the proposed Station Square project, it’s hard to know where to start.  First off, for anyone that travels on North Valley Road or Central Avenue during either morning or afternoon rush hours, you know how much traffic already exists in this area of the township.  Certainly, the employees working in the existing Station Square office buildings contribute to the traffic although a certain number probably use the convenient adjacent public transportation.  However, any additional traffic from the Station Square office workers is Monday-Friday, 9 – 5 type of traffic.  However, the addition of a 250 unit multifamily building in this location and the traffic is compounded – and it’s 24/7 traffic.

The residents of Valley Hills already face major morning and afternoon traffic challenges maneuvering from their community onto E. Central and N. Valley roads – I cannot imagine how the local roads will handle the traffic created by an additional 250 families or the quality of life effect on the neighbors.

 I am certain that an argument to support this proposed project is that it is part of of the Paoli Transit Center and Paoli redevelopment vision.  However, I have problems with the density of the development and the additional traffic issues such a project will cause.  One of the arguments regularly used by residents opposing the Wayne Glen development project is the potential additional students into the T/E School District.  The targeted audience for the proposed Wayne Glen townhouses and carriage homes and the new Chesterbrook townhouses is the 55+ buyer but that has not kept that argument from being made.  However, my guess is the planned 250-unit multifamily building in Paoli is going to appeal to families with children and will provide a lower cost way to enjoy the benefits of the T/E schools.   As an aside, it is clear from attending school board meetings that many of our schools are currently operating at near capacity and this proposed Station Square multifamily building could have a dramatic effect on the school district enrollment.

According to the Planning Commission agenda, the developer will provide a sketch plan of the Station Square project. This is the first opportunity for residents to hear about the concept and see the plans – I look forward to hearing how the developer plans to resolve the additional traffic issues and density concerns.

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