Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Paoli Business 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.


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

PA State Representative 157 Race – Candidate Question #5 and Response

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the Pennsylvania State House 157 candidates. As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum. Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question. Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted. The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #5: Small business owners are struggling to keep their doors open in today’s economy. What should government do to help them?

Paul Drucker’s Response:

The best way for government to help all business, small and large, is to make an environment that is friendly to them. One step government can take to help small business owners is to improve local downtowns and develop older communities.

What’s more, we need to ensure that businesses, particularly start-ups and small businesses, are taxed at a fair and responsible rate. With that in mind, lowering property taxes is not only important for homeowners, but for business owners as well.

As I mentioned earlier, it is critical that we have a well-educated workforce and provide small businesses access to capital in this tight credit market.

And, once again, we cannot separate economic development from our transportation needs. We will not attract 21st century businesses with a 20th century infrastructure.

Paoli Sings the Blues Fundraiser . . . A Perfect Night!

With perfect weather and a special location, how could the Paoli Sings the Blues fundraiser not be a success? And it was!

Last night’s fundraiser included a Silent Auction and was held on the lawn of Royer-Greaves School on South Valley Road in Paoli. With sounds of the blues band, PokerFace and guest musician Russ Lambert filling the night’s air and the best barbeque provided by Bridgeport Ribhouse, how could it miss?

A Silent Auction included an amazing selection of items from local businesses and restaurants. The single highest auction item sold for $750 – dinner for 8 prepared in your home by Wegmans top chef. A bidding war took that item right down to the wire! The evening also contained a bit of local political campaigning with State Rep candidates Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf both in attendance.

Although the final numbers are not yet available, we know that the evening was highly successful. Not only was the fundraiser a success financially but the evening brought attention to the Paoli business community. The fundraiser marked the kick-off for the excitement to build towards the 2nd Annual Paoli Blues Fest coming on October 2nd! If you would like to sign up to be a volunteer for this free community-wide event, please either email me or visit ou blues fest website,

A special thank you to PokerFace and the guest musicians for providing the perfect musical backdrop; to Alexis Serafin and Linda Goldstein for their over-the-top Silent Auction and attention to detail; to Dr. Joe Coleman and the staff at Royer-Greaves School for graciously opening their doors to us; and to Marie Thibault and John Fattibene without whose hard work, friendship and laughter the evening would never have been possible! Thank you all!

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’s. An 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.

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.


Strategic Realty Investments:

Help Make Paoli More Walk and Bike-Friendly . . . Plan to attend the open house workshop

Tredyffrin Township is sponsoring a Paoli Pedestrian and Bike Study Workshop with support from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. The open house workshop will discuss walking, biking in Paoli and connecting to the Chester Valley Trail system. This is the first public workshop and public input during the process is important. Please plan on attending the workshop; let’s help make Paoli more walk and bike-friendly!

When: Wednesday, March 24

Time: Stop in any time between 4:00 and 8:00 PM to view project materials and provide input. A brief presentation will be made at 4:15 PM and repeated at 5:15 PM, 6:15 PM and 7:15 PM.

Where: Delaware Valley Friends School, 19 East Central Avenue, Paoli

Questions or Further Information: Please contact EJ Lee, Tredyffrin Township, at 610.408.3625 or

Workshop Poster: Paoliworkshop Bike-Walk flyer

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 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 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, 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:

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, To show support, I would like to offer them exposure on Community Matters.

Chowhound Website Unfair to Paoli's Carangi Bakery — a Touch of South Philly in our Backyard

The Paoli small business community is thrilled to welcome Carangi Bakery in to the neighborhood. The Paoli Business & Professional Association has used Carangi’s for the last couple of monthly for our noontime meetings. As a board member of PBPA, I have to tell you their sandwiches and stromboli were great, but the cannoli’s . . well, let’s just say that they are unbelievable!

Like most new businesses, there are growing pains and learning curves. Although Carangi Bakery has had their Philadelphia location for years, the Paoli location is new — I think they opened this location in early fall. One of my friends raved about the bread and pies she had for Thanksgiving, so I know that they were opened by that point. But like all new businesses, sometimes things may not go as you planned or as you wished. Case in point, apparently Christmas Eve the store was a bit chaotic and customers did not leave as satisfied as the owners would have preferred. One dissatisfied customer decided in the last week to leave a very negative comment on the Chowhound website concerning their Christmas Eve experience. Although I think the comment was unnessarily personal and more negative than required, people are entitled to their opinion. But the problem is when the bakery owner tried to leave an apology comment on the Chowhound website it was immediately deleted. John Petersen visits the bakery regularly and he tried to leave a positive comment on the Chowhound website and that too was removed.

I am not sure what the deal is with the administrator of the Chowhound website, but I figure the best way to counter balance the one negative comment is to make a personal appeal on Community Matters for Carangi Bakery. My suggestion to all the readers . . . is go visit Carangi Bakery and take a touch of South Philly home with you! (And don’t forget the cannolis.)

Carangi Bakery is located on Lancaster Avenue in the old 4 Seasons store. A link to their website is:

Let’s make this new business feel really welcome . . . and be sure to tell the owner you read about them on Community Matters.

Strategic Realty Investments. . . the Right Choice for the Community!

A few days ago, I shared the exciting news that Strategic Realty Investments (SRI) was named the master developer for the Paoli Rail Yard project. One of the principals of SRI, Peter Monaghan is community-oriented and understands the importance of engaging the local residents in the process. Both on a personal level and also as a board member of Paoli Business & Professional Association, I was happy to applaud the choice! Peter kindly took the time to offer the following thoughts on the Paoli Rail Yard project and I wanted to share them . . .


First and foremost I wanted to thank for your kind words of support and well wishes for the Paoli rail yards project. And thanks for your continued good work supporting Tredyffrin Township and its residents. I wanted to highlight a few matters that I think are important to consider in light of your December 20th blog post.

The redevelopment of the Paoli rail yards is in the very early planning stages, and while Strategic Realty Investments has recently been named master developer for the site, no decisions have been made as to what will be constructed there beyond the long awaited new Paoli train station, new transit parking garage and related transit infrastructure to replace the very outdated existing station and parking. A comprehensive vision that will benefit all stakeholders will be crafted in the coming months. Our goal is to provide all stakeholders with the opportunity to have input into the planning process. To that end, Strategic Realty will be holding a series of small group meetings within the community, and we will be sure to let you know the details so you can inform your readers.

In addition, we are at least 18 months from breaking ground at the site. The first phase of the project will address modernization of the Paoli Train station, and many infrastructure improvements are also in the queue as first steps toward redevelopment of the site. Long story short: we have ample time for the economy to recover before any ribbon cuttings occur. In the interim, our goal is to build a vision for the site that provides a unique transit-oriented asset in the heart of Paoli with a range of resources that benefit the community as a whole. This vision will be created in a collaborative manner, with consideration given to other resources already existent in the community such as the Worthington development.


Peter Monaghan

Not a Very Merry Christmas for Local Developer

Along with me, I am sure all of you have been watching the development of the Uptown Worthington project on Route 29. This redevelopment project taken on by Brian O’Neill and O’Neill Properties Group on 100 acres of the former Worthington Steel factory was supposed to be a model for the planning concept ‘New Urbanism’. The project had a price tag of $540 million, 1.6 million sq. ft and was supposed to include 753 luxury residences, nearly 800,000 sq. ft. of upscale retail and about 185,000 sq. ft. of office space. Having Wegmans Market in our backyard was exciting news for a lot of us!

Now it looks like Uptown Worthington may be a model for great projects falling to the woes of today’s economic crisis. O’Neill Properties Group is in danger of having to give the keys back to Citizens Bank. Citizens Bank has secured a $61 million judgment against the developer who borrowed money to build the project. Court documents filed a couple of weeks ago show that the bank entered the judgment against Brian O’Neill, after the bank and the King of Prussia developer were unable to come to terms on the loan. In researching the situation, I determined that O’Neill Properties originally arranged an $86 million loan with Citizens Bank through Malvern Hill Associates and other O’Neill-affiliations for the land acquisition and construction costs. O’Neill guaranteed the loan, which was initially made in 2006 and amended in October 2008 when the financial markets worldwide were in turmoil. As of this date, Mr. O’Neill has not filed a petition to strike the judgment (the legal option when someone places a judgment against them.)

The million dollar question (or rather $61 million question) – what does this news mean for the project? I am not sure what the timeline is for O’Neill Properties to resolve the loan issue . . . and what happens in the meantime, does the project continue with O’Neill Properties? I’d like some of our developer, planners, and contractors to weigh in on this one. Does my much anticipated Wegmans Market get completed? Will Citizens Bank become the developer in this project?

This turn of events for Brian O’Neill certainly must be causing pause for Peter Monaghan and Strategic Realty Investments (SRI). Here we have SRI, the recently-named master developer of the Paoli Transit Center project which is to include multi-use development, just down the road from the current financial woes of the Uptown Worthington project. I don’t personally know Brian O’Neill, but in the interest of the community, here’s hoping that some good news comes his way (in the form of $61 million!). For Peter Monaghan, O’Neill Properties Group’s misfortune must be an eye-opening revelation, so here’s sending best wishes to Strategic Realty Investments for their success with the Paoli project!

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