As this site has mentioned a few times, Conshohocken is on the cusp of a new wave of development that all the players involved need to get right, because not doing so could damage the community that is Conshohocken.
As we reported earlier in the week, the Conshohocken Business Development Commission had Paul A. Vernon, managing principal at KSK architects speak at its meeting on Tuesday evening. KSK Architects Planners, Historians Inc., is the planning firm retained by the Borough of Conshohocken. On KSK’s website, it describes it services to Conshy as:
KSK, in its role as Borough Planner, assisted Conshohocken in updating its Zoning and Land Use and Subdivision Ordinances. The former ordinances, developed in the 1960s and 1970s promoted a suburban model that did not respect the Borough’s historic urban character. In contrast, the revised ordinances encourage development that complements the existing building fabric. Much of this effort required simplifying the existing ordinances and supporting effective enforcement through reducing the number of zones and by strengthening design and performance standards. Furthermore, new design guidelines were created to assure that the development along the Schuylkill River includes enhanced public access and new public recreation amenities. One of these amenities includes the Conshohocken Riverwalk, a walking trail that will be constructed by private riverfront developers as new development is approved.
You can see report that KSK prepared for the Borough by clicking here.
The Times Herald reported on the presentation held on Tuesday evening. Vernon pointed out five areas poised for development that need attention:
Vernon listed five “opportunity sites,” which remain a focal point for KSK. The existing train station, the old firehouse and the vacant parcel around it, the vacant Verizon building, Borough Hall and Moore Chevrolet at 11th Avenue and Fayette Street are all targeted zones for KSK.
I will add to those five the river front, which is mentioned in KSK’s report for the Borough, and Hale Products’ property, which only recently came up for sale. So in total there are seven major areas for development within the Borough.
What I have to believe to be somewhat unusual is that the firehouse/grass area, Verizon building, old Borough Hall at Fayette and 8th and some of the riverfront is owned, or about to be owned, by the Borough itself. That means the citizens will be able to exert a stronger than normal influence on how their town is developed.
There were about a dozen attendees at the meeting. Gary DeMedio, a local commercial realtor who has been instrumental in bringing several businesses to Conshy and a member of the commission, was quoted by the Times Herald in their story. He stated:
“We’ve become a victim of our own success, which is a good thing. We’ve done a lot of things down on the lower end of Fayette Street, which is only a mile long. So what we’re trying to do is marry the lower end with the upper end, and create that walking, business commercial concept. At the same time, we want to solicit new businesses to come in and retain ones that have been here a long time. Where most communities will sit back and wait for developers to come in, we’re in a position to say, ‘this is what we want, because we think it fits the use and revitalization plan for the future. Let’s go out and get it.’”
Tony DeFazio, a member of the commission and owner of DeFazio Communications in Conshohocken, sent me a few takeaways from the Vernon’s presentation:
- There is ample time to develop in Conshohocken. Simply because “the time is now” does not mean it’s wise to go forward with poorly planned projects.
- Development must follow the six C’s: character, community, comfort, convenience, connection and community involvement.
- Any building projects must successfully blend into their surroundings and fit with the “personality” of Conshohocken.
- In developing, it is crucial to maintain relationships with existing businesses, because not supporting what exists leads to open storefronts and more open space to contend with.
So what to do, or not do, with all these seven opportunities? Over the next two months, MoreThanTheCurve.com is going to profile one development opportunity per week and ask for input from community members.
First up is the old firehouse and the grass area along Fayette Street at Fayette and West Elm. So email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you would like to see developed, or not developed, at this property.