malvern borough have you learned nothing since eastside flats?

Development is a funny thing. I see all of these amazing adaptive reuse and other projects everywhere but in the area we call home. Chester County is overrun with bad and/or inappropriate plans. And yes there is one that concerns me in Malvern Borough. But first we need to talk about the last development which caused me concern there before due to it’s hulking nature: Eastside Flats.

And at the end of the day one of the biggest problems STILL with Eastside Flats is lack of human scale and inappropriate design for the area.  They tower over everything and citify a small town in a way that is architecturally inappropriate. And I would still like to know how fire trucks can navigate this site completely in the event of fire? 

Eastside Flats still is in my opinion, architecturally unimaginative and looks like hulky, looming Lego buildings that created a canyon effect in tiny Malvern. That is NOT a reflection on the businesses there which I love and patronize. Nothing about these buildings ties into the quaint Borough of Malvern or it’s history. I said this in 2013 and I still think that.

Empty lot that used to be old store fronts

And again, this has NOTHING to do with the businesses. It’s the aesthetics, lack of human scale and even the crappy scored-to-look-like-brick-concrete-sidewalks which are a slip and fall and trip hazard. And the fact there is STILL no curb cut from the public parking lot so you don’t have to walk over MULCH. I mean how many years will it take to correct that? And there is little room for delivery trucks, so it’s not uncommon to find UPS and other trucks blocking a pedestrian’s path from parking lot to sidewalk. The finishes on the facade of the buildings are also already showing wear.

Eastside flats being built.

The consequences of Eastside Flats caused an election upheaval in 2013. Yet, Malvern Borough is still facing inappropriate development that will be completely out of scale again, in my opinion, if built. And no, I don’t have a horse in this race. I will merely be around to say I told you so if it gets built the way it looks now in the plans.

Here are the documents you can peruse that were sent to me by concerned residents in Malvern Borough (screenshots below are from these documents – it shows the evolution of proposed plans and note it doesn’t look like it’s Malvern at all):

What the resident said to me (in part):

So much local development that happens before people are aware of it, and then the only thing people can do it complain after the fact. It would be great to get public input on this before it’s an inevitability.

The residents who attended the last PC meeting raising the several concerns about this project are:
* Height – it will be out of scale and character with the surrounding buildings and neighborhood behind. They are requesting a variance for height.
* Traffic – The proposed design will have people entering leaving at the intersection of King and Bridge, adding to our current rush hour traffic woes.
* Construction – How are they going to stage this kind of construction on our overcrowded streets. They are refusing to consider another entrance off of Woodland, which would make this easier. To get the Woodland entrance they would need to purchase 2 parking spaces from the current owner.
* Aesthetics – This is a gateway to Malvern. Do we really want a corporate monolith looming above the street as our welcome to Malvern?

Another resident said:

“I think the applicant should turn his building 90 degrees on its eastern axis nearest Woodland. The short side of the structure takes up only half the King St. frontage of the current proposal. Run the remainder of the building back to the property’s 160′ depth, ending up with the same size building. Plenty of window light all around because the Woodland and King neighbor is small and not deep anyway (which the applicant should buy if possible, anyway). A now 65′ wide frontage (by 43′ high) is far more compatible with the current scale on King.
Now, what do you do with the remaining half of the lot to the west? You put in a beautiful hardscape (cobblestones, bricks, maybe even pervious, etc) all the way to the property depth, studded with lots of trees (diminishing a couple or three parking spaces, for sure, but that’s all, and don’t forget, trees reduce bare ground temperature by 30%). Maybe the drive comes in from Bridge or maybe it goes in from Woodland, but that doesn’t matter to the concept. (Woodland is clearly better for traffic, though.)
Office parking on the hardscape during business hours. The Borough gets the parking in the evening, without security concerns because no one has to go through the off-limits parking under building.On special occasions we would have a new park-like hardscape area for public events. And most critically, we all enjoy the view from Bridge, seeing lots of trees and openness at Our Town’s last main entrance.”
It’s a creative solution instead of a box building that checks all of the bureaucratic boxes. In Malvern it seems we use our ordinances to justify buildings that no one wants. “

I am told that developer folks are asking for like 4 variances: height relief, parking relief, buffer relief (going from 20 ft. to 5 ft.), relief from having to install some kind of parking island? So, if these variances are granted without conditions, such as making them subject to PC recommendations based on SALDO issues, there will be very little the Borough can do to require changes to the plan, right?

Ok so I wrote about the site in 2015 when the original buildings were coming down. I felt back then that although I understood there probably there was no way to save the 19th century storefront and other structures given the decrepit buildings they was attached to. But this is the kind of waste that makes me crazy because someone had seemingly sat on this land for the better part of what? A decade or better?

Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives October 1961 Volume 11 Number 4, Pages 88–93 . The history of Malvern by Cherri Quann

From the UpHome Facebook page years ago.

Still lost? Remember where the lovely store UpHome had their first home? Across King from The Flying Pig? What was reported to have been Malvern’s last 19th century store front? There.

So Malvern Borough, you got rid of Malvern Victorian Christmas for something not quite as memorable, although nice. Are you slowly going to be overtaken by things too large and hulking for a small Main Street oriented town? Please consider better.

And Malvern Borough residents? Some of you will send me nasty comments or post them because I am expressing concern here. That’s on you. You can be ostriches or you can get involved with your borough again.

Your choice.

If I lived and paid taxes in the Borough of Malvern I would want better for my community. I would want new construction to fit and reflected the character of the borough. So ask your borough folks when meeting will occur for this plan. Or not. Again, it’s up to you. I am merely expressing my opinion and concern.

6 thoughts on “malvern borough have you learned nothing since eastside flats?

  1. When I lived in Malvern in the 80’s there were 3 or 4 antique shops, little shops to drop off your shoes for repairs, get fresh meat, go to the Post Office, have your car repaired, etc., like any small town that flourished with customer service. Now it seems it’s only a drive through for people to get home quickly. Maybe the planners think all of these apt dwellers will ride the train, won’t drive and not have kids in school. Will these tenants take part in community participation, care about their neighbors or town politics? Officials that get elected seem only concerned with putting more money in the kitty at any cost.

    Exton is trying to put another block style complex by the mall where Sears used to be. It does not stop. Where are these people coming from that will be renting? Center city evacuees? Our population doth overfloweth. The attitude is “it doesn’t concern me”. J.M.

  2. Please don’t think Woodland is a good fit for entrance or exit to this property. I live on Woodland and we have tons of traffic from St Pats school/church and people bypassing King rd to get Warren Ave already. Most of this traffic speeds down our street which is full of children playing.

  3. Well thought through and detailed. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  4. I appreciate this commentary and am in complete agreement. My wife and I moved to the borough almost 30 years ago, when we still had a little hardware store only a few blocks away (Quann’s). I think our residents are not as “old” or historically aware as they were 10-15 years ago, since they have busy careers and family lives. A new “historical ordinance” enacted by the borough about 6 years ago relies on owners to volunteer their properties to become a “listed” property, and it only gives the borough’s historical commission the right to document a building before it is demolished. Even if we had a “historical architectural review board” (HARB), what has that done to preserve a “livable” downtown West Chester? At least Phoenixville has kept a few large buildings associated with their historic steel industry, in the shadows of high-rise mega apartments.

    Aside from this, the borough’s zoning ordinance is being significantly revised and updated this year, to give developers less latitude in what they can “squeeze” into a development. But much damage has been done (aside from East Side Flats) with many new “big-box, cookie-cutter” homes that have no connection with the quaint diversity of early/mid-20th century Malvern. We’ve evolved into living with what 21st century residential developers (and architects) have to offer.

    A more subdued and “small town” development at King & Bridge streets would be welcome, but that’s not as economically feasible for a corporation or developer, and it won’t likely happen unless a preservation organization (or the borough) buys the property. I don’t mind it staying vacant so long as the weeds are mowed.

  5. This is distressing. I didn’t read the specs completely, but I was looking for something which will address the increase of traffic on King St. There is nothing. It feels like the planning commission is allowing all of this oversized development because they don’t live or drive near King Road. This really must stop.
    Are the planners taking a cut of the profits? Are they getting bribed? I don’t see why or how this planned building can possibly add to the Boro.

  6. As much as I enjoy the Borough, the lack of planning is a shame. Where is the creativity?

    First off, let’s modernize King Street and bury the power lines. Why this wasn’t done when East Side Flats was built astounds me.

    The Borough IS small and has no room to widen King so unless a desire exists to make it one way, it is what it is. Maybe make one-way roads out of the square of Warren-Roberts-Church-King?

    How can the Borough create parking close to King to ease traffic concerns? How about more parking similar to Burke Park? Or why not make all of Burke Park parking? A small public parking garage even? Overflow parking lot at the end of 1st Avenue by the Fire Company? What about extending sidewalks east to promote more people walking into the Borough?

    Brick and Brew and East Side Flats have resulted in other businesses improving their properties on King and have created a more vital and prosperous future for Malvern. In my opinion, the proposal for the vacant lot at Bridge & King is a creative use for an odd sized property and I welcome it. Maybe we will finally get in a traffic light at that corner, too!

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