By all accounts, things were going swimmingly at the area’s fanciest new fitness “resort,” Life Time Athletic in KOP.
Until they weren’t.
On Saturday, Aug. 5, staff noticed the water level in the indoor pool had suddenly dropped a few feet and the decking in one corner had collapsed.
The club promptly closed the pool, drained the water and demolished it.
The culprit? A sinkhole – although management’s e-mails to members never used the “s” word, referring only to the pool’s “inadvertent” closure and “required repairs.”
Not the sort of splash Life Time envisioned when it opened for its first summer season in June.
No one was hurt but the pool’s closure and reconstruction caused headaches aplenty: disrupting swim lessons, team tryouts and guard schedules, shifting spa treatments upstairs (to escape the din), and blocking access to the outdoor pool and restrooms.
Life Time quickly mobilized a Plan B, improvising a pool entrance off the front sidewalk and parking a posh porta-potty trailer nearby.
Meanwhile, inside the “indoor aquatic center,” Life Time’s geo-technical and construction engineers have been working like heck to fix the problem and build a replacement pool.
Tredyffrin Township’s building inspector, Mike Pilotti, tells us he reviews “daily reports” from Life Time’s engineers. The new pool has been redesigned with extra concrete reinforcements, he says, and barring any surprises, will re-open Oct. 2.
Case closed. Calamity averted.
Still, the sinkhole raises two questions: What caused it? And how do we know other parts of the building won’t crater, too?
Sinkholes are nothing new to the area, Tredyffrin Township Manager Bill Martin tells SAVVY. “They’re naturally occurring in this kind of limestone and can pop up anywhere.” Indeed, the King of Prussia Mall was famously built on a sinkhole.
Life Time’s collapse was likely caused by a water pipe under the pool that leaked into already soft and loose soil, Martin says. Recent radar scans showed “anomalies in the soils beneath the pool” … “a soft layer from 18 feet to 24 feet in the area in question.”
Whether the soft soil “skewed the pipe” or the pipe was faulty to begin with – a “sort of chicken or egg” question, has yet to be answered, adds Inspector Pilotti.
OK. So far, so good.
But then we came across a page on the website of the company Life Time hired to solidify its soil during pre-construction few years ago.
And our eyebrows went up.
A September 2016 entry on the projects page of Compaction Grouting Services (CGS) indicates that the fitness center knew it was building on shaky soil and, like any responsible land developer, wanted it shored up. (The CGS webpage describes Life Time’s “concern of the pools leaking.”)
As part of its “sinkhole mitigation program,” CGS recommended injecting concrete “grout” into 822 soil sites.
Here’s where it gets interesting. According to the web document, Life Time balked at the price and duration of the project, finding the bids it received “significantly out of the project budget.” CGS then writes that it “value engineered” a new plan that cut the number of injection sites nearly in half (from 822 to 466), which also cut the cost and schedule by half. Life Time OKed the scaled-back soil fix … and, here we are, a sink-holed summer later.
We asked Life Time KOP General Manager Lance Vugteveen if he was “satisfied that LT did everything it possibly could during pre-construction, sparing no expense, to study and remediate the soil.” His one-word reply: “Yes.”
Inspector Pilotti told us Life Time’s “value-engineered” soil plan was news to him but said no one should be “spooked by it.”
“A less expensive plan doesn’t mean it was less comprehensive,” Pilotti insisted. “There are many ways to build buildings.” He said he’s “perfectly confident” that the rest of the building is “sound and undisturbed.” Life Time, in his experience, “will spend a boatload of money” to fix a problem. For example, when a handicapped shower was a smidge too small to meet code, LT spent $30,000 to fix it, without blinking an eye, he said.
Township Manager Martin also raved about Life Time’s comprehensive and “extra cautious” response to the pool collapse. “There’s no issue with the building,” he said.
Ditto GM Vugteveen’s emailed response: “Our construction and engineering team have assessed the entire building and all indications are that the rest of the facility was not impacted.”
Meantime, LT’s sales team seems to be pushing even harder for new members, flooding inboxes with “just for you” and “act now” incentives. (We know because we get them. Almost daily.) The company doesn’t divulges numbers but, clearly, the pool collapse and reconstruction have not been selling points.
Despite the KOP calamity, Life Time tells us it’s still on track to open an even more deluxe club in Suburban Square in early 2018. No doubt the company’s thrilled that its Ardmore project – the renovation of a rock-solid former department store – involves neither shifting soils nor swimming pools.
Remembering RHS alum Nick Moya
The Radnor community is mourning the heartbreaking loss of Nick Moya, RHS Class of 2014. A senior at Penn, Nick passed on Aug. 31 after a long battle with depression.
He was 21.
Radnor friends will remember Nick on the lacrosse field, in the marching band and as a member of the National Honor Society. At Penn, he was just as involved, serving as president of his fraternity , leading campus tours, tutoring West Philly kids and crunching data for the men’s basketball team. Devastated, his Sigma Alpha Mu brothers are raising funds online for a memorial service on campus.
Still, “Nick was so much more than his titles, awards and achievements,” his family wrote in his touching obituary, noting “his warmth, smile and kind heart.”
The family requests that donations in Nick’s name be made to the Kyle Ambrogi Foundation, a suicide prevention group named for another Penn senior – and Sigma Alpha Mu brother – lost to depression.
New Skinny Pizza rounds out Paoli Village Shoppes
The area’s first Skinny Pizza just fired up its ovens next to the Paoli Nudy’s, in the old Verizon store.
“A healthy way to pizza,” it falls in the wholesome, fast-casual category that’s suddenly sprouting up everywhere. (Witness Jules Thin Crust, Honeygrow, B.Good, Sweetgreen, Bryn & Dane’s, et. al.)
Skinny’s veggie toppers are either locally grown or organic, its proteins are hormone-, antibiotic- and nitrate-free, and its crusts (white, wheat or gluten-free) are proudly crafted without that notoriously nasty carcinogen, potassium bromate.
On the menu: Personal sized, 10-inch pies for $6.50 to $11 and 650 to 850 calories. Plus, salads ($4 -$9), organic or gluten-free pastas ($8 -$10), and four non-GMO and organic soups ($6).
We stopped by during Skinny’s first week. The pies didn’t bowl us over, but, in all fairness, owner John Sandstrom’s young staff was still getting up to speed.
The Paoli Village location is just the second franchise location for the NYC-based chain. Another Skinny Pizza is en route to Exton.
Skinny Pizza, 35 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, is open daily from 11 a.m. Catering menu available. Heated patio seating.
The Main Line’s new boutique hotel: The Inn at Villanova
More signs of boom times at Villanova. The University just spent oodles to overhaul its hotel, wedding and conference center.
The University has owned the historic Montrose Mansion and adjoining Villanova Conference Center – a place as vanilla as its name – since the ’70s.
Set on 32 unspoiled acres just a mile from campus and built in 1917, the stone Mansion has always been pretty cool, the Conference Center less so.
Well, no more.
Nova took the reins back from Aramark last November, then promptly took the Conference Center down to the studs. And ta-dah: six months later unveiled The Inn at Villanova.
Open to the public (but the Nova community gets first dibs), the Inn now boasts:
- 56 sleek new guest rooms, all with balconies or patios that overlook newly landscaped gardens.
- A grab ‘n’ go café serving La Colombe coffee by day, cocktails at night.
- A bigger, brighter ballroom for up to 325. Book a shindig there and you get cocktails at the Mansion – inside or out. Nice.
- A man cave (for grooms and groomsmen), fitness center and clubby new library/biz center off the new lobby. (Perfect for schmoozing alums, it was Villanova President Rev. Peter Donohue’s only renovation request.)
- 14 state-of-the-art meeting rooms currently priced below its Radnor, Conshy and KOP competitors. (But hurry, Nova tells us the deals won’t last forever.)
The new chef’s not too shabby, either: Adam Glickman, former chef for Starr Restaurants and Monk’s Café.
Now that the Inn’s been spiffed up, the Mansion comes next. Not to worry: we’re told renovations will enhance – not erase – its many charms.
Supersized addiction center debuts in Devon
The Main Line’s first five-star deluxe drug and alcohol treatment center is now accepting patients. Recovery Centers of America opened Aug. 20 at the former Devon Manor with 62 inpatient beds and 126 employees.
And that’s just for starters.
When RCA wraps up a $43 million makeover of the Manor next year, its Devon complex will be colossal: 248 beds, up to 400 staffers with comprehensive inpatient, outpatient and day treatment programs – one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country.
Founded a few years ago by local real estate developer Brian O’Neill and flush with venture capital, RCA already has five full-service centers. The company’s aim: “saving 1,000,000 lives” in close-to-home, super-swanky, resort-like facilities.
While it’s full speed ahead in Devon, RCA just hit rough road up north. In late August, the Massachusetts Dept. of Health shut down admissions to an RCA in Danvers, a town north of Boston, after the Boston Globe reported “turmoil and shoddy patient care” and a patient death. Oy.
Local PSU frat president cleared of felony charges
After a hellish spring and summer, things are looking up for Great Valley grad Brendan Young, 21, the former Penn State fraternity president charged in the horrific February death of pledge Tim Piazza. A judge last week dropped all felony charges – including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault – against Young and his fraternity brothers.
The avid Chester Valley GC golfer will still be tried on five misdemeanor counts but is much less likely to get jail time.
His ebullient attorney, Frank Fina, has called the case “a nightmare” for Young and his Malvern family. His client felt so “ostracized” at Penn State that he’s finishing college elsewhere, Fina says.
Meanwhile, the feisty Centre County DA says she’s not going down without a fight. She claims the judge made “an error” and has vowed to re-file manslaughter charges against Young and his cohorts.
Cold case in Tredyffrin
Remember the brutal and perplexing murder of Denise Barger in her Tredyffrin home last year?
Well, it’s still unsolved. In fact, the trail has gone so cold that the Citizens Crime Commission is now offering a sizable award to anyone with info that cracks the case.
Barger, age 62 and a recent widow, was discovered beaten to death in her home in Berwyn’s Daylesford Estates in June of 2016. Her brother went to check on her and found her body. Anyone with info is asked to call 215-546-TIPS.
Tidbits around town
Wayne’s porches will be alive … with the sound of music this Saturday, Sept. 9. Twenty-eight bands will play on 17 porches from noon to 5 in the first annual South Wayne Porch Fest. It’s a free, family-friendly event with Wayne the latest small town to jump on the national Porch Fest bandwagon. Wear your walking shoes and tote a blanket or lawn chair. No food trucks this year so BYO snacks or refuel at a downtown Wayne eatery.
It’s the end of an era at Radnor Hunt. After 21 years in, the Radnor Hunt Cotillion is moving on. The social skills/dance lessons for Main Line lads and lasses has relocated to Chester Valley Golf Club and heretofore will be known as the Chester Valley Cotillion. The 2017-2018 session for fourth through eighth graders begins Oct. 14. Sign ups begin Sept. 14.
The refreshingly low-tech toy shop PucciManuli, is pulling up stakes after five years on Cricket Ave. in Ardmore. It’s moving just a block away – to bigger, more visible (and these days, much quieter) digs at the the old Milk Boy/Melodies spot at 2 E. Lancaster.
Well hello, bellaDonna REfind, Wayne’s newest home consignment shop. On the lower level of bellaDONNA Gifts (formerly Beethoven Wraps), it’s a trove of furniture, home decor, overstocked gift items from upstairs, even designer purses. Free pick up and delivery available. Call owner Donna Martelli at 610-995-9552.
Plato’s Closet in Paoli will celebrate #10yearsofstyle in Paoli Village Shoppes with a birthday bash Sept. 16. (Congrats on the milestone, Lois Duffy!) Look for 25 percent off storewide – even on coveted brands like Lilly Pulitzer, North Face, lululemon, Vineyard Vines and Patagonia. Besides the bargains and raffles, Malvern’s Scoops and Smiles ice cream truck will keep sweet tooths sated from noon to 2. And a photo booth should keep the teen girls giggling. Inch for inch, the Paoli resale boutique consistently ranks among the top-selling Plato’s Closets in the country.
A SAVVY shoutout to Stoga grads, Matt Quinn (’09) and Sam Cooper (’07), whose band, Mt. Joy, performed at Made in America on the Parkway last weekend.
It’s been a breakout year for the indie-folk rockers after their singles, “Astrovan” and “Sheep” hit the Spotify stratosphere. The two quit their day jobs to follow their bliss, er, Joy – Sam’s a Temple-trained lawyer, Matt was in grad school. A first album is in the works. Meantime, the band’s been headlining clubs and playing big-time festivals (like Bonnaroo and Newport Folk) and was even featured in Billboard. (And yes, Mt. Joy is indeed an homage to the hiking/biking mecca in Valley Forge Park.)
Why you should fall for the Devon Fall Classic (from SAVVY sponsor, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair)
It’s the Devon Fall Classic but don’t let the name fool you. Next week’s four-day horsapalooza is all about grabbing one last gasp of those lazy, hazy … and fast fading days of summer.
Now in its sixth year on the horse show grounds, the Fall Classic just keeps getting bigger and better, with thrills, chills, and (fingers crossed) no spills in the Dixon Oval. And plenty of horsin’ around outside it.
The joint will be jumpin’, literally. No prancing ponies or fancy carriages here – the Fall Classic is all show jumping, all the time.
With its easier parking and prices, some folks even prefer the Fall Classic (shhhh) to its splashier spring cousin. Kids get in for just $2; adults for $5 – a steal compared to the May show’s $15 tickets.
Heck, you can even rent a private box for the whole four days – Thursday, Sept. 14 – Sunday, Sept. 17 – for just $300. (The same box for the spring show would set you back thousands – if one were to come off the wait list.)
Come to the Classic with the kiddos or without – there’s tons to do either way.
Like a boardwalk in your backyard, wee ones thru tweens can hop on a half-dozen bouncy (blow-up) rides, scale a two-story rock climbing wall and play classic carnival games – even saddle up for a Sunday afternoon pony ride.
Or “tuck those kiddies in bed and come out for good food and libations,” urges Fall Classic spokesgal Karin Maynard.
Local bands “with big followings” will play nightly at the Pavilion. The party starts Thursday with Decades Dance Band; Sin Brothers follows on Friday; Saturday showcases Stoga star Jessica Ivey, Blue Sky Band and Deck Five; with Greg Davis and Wally Smith closing out Sunday afternoon.
Food is amped up, too. Think gourmet pizza, street tacos, hand-carved turkey and salads, and nightly specials like kebabs and ribs – all catered by Berwyn’s 30 Main.
Plus, there’s stellar shopping at some 40 fabulous pop-ups.
Each day has its own special shindig – a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for everyone:
The First Annual DFC Opening party on Thursday, Sept. 14 with VIP cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres, tastings Decades Dance Band and more.
On Friday, there’s a small-fry storytime in the Picnic Grove from noon to 2, and for Fido and friends, a Yappy Hour, from 6 to 9. (A $20-ticket gets you craft beer, distillery and wine tastings and doggie treats.)
A Texas Strong Party Sat. night features BBQ, beer, all things Texan and Blue Sky and Dance 5 bands. Drop off lightly used clothing and household items at a Green Drop all afternoon in the main parking lot.
For those who bleed green on September Sundays, there’s an Eagles Jazz Brunch for $20 from 11 – 2 ($30 at the door) with big screen TV. Plus, pony rides and free arts and crafts for the kiddos.
But our personal fave – the event we hope becomes an instant Fall Classic classic – is Ladies Who Brunch, set for Saturday, Sept. 16 at noon and emceed by yours truly. Think of it as Ladies Day, but without the hats (but feel free to pop one on) and with lots more food and fashion. Attendees get a full, catered Champagne/Bloody Mary /Mimosa brunch, a smashing fall fashion show and style tips by Louella, song stylings by Jessica Ivey, delightful door prizes and surprises. Tickets are just $25 and seating is limited. (Procrastinators pay $30).
All proceeds from the Fall Classic (Sept. 14-17) benefit the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Foundation, the nonprofit that keeps the show grounds and facilities in tip-top shape.
And finally, a salute to Larry Schwartz, taken too soon
Despite the horseplay and hoopla, many hearts will be heavy at this year’s Fall Classic. Because, tragically, devoted Devon volunteer Larry Schwartz won’t be at his usual post: keeping folks happy and hydrated at the beer garden.
Larry passed suddenly and poignantly on August 15, on the 25th anniversary of his wedding to his college sweetheart, Tracey Campbell.
A devoted family man, he never failed to tell them “Love you always and everywhere.” Larry, characteristically, was helping his mom at her Paoli home when he suffered a fatal fall from a ladder.
He was 54.
Larry was a proud graduate of Devon Prep and Boston College and a devout Catholic. A prayer he wrote decades ago, discovered on a slip of paper, was printed on his funeral card.
A Devon volunteer from boyhood, in recent years Larry was best known as the chief and cheerful bar keep at Clydesdales Corner, the horse show’s no-frills watering hole.
Friends fondly recall him cruising around town in his black Mercedes, top down, wind in his red hair, his trusty yellow lab, Lilly, riding shotgun.
Larry had “the best smile, bear hugs and can-do attitude of anyone I know,” remembers Devon Country Fair co-chair Lisa Estabrook.
Indeed, just days before he passed, Larry told his family priest, Rev. John Joseph Novielli: “If everyone hugged more, the world would be a better place.”
At his viewing and funeral Mass, blue-clad mourners (Larry’s favorite color) hugged and held on tight. Up there, in his convertible in the sky, Larry was surely smiling.
Friends are invited to donate to the Lawrence W. Schwartz Trust for the education of his three children at Malvern Federal Savings Bank, 42 E. Lancaster Ave. Paoli, 19301.