Update on the Proposed Redevelopment of Lower Fayette Street Between West Elm Street and West First Avenue
Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet with Keystone Property Group's (KPG) President and CEO Bill Glazer. KPG is behind the proposal to redevelop the area between West Elm Street and West 1st Avenue, which is referred to overall as One Conshohocken. As originally proposed last August, the plan was for a hotel, a new office building to replace a smaller one, rehabbing the old fire company building for a restaurant and a larger parking deck to replace the existing one. Over the year a few things have changed. The proposed redevelopment is now bigger than originally proposed. We also now know how KPG hopes to get all of it approved. Below we bullet point the differences between the original proposal and the new one, plus share details we took away from our conversation with Glazer. Please note that we are pointing out the larger items, not the smaller details.
Here they are:
- This proposal is not approved yet. KPG is going to request that Borough Council rezone the area as a Special Zoning District (it would be the fourth), that would allow for a hotel use in the area, 200' buildings and everything else that is needed to develop the project as proposed. Glazer hopes to secure the zoning change over the winter and break ground in April 2015.
- The redevelopment will take place in phases. The first phase will be the hotel, below ground parking, park/town square and the old fire house. The office buildings will be additional phases that occur once a tenant is secured.
- The proposal has changed in a few different ways over the past year when it was first made public. The major items are:
- There is now a 1,200 car underground garage that will have entrances and exits at several locations around the redevelopment area. The above ground parking deck has been decreased from eight to six stories.
- The original proposal had a new office building replacing the existing office building at 1 West First Avenue. This is still proposed, but the office building has grown from 200,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. This building will not be built until there is a tenant.
- KPG is now proposing to replace the current building at 100 West Elm Street and build a larger one. This will also not be built unless there is a tenant.
- We asked Glazer if the recent proposals from other developers to build other office buildings in the Conshohocken market made him rethink his vision for One Conshohocken. He expressed that the other buildings aren't really competitive with his plans as he believes KPG will be offering first class space, next to a hotel, with retail and over a dozen restaurants within walking distance, and all outside of the flood plain. No other developer in Conshy is going to be able to offer that.
- This redevelopment leaves the Washington Fire Company and St. Mary's left intact. We did ask if he has tried to purchase either and he did confirm he has had discussions with the fire company over the years. He expressed an interest in St. Mary's, but stated that it is a beautiful building and wouldn't want to see it knocked down. FYI, the Archdiocese has not yet sold any churches that is has closed, but has sold related buildings such as schools, housing, etc.
- KPG hasn't confirmed which hotel brand will be operating the proposed hotel. Glazer stated that they have spoken to numerous operators, but the interested parties want to know a deliverable date, before moving forward.
- We asked Glazer who he has spoken with regarding operating the restaurant that is proposed for the rehabbed old fire house. He promises it will not be a chain and that he has spoken to several area restaurant owners, including some from Conshohocken.
- We asked Glazer how he intends to discuss traffic due to the intersection of West Elm and Fayette being rated F. He stated that there are plans to make the lights in that area more efficient, however the overall problem will need to involve taking into consideration Conshohocken, West Conshohocken and the surrounding area, which is beyond the scope of a developer.
KPG will be making a presentation on this proposal on August 20th at 7:00 p.m. at Old Borough Hall at West 8th Avenue and Fayette. As with any public meeting, there will be the opportunity for public comment. We find that many people believe this is a done deal. It is not. If you lean to supporting, or do not like this proposal, you should come and learn more about it and share your thoughts. There is the possibility that Borough Council could decide to not rezone the area. If that happens, KPG could then take it to the Zoning Hearing Board and ask for variances and/or conditional uses to redevelop the properties. That is basically what happened with the proposed Wawa. Borough Council rejected changing the zoning and the developer is now before the Zoning Hearing Board. Follow the link to review a 20-page document that will be used during the presentation on August 20th.