Holy Lazarus! A long-stagnant stretch of Tredyffrin has a pulse.
The owner of Swedesford Plaza wants to bulldoze the old HH Gregg and build luxury apartments in its place – 250 of them.
After approaching umpteen stores, fitness chains, health systems and grocers for its two empty anchors, Echo Realty is throwing in the retail towel on one of them. In partnership with Bozzuto, Echo plans to build a four-story, 250-unit apartment building at the old HH Gregg site, a permitted use under zoning code.
(Note to duffers: The building’s current tenant, Golf Galaxy, is moving to bigger space at the old Pathmark down the road. GG will take half of the old supermarket and Echo is in talks with two potential retailers for the other half.)
Blueprints floated last week to Tredyffrin planners show one- and two-bedroom luxury units in a green-certified complex with interior courtyard and access (via easement) to the Chester Valley Trail behind it. It’s dripping in amenties: resort-style pool, bocci courts, fire pits, game room, business center, a bike repair and storage shop and more.
Target audience: yo-pros, millennials and active empty nesters.
Projected rents: $1,600 to $2,800 for 700 to 1,500 sq. ft. apartments.
Impact on T/E schools: 15 total in grades K – 12, plus two going to private schools, according to a demographer’s study commissioned by developers.
So, if they build it, will they come? Absolutely, says Echo/Bozzuto, pointing to market research that shows 91 percent of local workers commute into the area and existing housing not turning over fast enough.
While it’s not transit-oriented, Swedesford Plaza residents could walk for a beer at McKenzie Brew House, a manicure at Cuticle Corner or a haircut at SportClips. Or pedal to work or Wegmans on the trail.
Less tied to their cars, residents would also get discounts on Lyft, as Indigo folks do, said Bozzuto VP Pete Sikora.
The apartments would be built into the rear hill, Sikora said, so they’ll look just three stories tall from the rear. The back would be “heavily landscaped” and the “treeline maintained.”
Echo/Bozzuto’s requests for zoning variances for slightly more impervious surface and significantly less parking got the thumbs down from township planners Thursday night, which likely sends Echo/Bozzuto back to the drawing board. “We are looking at ways to adjust the plan to address the commission’s comments but haven’t figured it out just yet,” Sikora tells SAVVY.
Whatever they draw up, know this: big infill redevelopment projects like this take time. Plan on 15 months, give or take, to get through the township, then another 18 months to build.
There’s a land battle brewing in Chesterbrook and it’s shaping up to be a doozy. (Although it’s nowhere near the knockdown drag-out that ensued when the 865-acre community was first proposed in the 1970s).
This one’s a local skirmish but it pushes buttons relevant to 21st century Main Line life: development, taxes, historic preservation, and swim clubs in this age of two working parents and, yes, Life Time Athletic.
It’s also, sadly, pitting neighbor against neighbor – with Chesterbrook Civic Association (CCA) on one side, the Picket Post Swim & Tennis Club board and membership (in effect) on the other, and some residents straddling the fence.
In a nutshell: Picket Post, for various reasons, has been taking on water for years. Losing members, the club has struggled to pay for maintenance and improvements.
Three summers ago, the club bit the bullet and closed its Chase Road pool (one of two it owns) and tried to sell the Chase complex – just under 5 acres – to Tredyffrin Township for a dollar.
The township said thanks, but no thanks. It was already spending plenty to maintain its own properties, including the 90-acre Wilson Park across the road.
Also scaring officials: the cost of filling in the pool and renovating the property’s 130-year old barn, a Class 1 historic structure, which the club uses for storage. (Tredyffrin still has no ordinances protecting historic buildings – Class 1 or Class 101. Not kidding.)
With a township deal off the table, the club was treading water, kept afloat by its paddle program, and, to a lesser extent, its swim team. Although smaller than it once was, its Chase Rd. tennis program has continued, there’s a new pickle ball court, and the club recently brought on a new tennis/paddle pro.
Still, bills continued to pile up and needed upgrades to its Bradford Rd. complex were kicked down the road. And even though Chase pool was closed, it was costing a bundle – reportedly some 100K annually in insurance, basic maintenance and taxes.
The club’s all-volunteer board voted to list the property for $1.5 million, eventually taking a $1.3 million offer from David Ludin of Green Bridge Development. “I’m the equity owner today. My deposit went hard in June,” Ludin tells SAVVY. (So no, it’s not a contingent-upon-approvals sale.)
A real estate developer, Ludin naturally has no plans to run a club.
He wants to shore up the 5,000 sq. ft. barn and turn it into four condos, an “adaptive re-use.” And so far, nobody’s squawking at that idea.
No, what’s raising a ruckus are the six, six-packs of townhomes (36 total) he’s proposing for the pool and tennis areas – frankly, the part of the plan that makes his $500K+ outlay to save the barn worth his while.
But there’s a rub. Ludin has to get a zoning change from RC (Rural Conservation) to R-4 (Residential).
Spooked by the 125 “Parkview” townhomes rising near Chesterbrook Shopping Center (Too tall! Too dense!), some neighbors have been crying foul. Approve Ludin’s inch and, just wait, he’ll take a yard. So will other developers, they say.
“Don’t lump me into Parkview,” counters Ludin, whose project, in fairness, is way smaller. He’s held two meetings with neighbors and says he heads to Chesterbrook every day to talk to neighbors. (Parkview, btw, was already zoned Town Center, which allowed mixed use.)
Rallying opposition to Ludin’s plan and flexing its political muscle is the Chesterbrook Civic Association, whose president, David Miller, has huddled with township officials and has sent a few detailed letters to residents.
CCA’s chief complaint revolves around open space and the old slippery slope. If this zoning change is approved, developers will rush into Chesterbrook and carve up the “beautiful planned community we moved into,” one letter reads.
But Ludin contends the Picket Post parcel hardly qualifies as open space as it’s already been developed into a parking lot, swimming pool, kiddie pool, clubhouse and tennis courts. “There’s actually more green space under my plan,” Ludin says, which he contends takes the tract from 54 percent impervious down the mid-40s. And stormwater management – a bugaboo for some Chase neighbors – gets “radically better” under his plan, he says.
BTW, Chesterbrook’s original developer, Fox, put in the Chase pool and tennis courts to attract buyers, then sold them to Picket Post.
Ludin also says the Chase property doesn’t even meet the township’s stated purpose for RC zoning: to preserves stream valleys, woodlands, and steep slopes in rural areas (Ord. 208-11).
But we digress.
Ludin says his sketch plan has evolved to reflect neighbors’ concerns. He “nestled” the 36-38 ft. townhomes so they look a few feet shorter (R-4 code would allow him to go 40 ft.). He tweaked the aesthetics so his townhomes blend better with the neighborhood. He added 7 street parking spaces.
As for the worry about burdening T/E Schools with kids, he uses Parkview’s track record to deduce that his new community will house 26 students. (Clearly, that’s just an educated guess; he hasn’t commissioned a formal demographic study.)
All units would have three bedrooms and interior two-car garages and would sell in the high $500K to mid $600K range. Because neighboring townhomes sell for less, Ludin claims his project will raise property values.
Chesterbrook Civic Association, though, is not buying any of it.
Miller’s letter says his group is “working with township supervisors and Picket Post on a solution that satisfies everyone.” It also urges residents to voice their opposition to township officials and suggests they help shore up Picket Post by becoming members.
This group means business. You may recall the CCA effectively squelched a T/E school district plan to put playing fields on RC-zoned woods behind Valley Forge Middle School back in 2002.
As a township, Tredyffrin is notoriously, er, thrifty, so it’s hard to envision it ponying up to save the barn and create and maintain a new pocket park in Chesterbrook, which, of course, is most neighbors’ dream solution. Private funds – with endlessly deep pockets – to the rescue?
Ludin goes before the township planning commission July 19 and hopes to be on the board of supervisors’ agenda in August.
Watch the fireworks fly.
A new ‘people’s house’ at the Willows in Radnor
An anonymous donor put up $1 million. (Thank you, kind Sir/Madam.)
Radnor Township kicked in another $1.8.
And just like that, Willows Mansion is saved.
A band of do-gooders, Willows Park Preserve, just inked a wondrous 10-year plan to preserve, maintain and lease the Radnor park’s historic mansion. A 10,000 sq. ft. gem, it’s been collecting cobwebs since the township couldn’t afford to maintain it and closed it in 2012.
The plan, a private/public partnership, turns the circa-1910 country estate – site of many a Main Line wedding – into the “people’s house,” a place for families to hang, maybe play a parlor game, and take in the pastoral views.
To make the place self-sustaining, the property will host about 25 events a year: food and arts festivals, live shows, environmental programs and the like. It will also be rented for a limited number of private affairs.
Refurbishment – as planned by Wayne architect Warren Claytor, who’s cut his fee in half – will happen in stages and include:
- Turning the south wing into an indoor/outdoor porch retreat with rustic/cozy seating, table games and books, and a fully-retractable glass wall that opens to a landscaped patio.
- Renovating and improving the flow of first- and second-floor public areas with new French doors opening to park views.
- Replacing the solarium addition with a garden inspired by noted landscape architect Thomas Sears, who designed the original grounds.
- Phase 2, assuming funds are there, will restore the fountain wall and the wishing well courtyard and patio and create a new 2,000 sq. ft. Pond View annex. The group is also applying for National Register designation, which should help with fundraising.
Own a home improvement business? WPP is asking local businesses for help with upgrades to moldings, light fixtures, bannister, cabinets, furniture and appliances. Donate enough – as an individual or company – and your name goes on a room.
The public is invited to help give the mansion some TLC this Saturday, June 30. Report at 9 a.m. sharp to 490 Darby-Paoli Rd., Villanova, to help clean beds, prune plants, sweep and power wash. BYOT (tools). Want to volunteer permanently? The expanding Willows Park Preserve is accepting nominations.
Stoneleigh saga not over yet
On the heels of its Stardust gala comes stellar news for Stoneleigh, the Main Line’s new public garden in Villanova. In what had to be record time, Harrisburg – yeah, those notorious slowpokes – just passed a law that could block Lower Merion School District from seizing Stoneleigh for a new middle school.
Introduced by Reps. Kate Harper, Warren Kampf, Marcy Toepel and Sen. Bob Mensch with bi-partisan House co-sponsors, the law forces governments and school districts to get court approval before taking property under conservation easement, as Stoneleigh is. The district would have to prove in court that there are no “reasonable and prudent alternative” sites.
And earlier this month, another twinkle of hope: Lower Merion School Board voted to buy the nearby Islamic Foundation Center for $12 million for a new school.
Still, no one’s popping corks.
According to the township, all the stars have to be aligned for the Islamic center deal to go through, including:
- A location for playing fields – possibly at Stoneleigh – because there’s no space at the Center.
- Possible zoning issues.
- Township officials’ potential reclassification of the Islamic center as a protected Class 1 Historic Structure. “That would make demolishing the buildings very difficult and would mean the site would become impractical and cost-prohibitive for a new school,” said LMSD in a statement.
Meanwhile, Molly Morrison, president of Stoneleigh owner Natural Lands, calls the new law “an additional obstacle” for the school district but says the matter’s still not settled. Indeed LMSD has not yet taken Stoneleigh off the table.
Still, there’s been an unintended silver lining to the controversy, Natural Lands Media Relations Director Kirsten Werner tells SAVVY. There’s been an “outpouring of support for Stoneleigh and Natural Lands,” she says. “…thousands of people have discovered our organization and Stoneleigh who might never have visited. And the fact that legislators recognized the senselessness of conserved land being taken by eminent domain, and pushed through Act 45 with lightning speed, means this crisis has resulted in a win for ALL Pennsylvanians.”
Another reason to hit Handels for ice cream: the new Village Play Space next door.
A new romper room just opened in Berwyn.
Like your rich friend’s rec room or the poshest preschool classroom – but better – Village Play Space is 900 sq. ft. of climb-on, please-touch fun.
Its centerpiece is a custom-crafted, kid-sized “village” with changeable shops. Around it are a puppet theater, homemade sensory jars, dress-up and musical instrument bins and a themed reading nook. If it sparks the imagination and tickles the senses, it’s here.
Playthings are rotated in and out, so things stay fresh for regulars.
Geared to babies through age 6 (with adults in tow), VPS is pay to play, by the day: $10 for the first child (age 1 and up), $5 for siblings and babies 6 mos. to 1; under 6 mos. free.
Floors are spill-proof foam and there’s a small café area for kid-watching and snacks, soft seating for breastfeeding, a changing table and small kitchen.
It’s all been lovingly created by young mom and former teacher Sara Buchanan Martino, who plans to be a hands-on owner, and her husband Freddy, who’s keeping his day job. Sara’s father, Buck Buchanan, owns Handels and is the couple’s landlord.
Family-friendly BYOB Happy Hours and evening “Play Soirées” for grownups are in the works.
Village Play Space, 4 Midland Ave., Berwyn, 610-644-0000, is open Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday birthday parties.
Worth the schlep: East Goshen’s inspired new playground
Hey, parents and grandparents: a nifty new “destination playground” just opened slightly west of the Main Line in East Goshen Park.
Local kids even helped design it. The township asked 600 elementary school students to pick their favorite play features during recess.
Making the cut: a 75 ft. zipline (at top right of site plan), a Jurassic Park-inspired “dinosaur experience,” an Imagination Playground (155-piece giant erector set) …
… a parent/toddler swing, and a walking labyrinth, which calms sensory-overloaded kids including those with autism and ADHD. There’s even a Little Free Library boulder area where Malvern Library will host toddler storytime.
It’s the largest playground in Chester County. It’s in sync with the trend toward play spaces that focus on the free play in nature that today’s parents and grandparents enjoyed as kids. And it’s free.
The playground’s price tag was a hefty $800K, but because it’s considered a destination, state grants covered $475K.
East Goshen Playground is at 1655 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA.
Resting on The Laurels
After 200 years interring people, West Laurel Hill is handling pets, too.
This week, the Bala Cynwyd cemetery officially opens The Laurels, a final resting place for pooches, on three landscaped, wooded acres with walking trail.
The cemetery offers various pet packages including Aquamation, a new, eco-friendly alternative to flame cremation.
A haven for all things beautifying, Day Spa by Zsuzsanna just had a gorgeous makeover of its own.
Zsuzsanna Beyer took over the first-floor former monogram shop, doubling her space and adding a “beautique” for wellness, gifts and skincare goodies and special rooms for blowouts and chilling before and after treatments.
Designed by Chris Mullen Interiors and architect/builder Denise Lehmann, the whole place exudes a sleek, zen vibe with a tasteful dash of bling.
Giulianna The Brave draws a crowd
An extra refreshing Malvern Stroll last Thursday, as folks flocked to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand in front of Campli Photography to meet young Giulianna the Brave and donate to her campaign.
Giulianna Troiano is in her fifth year of remission from Stage IV neuroblastoma. Scans in July will determine whether she can graduate to the survivors program at CHOP.
The campaign was organized by photographer David Campli who tells SAVVY the turnout was great and people have been generous. Click here to donate.
This and That
Headquartered in a cute-as-can-be shoebox in central Wayne since 2015, Christine Shirley Sewing & Design Studio is moving to bigger digs next door, just vacated by Hope Chest of Haverford. The switcheroo will give owner Paige Sullivan more sewing, camp, and boutique space, plus more room for rentals.
Artisanal apothecary and candle creator Zoet Bathletier (pron. Zoot) has a new flagship and showroom at 148 E. King Street in Malvern (below). It’s open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays, 10 to 5.
Teen heartthrob Bobby Rydell, now a chipper 76, thrilled folks at Tredyffrin Public Library this month. The Philly-bred “Volare” and “Wild One” crooner signed copies of his tell-all bestseller, Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol on the Rocks – A Tale of Second Chances. A good sport, he also signed photos and memorabilia for fans.
A SAVVY shoutout to Tredyffrin mom MaryBeth Heilmann, who bravely shared the heartrending story of her son Grady Finn’s heroin death on “Faces of the Main Line” on Radnor Studio TV. She asked as many people to share it as possible, so here goes:
Grady Finn was 19 when he passed in August of 2014. “People often ask me how I have survived so much,” Heilmann wrote recently on Facebook. “Faith, family and friends, along with prayer, meditation and trying to help others….”
Make plans now for Ardmore Restaurant Week. Actually, weeks: July 16 to 29. The Prix Fixe lunches ($15) and dinners ($25-$35) are so popular, the town runs them for two weeks. Click here to see who’s on list.
Right out of the gate, The Rip is roaring. The new Ripplewood Whiskey and Craft in Ardmore came out of nowhere to snag two of five prizes at the 2018 Philly Burger Brawl. The Rip’s Tongue and Cheek Taco (Braised veal tongue, beef cheek marmalade) took the ‘Taco Takedown’ and its Cutthroat Cocktail (Maker’s Mark, carrot, ginger and lemon juices with rosemary tincture) took the ‘Specialty’ category. The Brawl raises money for literacy initiatives in Philly’s public schools.
School’s out for summer and our thoughts drift to … books. Our kids (hopefully) will read lots of them. Kids in poverty-challenged areas, not so much. That’s why Clubs2Classrooms, a new charity founded by T/E mom Jenifer Thomson caught our eye. C2C harnesses the power of the Main Line’s many book clubs to a greater good: the transformative power of reading for kids in every zip code. Your club adopts a grade and supplies them with new or used children’s books. (Or you can hold a book drive.) Either way, Clubs2Classrooms will pick up and deliver. A+ idea, right?
Feel Main Line proud when you shop the sewing aisles at JOANN, Hobby Lobby and Walmart. We know one Villanova mom who does. Longtime owner of the Narberth-based Handwork Studio (and its many camps), Laura Kelly has partnered with Simplicity on four, beginner sewing patterns now in stores across the country.
Don’t know a thimble from a bias cut? No problem. Handwork’s cute patterns (a stuffed animal, a handbag, etc.) require no sewing experience.
It’s won one or two “Best Girls Night” honors, but guess what? The Bryn Mawr wine studio, What Am I Drinking, has nights geared to guys. On the WAID summer calendar: “Discover: Scotch, Whisk(e)y, Bourbon” events July 7 and 13, a sparkling cocktail-making class on July 20, and beer appreciation class with the guys behind Delco Lager, 2SP Brewing Company, July 15. Sips and swigs always included. Reserve online.
What we learned about Brain Fog. (Hint: LOADS)
A huge thank you to everyone – SAVVY readers, guests, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers – for making last week’s Brain Fog “party” such a smash.
Clearly, the topic struck a chord. We sold out The Saturday Club a week in advance and, sadly, had to turn many away.
For those who couldn’t snag a seat (and for foggy friends who might like a refresher), here are a few key takeaways:
- Brain fog isn’t a medical term and it’s not dementia. It happens to all of us. When we’re distracted, we can’t retrieve memories.
- Learning happens at every age. “The more you learn, the more you learn.” The human brain seeks novelty so keep challenging it with new things throughout your lifetime. Repeating someone’s name really does help cement the memory. Brain Fog = Dementia of the Preoccupied.
- Recent studies show dancing may be the best antidote to brain fog – you’re challenging related processes (sound/rhythm and movement) at the same time. Endurance training has also been shown to be effective.
- Sleep helps consolidate memories. If you’re not getting enough, see a sleep specialist.
- Diet affects structural elements in the brain which could lead to brain disorders and dementia. Eat clean and organic. Cut sugar, add healthy fats and reduce oxidative stress by eating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric. Supplement Vitamin D; you’re not getting enough.
- Lots of things masquerade as dementia: depression, vitamin deficiency, low blood sugar. Your genes, your diet, your education and activity levels can all prevent the progression of dementia.
Special thanks to our expert panel: Dr. Frances Jensen, MD, Chair of Neurology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine; Dr. Seema Bonney, MD, who practices functional medicine in Wayne; and Meridith Coyle, holistic nutritionist – whose catering company ANEU (along with Simply Good Jars) kept our noggins nourished that night.
Click on SAVVY’s Events page for photos from the big night. Note to attendees: be sure to use that $25 gift card to Louella boutique before it expires.
Trying on health clubs for size and finding them either too big and impersonal or too small and specialized?
Goldilocks, we’ve got your happy medium.
Because, well, have you seen the Sporting Club Main Line lately?
Freshly renovated, newly svelte and neither big box nor boutique, it may be just right.
Somehow, the club manages to be both full-service (jam-packed with offerings) and locally owned and intimate.
Owner is Tim Rubin, a Lower Merion grad whose family real estate firm owns the building. Rubin bought the business – then Main Line Health & Fitness – from Roger Schwab, the area’s original muscleman. (Schwab says he only sold his 40-year-old baby to the Rubins, longtime friends and clients, because he knew it would be in good hands.)
“When we took over three years ago, it looked like a Main Line office building with fitness equipment in it,” says Rubin. (By then, Schwab was focused on bringing X-Force – a revolutionary strength-training program from Sweden – to the Main Line and beyond.)
Rubin, who also owns the much larger Sporting Club at the Bellevue, rebranded as the Sporting Club Main Line. He brought in “new blood from the Bellevue,” added equipment, then began the club’s 18-month, piece-by-piece “right-sizing” total makeover.
Cutting-edge cool, the SCML now boasts:
- A full roster of yoga classes in a zen Mind-Body oasis on the third floor.
- State-of-the-art equipment, like X-Force (a SCML exclusive), Keiser bikes in the Spin Room, and MedX strength/rehab and bio-mechanical Hammer Strength machines.
- A smoothie/juice bar, healthy and gluten-free fare, and La Colombe coffee in the fresh new SCafé.
- Open every morning, SC Kid Care offers crafts and games in a bright and chipper playroom tucked away on the third floor.
- Top-flight instructors (some Bellevue imports) teach a range of classes in the redone group exercise studio – everything from kickboxing and dance fitness to cardio-barre and TRX.
Another huge SCML focus is personal training. “That goes back to Roger,” says Rubin. “He was all about having the best trainers.” There’s also nutritional counseling and massage, even on-site car detailing.
And the price is right.
Pay by the year ($850, $700 for each extra adult) or the month ($125) or drop-in anytime for $20. Special rates for students, too. And yes, your first visit is free – including X-Force.
Rubin never closed during renovations, admitting SCML lost a few clients but “they’re coming back. We’re local and we’re personal and we’re small,” he says. “People like that.”
Sporting Club Main Line, 931 Haverford Rd. Bryn Mawr, 610-527-2200, is open Mon. – Fri. 5 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.