they all look the same.

These are the apartments in Frazer known as “The Yards.” And like everything else being built today they look pretty much like everything else being built today.

I don’t find them attractive. I don’t find them architecturally significant. It looks like Legos put together for grown-ups to live in.

And these are the buildings that are being erected in communities all around the area. And it doesn’t matter who the developer is THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME.

Probably one of the only ones that I don’t find as offensive in Chester County are some in Paoli behind the train station. The Airdrie. But it’s still a similar design, only that has some actual setbacks, so it doesn’t smack you in the face along Lancaster Avenue and elsewhere.

But if you drive around, and you look at all of the apartment complexes being erected, they all are the same variations on a similar theme.

It’s NOT architecture.

I really started noticing these buildings when Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough were built. Most of these buildings have lousy setbacks, ignore human scale, ignore the architecture that exists around them, pretty much ignores everything that makes Chester County special.

The design in a word in my opinion, sucks. This is all about these developers, making money and moving onto the next project. It’s not about enhancing a community or enhancing a sense of community. These developers don’t care about our communities, we are just an area where they can make a profit.

From municipality to municipality it’s all the same. Literally Lego boxes for people to live in or plastic mushroom houses squished too close together.

Somebody gave me a hard time for saying I think these apartments are also ugly etc. and then they told me I was insulting people’s homes. Apartment dwellers don’t move into communities and stay forever. They are more transient it’s the nature of apartments.

If it’s a senior living community, it might be a little different, but the architecture is all the same and it’s all bad.

These developers are changing the nature of community quite literally. More and more. All of the rentals mean people stay for a while. They don’t stay like buying a home in a neighborhood. And even the nature of those neighborhoods with single-family homes are changing. Front end loaded cheek to jowl. No gardens. Just boxes with bad siding.

The developers are driving the real estate prices which is driving how long people stay if they stay. Sometimes just flip property and leave and so on.

There is quite simply put too much development. And there especially seems to be too many apartment complexes being built Chester County is looking more and more like King of Prussia. Does Chester County want to look like King of Prussia? Or Bensalem? Does Chester county want all these apartment buildings creating urban landscapes?

And when you post the pictures of these developments, people think someone’s palms are being greased. I don’t know anything about that what I do know is what allows these buildings, and these developments to march forward. The Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or MPC.

The MPC has not been comprehensively updated since circa 1969. The MPC guides all local zoning. No one holds state representatives and state senators accountable for this. It is their job to an act an act of the state constitution and get off their asses and update the MPC .

However, there is also the fact that people really don’t bother to learn what is going on within their communities until there’s a crisis. People do not keep up with what local government is doing and what plans are being presented for development and there’s no excuse now really because meetings are hybrid and in person and recorded so if you can’t make a meeting, you can watch a recording of a meeting or you can watch a meeting via zoom platform or even YouTube.

If people went to meetings, local government would have a better idea of what they didn’t want before it actually happened. It wouldn’t necessarily be within municipal power to deny a plan, but they might be able to mitigate certain circumstances or conditions of approval.

Or when municipalities are updating comprehensive plans for municipality to municipality it’s not necessarily super exciting but it’s also something that residents ignore the opportunities they have to comment on these plans so again it’s another avenue of being able to get your message out there as a community as to what you want to see vis-à-vis development or not see.

And basically the hands of local officials are truly tied from protecting communities from bad development without the proper support from not only county planning but primarily because the MPC is so out of date.

It’s all a drag. I’ve spent years going to meetings and listening to meetings and going to meetings now via Zoom for a few years, but if you don’t pay attention to what goes on in your own community, you never learn.

I’m really sick of people that either want to complain to me about development or criticize me for not liking development. if they use half the amount of energy participating in their community as they do coming after me for my opinion, think of everything that could be accomplished from municipality to municipality?

I’m sure I will receive criticism for this post. I’m being mean I’m being unfair. Whatever. I don’t like all of this development. It all looks the same. It’s ruining the landscape that once was Chester county. And that people is the bottom line.

Happy Monday.

17 thoughts on “they all look the same.

  1. I totally agree. Some remind me of the European cities like in China, France and England (London). They go up and up. Will K of P soon have high rises like Philly? You see the bombed out buildings in the Ukraine that look like some of the ones being built here with no balconies, all cement. How long will they last before they begin to deteriorate? Who are these people that want to clone their lives like living in a bee hive? Follow the herd mentality.

  2. I agree with every single word written in this post. I will add just one more thing. I hear from frustrated residents that when local officials were running for Supervisor/Commissioner the residents were told that they “would stop the nonsense”. Then, it still happens. Yes, part of that is the MPC and the fact that developers know how to exploit the process through the ZHB’s.

    However, there is another issue as well. Oftentimes, (not always but it absolutely happens) a member of the community will win the election and take office with the best of intentions. The average resident stops paying attention. Unless an issue hits them directly in the “face” they ignore everything. Well, the developers and their allies do not ignore anything. They take the time to carefully cultivate relationships. Little by little they gain trust. From my research, it has nothing to do with payoffs. Cash is NOT changing hands. At least not around here. It is more subtle. No need for details but there are a million scenarios. In the end, a Supervisor hears a lot more from the developers and their allies than they do from the average resident. Then we hear a Supervisor say things like, “the people I talk to are in favor of this” or something that that effect regarding high density development. Technically he or she is correct because that is who is front of them. If the regs do not work, the developers can convince some to change the regs to their favor or just rely on the fact that locally elected officials who are not paid abhor going to court.

    The residents, as mentioned in this excellent post, wait until it is too late. The pattern repeats endlessly. The developers do not care about scale or impact to the community. They move on to the next parcel and relationship to exploit.

  3. You’re spot on – there is too much development, it doesn’t blend in with the surrounding buildings/landscape, they’re incredibly ugly, they’re not quality construction, and they’re mostly “luxury” apartments with high rents, so no opportunity for those of us not making a ton of money to live near where we work, nor are any affordable condos with affordable HOA fees offering a route to home ownership. And it’s not just the mainline – it’s NW Philly and other parts of Montco that you would think would be affordable.

  4. What you don’t see are the Developers driving away in big trucks full of cash. Most of these are being built on the backs of men and women who aren’t being paid enough to rent one. They rarely make traffic adjustments as well. They get their money though. If they had to pay people living wages to build them, chester county would still have a lot of open space. Because they don’t pay well. Plus, most of the builders are from out of the area. They contribute nothing to the community. Most communities fall for the “we are going to give you this small open space where your dog can poop” trick. If you say you are going to build something nice, make the pay nice and hire locals. Then everyone wins.

  5. Support Services for the density and scale are severely impacted as well. Not just schools and roads. Also fire and emergency services. Does Chester county have the multi story ladder trucks to support a fire in one of these? And all forms of medical services are struggling to keep up – primary care, urgent care, dental, hospitals . . .

  6. Most, if not all, of the properties shown here are former commercial that have been re-purposed. A former steel plant, a bowling alley, a rail yard, etc.
    This leaves other unused land safe and undisturbed. Helps the environment, our property values, and the natural beauty of our community.
    Of course, it comes with extra cost. Demolition and clean-up of structures, environmental issues, etc. And there are limitations on property size and capacity to build units that will be affordable to the tenants and worthwhile for the Landlord.
    Using “The Yards” as an example as you did, I’m happy to have these apartments here instead of the run down Quonset Hut bowling alley that sat dormant for years. .

    • You must work for a developer. It doesn’t help our property values it helps the developer’s wallet. That is total bull. The point is that other things could be developed along route 30 we’re not King of Prussia. People are sick of communist block, housing style apartment buildings that don’t last and the architecture is crap. The rents are not affordable they are expensive. What is actually needed in the communities in Chester County is varying degrees of affordable housing and that doesn’t mean section 8 that means housing for people starting out older people who want to stay in communities where they raised their children, etc. and that area wasn’t a Brownfields site. It was just a commercial site where a developer built an apartment building. And there is NO land safe from development in Chester County. And route 30 is a commercial corridor, not a residential corridor. It’s a state highway.

      All this development is putting stress on communities that we all get to pay for. Infrastructure, school districts overburdened,hospitals etc

      Nice try though.

      • I am no developer but it can actually increase property rates if the new buildings are well built, sold properly and managed correctly esp as many of these residents are starter families and may look to move into larger homes down the road. What does suck for tax payers, is the increased burden on the local communties. The benifit from a tax side is so good most muncipalties really could careless about the impact on the residents so long as it means more tax dollars. Not like they could say no anyway, the developers with take it state court and win….after all our local reps have no power anymore.

      • The reason people don’t have power to fight this in their communities is because the municipalities planning code needs to be updated

  7. So where are people supposed to go? Its all well and good moaning about the landscape but the fact is this country has underbuilt by about 6 millions homes over the last 3 decades. At the same time Americas obsession with single family home building means endless suburban sprawl with houses no longer being close to anything meaningful and making the car dependent problem even worse. Also I loved the little bit of sneer at apartment dwellers who dont add anything to the community because they are “transient”, yes those filthy non homeowners how dare they have the gall to want somewhere to live aswell. I grew up in Ireland, I also lived in the Netherlands and Germany which have much higher and denser areas of living and there was no such issue as not being able to build community. Frankly this whole post just reads as a long whinge of a NIMBY who already has a nice place to live secured and is just bent on getting in the way of the rest of us having a place to call home. God forbid it isnt up to your architectural standards.

    • Oh my gosh, somebody else who works for a developer or is paid by a developer with limited brain power. The whole post is not NIMBY. I live here and I pay taxes in Chester County and I am entitled to my opinion, even if you aren’t intelligent enough to realize that. Apartments don’t create community. They create transient areas. And this isn’t housing that is affordable it’s not Council Flats. It’s ridiculous.

  8. So many cheaply-built apartments — that are too expensive for anyone to rent. We desperately need AFFORDABLE housing in this County, but damned if we’re getting it.

    River Station — the new complex in Downingtown — advertises 1-bed, 750-sq ft apartments from $1,875 to- $2,313. Two bedrooms? $2,970 to $3,508.

    Shall we talk about the traffic in Downingtown, on Boot Road and Brandywine Ave/322? How it backs up from 630am – 10, and again in the afternoons from 3 – 630? The lane-and-a-half train tunnel (where dumbasses get trucks stuck weekly, further backing up traffic? NOOOOOO, no impact on traffic there.

    Keva Flats, in Exton — 1-beds, $1,938 – $2,732; 2-beds, $2,441 – $3,597.

    So we will end up with empty, ugly apartment complexes.

  9. I understand not wanting to see your longtime home change or lose its “feel”. Once you’ve lived in a place long enough all it’s little details become special to you, and you don’t want to have them taken away. But a community is a living, moving thing, and it has to change in response to the times, and the desires of the people that make it up. Those changes in what people want are what’s at the root of all this. Why are the developers building thousands of apartment buildings that look the same? Because there’s so much demand for new housing, in this area and in the country in general, that the apartments are getting snapped up the moment they are built, and the developers are literally just building as fast as humanly possible. Is it right to go to all those people, who want to rent or buy here, and have the means to do so, and say “no, you’re not welcome here, we refuse to put up another new apartment”? I don’t think so. I understand your frustration, and I do think it’s good for us to keep ahold of the memories of the way this place used to be, but I don’t think it’s right or fair (or for that matter practical) to try to freeze our county in amber when the world is changing so much around us.

    • It’s not freezing our county in Amber to want to preserve what made it special in the first place. It’s not merely about memories. It’s about the way. Things are changing that are not positive and all of this development is not positive because it’s not sustainable long-term.

      And if big ugly apartment, buildings are the only way we can welcome new people to our community we’re in trouble and that is pretty pathetic.

      You sound like you work for a developer so I imagine you might

  10. This is private equity firm product, bottom line (inexpensive?) architecture. Politically and materially speaking, you get what you pay for in Chester County, a circle jerk and a shit-load of parking garages. Suck up the nano particles, earthlings.
    And watch out for the escalating wave of online apartment-lease application fraud to continue as these type of communities are built. Do state legislators need to lend help (funding, training) to law enforcement and the apartment-lease industry in order to stay on top of escalating online fraud? Chester County increasingly presents itself as a target-rich environment for this type crime. Do you know who your neighbors are? Cough, cough.

  11. I moved here from Orange County CA 17 years ago. I witnessed this same kind of growth. A hospital was turned into hundreds of condos or apartments. A small garden nursery store was turned into close to a hundred units. These were across the street from each other. Now you had 400 more cars heading to the same freeway every morning. Slowly but surely your commute goes up ten minutes each year until you realize it’s now two hours each way.

    That was just two examples of hundreds and hundreds.

    These are all stopgap measures for people who want to live in the area but can’t find anywhere to live. After a few years these places are just as skyhigh as everywhere else, and people will be on the move to the next cookie cutter complex because it’s new and they are trying to fill it up to get things going.

    In the meantime there are no upgrades to infrastructure or services.

    There’s probably a lot of reasons why this doesn’t work and eventually just makes for everything being more expensive and more crowded. Maybe, just maybe, working away from the office will have an impact. But I can certainly say that lots of the open space I saw here when I moved in has been replaced by these buildings, and more are going up all the time.

    I just checked availability at the apartment complex I started at in Chester County. It has doubled since I moved out to a home. I feel so fortunate to have bought when I did, because the prices skyrocketed afterwards. I don’t know that I would be able to afford a home now. The whole reason I moved here was after researching prices I figured I could make it work here as it was never going to happen in SoCal.

  12. I agree with everything “Ramblings” said. I know that people need places to live but it is true that apartment dwellers are often looking to move up. When they do, will there be any land left in Chester County? Throwing up these townhouses and “luxury” apartment buildings create temporary communities and that does not lower crime. No one knows their neighbors (for long). It also creates problems for school boards trying to predict student counts. Residents need to look into their township’s method of granting developments. They need to go to meetings Did we not learn that from the pipeline issues? No one attended until they were digging up the backyard and creating sinkholes. It’s TOO LATE then.

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