You never know when you’re going to see that unexpected thing that you want to photograph. I found one of those things today when I photographed that segment of wall you see above.
I was in downtown West Chester for the moving sale for the store Dishfunctional on S. Franklin Street. They have been in this old warehouse for a number of years and they are moving soon to Lincoln Court in Frazer because West Chester borough approved Eli Kahn to build like two more apartment buildings.
Now I feel building apartments right there is just stupid because everyone knows it floods. And the other thing is every time you hear of some new ugly apartment building going up you wonder why nobody does adaptive reuse? Do you still see it in the city of Philadelphia in spots (my recent favorite example is The Gotham – look it up.)
So you have here this perfect section of old brick wall. What was it from? Where does it go because doesn’t it look like something is bricked up?
I have no idea what the latest behemoth apartment building will sprawl across but I don’t think that wall will survive somehow. So I decided to take its picture because I think it’s just so cool.
The new construction we see today is without depth, human scale, design, imagination, and sometimes you wonder about the quality of the whole project. They certainly don’t do brickwork like this anymore.
Thanks for stopping by. Off to watch A Discovery of Witches.
Sometimes imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes it is just imitation or borrowing a name to play on the history they don’t care about anyway. Such is the case of developer to the masses Eli Kahn and his “The Village at General Warren” in the “Charlestown Retail Center” on “General Warren Blvd” in Malvern off 29 in or near that behemoth of ugliness known as Atwater. You know Atwater, where there is a giant quarry and insufficient fencing? And lots and lots of development?
It makes me recall a recent blog comment which in part said:
The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.” East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.
So that says to me no one really cares, and we have to wonder if everything is a fait accompli? How sad, indeed.
So what got me thinking about this today? An article in Patch which doesn’t exactly represent actual journalism at this point. They regurgitate the hard work of actual reporters and they post press releases in their entirety as articles. Journalism, Patch style. Here is is with typos (you’re welcome):
Three screenshots as they appeared in Malvern Patch August 31, 2016
Ah yes another chain pub style restaurant…because there are not enough of them locally, correct? Is this the finest of fine dining they think we should have in Chester County? And much like name brand car dealerships, they all look the same. They all have the same menu. Pick a Whelihan’s, they are all the same and there is one in Downingtown, there is one coming to Oaks, there is one in West Chester, Reading, Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, Blue Bell, and Leighton and that is just PA. There is also Cherry Hill, Haddon Twp, Maple Shade, Medford Lakes, and Washington Township.
After all, nothing says date night or family dinner out like a modern day Houlihan’s, right? You can never have too much of the same thing everywhere, right?
I am sorry not sorry but why do we have to be both a development wasteland and a dining wasteland too?
And then there is the whole “Village at General Warren” of it all. Apparently the whole thing is brought to you by a company called Bernardon. Look at their website and you will find little individuality. It’s all formula “architecture” (they also “designed” that thing Easttown residents are fighting called Devon Yard.)
Perhaps Mr. Kahn is getting older and forgets there already is a General Warren Village. Part of it is located within the view shed of CubeSmart which he built and caused neighbors great distress over, right?
Now granted, General Warren Village as a development. Post WWII.
But it was a planned development with decent sized lots which did not eat every tree in sight. The kind of development they don’t do today because today it is all about developers getting in and out with as much money as possible, which means what you get are cheaply constructed cram plans of same-y saminess.
The General Warren Inne, for which the real Village is named after is a country inn constructed in 1745. This 250 plus-year-old inn, once owned by the grandson of William Penn, is surrounded by woods on a few acres, and is an 18th century survivor (just think if anyone really gave a crap about Linden Hall, Linden Hall could be just as charming!)
I love the General Warren Inne. I have seconded wedding photographers there and it is just lovely. And it is still a bed and breakfast, and provides a wonderful alternative to chain hotels. So you have a developer borrowing the name after a fashion, but I bet they don’t really know the history. Here is the history compiled by the General Warren Inne on itself:
Since 1745, the historic General Warren has been center stage for American history and a premier carriage stop for hungry travelers.
During The French & Indian War The story of the General Warren can be followed through its name changes. The Inne was first named in 1745 as The Admiral Vernon Inne, in honor of the naval commander Admiral Edward Vernon. He led the 1739 attack and capture of Portobello, Panama. In 1758, the name was changed to the Admiral Warren after the famed Admiral Peter Warren, a hero in defense of the American colony that year at Louisburg, (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) during the French and Indian War.
American Revolution During the revolution, the inn was owned by John Penn of Philadelphia, loyalist and grandson of William Penn. Its key location on the main highway between Philadelphia and Lancaster had helped the Admiral Warren become a popular stage stop and a Tory stronghold. It was here that the Loyalists met, drew maps and plotted against the revolutionaries. Howe and Cornwallis use these maps to negotiate the great valley, the route to capture Philadelphia.
Paoli Massacre The infamous Paoli Massacre, was planned and launched from The Admiral Warren Inne. Local folklore has it that on the night of September 20, 1777, the British, led by Lord Grey, captured the local blacksmith and tortured him on the third floor of the inn. Upon receiving the information that General “Mad Anthony” Wayne was camped one mile South of the Inne, the British attacked with bayonettes after midnight.
The Lancaster Turnpike Era In 1786, John Penn sold the property to Casper Fahnestock, a German Seventh Day Adventist from Ephrata. During Fahnestock’s long ownership, the Inne once again thrived, attracting many Lancaster County Germans and other travelers along The Lancaster Turnpike because of its reputation for clean lodging and excellent food.
The Early 19th Century In 1825 an effort was made to make amends with the new nation, the Admiral Warren was renamed the General Warren, to honor the American hero of Bunker Hill. During the 1820’s, the height of turnpike travel was reached, and the General Warren became a relay stop for mail stages and a post office. Then in April of 1831, the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway opened for travel, and in May of 1834, the last regular stage went through. The new, faster and cheaper means of travel via the rails doomed the inn as traffic by-passed the property.
The Inn’s Dormant Period In the 1830’s the great grandson of the first Fahnestock turned the Inne into a Temperance Hotel, cutting down his apple orchard to prevent cider from being made. The lack of spirits doomed the hotel, and it closed within a few years. From that point into the early 20th Century, The General Warren changed hands often, occasionally becoming a private residence. In the 1920’s, the inn reopened as a restaurant, with limited success over the next 60 years.
The Modern Era As area population and business grew in the mid 1980’s, the current owners made great strides to return the inn to its 18th Century elegance. The upper floors were renovated into 8 suites, the addition of a private dining room and all-weather heated patio for cocktail parties, outdoor dining and weddings. In 2005, the latest improvements included the new Admiral Vernon Dining Room and the return of The Warren Tavern, a spacious bar for dining and spirits, relocated to the original spot of the old tavern from the 19th Century.
Today at the General Warren Today’s guest at General Warren will find the perfect blend of old world charm, excellence in continental cuisine, fine wines and delightful overnight accommodations.
The answer of course, is it is not. It is just another example of a developer using aspects of our communities to sell their projects. And another chain restaurant brings mostly minimum wage jobs with it, and well how many people do you know who can support a home and a family on a minimum wage job?
I don’t know who development like this is for, but certainly not truly our communities. Maybe if these developers actually tried to do something better with their commercial spaces or tried to being actual fine dining and not just chain pub food I wouldn’t be so cynical. But I am.
Apparently chain pub food is becoming as plentiful as WaWas. Say here’s an idea: why not merge the two and add a chain drug store with a drive thru. All smushed together – save time!!! No one has ever done that before.
Eyes rolling in Lego Land. It’s a big box world out there.
The General Warren Inne for which the real General Warren Village was named
Bernardon’s concept of “Devon Yards”. It makes Eastside Flats in Malvern look diminuative
The Battle of Waterloo continues….Thursday, February 18, 2016, at 7:00 p.m at the Beaumont Elementary School located at 575 Beaumont Road, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333 to consider and possibly adopt the draft Devon Center Overlay Ordinance. Please view the Hearing Notice here.
The Township received a petition from Waterloo Devon, L.P., Urban Outfitters, Inc., and Anthropologie, Inc. to amend the Township’s Zoning Chapter 455 with an Overlay District for the former Waterloo Gardens property and select adjacent properties located on the south side of Lancaster Avenue at Devon Boulevard. These subject properties are collectively known as Devon Yard. To view application materials and an estimated timeline for the application, please click here.
That is my god given right to an opinion and I am sticking to it.
Anyway, time to pack the house at Easttown again. Heck if I lived in Easttown and was facing this, I would suggest LAWN SIGNS that were simple and direct AND everywhere (Including where the developer and developer partners on this project live and wow wouldn’t THAT be a visual?) Feel free to start sharing Say No To Devon Yards Photo with an appropriate hashtag like #NODevonYards on social media.
Once upon a time there was Waterloo Gardens. Then it went bust and development plans grew instead. The initial development plans and news of a development tore the Devon Horse Show apart and neighbors have been on guard ever since, haven’t they?
Stark in black and white is Waterloo’s former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens
Of course the former Waterloo site in Devon would be a target for development. It is just too juicy to let alone. It’s Chester County but considered the Main Line and well, infill development is at a premium…not to residents of course. Developers just lick their chops at the prospect of such a site.
It’s been quiet around the proposed “Devon Yards“…but no more because up has cropped a public meeting notice…
NOTICE IS GIVEN that the Board of Supervisors of Easttown Township will conduct a public hearing and special public meeting on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., prevailing time at the Beaumont Elementary School located at 575 Beaumont Road, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333
Surprise and happy 2016! For your pleasure Tredyffrin and Easttown residents you have a public hearing to have developer designed zoning shoved down your throats because what is a developer worth his salt with out a custom designed bad ass zoning overlay? Devon Center Overlay DRAFT Ordinance – January 2016 (Yes indeedy! hot off the presses!)
The behemoth of King Street Eastside Flats. Still a fair bit of empty retail space and unknown true occupancy. These buildings tower over the tiny Borough of Malvern and traditional houses and store fronts. There are some terrific businesses there for now but will they stay? Only time will tell. This development is out of character with a tiny town.
This project is brought to you by Eli Kahn who brought Eastside Flats to the tiny borough of Malvern (and sold). Now Eastside Flats when built was such a jarring square peg in a round hole that the next election in Malvern saw not only a change in Mayor
It’s all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.
So now in the new year as nouveau neighbors at Devon Horse show flex their muscles across the way “Devon Yards” is heating up again. And as predicted quietly by many, the other shoe is already dropping. Hence the public hearing.
A letter came out from Easttown Neighbors that I received today. EasttownNeighborsletter(00147310). Not surprising and I can’t blame them. If I was staring down the barrel of the prospect of a area altering project like this I would not be at ease or happy.
I am a realist and this land was never going to be a park. You knew it would get developed given the location. But it’s all about the density and why can’t it be a project compatible but that won’t crush the surrounding area?
This project has gotten a lot of press and will continue to. (You can check out what it was imagined as in April 2015 in Philadelphia Magazine). And way back in 2013 there was going to be a small hotel and some retail. Now it’s leaning towards density and a towering structure TALLER than Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough? Yikes.
I do not have to see this from my window and for that I am grateful. I am totally concerned however that yet another custom zoning overlay designed by a developer is up for consideration in yet another municipality.
These custom zoning overlays are just designed (and designed often by the developers themselves) to give developers what they need at the expense of residents. (Sorry that is my opinion and am I wrong?) After all just look at the drawings a developer will bring into a township meeting…any township meeting. Like the Elysian Fields sit their pet projects with no actual reality of true perspective or human scale involved. A resident will go to the meetings and wonder if it’s Logan’s Run and existing residents are being erased because well…you never ever see any kind of rendering that shows what these grand plans and Elysian Fields will actually look like next to everyone else who has the misfortune of kind of sort of being in their way. And setbacks? Forgeddaboutit you might as well be in a city.
So now Easttown residents are stuck with the same conundrum as residents in municipalities before them have struggled with. What do they want their futures to look like and does it really matter because will their local government actually listen to them?
Anyway, I hope residents and lots and lots of media turn out for this hearing. And I hope for once with a ginormous new development what residents want will matter. But the jaded realist in me doesn’t hold out much hope.
Maybe it’s finally time to change the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Just a thought.
These photos were sent to me by a reader named Kathy. They came with this message:
“This eyesore in Downingtown at Boot Rd & 322 lingers on. Will it ever be cleaned up and developed or is it forever stuck in the cycle of red tape and paperwork? I thought the bicycle trail was supposed to continue on through this area but who knows if it will happen. All of the first floor windows and doors of these homes have been boarded up and an endless number of No Trespassing/Danger signs have been posted.”
So when we last spoke of the Borough of Downingtown, the rather young mayor was all gung ho over a giant development project where an RFP was put out for a garage on borough owned land, correct? Does he not see these rotting houses? And developer Eli Kahn bought HOW many acres in Downingtown from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?
So, I have to ask: if they did not let homes like pictured in this post rot, maybe a lot of country towns would have housing that more fit the history and flavor of the area?
This is yet another reason why people in Chester County need to hold local governments and state level elected officials accountable for all the crazy development carving up communities one land parcel at a time.
POSTED: 06/19/15, 5:05 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
DOWNINGTOWN >> Developers have proposed to create a seven-story parking structure with 72 condo apartments, in place of the Borough lot for public parking.
The plan, called Union Place, is being proposed by Andrew Hicks, owner and president of TriPoint Properties, Inc of Downingtown.
“We are working on preserving our history while also allowing our community to modernize and move forward in a way that is going to attract the next generation of Downingtown residents to our world class schools, restaurants and parks,” Council President Anthony “Chip” Gazzerro…..There will be 72 apartment units.
This includes 58 one bedroom units and 14 two-bedroom units. Parking spaces for the apartment tenants will allocate one parking space per bedroom…..The condo apartments will be known as “The Flats at Union Place.” …..Borough officials said they will determine to accept or decline the bid offer by developers of $325,000 to purchase the property….Council members had recently requested a proposal for public parking. Council members were informed of the parking structure, residential units and retail shop plans during their June 3 meeting and are reviewing the bid. The entity that will own the property during the investment is known as Union Place partners, L.P…
Ok so let us not forget what was in the Philadelphia Business Journal late September, 2014:
Look I know my opinion is not going to be met with thank you notes and flowers from cash strapped Downingtown Borough, but Downingtown is small, so they need to be careful because the wrong project could overwhelm and cause more issues than good.
They say this project will only be 75 feet tall? With all that they are proposing? Really?
The plan will only add an additional handful of parking spaces but will add quite a lot of apartments. Any mention of the proposed rental prices? Will they be affordable?
And what is being planned for the former Archdiocese acreage? Any inklings yet?
An RFP for public parking in Downingtown Borough is quite different than this proposed project. This project is a game changer, but not necessarily in a good way.
The developer sharks are circling, is borough blood in the water?
Downingtown is a small country borough, and that is o.k. Not every tiny town out here needs to or should supersize.
I am not saying NO development and growth is needed, but projects like this that gobble up things like public parking lots on municipal owned land (as in taxpayer) which gets turned over or sold to developers does not necessarily work out so well. Tripoint’s thing appears to be acquiring distressed properties but how many projects? Take a good look at their website and properties and what they have done.
Yes, I am jaded when it comes to development and yes, there are very few projects I actually believe in or like, but that doesn’t mean I am anti-development. It means that I honestly have not seen any great projects in a long time.
Look before you leap, Downingtown. This plan is pretty darn dense. And will it ultimately embrace the character of a small town or create a jarring, disproportionate sensation utterly lacking in human scale?
It would be a big step for the borough, which does not have any buildings as tall as the proposed condo-retail combo…Borough Councilwoman Ann Feldman said the project would not help preserve Downingtown’s character as a “sleepy mill town.”
Below is a rendering of what this hideous LEGO Land building would look like.
Yesterday was a study in contrasts. Started out my morning in Chester County, and headed up to New York City for the day.
New York City in October is very alive and bustling. A cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. I worked in New York for a few years when I was younger and fall and spring were my favorite seasons. It is such a contrast now to go from the quiet of Chester County to the very definition of urban.
From the east side to the west side, New York City is a sea of constant motion…and taxi cabs. It’s beeping and honking and massive waves of people bustling across giant intersections.
It is one of my favorite places to take photos, but yesterday there wasn’t time for that. I appreciate the beauty and the urban canyons of Manhattan, but I truly am a Chester County person now….I love getting back to the trees and fields.
From New York City it was back to Ardmore for the last First Friday Main Line. The event was the Happy Howl O’Ween dress up your dog contest.
Since 2006 First Friday Main Line has been there to bring art and music to every day life ; bringing local artists, musicians, and small businesses together. Inspired by the Old City (Philadelphia) First Friday, First Friday Main Line has had people discovering art in unexpected places.
Because Ardmore doesn’t really have gallery spaces, the art and music were tucked in alleys, store fronts, restaurants and on the street. All of this was done by Executive Director and Ardmore business owner and resident, Sherry Tillman. These were never Lower Merion Township as in municipal sponsored events. Many municipalities are deeply involved in the First Friday celebrations of their communities, but the extent of Lower Merion’s involvement was basically collecting permit fees.
But change is inevitable. Sherry called me a couple of months ago to let me know she was putting First Friday on hiatus. I had stopped actively participating because of my move to Chester County and new life here. I was sad to hear her news, but understood. She wanted to focus on different kinds of art events and get back to creating on her own. Sherry is an artist in her own right.
Coming back to the last First Friday Main Line was a bittersweet, yet sentimental journey. I had spent so much time in Ardmore between First Friday Main Line and the community activism I was part of a few years ago. (Lower Merion Township had once to seize part of the historic business district via eminent domain for private gain.)
Coming back to the area I once called home is now like being a stranger in a strange land. What once was home, is now just a place I used to live. The contrast was very pronounced to me this visit. I loved seeing all the old and in many cases beloved familiar faces, but I see everything now through different eyes in a thanks for the memories kind of way. I no longer belong to these old places, I belong to Chester County.
Part of the contrast which was sad to see is just well, how grungy and almost worn around the edges Lower Merion Township seems to look. And that isn’t just the business districts. When I was a kid Lower Merion really was a beautiful place to live. Now it is just an expensive place to live, which is not the same thing.
What I observed was a lot of the sense of community and neighborliness no longer seems to be self evident. A lot of strangers bustling by, and I wonder are there still people stepping up to foster a true sense of community? Or maybe it’s no longer that kind of place?
I have to be honest I do not miss the congestion and traffic of the Main Line nor do I miss the constant development. I felt really old passing by locations where I remember the house and the people who lived there, only now planted on those spots were condos and McMansions and such. All of what replaced what was in these spots are built out to the last possible inch with no real attempt at human scale let alone compatible style. In fact, no real style at all, these projects between Wayne and Ardmore scream nothing more than “new”. Sad.
Down the street from where my parents used to live, I read recently about a house which has a property which is now the subject of potential development. I knew it as the Woodruff House.. The super family which once lived there is long gone and sadly mostly passed away. Realistically, the development will probably happen. There is no zoning and planning to prevent it even if it is a ridiculous and vastly inappropriate spot for infill development.
But it has been almost 40 years at this point since Lower Merion Township had a comprehensive plan update, and the lack of planning is showing. What worries me about what is happening on the Main Line is the same developers snapping up whatever they can there are also in Chester County.
Take Downingtown, as in the borough. If they don’t watch it, they will make the same mistake that Malvern Borough did with Eli Kahn and Eastside Flats, which should really be seen from the rear too. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently:
…..In addition ……..the archdiocese said that it had an agreement to sell a 454-acre property in Northampton County for $5.5 million, and that it had sold 55 acres in Chester County for $3.7 million.
The $3.7 million from the sale of excess land at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a behavioral-health center for clergy and women religious, was deposited into the archdiocesan priests’ pension fund. That fund previously had a $76.3 million deficit.
The buyer was Woodbine Partners L.P., a partnership of Chester County developers E. Kahn Development and J. Lowe & Associates.
Stephen Sullins, Downingtown’s borough manager, said the expected mixed-use development was significant for the town, which covers just two square miles.
“It looks like it is going to expand our tax base somewhat. We’re looking forward to some new jobs,” Sullins said.
During a discussion…at….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, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.
“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.
Downingtown can afford a development misstep even less than Malvern Borough. And I love Malvern, but if there is some benefit to having that Christ awful development once you get beyond having Christopher’s there and Kimberton Whole Foods moving in, I haven’t seen it. And the development looks like giant Lego buildings (with about as much finesse) plunked down in Lilliput.
There are a lot of empty store fronts in Eastside Flats and the borough itself, and last time I was there to have lunch at Christopher’s there were cigarette butts all over the sidewalk in front of the nail salon. Of course I also wondered why such “high end” and new real estate could only get a nail salon? And have you ever see Eastside Flats from the rear? It shows it’s backside to a lot of Malvern residents over the tracks and wow, a little landscaping might help. But do developers like this care about the existing residents?
My travels yesterday merely reaffirmed the true contrast between urban, suburban, and Chester County. And suburban doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the mini-me to urban, and well for us out here in Chester County, we shouldn’t want developers to spin their tales of the Emperor’s New Clothes out here and give us the awkward new urbanism fairy tale or hybrid cross of what they are shoe horning in everywhere else. Maybe that is NIMBY (not in my back yard) of me, but heck I have lived with bad projects and bad planning in my back yard–it’s one of the things I was happy to leave behind on the Main Line when I moved to Chester County.
I still believe Chester County is incredibly vulnerable to these projects, and these tiny towns and boroughs need to think carefully before jumping to the extremes of these very dense developments. Places grow and evolve and not all development is bad, but there is just way too much of it. The pace needs to slow.
The open space and gracious rolling farm lands,fields, and forests which make up Chester County are worth preserving. So is the way of life which accompanies it. Thanks for stopping by today. I know this post has rambled along, and when I started out with my original thought of contrast I wasn’t quite sure where this post would lead me.
Malvern Borough has THREE Borough Council write in candidates for Election Day next week!
Their names are Todd Lexer ~ Matt Radano ~ David Bramwell.
The spirit of Betty Burke is alive and well on Halloween!
Kudos to these people for standing up and realizing that to slow down development stupidity in the borough of Malvern that they need to change the faces of who governs this tiny hamlet. And fast.
If you live in the borough of Malvern please show your support for these people on election day and what they are trying to do which is save your town. Write these people in!
The power of your vote next week is your best immediate voice in Malvern. If I lived in the borough I would vote for everyone who was not the current status quo in office and write in these three. Don’t know any of them, never met them, but God bless them for doing this