pondering main line revisionist history…in ardmore

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“Lake Ardmore” sent to me today by Ardmore Shutterbug

The other day I wrote about Viking Pastries, one of the last remaining old school old Ardmore businesses closing.  Yesterday, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Vinny Vella reported on it.

As new apartments rise in Ardmore, two nearby businesses fall
Updated: AUGUST 13, 2018 — 4:44 PM EDT

by Vinny Vella, Staff Writer vvella@phillynews.com

Two well-known businesses in Ardmore have shuttered in recent weeks, and their owners cast at least some of the blame on a loss of parking to make way for new housing.

Viking Pastries, a 62-year-old sweet shop, and the Party Place — located around the corner from each other in the borough’s downtown — stood in the shadow of One Ardmore Place, a long-embattled residential project expected to open early next year. Work on another mixed-use complex, the Cricket Flats, is set to begin across the street.

While the owners acknowledged that the construction isn’t the sole reason for the downturn, they say it played a major role. Local commerce groups, however, contend that the majority of businesses in Ardmore have been thriving while the cranes tower overhead….In a twist of irony, Viking Pastries took part in a groundbreaking celebration for One Ardmore Place last June called “the Big Dig,” in which customers decorated cookies shaped like dump trucks…..Compounding the lack of parking was the sale of the building where she leased her storefront. Petrone said that she couldn’t afford the increased rent from her new landlord….

“A lot of times, people think the solution to parking is putting in more lots,” said Philip Green, the Main Street manager for Ardmore Initiative.

“People….expect to walk a few blocks past stores and other businesses that will interest them. Here, we have beautiful architecture and sidewalks. That’s the appeal of a historic downtown….Ardmore Initiative, a pro-development organization, has been working with Lower Merion Township and the borough’s business association to produce parking guides to assist visitors during construction. ….”

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Taken by me back when Clover Market was starting.  They left Ardmore too, didn’t they?

In Lower Merion this article has caused quite a kerfuffle and chatter on social media forums.  The article is not fair. Why didn’t the article mention other stores, it’s biased. Blah Blah Blah. Oh Yawn. After all these years, they can’t come up with anything more original?

In Ardmore, in Lower Merion Township, the faces of the cheerleaders may sometimes change but the cheerleaders in a sense remain exactly the same. Also amusing and sort of related was a Facebook group thread where comments were shut down that were felt to be negative about this project and parking (or lack thereof) and did that have anything to do with the fact that one of the group administrators sits on the board of the Ardmore Initiative? And another possible topic for another day while we are talking Ardmore is all of the nonsense keeping people up at night in North Ardmore, but I digress…and that is North Ardmore Civic‘s tale to tell.

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This is one of my most favorite photos I took myself.  Ardmore Initiative has gotten years and years of use out of it. They are welcome. Ironically once Godzilla is finished, you will never have this scene again.  Godzilla will be behind it.

The Inquirer article is neither biased or not comprehensive, as some in these Facebook forum comments are not so subtly suggesting . The reporter had ONE story to write about businesses which were closing. I wonder if any of these article critics actually know how reporting works? It wasn’t supposed to be yet another fluffy piece on Ardmore placed by publicists. There have been so many of those, after all….

Further and to the point, I was around and active long before most of them were on the scene, sadly.

Suffice it to say, the faces change,  yet the blind faith township cheerleaders down there  remain the same. Some throw that “we” word around rather liberally but sadly I do not remember them when Ardmore was fighting eminent domain? Or truly community volunteering? And then there are the ones who will tell you how much they did to champion Ardmore and how wrong you are, how bad you are not to share their opinion. (Mind you these are the types who never do or say anything unless they benefit somehow, but I digress.)   Maybe they fancy themselves local authorities and love to play the deflect blame game but let’s all not fall victim to revisionist history since there were way too many of us around who remember how it actually rolled. And went down.

Did Viking have money problems? Start with how many small businesses DO NOT have money problems from time to time? Especially when they have jacked up rents they have to meet monthly along with everything else?

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Ardmore Shutterbug photo. Is this really what “progress”  looks like? Are they sure it’s not really the Temple of Kermit the Frog? Sorry not sorry, but how is that in keeping with the size and scale of Ardmore? Why does suburbia have to look so urban?

Mark my words, more businesses will fail before this apartment Godzilla on the old movie theater lot is finished. So many of the cheerleaders think all this hideous infill development will pave the roads with gold bricks, but sadly, will it? I do not think so. And I never have.

Ardmore’s largest impediment will always be the fact that Lower Merion Township’s township seat and building are there. And some who are new will say things “How can you say things like that?” or “Never heard that before, why are you saying this?”

I say it because if you lived in Lower Merion Township long enough, you know it is the sad truth. Politics, deals, more politics, backroom boardroom dancing, and so much more go into being a First Class Township doesn’t it? Why do people think back in the day we flipped half of the board out of office? Because they were so resident-minded?

People also don’t like it when I take the Ardmore Initiative to task. If they were actually truly independent from the township, I probably wouldn’t. But at the end of the day, in my opinion, they are just another appendage of Lower Merion Township. I find what that Philip Green said  basically idiotic. He has obviously been in Ardmore about five minutes and is young, because he doesn’t get that small town centers without sufficient parking long term are small town centers which will continue to fail. Maybe not all in one week, one month, one year but the more urban it becomes in suburbia, will ultimately not be positive. And THAT is what we are seeing with Party Land and Viking Pastries closing now, and those who went before them.

Suburbia is not Manayunk and Passyunk Avenue. Whether they drive a Prius or a Range Rover, they want to drive their cars. They want convenient parking.  They don’t want hellacious  city- traffic. And what happens when they get any of the above? They shop and go elsewhere. Just ask the residents in Lower Merion who now avoid Ardmore like the plague. It’s not rocket science.

Building lots and lots of overpriced teeny boxy apartments is not going to bring people in droves. Look at all the housing stock up and down the Main Line, King of Prussia, Conshohocken, and out to Chester County where the same old mixed use fairy tale is unfolding as well.  Is everything filled to capacity? Are there NO empty store fronts?

Were the ratables worth it?

Take East Side Flats in Malvern Borough for example:

$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough
The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough.
By Pete Kennedy, Patch Staff | Jun 27, 2012 8:34 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2012 3:38 am ET

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said…”That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

Some folks like to say the beginning of this part of Ardmore where Viking Pastries building sits was caused when Gillaine’s closed. Actually, it’s when that behemoth of a Godzilla apartment building was approved and is now rising behind where the former movie theater/public parking lot is now rising that has done this. That is my personal opinion, and many share that even if they won’t verbalize it. After all, during the days of eminent domain we learned the price of activism and doing the right thing, didn’t we?

Those of us who were the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition (we did all the heavy lifting for years before the last folks who assumed the mantle made the group look silly with litigation a decade too late IMHO) predicted things like this years ago. No parking, lots of construction issues, no real support of businesses from the township and this downtown is simply not sustainable.

After all for how many years did a very small band of volunteers led by Sherry Tillman put on First Friday Main Line? And that was done without any real help of the township every single month. All they tried to do was put up impediments and it was amazing free publicity of a positive kind that they literally couldn’t pay for that we provided.

And while they would provide some kind of insurance (I don’t remember which kind) under some umbrella with the township and all sorts of help for those Bryn Mawr twilight concerts, First Friday Main Line had to pay for everything on their own. I was just looking through photos of First Friday Main Line the other day looking for more photos of Viking Pastries.  First Friday Main Line inspired lots of other events on and off the Main Line.  It was amazing. And the events were not dependent on alcohol, either. People came for the art, music, and sense of community.

Why Ardmore has the issues it does can be laid right at the steps of the township building.

And people like to forget the days of eminent domain. And abuse we received at the hands of the township and their cheerleaders an even paid publicists.

When Lower Merion Township first started that eminent domain debacle it was the whole block from Pennywise down to the corner of Station Rd where Radio Shack was. They wanted EVERYTHING.

Then with the help of folks like the Institute for Justice we defeated that. But it was exhausting, debilitating, time consuming, and took years. However, that was worth it. Eminent domain for private gain is disgusting.

And does anyone remember from where Ardmore went off the rails to eminent domain in the first place? Some commissioners wanted a new train station.  Then other suggested improvement upon the idea of a train station and it morphed into a bloated ridiculous eminent domain-laden plan.

After eminent domain there was no rest for the weary, Lower Merion Township put Ardmore and township residents through the whole insanity of RFPs for development around the train station post-eminent domain (which included a new train station to this day no one has ever seen.) We sat through meeting after meeting for a couple of years and some of us (myself included) got roped into this phony blaoney “Ad Hoc Ardmore Committee”. I resigned from all of it in 2011 when I got my breast cancer diagnosis and I am so glad. Dealing with Lower Merion Township and trying to actually SAVE Ardmore from greed and stupidity was exhausting. And in retrospect, ultimately futile.

In the end there is NO new train station just that hideous Godzilla apartment tower and other bad infill development on the old movie theater side of Lancaster Ave. You see they also allowed poorly executed zoning overlays which in my opinion were essentially developed to give the developers more leeway at the expense of residents and businesses. In Ardmore it was called MUST or Mixed Use Special Transit. At the time we changed the acronym to mean More Unfair Special Treatment.

So again, if you want to talk about the beginning of the end, the beginning starts with Lower Merion Township and their elected and appointed officials.

I am glad I don’t live in Lower Merion any longer. It’s futile – IMHO they are screwing up the entire township not just poor Ardmore. This is also why I hate going to any township or borough meetings anywhere.

Enjoy the photos that are part of my memories of the Ardmore I loved so much once upon a time.  Thanks for the memories, Ardmore.

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3 thoughts on “pondering main line revisionist history…in ardmore

  1. Carla: Love this, one of your best pieces, because YOU WERE THERE! It is such a cautionary tale for those further west on Route 30 now, but I wonder if they recognize that? “…So again, if you want to talk about the beginning of the end, the beginning starts with Lower Merion Township and their elected and appointed officials…” Just put a blank where you’ve written “Lower Merion” and fill it in as you wish…but ultimately, the story ends the same way, doesn’t it?

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