Station Square

Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission agenda – townhouses, apartments, hotel and assisted living projects, Oh My!

What’s on Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission Agenda this week … Mt. Pleasant and Devon townhouses, multi-story apartments in Paoli, single family homes in Berwyn plus a new hotel  and another assisted living project. (Planning Commission meeting, Thursday, April 19, 7 PM, Township Building, click here for agenda).

Although we have had a long cold winter with spring taking its time to arrive that hasn’t slowed construction plans in Tredyffrin. Developers have flocked to the township with their assisted living and townhouse, apartment and condominium plans.

Reviewing the Planning Commission agenda, there is quite an assortment of proposed land development projects – some plans returning for further review and others new to the township.  A few highlights from the agenda include:

  • The Berkley Road Development project “Peyton’s Crossing” in Devon previously received approval to demolish a historic twin house on Berkley Road and build 6 townhouses – now they are back asking to amend the plan for 8 townhouses. (For the record, the demolished house dated to 1900. Remember Tredyffrin Township has no historic preservation ordinance of protection.)
  • The Linden Lane Capital Partners “Station Square” redevelopment plan adjacent to the Paoli train station, which demolishes 4 existing 2-story office buildings to make way for a new 4-story apartment building, is back in front of the Planning Commissioners for preliminary/final land development approval. The proposed $40 million project includes 153 apartments and first floor office space, interior courtyard and swimming pool.

    Proposed Linden Lane architectural rendering

The proposed Linden Lane – Station Square project has garnered much concern from neighbors, including the increase in traffic plus lighting and adequate landscaping buffering.

  • First time in front of the Planning Commissioners is a proposed townhouse community in Mt. Pleasant –  “959 Radnor Road, 969 Radnor Road, 979 Radnor Road”, and 959 Fairview Avenue”. The plan calls for consolidating 4 properties into 2 lots and then constructing townhouses on each lot.

This is Mt. Pleasant, a community on the brink of losing its identity and place in our local history. In the last few years, absentee landlords have purchased and filled houses with college students, forcing neighbors to act as ‘dorm parents’ with late-night parties, increased traffic, etc. Residents have watched as small homes have been demolished with Mcmansions in their place and price tags that many in Mt. Pleasant cannot afford. Or, the vacant lots where developers purchased and demolished homes, only to later abandon their plans.

The proposed townhouses will demolish 1920’s Mt. Pleasant houses

Wanting to understand the new townhouse plan proposed for Mt. Pleasant, I walked its streets this past Saturday with resident Christine Johnson, a long-standing supporter and leading voice in her community.

From a historic standpoint, at least a couple of the houses slated for demolition are from the 1920’s, which of course saddens me. Four houses will be demolished to make way for 12 townhouses – and with price tags  that most of the neighbors cannot afford. This type of high-end development continues to erode the Mt. Pleasant – a place where everyone knows your name! 

The bigger question for the residents of Tredyffrin Township is how many townhouses do we need (or want)?  Is the destruction of our communities worth it?

Returning to the Planning Commissioners is the Valley Forge Motor Court Motel development project and Nolen Properties assisted living project at the Aquilante Catering site on Cassatt Ave.

  • The current one-story Valley Forge Motor Court Motel is squeezed in between Route 202 and West Anthony Wayne Drive. The applicant is seeking to demolish the motel and build a multi-story Sleep Inn Hotel in its place. This proposed land development project was first in front of the Planning Commissioners last June. The applicant subsequently sought and received a Special Exception from the Zoning Hearing Board authorizing “hotel” use. I attended the first presentation of the proposed hotel and I recall that there were many in the community voices with objections to the plan — concerns for lighting, traffic and the multi-story size and scope of the proposed hotel.

In Pennsylvania, the PA Historical and Museum Commission uses the fifty-year standard to qualify historic properties. For the record, the Valley Forge Motor Court Motel qualifies as “historic”  but remember, Tredyffrin Township does not have a historic preservation protection ordinance.

  • 950 Cassatt Partners/Nolen Development Group is back with a “Petition for Zoning Ordinance Text & Map Amendment”. They are seeking to revise the O (Office) zoning district to permit “Residential Care Facilities” and to re-zone the property to the O (Office).

This proposed assisted living project is on the site of the Aquilantes catering business on Cassatt Road in Berwyn and  requires a zoning amendment. Although the developer has scaled back his plans to 190 units, this is still twice the current allowance for the intended use. The current zoning laws allow for 10 beds per acre but the proposal is closer to 20 acres per acre. The high density housing is not compatible with the surrounding residential area.

The proposed assisted living project requires the demolition of this 19th c. building.

The proposed text amendments to the density and impervious surface requirements allow a greater number of units and therefore a greater number of residents on this property as compared to a currently compliant facility.

The applicant hopes to gain recommendation from the Planning Commissioners to the Board of Supervisors for a zoning text amendment to create new density allowances for “transitional areas”.

When is enough, enough with the assisted living and the townhouses?  I really am not opposed to development — thoughtful development, not development that impacts communities, overcrowds the school district, increase traffic and destroys historic structures!

Show me some redevelopment plans for the many empty office buildings and box stores and these projects would have my complete support!

Hope to see many residents at the Planning Commission meeting tomorrow at 7 PM, Township Building.  Your voice matters and the Planning Commissioners listen!

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Updates: Station Square Redevelopment project moves forward & Aquilante’s catering property … another assisted living facility?

I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission meeting this past week, along with an overflowing audience of residents.  The two items on the agenda attracting the attention – (1) Preliminary/Final Land Development approval on the Station Square redevelopment project, N. Valley Road in Paoli and (2) Consideration of a text amendment to the “Institutional Overlay” district.

The Linden Lane Capital Partners “Station Square Redevelopment” (LD-07-2017 application) project consolidates three parcels into one parcel for the redevelopment of the four existing two-story office buildings. The property is located next to the Paoli Train station at 37 N. Valley Road, within the TCD (Town Center) district.

To qualify in the Town Center District (and receive its various zoning bonuses) requires mixed use in the Station Square redevelopment project. The original plan called for three separate apartment buildings, each with a small 750 sq. ft. office for a total of 3 offices.  In the settlement decision with the township for conditional use, the three buildings were consolidated into one building (205,000 sq. ft) and instead of including three offices; the new plan only contains one 750 sq. office space.  There has been much discussion from the Planning Commissioners and residents that this imbalance between residential and office may constitute ‘mixed-use’ but is not the spirit or vision for Town Center District zoning.

The existing structures will be demolished in order to construct one new four-story mixed-use building, containing 153 apartments and first floor office space, plus above and underground parking, interior courtyard and swimming pool.

Proposed Linden Lane architectural rendering

The Station Square redevelopment project at the corner of Central and North Valley in Paoli is significant. The immediate neighborhood, which includes private homes and the Delaware Valley Friends School, is already challenged with the daily increase of traffic as commuters travel on East and West Central Avenue to avoid backups and traffic lights on Routes 252 and 30.  Traffic studies by the developer have yet to convince any of us that this project is not going to add more traffic to currently existing traffic problems.  But if you were to believe the developer and his attorney, the residents of this new multi-story apartment building are only going to travel by train, and additional cars will not be an issue.

As part of the redevelopment plan, 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.

The pitch for preliminary/final land development approval for the Station Square project included a list of proposed waivers.  What caught everyone’s attention was a landscaping waiver asking for a reduction in shade trees, evergreen trees and shrubs – a total reduction of 200 plants! The Planning Commissioners, most notably Denise Waite, were as troubled by the landscaping waiver request as were the neighbors. David Falcone, developer’s attorney argued that plantings on N. Valley would be the responsibility of Amtrak not his clients.  A very petty argument on such a costly project; in the end, Falcone was told to work with the township staff for resolution.

I liked the suggestion of one neighbor – if there was a problem finding room for the shade and evergreen trees have the developer offer them to the neighboring Central Avenue residents. It will be interesting to see what ends up in the final plans.

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The second item on the agenda of interest to many residents was ZA-01-2016 “Institutional Overlay Amendment”.  It took me awhile to realize that this was the Aquilante property at 950 Cassatt Road in Berwyn.

The Nolen Properties development group was previously in front of the Planning Commissioners with a plan for a “residential care facility for older persons” in December 2016. They sought to re-zone the Cassatt Road property from R-1 (Residential) to O (Office) and to petition for the O (Office) district to permit a residential care facility as a usage.

In the interim year, the development company purchased additional land and the property now has 10+ acres so that it meets the minimum size requirement for the Institutional Overlay district. As we learned at the meeting, because the R-1 property on Cassatt had been operating as Aquilante’s catering business (and apparently a slaughterhouse before the catering usage), the nonconforming usage passes with the property – thus making it a ‘by-right’ use for commercial development, including a residential care facility.

What is this Institutional Overlay district and why was it important to Nolen Properties? Because with certain criteria – a Residential property (such as Aquilante’s) with a min. of 10 acres, that is adjacent to a commercial zoned property, qualifies for many more usages, such as schools, churches or in this case, a residential care facility for older persons.

Important to Nolen Properties is that the IO district allows for a density of “30 beds per acre” in its proposed care facility – yes, the proposed change to the ordinance would allow for 300 beds on the Cassatt Road property!

To fully understand the potential size and impact of this proposed project on Cassatt Road – you must drive by the Brightview Senior Living project on E. Conestoga Road (behind Whole Foods) in Devon which is under construction. This project is over-sized for the space, wedged next to the train tracks and has 196 beds!  For perspective, if the text amendment change is granted on the Aquilante property, the proposed residential care facility could come with 300 beds!

Every time I hear the ‘text amendment’ I am reminded of the Daylesford Crossing.  You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.

Although the Aquilante property is in the preliminary land development stage, residents had plenty of questions and comments, many having to do with the potential traffic impacts of the development, including cut-through traffic on Westwind  Drive to Contention Lane and points east. Many neighbors attended the meeting — all voicing their opposition to the proposed plan.

When asked what other properties in the township could be impacted by the proposed ordinance change, no one knew the answer. It seems to me that there needs to be an answer to that question before this proposal can advance.

It should also be noted that Berwyn Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas attended the meeting and commented on the potential increase of emergency calls at assisted living facilities — remember the fire companies serving Tredyffrin Township are combination departments, paid staff and volunteers.

I guess my question is how many residential/assisted living facilities do the residents of Tredyffrin Township need (or want)?

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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.

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$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.

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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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