hardly fine dining in a fake general warren village

general warren

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?

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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.

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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):

pj 1pj 2

Three screenshots as they appeared in Malvern Patch August 31, 2016

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.

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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.

So the history of the General Warren and the eighteenth century architecture is captured how exactly by this “The Village at General Warren” in the Charlestown Retail Center?

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

The General Warren Inne for which the real General Warren Village was named

meanwhile in easttown township the battle of waterloo continues

Bernardon's concept of "Devon Yards". It makes Eastside Flats in Malvern look diminuative

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.

To view the draft ordinance, please click 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.

Devon Yard Webpage

Did I just copy and paste from Easttown Township’s website? Yes I did. I am tired and have nothing much new to add here other than a reiteration that this is a GINORMOUS disaster waiting to happen.

Yes, Waterloo Gardens was going to get developed. Of course. Prize piece of land with a defunct business on it?  Oh come on, we all knew once the business tanked it was only a matter of time, right?

BUT why does what goes there look like it needs it’s own zip code and why does it have to be SO big, SO tall, SO urban, SO out of character?

One word : GREED (otherwise known as developer profit margins and municipal ratables except REMEMBER what the ratables WERE NOT in the end with Eastside Flats? )

That is my god given right to an opinion and I am sticking to it.

devon yard 2

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.

The battle for Waterloo continues….

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here we go again…will easttown have it’s “waterloo”?

Former Waterloo Gardens…sad from any angle now

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

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!)

So this developer seems to literally want to citify Chester County from Devon to Downingtown (and in between.) You have 20 Moores Rd Malvern , Charlestown “Village” Malvern , Clover Mill Exton, 120 Pennsylvania Ave Malvern, and who knows what else in the pipeline.

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.

It’s all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

but also quite a few borough council members .

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.

We hadn’t heard much about this whole “Devon Yards” since Easttown Planning approved the plan in November, 2015. At the time Easttown Manager Dan Fox assured a reporter everyone has a voice in the process but when it comes to developer vs. real people is that true?

Only time will tell.

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.

Thanks for stopping by.

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devon 2

 

 

rotting in downingtown

  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.

  

pause, downingtown?

  

  
Uhh ohhh, Downingtown. You are a very small borough whose residents had better pay attention now. It has been quite a while since I have heard such develobabble (development babble).

What caught my eye? 

This:

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:

Eli Kahn buys 50 acres from Archdiocese

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?
I found  a Draft Comprehensive Plan Update dated 2013 online . Not sure if it is complete yet (it appears to be), but the buzz words and phrases are in there like “higher density”. 
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?

New development creates debate in Downingtown

Last updated: Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 1:08 AM

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.
Yuck.