malvern: from flying pig to pig in a poke

June 23rd was the last time I wrote about Malvern on this blog. Before that I wrote in May.

I feel that Malvern’s super-sizing via the Eli Kahn development on King Street is a huge mistake.  Having  gone by the site quite a few times at this point, I am profoundly disturbed by what I see every time, and can easily envision for the future.  Yes, it is a site that should be redeveloped. But why not a park and a couple of stores?  Or something Malvern lacks? Sufficient parking?

You know what I think Eli Kahn and Jack Loew’s project is going to be like when it is done?  A super-sized Charleston Greene.  And over the years, how has Toll’s Charleston Greene worked for you ,Malvern?

Hasn’t that been a problem site, with islands not in a stream that are supposed to be traffic calming pedestrian islands that don’t work there anymore than the one in front of Bryn Mawr Hospital does?

I have to laugh every time I hear developers say to those in suburbia and exurbia that living in a “mixed-use”  development on little spits of land or wedged in with a shoehorn next to existing buildings is such an exciting proposition.  Folks, it’s just another New Urbanism Fairy Tale.  Or redevelopment fantasies. Take your pick.

The economy can’t sustain big plans.  And who says people outside a city want to be crammed in like lemmings?  Doesn’t everyone know what happens to lemmings sometimes?

Municipalities dream of ratables like they are drugs and they need a fix.  And then you see reality.  Reality is that if you have ever lived next to a train tracks or a train station, you don’t repeat it.  There is more noise and more dirt, and there is nothing like having your windows open on a nice spring day only to have the unmistakable odor of Septa trains and their burning  brake pads wafting in the window.

And when you live on top of train tracks you also have fire fears during warn months or periods of drought.  Septa and Amtrak also spray heavy-duty pesticides loaded with carcinogens in lieu of weeding.

Of course, don’t even get me started on stormwater management.  You see when you live with rail as the neighbor, you are basically their stormwater management system if they have runoff issues.

I lived across the street from R-5/Paoli/Septa/Amtrak tracks for over a decade, so I know of what I speak.  I also have sat and watched developers promise using too tall tales, and then what happens?  It doesn’t turn out as planned.  After all, when they show municipal fathers and mothers plans at a town meeting, the plans are all lovely with hearts and flowers on a field of green.  Not real scale, and how it will look in conjunction with everything else around it.

I firmly believe with Malvern and this development that after the sheen of new wears off, these developments will end up being apartments going for cheap not chic because living on top of transit has limited appeal unless you want to live in the city, or near the 69th Street Terminal or in a row house near the El.

So at a recent Malvern Borough Council Meeting when a resident asked how much would Malvern get back  now that they have given the keys to the town to Eli Kahn and Jack Loew, it was shockingly low.

Told you so.

So I think Malvern has bought itself a Pig in a Poke.  The town already has a Flying Pig, so it really didn’t need A Tale of When Pigs Fly By A. Developer.

Daddy Warbucks told Malvern they would have big bucks.  And they believed him. Dumb. Real dumb.

Malvern Patch: $60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough

The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough.

By Pete Kennedy   Email the author July 2, 2012

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the June 19 meeting of 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

malvern’s mistake

I have written before how I feel that Malvern’s super-sizing via the Eli Kahn development on King Street is a huge mistake.

In March, the Daily Local had one of its nameless editorial columns on it.  As was the case with a couple nameless, faceless editorials on West Vincent, they were off the mark on Malvern too.  And honestly, part of my problem with these editorial is that if you want to go incognito on a blog, that is one thing, but if you are writing for a large local and regional paper, sign your name.

So the Daily Local said at the time:

At a recent meeting of the Malvern Business and Professional Association, developer Eli Kahn told the group about his plans to transform East King Street in the borough, now home to small industrial complexes, into a vibrant residential and retail swath that he calls “a walkable environment … a better environment to work in.”

Kahn is the man who with his partner Jack Loew purchased two large buildings from Chester County in West Chester’s so-called “first block,” ….In Malvern, Kahn said he had gotten the idea 12 years ago to begin work on a new mixed-use environment there. He said the five-year venture in 18 months will produce 25,000 square feet of retail space with “quality residential” space above it and expanded parking below and outside…“Success is a mix of business, shopping and quality residential,” he said. “West Chester has been very successful over the past five years,” and a like result can occur here. “The charm of Malvern is what’s making this project successful.”

 

We hope that Kahn will continue his efforts to be forthcoming about plans for the West Chester property. It sounds as though he is on the right track in Malvern.

Ok, did the nameless, faceless anonymous editorial column writers walk the site?  Or did they merely expound upon a developer feel-good press release?

I went to the site today while running errands.  I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw, and can easily envision for the future.  Yes, it is a site that should be redeveloped. But why not a park and a couple of stores?  Or something Malvern lacks? Sufficient parking?

Malvern Patch also has covered this development.   Much like The Daily Local has. The Daily Local has also covered the Kahn-ism of West Chester too.  In both cases, I feel in my heart of hearts, this will when all said and done, like letting the proverbial fox in the hen-house.

West Chester has a good formula in their downtown now, which I saw more of this morning when I went to the West Chester Grower’s Market.   Carolyn Comitta and Holly Brown better keep their heads on right, lest they  ruin a good thing.

Developers always say the right thing when they come a courting, but what happens when they leave?

Which brings me back to Malvern.  You know what I think Eli Kahn and Jack Loew’s project is going to be like when it is done?  A super-sized Charleston Greene.  And over the years, how has Toll’s Charleston Greene worked for you ,Malvern?

As I went back and forth through Malvern today, checking the streetscape, I had to wonder if they needed super-sized development anymore than Ardmore, PA does? In Ardmore, the residents wanted a new train station which may never appear in anyone’s lifetimes now, but on Monday apparently there is a press conference about the work beginning on the Paoli Transportation Center.

As I said before, as long as I can remember has had an unfortunate identity crisis – mostly stemming from local officials as opposed to residents.  The borough of Malvern has a charm that doesn’t need super-sizing with giant Tyvec wrapped buildings that will end up looking like a New Urbanism Disneyland.

Malvern will sacrifice any  charm of the area  and the traffic will be a nightmare.

I think parts of Malvern may end up looking as unattractive as parts of Eagle, another tiny community developers had a “vision” for.  When municipalities suffer an identity crisis, the residents and business owners are the ones who suffer in the end.

I sure hope I am wrong about Malvern and these plans, but I don’t think so. What I see are future buildings just sitting right on the street without sufficient setbacks like Jabba the Hutt, architecture (if you can call it that) that picks up zero cues from its surroundings, over-abundance of density abutting train tracks and an urban feel all wrong for a somewhat sleepy  and small Chester County borough town.

And mark my words, just because they build it it does not mean they will come.  And if they come, they might not be what you wanted.

But the horse is out of the barn on this one. So we’ll just wait and see.  Hopefully I won’t be able to say I told you so.  But again, honestly, I think Malvern had better enjoy Malvern before it’s gone.

 

exploring west chester

Last week my friend Teri and I played touristas.  We took a staycation day to West Chester.  Wel walked the streets in town, and had lunch (al fresco!) at Limoncello.

Limoncello is a wonderful restaurant, and lunch was delicious (if you are a homemade bread junkie, do not under any circumstances try the bread they bring to the table in a basket. It is the best bread ever tasted.)

For Limoncello, not that they will listen to me a blogger, I have two suggestions: (1)The tables inside are definitely TOO CLOSE TOGETHER, and outside they are bordering on the same issue.

and

(2) They offer unsweetened iced tea and sweet tea.  The sweet tea is a mix.  The five minutes you take to brew real iced tea might add less than another 30 seconds for the time it takes to brew real iced tea with sugar and/or sugar and mint. That is all you need for sweet tea.

We then took in the streets and their merchants are town proud.  Flowers in planters everywhere, and what is really neat, is there is almost a uniformity to the outside dining options as far as plants, flowers, and ambiance.

We also discovered a couple of the little boutiques and antiques places.  West Chester has a walkability that a lot of other Main Street-oriented towns do not.  And that includes traffic calming done creatively.  My only reservation is what will happen to this when Eli Kahn does his supersizing and developing right around the center of town in I guess old county buildings.  (Don’t forget that height discussion thing.)

Eli Kahn and Jack Loew bear watching.  As in closely.  I can’t see what they will do from my windows, but I would hate to see West Chester’s charm obliterated by ill-fitting downtown development. I already think their plans for Malvern are ghastly.

West Chester, the borough, should pay more attention to this in my humble opinion than constantly fighting the sex shop lady….even if her proposed new sign shown in The Daily Local is a bit of a nose wrinkle/bad taste in my opinion.  But then again, I think the X marks the spot of the heart in the women’s figure line drawing’s crotch area is just too obvious.    (I do not care if the store is there, however, I just think she could do a more tasteful sign.  But she gets such a hard time all the time for every little thing, can’t say I blame her.)