Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Strategic Realty Investments

State Rep Paul Drucker Makes $1,000,000 Announcement Today!

Under the warm summer sun this morning, on the platform of the Paoli train station, those of us in the attendance waited in anticipation for the ‘big announcement’. With the channel 6 ABC news cameras rolling, State Representative Paul Drucker delivered the exciting news that state funding will provide $1,000,000 for the initial phase of the much-anticipated Paoli Transit Center.

Standing with Strategic Realty Investment president Peter Monaghan and House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Phila at his side, Rep Drucker explained to the audience that with this project comes economic growth to the community, including 5,000 construction jobs and over 2,000 permanent jobs.

Today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for Paoli and for the larger community . . . a day to celebrate!

Below is the complete press release for today’s announcement:

Paoli Rail Yard to receive $1 million in state funding

PAOLI, June 21 – State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-Chester/Montgomery, announced today that the Paoli Rail Yard will receive $1 million in state funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation facility.

“The release of this funding facilitates the initial phase of the most significant public-private multi-modal transit project in the entire Delaware Valley region,” Drucker said. “The solar component of this initial phase, funded by these dollars, reflects the opportunity for our community to reclaim an otherwise unusable contaminated soil containment cell for use as a 400,000 watt solar power generation facility.”

Drucker said the proposed facility will ultimately supply power to AMTRAK/SEPTA rail operations.

“Today represents the initiation of the larger project that will ultimately create more than 5,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs in Paoli,” Drucker said. “But most importantly, the building of this solar field will immediately produce 40 new, family-sustaining jobs and offer a boost to our local economy.”

Drucker, joined by House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Phila., Peter Monaghan from Strategic Realty, Tredyffrin District 3 Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro, Marie Thibault from the Paoli Business Association, and Tim Connor of the Chester County Economic Development Council announced the funding at a 10:30 a.m. news conference held at the Paoli Train Station.

The new Paoli Intermodal Transportation facility is planned to include a new station, passenger amenities, office buildings, and an on-site parking garage.

Funding from RACP is intended to create quality jobs and provide economic stimulus to the Pennsylvania economy.

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:

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!

Strategic Realty Investments to be Master Developer for Paoli Rail Yards

I just received notice from State Rep Paul Drucker’s office with the following press release from Harrisburg. Strategic Realty Investments has officially been named as the master developer for the Paoli rail yard redevelopment project. I know Peter Monaghan personally, one of the principals of Strategic Realty Investments, and I appalud the choice. Peter is a wonderful, community-spirited person and this project will be greatly helped with him at the helm! This is good news for the community.

Developer chosen for Paoli rail yards

HARRISBURG, Dec. 16 – State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-Chester/Montgomery, said today that Strategic Realty Investments has been selected as master developer for the Paoli rail yards, a 20-acre site located in Tredyffrin and Willistown townships.

The developer will team with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Tredyffrin and Willistown townships, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and numerous stakeholders to create a new mixed-use development on the former brownfield.

The site will be home to the new Paoli Transportation Center, which is expected to include a modern train station to accommodate hundreds of daily riders and a state-of-the-art garage.

“I believe there is no more important initiative in the Paoli area that could simultaneously help business economic development as well as improve the quality of life for local residents, and it is encouraging to see progress is continuing,” said Drucker. “This announcement is the latest indication that all our hard work is paying off and that the new station and surrounding development will become a reality.”

“Transportation infrastructure is the heart and soul of economic development and this project is a prime example of how public transportation is a vital part of local economies,” said state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “My sincere thanks and congratulations go to Representative Drucker for bringing this important project to my attention, and for his enthusiastic support and persistence through the process.”

Drucker said funding for the project is expected to come from private and public sources, including potential American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding.

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