Remember those ever-evolving plans for Devon Yard? How they once included a hotel, apartment building and parking garage near the old Waterloo site? And how, after a series of skirmishes, feisty neighbors thwarted all three.
Well, never say never.
The same developer – Eli Kahn, in partnership with Wade McDevitt – is back with new versions of each, all sited within spitting distance of Devon Yard and the Devon Horse Show.
We caught up with Kahn after he floated his redevelopment plans to Easttown Township’s new Devon Center Task Force last week.
Here’s a peek at his three-part drawing board:
One: Replace the old Sunoco station next to Devon Yard and adjacent frontage along Lancaster Ave. – a full block owned by the horse show – with a four-story retail/hotel complex. Shops and restaurants at ground level; a 70 to 80 room luxury boutique hotel on three floors above.
Why revisit the hotel idea?
First, hotel guests and shoppers would be a boon for the adjoining parking garage (see “Three” below), helping to defray its projected $13 to $14 million price tag. “To make the garage work, you need to have vehicles in it,” Kahn says.
Second, Terrain Gardens, the event space at Devon Yard, has been a smash right out of the gate and nearby lodging pickings are slim. “If you book a wedding at Devon Yard, where are your guests going to stay?” Kahn asks.
Third, the hotel would help the Devon Horse Show and vice-versa. The show already pays to put up judges, handlers and such in local hotels each year, according to show chairman and CEO Wayne Grafton. The new hotel gives the show an upgraded lodging option only a stone’s throw from the Dixon Oval, Grafton says.
Btw, count on new spots for noshing in the retail portion. Kahn says central Devon could easily absorb new dining options. Currently, there are just three: Terrain Café, Amis Trattoria and Mongkon Café next to Devon Lanes. He also reports interest from a high-end spa.
Two: Tear down the old Studebaker dealership across Lancaster Ave. (next to Patient First) and erect a luxury apartment building in its place. The five-story complex would house 100 to 110 units with parking at ground level and below grade.
Kahn’s been sitting on the two-acre property since late 2014, turning down offers from the usual Devon suspects, aka car dealerships and banks, because he really, really wants to build apartments in central Devon. (We believe him. Look how long and hard he fought for a residential component at Devon Yard.)
According to Kahn, the Main Line is crying out for high-end rentals for empty nesters and retirees. “I see the demographics,” he says. “There’s a demand but no product.” With folks waiting an average of ten extra years before entering senior facilities, Kahn says the time is right. “People want to stay in the community but be in their own place.” What his Chestnut Square apartments did for downtown West Chester (205 units with a wait list), his redevelopment of the Studebaker site can do for Devon, he insists.
It doesn’t hurt, too, that apartment dwellers would patronize Devon Yard and the new shops below the hotel.
Kahn’s optimistic that these apartments will be better received than the ones he wanted to put on Devon Blvd. and we’re inclined to agree. They’d sit on a commercial section of Route 30 – not a side street near a neighborhood – and would back up only to train tracks.
Three: install a three-level parking garage on Dorset Ave. across from Devon Horse Show’s main entrance to serve the show and the adjoining hotel/retail building. The footprint’s the same as the garage we first told you about in June.
The parking deck, to be painted Devon blue, will still end two-thirds of the way down Dorset, across from the end of the main grandstand, or some 220 feet from Berkley Road, according to Kahn. (No doubt the vocal folks who live near the horse show will be watching this one closely.)
The horse show board reviewed Kahn/McDevitt’s revised plans for the garage/hotel/retail complex last fall and gave them the green light, Grafton tells SAVVY.
The projects – including the apartment building – do require zoning changes – ones the developers hope will be incorporated in the new zoning map the Devon Center Task Force is helping to formulate by year’s end. Before submitting them formally to the township, Kahn chose to share his concepts for “two of the most signature properties left in Devon” with the task force so the group wouldn’t be operating in a vacuum. “All I was doing was saying, ‘This is what we’d like to do. If this isn’t in your vision, let us know.’”
As successful as it’s been, Kahn says he remains “bittersweet” about his first Devon baby, Devon Yard. “It put Easttown Township on the map as somewhere other than a place to buy a car. But it could have been better, with more retail.”
As Kahn awaits feedback on his new proposals, one thing seems certain. If the community embraces them, these three projects will forever change the look and feel of “Devon Center” at least as much as Devon Yard. Probably more.
Losing our Marbles
Remember how pumped people were about Marbles’ big comeback in Bryn Mawr?
The Wakim family has had a change of heart and has leased the old Verdad/Marbles space to the owner of Bar Avalon in West Chester. Restaurateur John Brandt-Lee tells the Inky his new Avalon Bistro will serve French/Italian-inspired fare with a side of live jazz and should open in March.
“We were very excited about reopening Marbles,” Wakim family spokesgal Caroline Ab-Khattar tells SAVVY. “But after taking into consideration our other business obligations and projects, we realized that we don’t have the bandwidth to take on a project of that size at the moment.”
George, Michel and Joseph Wakim and their sister, Fadia Wakim Abi-Khattar also own Aldar Bistro and Murray’s in Bala Cynwyd and Evviva in Narberth.
New supermarket en route – and the price is right
The Main Line’s first ALDI is rising from the ashes of the old Ruby Tuesday’s – a hop, skip and a jump from the Malvern Wegmans on Rte. 29.
Why build in your competitor’s backyard?
Because ALDI is pretty much everything Wegmans is not.
While the Big W overwhelms you with choices – so many aisles, so little time – ALDI keeps it simple. The Malvern ALDI will have five aisles, easy-to-swallow prices, no time-sucking in-store samples, no prepared foods, no beer and no wine.
“Today’s shoppers are pressed for time and money so we pioneered a model that gives shoppers more of both,” ALDI VP Bob Grammer tells SAVVY.
The new 12,000 sq. ft. store will have open ceilings, natural lighting and extra space “for even more fresh produce, dairy and meat.”
One of the nation’s fastest growing retailers, ALDI’s been on a spending spree of late, forking over $5.3 billion to open 800 new stores and remodel the rest.
Grammer says the Malvern ALDI will debut sometime this spring. No firm date yet.
Covet lush lashes? Join the club
Count on seeing more fabulous lashes being batted around town. The Main Line’s first membership-based Amazing Lash Studio is up and running in Wayne’s Gateway Shopping Center.
So far, the response has been, well, amazing.
A week before its Feb. 1 debut, 1,500 had already signed up for the grand opening special: a first full set of eyelash extensions for $70. (The Main Line knows a steal when it sees one. A first full set can easily cost $150 to $300.)
Like Massage Envy, it pays to join the club here. Because eyelash extensions, like dyed hair, are high maintenance – lasting only as long as the natural lashes they’re glued to. They’ll start looking sparse in three weeks. So you’ll have to commit to hour-long refill appointments at least once a month.
The Gateway studio has 11 private treatment rooms and employs 17 lash technicians. Each is a state-licensed esthetician or cosmetologist and finished 72 hours of Amazing Lash training.
The studio uses only cruelty-free synthetic mink lashes and offers four styles: Natural, Cute, Sexy and Gorgeous – or some custom hybrid thereof.
Lashes too much of a commitment? Beginning in April, try a “lash lift” instead. Lifts are perms that keep natural lashes curling skyward for up to two months.
To date, 213 Amazing Lash Studios have opened since 2010, with another 58 (and counting) on the way.
Amazing Lash Studio, Gateway Shopping Center (near Gateway Nails), Swedesford Rd. in Wayne, 484-582-1275, is open daily: Mon. – Fri. 8 to 8, Saturdays 9 to 7, and Sundays 10 to 6. First full set $90 ($70 until mid-March). $70 monthly dues include one, one-hour refill. Half-hour touchups are $40.
BIG retail hole filled in St. David’s
Two new retailers are headed to St. David’s Square. HomeSense and Old Navy will split the old Bed Bath & Beyond space, according to Radnor Community Development Director Kevin Kochanski.
HomeSense is an off-price furniture/home decor/home improvement store owned by TJX Companies, the group behind Marshall’s, HomeGoods and T. J. Maxx. The area’s first HomeSense in Exton was a madhouse when it opened last October.
Meanwhile, bustling HomeGoods is leaving the back of St. David’s Square and will take space in front next to the shrunken MicroCenter.
Kochanski says it’s his understanding that Giant wants to expand into the Home Goods space, but Giant’s spokesman tells us his company “has no announcement at this time.” Hmmm.
Montessori for mature Main Liners
The Montessori method isn’t just for kids anymore.
A new center in Paoli is pioneering the area’s first Montessori environment for seniors with dementia.
Matthew’s Journey: a Day Centre for Dementia Care offers a safe, sensory-rich setting carefully constructed to reconnect clients to their memories. Each little room, filled with props and visual cues, encourages hands-on exploration, conversation and independence – just like a Montessori classroom.
Hence, time spent in the mock “office” sparks self-esteem-boosting memories in a former business executive.
A sitting area adorned with a giant wall map cues a once-avid traveler to reminisce about favorite trips.
A women’s dressing room strikes a chord with a former fashionista.
A kitchen inspires once proud home cooks to dish on – and perhaps dish up – treasured recipes.
Matthew’s Journey maps out every detail for memory clients – from the contrasting-color toilet seats to the explicit wall signs and doors.
The center’s creator is Paoli RN Dotti Katz, who’s logged 45 years in geriatric nursing, 35 of them in dementia care, and has consulted for nursing homes and the PA Department of Health. “The patients I saw in other facilities were frustrated,” Katz tells SAVVY. “There weren’t enough activities for them and they’d be put on medication because they were acting out.” No one bothered to determine the unmet need that was causing the agitation – whether it was hunger, a need to use the restroom or worry about a loved one, Katz says. She recalls a man with dementia who was given sedatives because he kept touching people. Turns out he was simply looking for cigarettes.
Katz knew there had to be a better way to care for the aging population she was passionate about. She attended the world’s first international symposium on Montessori Aging & Dementia in Prague in 2017 and a light bulb went off.
Not only does Matthew’s Journey – named for Katz’ late son – give caregivers a much-needed break, it gives clients a safe, stimulating home-away-from-home with people of, well, like mind. Traditional adult day care centers mix populations – people with dementia and without – and that model doesn’t serve either group well, according to Katz. “People don’t want to hear the same question asked 50 times,” she says.
Enrollment will be capped at 13-14 with a caregiver/client ratio of 7 to 1. Katz and the center’s program director, Tonya Monteleone, will be hands on. “Families can rest easy knowing their loved ones can get a shower, be well fed and cared for here,” Katz says.
Matthew’s Journey, 15-17 Industrial Blvd, Paoli, 610-701-1337, will be open weekdays, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. $130 for a full day or four hours at $22/hour. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, daily activities and on-site salon, PT/OT and podiatric care are included.
From ‘Stonehouse Revival’ to a mall storefront
Historic home fixer-upper and HGTV/DIY host Jeff Devlin is now reviving decidedly less charming digs: 6,000 sq. ft. at the circa-1972 Exton Square mall.
In what may be his most challenging renovation yet, the telegenic master carpenter is converting the old Forever 21 into Schoolhouse Woodworking, a carpentry studio/retail store. When he’s finished this spring, the former fast-fashion boutique will look just like an old barn, Devlin says.
Schoolhouse Woodworking will host woodworking classes and workshops and sell reclaimed wood, architectural salvage items and tools, according to Devlin’s Facebook video announcement. Noteworthy item on his vision board: getting kids excited about carpentry and electrical work and “touching things” that aren’t video-game controllers.
Chesco community shaken by student suicides; parents often in the dark
This photo collage of students lost to suicide appeared with the online petition.
Four suicides in 11 months have left Downingtown East High School reeling. The latest tragic losses: a 14-year-old freshman girl in September and a 15-year-old sophomore boy in early January.
As it grieves, the community desperately seeks answers.
A petition asking the Downingtown Area School District (DASD) to step up mental health awareness gathered 7,300 signatures in 22 hours.
A middle school principal’s heartfelt “You’re Not Alone/It Begins With Me” video posted two days after the boy’s death went viral.
And the district quickly planned two public forums for parents – a livestreamed panel discussion held Jan. 17 and a roundtable set for Feb. 19.
Some key takeaways for parents from the expert panel:
- It’s not unusual for parents to be blindsided by their teen’s mental health issues. (An alarming new CHOP/UPenn study found that half of parents know nothing about their teens’ suicidal thoughts.) Despite mental illness occurring in one in four Americans, the stigma endures and keeps kids from sharing the severity of their struggles with loved ones and getting treatment. Just because a teen is popular, athletic and attractive (as the Downingtown students appear to have been) doesn’t mean he or she can’t have debilitating anxiety and/or depression.
- Talking about suicide doesn’t make it happen. Don’t be afraid to ask a depressed teen, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
- High expectations are OK but make it clear to your teen that his or her worth doesn’t depend on high grades and college acceptances. Let them know that being average is OK.
- Lack of sleep can contribute to mental illness. Consider a no-phone-in-the-bedroom rule.
- Connection is key to mental health. Encourage your teen to find community – in or outside of school, even online (with time limits).
- Parents should model reasonable social media and phone use. No constant email checks; no phones at family dinner. Consider collecting teens phones at gatherings to reduce social posts that might cause angst/FOMO in those not invited.
Two more eye-openers: States with higher gun ownership rates have higher youth suicide rates, according to a new study, with boys more likely to use a gun to end their lives than girls. And if you thought most shooting deaths were murders, you’re wrong. Sixty percent of gun deaths are suicides.
Hatch Motherhood is no more
With a year left on its lease, Hatch is cutting its losses. The holistic center for pregnant and new moms in Wayne pulled the plug in early January.
Medical Director and CEO Radhi Kakarla tells SAVVY she hasn’t given up on her vision for integrated maternity care. Because “the need is real,” she says she’ll go back to the drawing board.
“It has been a tough road,” Kakarla says. “We were turning into more of a fitness studio and because of our small class sizes, that wasn’t meeting costs.” Women who went through the whole Hatch program – using its physical, emotional and educational services – reported lower C-section and depression rates and “did better post-partum,” she says. Hatch opened near Verge Yoga and Lululemon in May of 2017.
Gray wave keeps rolling through Tredyffrin-Easttown
Yet another senior living company – this one surprisingly new – wants to come to town. Solera Senior Living hopes to knock down two office buildings on five acres on Russell Rd. in Paoli and build a three-story, 120-bed assisted living/memory care center in its place.
Seems a bunch of neighbors are less than thrilled, telling Tredyffrin planners at last month’s meeting that they’re worried about stormwater runoff, congestion, lights shining into homes, even wandering dementia patients. Plus, with so many senior care facilities nearby – Highgate at Paoli Pointe, Daylesford Crossing, and, opening this spring, Brightview in Devon (not to mention oldies but goodies like Dunwoody, White Horse, Waverly, the Quadrangle et. al.) some wonder if the area really needs one more.
BTW, we toured the new furnished models at Brightview Devon. Pretty darn nice. Unique on the Main Line, Brightview offers “age in place,” continuing care rentals. So, theoretically, you can start leasing your own apartment with full kitchen, then move to different wings for assisted living or memory care.
Brightview’s indie-living apartments run from around $4,400/month to more than $8K. Pricey, yes, but rent includes two squares a day, housekeeping, utilities, basic cable, and transportation within 15 miles. There’s a salon, pub, gym, art studio, library, movie theater, café, bocci court, fire pit and garden on site, so we’re guessing folks won’t be calling the shuttle all that often.
Brightview offers six floor plans. The Ardmore is biggest: two bedrooms and a den and 1,300 square feet.
Sales are “ahead of targets,” Brightview Sales Director Jacqueline Courtney tells SAVVY. Who’s signing on so far? Folks who want to keep their central Main Line lifestyles, i.e. attend the same church, stay close to the kids, grandkids and friends, she says.
The first folks should take up residence in April.
Johnny can’t read?
With its Ivy League acceptances and army of National Merit Scholars, it’s tempting to think no child is ever left behind in T/E Schools.
Tempting, but wrong. Just talk to the T/E moms who formed the advocacy group, Everyone Reads T/E, after their kids struggled to read.
Or better yet, check out this eye-opening new story about them from WHYY. The Cliff Notes version: The group believes T/E teachers might better serve kids with dyslexia and other learning differences if they included more phonics, i.e. sounding out words, in reading instruction.
This and That
Pancake alert: Work crews are making good progress on the new First Watch in Wayne’s Gateway Shopping Center (below). Company spokesgal Eleni Pierce tells SAVVY the breakfast/lunch café will open March 11. First Watch will be on the end. No one has signed on for the other half of the old Outback yet.
Café Lift in Narberth just added dinner service. The popular bruncherie at the old Royal Bank on Montgomery Ave. is serving dinner Tuesday through Saturday. On the menu: small plates/salads: $6 – $15, sandwiches: $11 – $16, and entrees/pasta: $17 -$24. And yes, there is a liquor license.
Our Wayne spies tell us that a PA Wine and Spirits shop will move into the old Rite Aid/Pets Plus building just west of the Wayne movie theater.
The fate of the inflated sports dome on Villanova U.’s West Campus is still up in the air. Fearing the giant bubble would be an eyesore and hurt property values, Radnor planners nixed the proposal. A few weeks ago, a judge overruled that decision, siding with the university. Undaunted, the Radnor Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to appeal the judge’s ruling last week. The dome would be up from Nov. 1 to April 1 and would rise 65 feet high – about 30 feet higher than the township allows. The bubble would allow Nova athletes to practice on campus instead of being bussed to other facilities.
With mental health on many Main Line minds, Devon Horse Show & Country Fair’s new $2 million, six-year pledge to the inpatient behavioral health unit at Bryn Mawr Hospital sure sounds timely. In announcing the pledge, the show’s senior co-chair Darlene DiGorio called behavioral health “a critical health need in our country.” (You can say that again, Darlene.) Over the last century, Devon has donated $18 million to Bryn Mawr Hospital, completing its most recent $2 million pledge to the intensive care unit in December.
How the mighty have fallen. Wearing a green prison jumpsuit and with no friends or family in the courtroom, Phil Ahr, former president of the Radnor Board of Commissioners, pleaded guilty to child pornography charges this week. He’ll be sentenced in federal court on May 23 and faces 6 to 60 years behind bars.
Seventy-seven drug dealers were arrested and 7,000 doses of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, were taken off the streets in Chester County’s “Operation Wildfire.” Not a bad haul for a two-and-a-half-month sting. Tredyffrin Police Chief Mike Beaty, along with police chiefs in Phoenixville and Oxford, joined DA Tom Hogan at a Jan. 23 news conference announcing the arrests.
Busting at the seams with business, Rhoads Crossing upholstery shop just moved to bigger digs at the old American Pool location at 210 N. Aberdeen Ave. in Wayne.
Could an extra half hour of sleep be in your child’s future? Most definitely. The Phoenixville Area School District’s board just voted to push back school start times and T/E, Radnor and Lower Merion may follow suit. The change would have major ripple effects on child care, sports and bus schedules so Main Line districts are wisely taking time to study the issue thoroughly. Unionville-Chadds Ford was the first area district to push back start times. A year and a half in, Unionville’s superintendent reports overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and “more alert” students. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and the AMA all favor 8:30 a.m. start times. Studies show teens who get eight hours of sleep earn better grades and are less prone to depression, substance abuse, car accidents and sports injuries.
Care packages for our military don’t usually include sneakers but perhaps they should. When Debbie and John Hausladen’s son deployed in Afghanistan asked his parents to send sneakers because his only pair had worn out from extreme temps, rugged terrain and daily exercise, they started thinking: Workouts are huge stress relievers for our troops. If their son needed sneakers, others must, too. So they partnered with Valley Forge Running Company – which offered big discounts – and the Veterans Association of Easttown and Tredyffrin to create the nonprofit, Sneakers for Soldiers. So far, 130 sneakers have shipped and 43 sneakers are on order. Thank you for your service, Debbie and John.
We’re living vicariously through Malvern’s Debbie Ryan and daughter Aislinn (Conestoga ’09). The two scored tickets to the Jan. 27 Screen Actors Guild Awards out in LA – red-carpet walk and star-strewn after-party included. As a SAG/AFTRA member, Ryan was eligible for the ticket lottery and had a feeling this was going to be her year.
And finally, an island adventure that has SAVVY’s name written all over it. (Just look.) Malvern native Gwen Burbank, who reads us religiously from her home on Grenada, sent these fun pics. Seems she and her Main Line pals chartered a handcrafted sloop for a spin around the Caribbean during Grenada Sailing Week. The group had gathered to toast Barb Condit’s birthday. Cheers, ladies!