Development throughout Upper Moreland was the focus of the annual Willow Grove Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which took place April 17, at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
“The reason for this event today is to give the community an awareness of what’s going on in Willow Grove, particularly the downtown area,” John DiMarzio, Willow Grove Chamber of Commerce president, said at the event.
DiMarzio addressed members of the township’s business community and leaders, developers, members of the Upper Moreland School Board, as well as representatives of township government; including commissioners and those in the Revitalization Task Force.
DiMarzio had noted that there have been several new developments, major in nature, that have occurred in the township within the last year. He said he invited Upper Moreland commissioner and Community Development Committee chair Joe Lavalle to explain the developments.
Lavalle’s speech addressed 13 developments within the township, from successful property conversions to the creation of township agencies to guide and further along development.
In regards to properties, such as Sonic, Miller’s Ale House or the incoming York Road Student Housing, Lavalle emphasized the township’s direction to developers to pay attention to storm water management enhancements and practices.
The following is the outline in which Lavalle provided township development updates:
Sonic, located at Mill and Easton Road was the first development noted in Lavalle’s address. The Sonic franchise in Willow Grove opened in July 2010, but was noted as a recent successful conversion of a dilapidated property (an old gas station) that was once marked by blight. Lavelle provided high acclaim to the storm water management enhancements of the site, as well as its street-scape enhancements, which included a place-making sign for those coming off the interchange. Lavalle noted that the property also acts as a buffer to neighboring properties, and provides increased vehicle traffic management in a high-traffic challenged area.
The Giant Gas Station, located at 315 York Road in Willow Grove, was a former Pizza Hut site. The site opened to the public on Jan. 18, 2012. Its storm water management enhancements featured a previously non-existent rain gardens for storm water retention, as well as stabilize a steep slope behind the property; adding to the overall environmental considerations of the site.
Millers Ale House
Millers Ale House is located off of Home Depot Blvd. in the Interchange area of Willow Grove. The restaurant opened its doors on July 16, 2012. Lavalle noted that the construction included increased storm water retention more than what was approved for the master plan of the site. Its storm water management includes rain gardens. It also provides a buffer from the retail properties from residential areas.
Stream Bank Stabilization Project
Located inside Veterans Memorial Park, the project was designed to complement Memorial Park Drive and the park itself. Lavalle said the project provided natural restoration of an environmentally sensitive area, highlighting the use of vegetation and stones in contrast to a hardscape solution. The project helps to prevent erosion and will control the steep slopes of the creek. Lavalle noted that it was completed on time and under budget, which was based off a federal grant.
In the same area of Memorial Park Drive and Veterans Memorial Park, Lavale talked about new brick sidewalk inlays, historic street lights and decorative crosswalks, compliant ADA guidelines. This project was also completed under budget and on time. Lavalle noted that an additional grant application has been submitted to address the opposite side of York Road for continuance of streetscape improvements.
Revitalization Task Force
The Upper Moreland Board Revitalization Task Force was formed in early February 2011. Lavalle described the members of the task force as being a, “very talented group.” The task force’s initial mission was to help the township, and the township’s revitalization plan, but has since grown to incorporate other projects, including finding areas in the township for redevelopment, reviewing the township’s zoning ordinance and reviewing the townships overall economic/comprehensive plan, all of which would be reported to the commissioners in an advisory capacity. Lavalle went on to describe the research, which included public information-gathering meetings, and work the Task Force underwent in forming the township’s new Revitalization Plan. http://patch.com/A-qxj4
Willow Grove Train Station Relocation Study
The study, also facilitated by the Revitalization Task Force, hosted a series of public information-gathering and presentation meetings, which helped the task force explore the feasibility of other locations for the train station, as well as design components to the station and consideration of reducing train and traffic delays. The task force worked with consultants and SEPTA, and found that moving the train station would not provide additional development opportunities, and that the current location is adequate, but with improvements to parking and infrastructure.
Signage and Way Finding Master Plan
The signage and way-finding plan is in conjuction with the 2012 Upper Moreland Revitalization Plan. Lavalle said that a way-finding system will help with intelligent planning for revitalization and business growth, particularly in the Willow Grove business district. He said that signage will help guide business professionals coming off the turnpike and navigating through the township.
York Road Student Housing
Currently under construction, the site of the York Road (located across from the Giant Gas Station) student housing was formerly a gas station, storage facility and a dump, Lavalle said. He noted that its last incarnation was blighted. Lavale said that the structure will be a 3-story structure to be used by students from the Penn State Abington campus. He also noted the storm water improvements both on and off of the site.
Lofts of Davisville Road
The Lofts, whose location is proposed for the 500 block on Davisville, is expected to take up to 1.8 acres of land, and include indoor and outdoor parking. It could produce up to 90 units multiuse family residential units, either one or two stories in height. Lavalle described the design concepts as innovate. He also noted that improvement and development in the existing area would replace blighted structures.
According to Lavalle, the Rosen organization is proposing the consolidation of two parcels and expansion of the North Crossing Apartment Community, located at 3625 Welsh Road in Willow Grove. The proposal contains 56 apartment units, and 114 new parking spaces on site. Other improvements include pedestrian access walkways and storm water management.
The Wawa is proposed to replace the old Bally’s property in Willow Grove. According to Lavalle, development improvement proposals include an extension of streetscape design elements, increased storm water management, a pedestrian connection to the train station. It’s construction, along with a gas station will be a 10,000 square-foot single story retail building.
Storm Water Sub Committee
The Storm Water Sub Committee was established to help focus the Community Development Committee’s efforts to address storm water issues throughout the township. Its membership includes commissioners, the township’s engineer and its public works director. The subcommittee initiated a storm water fund, and has a storm water implementation plan. The sub committee is currently pursuing a flood mitigation grant to aid in its efforts.
Community Development Committee
Lavalle also thanked the members of the township’s Community Development Committee for their support in addressing the ongoing and new developments of the township. He noted that there is an open dialogue with the school district to better serve respective budgets, and therefore the residents of the township.
Lavalle ended his address of recent developments by stating that future developments will continue throughout every aspect of the township in the face of trying times, referencing recent economic and terroristic issues.
“We are trying to do what we can to enhance optimism and enhance efficiency,” Lavalle said.