a tale of two cities…err chester counties

A friend commented today that whomever thought all this new construction was a good idea has hopefully made buckets of money ruining the area.

Among other things I blame the Chester County Planning Commission as well as the various municipalities.

Now these aren’t thoughts I wouldn’t expect from this person but are they wrong? So much construction and so many unfortunate, truthfully ugly apartment buildings. It’s just too much.

Start in Easttown and move west. From fakakta apartments they want to build essentially in the shadow of traditional and lovely Devon Horse Show neighborhoods via rezoning, to the supersizing of Berwyn Village.

Move onto East Whiteland. Apartments everywhere in various stages of development. Ugly, architecturally unfortunate buildings utterly devoid of charm.

And West Whiteland. Oh we can’t forget West Whiteland. A sea of apartments and wait until they develop at Ship Road and Lancaster Avenue which will create the urban canyon corridor from hell.

Here we are at King of Prussia west. And it literally sucks.

The tale of two cities errr ….Chester County.

Here we are in one of the most beautiful counties in Pennsylvania. But due to greed and urban sprawl, how soon before Chester County is referred to as formerly one of the most beautiful counties in Pennsylvania?

We are getting towards the end of 2020 and even in this brutal year of the global pandemic known at COVID19 the development has continued it’s relentless march across Chester County.

I have to ask when will it stop? Single family, multi family, fake carriage homes, apartments, town houses whatever it is ALL TOO MUCH.

file under bad things could happen in upper merion?

Now I had heard billboards wanted to come to Upper Merion (township in Montgomery County adjacent to places like Lower Merion and Radnor Township in spots best known for the King of Prussia sprawl of malls) as in those giant things they call “monuments” that are on 202 in Chester County, Quakertown, attempted on Route 100 with a “farmer’s market”, and disposition unknown in East Whiteland on Route 30, and other places.

What I didn’t know in the Upper Merion situation until this morning when somebody pointed it out is that these billboards put a park at risk. Bob White Park to be precise. Who knew?

Apparently no one reads the papers because there was an article in Main Line Media News a while back:

Upper Merion supervisors delay hearing on signs
By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-centurymedia.com @MustangMan48 on Twitter Oct 16, 2020 Updated Oct 16, 2020 Comments

📌📝UPPER MERION — Some call them signs, some call them digital billboards.

Catalyst Experiential, the company that creates mergers of “art, architecture and advertising” calls them monuments that integrate “visual communication technology with local landmarks, infrastructure, and community experience, which encompasses the display as well as the ambient light sensor and other technology.📌📝

Whether or not Upper Merion Township will welcome the monuments in parks and underutilized parcels will not be decided until Nov. 12 when Upper Merion supervisors will again consider the concept after tabling the matter at Tuesday’s meeting….📝📌

The company was proposing installations at four locations, including Bob White Park, Betzwood Bridge, 795 W. DeKalb Pike and 216 Allendale Road.📌🎂

The proposed amendment to zoning ordinances to amend the Township’s Zoning Ordinance would permit and “encourage the innovative commercial use of certain lands within the Township” while establishing a township-wide communication platform.📝📌

The monument lease agreements would allow, among other things, a “proposed 30-year lease agreement with Croton Road Upper Merion Land Holdings, LLC for the lease of a portion of the property known as Bob White Park for the exclusive right to construct and maintain an off-premises advertising display subject to the terms and conditions outlined in said lease.”📝📌

Following a detailed presentation by Thaddeus Bartkowski, CEO of Catalyst Experiential, several residents voiced their concern about not having been informed about the hearing.📌📝

“All of these changes at Bob White Park are being made without any input from the residents,” said one resident. “None of us really knew until tonight what was going on. There’s lots of places to let us know … there’s social media. You could have shared the presentations with us. The workshop meetings used to be televised but they are no longer.📌📝

Interesting name cropped up if you click on article link and read the whole thing. Upper Merion has the same solicitor as East Whiteland Township, Chester County—Joe McGrory.

So again, I think the billboards are hideous and most locations in Upper Merion being proposed are locations already kind of hideous, but this whole plan for Bob White Park? Why has it gotten this far? Have Upper Merion officials lost their tiny minds?

So if I have this straight, billboard company wants to lease a portion of this park to erect a “monument” in a heavily wooded portion of park that faces the expressway? As in the Schyulkill Expressway? So maybe houses near the park wouldn’t have full on sign blast of light, merely an unhealthy glow potentially but that is not the real problem with this location is it? Isn’t the real horror of this location the potential RE-ZONING of park land to COMMERCIAL?

So OMG let me understand this: if Upper Merion re-zoned a public park to commercial land zoning wouldn’t that mean a park might not have legal protection if Jim Bob Shiny Bright Developer showed up down the road and tried to do something? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ that is a dumb ass plan isn’t it?.

And apparently in return Upper Merion would get “park improvements”? Talk about sell your souls to the devil right?

So look, not my county, not my people, not my township. But fascinating in its proposed vulgarity, none the less. Upper Merion residents, I feel for you. No one likes these billboards, well except for the company who likes to build them.

a micro example of issues in our region

Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough. Still don’t like them how many years later, although I do support the businesses. So who owns Eastside Flats now because I am uncertain at this point who owns the development and who manages it? It’s not the original developer.

Does everyone remember a couple of different things that put Eastside flats in the news early on? The amazingly and shockingly low amount of ratables Malvern Borough would receive for approving a development still out of scale and character for the Borough of Malvern? And the other kerfuffle when The Whip Tavern said no to Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough?

But then everyone heard Christopher’s was coming to town. It was like that one thing changed a lot of perception about this behemoth of a development. I have always felt like Christopher’s was a kind of anchor that drew people to Eastside Flats and other people and other businesses quite possibly. I know they are what initially made me personally give Eastside Flats a chance.

Christopher’s made Malvern more of a destination, which in turn benefited other businesses and the borough itself. And if there was a community event, Christopher’s in Malvern was right there for the community the way Christopher’s in Wayne always has been.

And for years Christopher’s did things like featured local artists on their walls. And they had wonderful staff. If you told one of the Christopher’s waitstaff you had a particular food allergy or a series of food allergies, they all knew the menu so well that they could bring you a flawless order that wouldn’t make you sick. They did this for a friend of mine one time when we went in for lunch. She had a lot of food allergies and they took care of her so perfectly. (it’s because of all these things that I will continue to go to Wayne once life returns to a more normal pattern.)

Recently, Christopher’s closed their Malvern location thanks to the COVID19 of it all, to return solely to a Wayne which leaves a giant, gaping, empty hole in the streetscape,and also, well they will be missed. In addition to being a wonderful business, Christopher’s offered food that wasn’t formula pub food and you didn’t just go there because it was a bar. You went there because it was a restaurant and it was a nice experience for all ages. It wasn’t huge or cavernous and cold as a space it was kind of just right. But can you imagine what the rent nut was to cover in Eastside Flats?

COVID-19 has caused America’s hospitality industry from coast to coast to take a direct and brutal hit. The largest in history for that industry. Restaurants and other hospitality industry businesses are closing left and right from coast to coast. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that not only are they getting no assistance, it’s the rents they are being charged.

But I have to ask, what kind of rent do these commercial landlords think they will get? After all, we are in a struggling in the present economy at a minimum, and nobody wants to look at what the other potential downside is, correct? I also think overall the economy has not been as strong as we have been led to believe. And people will argue with me about that but that’s just how I feel.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages. Berwyn is in Easttown Township and a present is suffering from potential development implications of its own, but I think they need to look at what’s going on in Malvern Borough right now.

These new developments come in and even with old developments they will offer a lower rent to get somebody in the door. Then those rents get jumped over time to the point that the businesses have to look at their own financial viability and decide if they want to put food on the table of their families and staff or food on the table of whoever the commercial landlords are.

I know plenty of people who have over the years owned other restaurants or brick and mortar stores in various communities who had to make the painful decision to close because after their initial honeymoon when they first came to town and did business with their respective commercial landlords, they couldn’t justify the rents any longer.

And commercial property owners don’t really necessarily care about the empty storefronts in our communities, it’s about what they can make. So they won’t look at continual lease turnover the same way a community might. If one of their property sits empty, I am told they apply those losses to the bottom line of profits from other properties, so for them, it’s business as usual if a place is empty, right? Greedy is as greedy does right? And a lot of these commercial landlords aren’t local. So they don’t get what happens locally nor do they really care do they?

So now we are here in 2020. In October 2020 which has to be one of the most stressful and heartbreaking years a lot of us have experienced in our lifetimes. And a global pandemic known as COVID-19 is bringing the economy down like a house of cards, card by freaking card isn’t it? Drive Route 30 alone from further west to east to the city line. You really see the empty store fronts. This is no joke.

When it comes to local restaurants, not all of them have the space to put things outside and not all of the communities have the wherewithal to let the businesses put tables outside. And because this virus is not under control, and there’s no shot for it, everything is two steps forward and seven steps back is what it feels like. We are in the midst of additional outbreaks now. Which of course then makes businesses fear they will have to shut down again.

Someone said to me that essentially politics is driving all of this. And you can’t just blame it on one party or the other. Especially out here in these smaller municipalities. They don’t really have political savvy or Wiley Coyoteness. And yes, in Philadelphia they do (cue Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the giant mess there), but out here? The politicians don’t necessarily run much, they are kind of run, aren’t they?

So when I heard about Christopher’s closing, I mentioned it to a chef in search of a space. And they didn’t want just any space they wanted the right space. And this is a chef who will blow a lot of culinary minds. They have the international and national credentials, they have the knowledge base and experience. So I told them about Eastside Flats. Selfishly, I want them to open a restaurant in our area. A lot of people do. They are also the kind of person who would bring people to the community just the way Christopher’s did and say Alba and General Warren do. It would be win-win to our communities and existing fine dining.

I asked this person the other day whatever had happened with them investigating Eastside Flats. And I think suffice it to say, unrealistic rents on the part of the commercial landlord happened. Did I mention this is a person with business experience? They essentially told me that what was being quoted for rent wouldn’t be sustainable during a normal period, let alone a global pandemic. Essentially, a business needs to sustain itself and with what whomever over there at Eastside is currently thinking, it just wouldn’t happen, that they wouldn’t even be able to break even. It’s a typical commercial property dilemma, and the dilemma is the only party who would be making a profit would be the commercial property owner and what small business in their right mind wants to assume that risk?

I am not an economist, but I remember hearing somewhere once that most restaurants only start to turn a profit in the 3 to 5 year mark if they are lucky and survive that long. Profit is revenue minus costs, both fixed and variable, right? Starting a restaurant is fantastically expensive correct? Also what fits into the equation is also not confusing profitability with revenue generating, yes? Even if a restaurant is generating high revenue, they’re not necessarily reflecting a similar profit, correct?

So I think Malvern Borough and other municipalities need to wake up. Stop just bending over for absentee commercial landlords and developers. Recognize that compromise is something that they have to negotiate so we get quality non-formula and not just chain or franchise businesses in our communities. We need a retail mix that has better planning, essentially. In a lot of other areas municipalities have retail coordinators who help recruit businesses to the communities in which they work and help the negotiation process between potential businesses and commercial landlords. Even business district authorities and business associations will do this. And the simple reason for that is nobody is as invested in the community as the community itself.

Eastside Flats is kind of looking like a ghost town. And they just let a huge opportunity for our community and for them walk away because of unrealistic rent expectations. They might not like my opinion but the first amendment allows me to have it.

So that is your food for thought so to speak for the day. How are your communities being impacted by commercial landlords during COVID-19? And how will the hospitality industry survive and what will it look like after this? And when you are formulating your response try to leave the politics out of it because politicians and political parties come and go but these are our local businesses.

Also if you are interested Bon Appétit Magazine has a terrific article from the end of September on how you can help those in the restaurant industry.

Thanks for stopping by.

as the east brandywine churns errr turns?

A friend asked me if I ever watched the East Brandywine Township meetings. I said no, but just spent some time watching the September 17th and October 1st meetings.

Get. Out. The. Popcorn. Drammmmma.

East Brandywine is like a little or a lot of who is on first. There is this one supervisor named Kyle Scribner. Seems kind of to really not get along with other two supervisors. He was the Chair of the Supervisors Board until the September 17 meeting when he quit being chair. It seemed to be over who was solicitor for the township, and apparently it is now Marc Jonas of Eastburn Gray but was formerly Kristin Camp of Buckley Brion? Is this such a big deal I mean don’t townships change solicitors all of the time? Is there more to the story?

Reference September 17, 2020 meeting captured on You Tube starting around 20:56.

Reference October 1, 2020 meeting captured on You Tube starting around 5:36.

Follow this link for everything East Brandywine has on You Tube.

Now mentioned in the East Brandywine meetings is litigation I guess the township is in. And one of the things they keep talking about is the “Carlino Giant Case”.

So I went a Googling. That’s that whole thing that has to do with what used to be the Croppers, correct? I guess that is why there was a special Saturday call or session listed for yesterday October 10th? Something about appointing a special counsel?

So relating to this case, I found the following while noodling around on Google:

http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/20D0447P.pdf

http://carlinodevelopment.com/giant-east-brandywine-faqs/

https://www.docketbird.com/court-documents/Brandywine-Village-Associates-v-Carlino-East-Brandywine-L-P-et-al/AMENDED-COMPLAINT-with-EXHIBITS-against-CARLINO-EAST-BRANDYWINE-L-P-EAST-BRANDYWINE-TOWNSHIP-GIANT-FOOD-STORES-LLC-KATHERINE-M-KETTLETY-CHRISTINA-B-WATTERS-FRANK-E-WATTERS-JR-THOMAS-R-WATTERS-filed-by-BRANDYWINE-VILLAGE-ASSOCIATES/paed-5:2016-cv-05209-00104

https://www.change.org/p/brandywine-village-associates-stop-the-legal-battle-allow-giant-to-enter-east-brandywine

https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/superior-court/2018/3388-eda-2017.html

https://www.inquirer.com/real-estate/commercial/giant-carlino-development-east-brandywine-croppers-20191211.html

So I have no idea about the history between these supervisors, or why a solicitor change was bad or even why the solicitor change occurred in the first place. But it was interesting watching for sure.

Watch their meetings. Bring popcorn.

is caring for the earth pumping water out of a creek in east whiteland township?

The photos I am posting were sent to me this afternoon. They are not altered in any way. They were taken on Frame Avenue, Malvern/Frazer in East Whiteland.

I have no idea who the contractor is but how is it they are using a creek as their water source? Did they have permission? Is this part of the Little Valley Creek? If so isn’t Little Valley and its tributaries supposed to be protected around here and are trout streams or something?

Again, I did not take these photos. A resident of Frame Avenue took these photos and sent them to me at 3:30 PM this afternoon. I forwarded them to East Whiteland Township because I am somewhat astounded and do not think I have ever seen a landscaper or a contractor use a natural water source for their work. Any contractor or landscaper that I have ever seen has either transported their own water to a site, or they use the water on a customer’s property as in they hook up to a hose outlet or something.

This is a little odd to me so I am posting. I also don’t know it over there so well so that is all I have got. I know there has been development around there, but I have no idea for whom this landscaper would be working.

I apologize if I am being alarmist, this just doesn’t seem normal or even kosher to me. I am unfamiliar with this company as well as noted on the truck and can’t find a website.

Any information would be welcome here. I am at a loss and I can tell you if I saw some random truck pumping water out of a local creek I would be pretty upset. It seems neither right nor normal. Please note on the truck it mentions erosion control. Oh the irony, right?

soak in the beauty of chester county

Along 401. Awesome Halloween display!

Last evening on the way to an outdoor socially distanced dinner with friends, I was struck again by the beauty of Chester County. And why we need to preserve more of it and develop less all across the county.

That is all.

just another case of mcmansion building on the main line

Would you tear down this house? Well somebody is. An email this afternoon takes me right back to where I am from for a lot of my years on earth: Lower Merion Township. This house is possibly attributed to the famous architect William Price as per a historian who messaged me.

I found an old video from 2018 (watch it soon this post might make it disappear):

Ok this house is freaking fabulous and an amazing property at Morris Avenue and Waverly Road. Remarkably, I cannot find this listed as a historic resource in Lower Merion Township but that doesn’t surprise me since this was the township where Addison Hutton’s La Ronda was torn down.

Well nothing like seeing a demolition sale notice go up:

PRE-DEMOLITION SALE

This Saturday, October 3rd, from 9am til 4pm

AND This Sunday, October 4th, from 10am til 2pm

Location: On the corner of Morris Road & Waverly Road, in Bryn Mawr, PA. Look for our directional signs that usually go up about 15 minutes before sale time.

​MASKS REQUIRED. PLEASE PRACTICE YOUR SOCIAL DISTANCING. THANKS.

Here are some demo photos from the Pre-Demolition Sales Website:

So yeah, if you are looking for pieces of an amazing home, this is a great sale. If you are a fan of historic preservation, not so much a great sale but another old house funeral.

Oh and what will replace this gem you might wonder? 3 McBoxes all in a row:

I found the old listing on Estately. Such a lovely place. Some LLC owns it:

Oh you can build new boxes, but they will never be as grand or glorious….or historic.

Here are some photos from the various real estate listings so at least it’s memory can live on somewhere:

Someone said to me, well it’s a shame but it’s a trend. That it’s sad but “oh well”.

We can’t just keep “Oh Well”-ing our communities no matter if it is a working class neighborhood, a farm, or a millionaire’s row. These places matter.

File under another one bites the dust.

#saveeasttown

I love old maps, don’t you? This is an 1870s map above and at bottom of the post, is one from around 1912. Both maps are of Easttown Township. I have several good friends who live there and many others who used to live there who are concerned about the pace of development and things in the Easttown Township, Chester County. Everything seems shall we say, developer driver and hey is term limits something they should consider for certain boards and elected positions?

Anyway, there is a renewed effort to save Easttown from itself…err I mean the township and connected parties, if I am being delicate enough? I am just posting this and interested parties can draw their own conclusions. It’s a shame that all of the investigative reporters seem to have evaporated because at a minimum Easttown’s government and boards make good theater. They also don’t seem to like recorded meetings, sunshine, or any resident who disagrees with them or doesn’t suck up.

Easttown seems to be a township governed by petty tyranny and those with limited imagination. Oh and they won’t like this opinion but thank you Baby Jesus and the First Amendment for allowing me to be bitchy when the spirit moves me. (The spirit is moving me.)

If you would like to join these concerned residents to #SaveEasttown, please do.

Here are pertinent emails for Easttown: joram@easttown.org, mheppe@easttown.org, bfadem@easttown.org, mwacey@easttown.org, bdantonio@easttown.org, easttown@easttown.org

I don’t know who the township manager is right now, website says ebriggs@easttown.org

Here are the names of the members of the planning commission and when their terms expire:

Term Expires 
Mary Hashemi, Chair2022
Ann Rothmann, Vice Chair2023
Mark Stanish2022
Nik Kharva2021
Paul Salvaggio2020

Here are the members of the Zoning Hearing Board:

Members

NameTerm Expires
William F. Connor, III, Esq., Chair2020
William H. Howard, Esq.2021
Michael J. Tierney, Esq.2022
Roman J Koropey, Esq.2020
Larry “Buzz” Wood, Esq.2020

All of this lovely information can be found on Easttown’s pokey pony website.

remember indian run farm in exton? have you seen it lately?

Indian Run Farm A/K/A Ashbridge House. Recent photo, reader submitted, taken September 3,2020

So…. I am trying not to be like totally “what the hell are they doing to Ashbridge House at Indian Run Farm” but is this a historic reservation? I ask because given the storms this summer and the age of this historically classified structure, what in the hell are they doing? I can understand rotting wooden porches being removed and it looks like concrete is being used to shore up walls, but wow this is startling isn’t it?

I grew up in old, occasionally historically classified houses (the house I was born in was built in 1811 in Society Hill and was historically classified in Philadelphia). West Whiteland has said all along it is to be preserved. So I am still going with that, even if it looks terrible right now.

Reader submitted photo dated September 3, 2020.

According to a 2003 Pottstown Mercury Article this was to be preserved all along, but it’s a long time since 2003. It’s now 2020 (AKA the year from hell):

Now picture another moment. A small group of scrape-kneed youngsters sat on a vantage point overlooking that same valley, many years later, pondering their destiny along with other important matters such as, perhaps, how to avoid the chore of picking the cherries ripening on the trees for their ambitious and hard-working father.

These children looked down on a two-lane Route 30 close to where it crossed Route 100, from a hilltop that no longer exists. And where there is now a new Nissan dealership, they once ran a cider stand without any particular parental oversight, selling the sweet juice from their own orchard along with vegetables from their garden, and lived carefree lives of exploration and discovery in a time when, “there weren’t any rules.”

Would that we could all be granted a childhood such as these children shared.

Then walk with these same children, now adults, among the shrink-wrapped architectural remnants of their youth, and share the memory of that time in that place on a bitter and wind-whipped day that fails to wrest from them any of the joy of those times spent together there. The centerpiece of that time was this collection of stone buildings; that springhouse, the great barn, the animals that lived, were loved and died and were buried here; those special trees; all are almost holy to them, and all will continue to speak to us of the way things were, once upon a time.

Because, whatever feelings any of us may have about “development,” we can’t be sorry that this pocket of history will be preserved much as it was in the thick of the present, so that busy shoppers can pause and view it, walk within its whispered past, and perhaps grasp something of what it all means.

Ashbridge House Exton Main Street 2017

I have been watching this house a few years. I have photos of 2018, 2019, and the generously shared 2020 photos. The reason I am concerned is because of how exposed everything is. However, it also looks like things are being shored up with concrete. So I am going to hold my breath and share photos. I will remind people I covered this in March 2018 and March 2019.

I remain curious as to what was saved or will be saved on the inside. Thanks for stopping by.

what is the best part about this photo?

What’s the best thing about the scene in this photo?

Give up?

Okay here is why looking at this scene is awesome: NO DEVELOPER PIMPING DEVELOPMENT SIGNS! No Troll Brothers signs or any other developers signs for miles…so nice NOT to see for a change.

Happy Labor Day!