During the February 7th meeting of Conshohocken’s Borough Council, a Memorandum of Understanding between the borough and SEPTA regarding a SEPTA-owned property (101 Washington Street) near the train station was discussed.
The property was originally slated for a parking garage that was a partnership between SEPTA and PennDOT that would have served the train station and a PennDOT plan to encourage drivers on the Schuylkill Expressway to exit in Conshohocken and continue their journey on train.
Over the summer, transit activists and The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board advocated for the plan to be rethought due to the cost and the belief that the area surrounding train stations should be dense with housing.
The Borough of Conshohocken, through the then Borough Council President Colleen Leonard, stated during a SEPTA board meeting that Conshohocken wanted SEPTA to fulfill its plan to construct the garage and wouldn’t support a residential use for the property. The year prior, Conshohocken’s borough council had amended the zoning code to remove residential uses from the riverfront, where the train station and property in question are located.
SEPTA and the Borough of Conshohocken did agree that SEPTA could issue an “Request for Information” from developers who may be interested in developing the property with mixed use to include parking and apartments. Once the review of the responses from developers was completed SEPTA said that it “intends to solicit and then award a contract for the 101 Washington Street, Conshohocken, Transit Oriented Development Opportunity.”
The Memorandum of Understanding that was discussed the February 7th meeting outlines how this process will move forward. SEPTA is permitted to continue to explore redeveloping the property to include apartments, but the Borough of Conshohocken made no commitment to amend its zoning code to allow apartments. However, SEPTA is legally allowed to seek zoning relief from the borough’s zoning hearing board. In the meantime, SEPTA has committed to create a surface parking lot with approximately 125 spaces within 260 working days after it receives the appropriate permits (so this is probably a year away from opening).
If SEPTA goes through the zoning process and is denied approval for apartments it is then obligated to build the garage.
It is important to note that this agreement can’t legally bind future borough councils from amending the zoning code. In in the next election, new people could be elected who feel differently about adding more apartments to the riverfront and if they have a majority they can vote to amend the code. Three seats are up for election in 2025 (Wards 2, 4, and 6).
The memorandum is scheduled to be voted on during the February 21st meeting of Conshohocken’s borough council.