Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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.


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

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  1. Translation: They cannot get approvals to do anything with these properties beyond their current use WITHOUT taxpayer money to buy a parking lot. Since Tredyffrin does not have a mercantile tax, the only “revenue” available for spending tax dollars for a municipal lot is an increase in the value of the property….for tax revenue. They paid half of what the property was originally listed for, so they are hoping that the township will invest in the area and help them get more than their money’s worth.
    Not saying revitalization isn’t a good idea, but in a down economy, where there are many, many empty storefronts, why would the township invest in parking to help these investors? There is a min-mall right across the street with some empty spaces…and plenty of parking? Municipal lots typically have meters — so will people put money in a meter to use one of the new buildings? The Main Street Cafe in Berwyn had plenty of parking around……and closed. San Nicola gave up the space there. When you buy a building with the hopes of developing it, you should plan to build parking along with it. THIS is the problem of our community — developers come with ideas that cost us money to help them make money. IN other parts of the country, a developer would buy the two lots referenced and provide their own parking. That is the cost of doing business. WHY should a township buy municipal parking to enhance the value of their investment?

    Just asking. Would love to hear the other side. If parking is necessary, just who should pay for it?

    1. If you are referring to Paoli Village Shoppes which is located on the other side of Lancaster Ave. — unless something has changed in the last couple of days, there is not a single open store. Just last week I had lunch with Judy Huey, who owns the shopping center with her brother, and I was remarking how great Paoli Village Shoppes looks. They have done a remarkable job in its makeover! But it goes beyond the appearance of the buildings, there is tremendous support for the community.

      For the 3rd year, I am excited to be involved with Marie Thibault in the planning of the Paoli Blues Fest coming on Saturday,October 1. Each year we have been thrilled with the blues fest success – last year it is estimated that 13-15,000 attended. The third year is shaping up to be another exciting community day — good music, good food and lots of fun. The beer garden will extend in size and scope and include wine! For those that don’t know, the Main Stage of the blues fest is at the Paoli Village Shoppes with all the family activities, exotic cars & motorcycles, food vendors — and this year a dunk tank to support an international water project! The entire staff of Paoli Village Shoppes bends over backwards with their support for the blues fest. The day is a true community event, completely free to the public and a wonderful way for the local Paoli businesses to shine for all the visitors.

      1. I agree Pattye, and stand corrected on open space in that center. But if you read the strategic plan for Paoli, that center is recommended for demolition in effect because they want the “town center” to be on the Route 30 corridor. If I’m reading it wrong, I apologize, but Paoli Village is exactly the kind of mixed use development that responsible developers promote — one that comes with its own parking.
        Look at what is happening in Wayne with the new restaurants vying for eligible parking space. If you build it, they might come, which is why ordinances require parking TO build it.
        To suggest that this new bargain development (purchased at half the asking price) should now expect taxpayers to buy property and put in parking is just silly. If a property is economically viable, that means all the pieces are in place. If the township had committed to build a municipal lot, no doubt that property would have sold for closer to asking.
        And Ray, I disagree. The township gets 1% of the sales price in transfer tax, the district gets 1/2%, and look at what’s on top of those “to be developed” buildings….living space. Each child that moves in there will cost $15,000 a year to educate.
        I do agree that the board is misguided in their eagerness to acquire money, but I don’t think our lower tax rate is a disincentive to businesses. In fact, they could go to Radnor and pay a considerably higher property tax along with a mercantile tax. The problem with our developers is that they have survived on handshakes and winks….the same people that represent them have been supervisors and planners and very influential people in our parties — on both sides. Remember that $1,000,000 check moment with Rep. Drucker last year…..that was tax money to a developer. “Highest and best use” is one way to appraise and price property — if there isn’t parking to support it, bulld it yourself. If the project isn’t economically viable without tax support to launch it, the time isn’t right. Exactly what is the payback for taxpayers? A town center in Paoli, one in Berwyn, one in Strafford….how about Chesterbrook? Gateway? ROI.

        And Pattye — you go girl. Your spirit and effort in planning for Blues Fest is infectious, and we all appreciate it!

    2. “The Main Street Cafe in Berwyn had plenty of parking around……and closed.

      Parking in Berwyn has been a nightmare for decades. I’m not sure where you think a few spots on Route 30 is called plenty of parking. Parking is why that property is a revolving door of restaurants.

      Private lots are becoming more strict regarding the usage. Alfredo customers are warned not to park behind John’s / Felini’s now. Hopefully their menu is good enough for people to walk a little further.

  2. Last time I saw the master Paoli renovation plan it included two multistory parking garages to be located on the north side of the tracks, just west of Valley Rd. (They would occupy a chunk of the space now devoted to the commuter parking lot.)

    These long term investors in Paoli real estate should either wait for those or perhaps contribute toward getting the Paoli master plan moving. We don’t need more acres of asphalt and we don’t need to spend public money on it.

  3. Of course, it’s natural to think that property owners should get something for the taxes they pay. The problem is that the vast majority of taxes in TE go to the school district. The anti-business school board showed no thought for taxpayers in the latest budget. Now, the cut in the state’s social security reimbursement has been restored as expected and the board gets another $1 million on top of the union concessions and program cuts. Quote from Karen Cruickshank in today’s Inquirer: “Are we happy to get the money? Of course we are.”

    No wonder properties sell for less than half the asking price. Property taxes take an ever larger bite from money that would otherwise go to mortgage payments.

      1. “Rest” is right. Again, T/E has among the lowest school property taxes in the state. It is quite a stretch to call the board anti-business and blame them for the economic woes of developers or businesses.

  4. I know that Mr. Pilotti owns numerous properties right in that region. While he is correct that parking is an issue, is it possible he also owns either of the properties he suggests the taxpayers should purchase? I don’t know but thought others might.

  5. It’s not the taxpayers responsibility to fund a parking lot in order to make Mr. Pilotti’s investment viable. Buy your own parking lot.

  6. They should just knock down one of those “shanties” they call a building and make a parking lot right there. The building right next to the Library would be great, 20 to 30 spots easy.

  7. The youngest of these 4 buildings is 94 years old, the rest are older. The plumbing and electric are original thus you cannot rehab these buildings. As already mentioned there is no parking whatsoever.

    The new owner will need to knock down all 4 buildings and put up new construction. However newer building codes will prevent the owner from even trying to build with the existing square footage the buildings currently take up (14K sqft). I believe the new owner had no idea what they were really getting themselves into.

    Also T/E township has been repeatedly snubbed by the buyer hence they have not started off on a great relationship.

  8. I’m not surprised those buildings on rt 30 turned out to be a total bust! Four years later and the new owners still haven’t found tenants for all the vacant store fronts! Just goes to show you how bad our economy still is despite all the upbeat market news. Add in the fact that those buildings don’t have any parking and that they are 100+ years old, what you have is real estate prime for eminent domain. I actually feel bad for the buyers…

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