Villanova planning new boathouse in Conshohocken

Last week we received two tips that Villanova University is planning to construct a new boathouse along the Schuylkill River in Conshohocken. Villanova has a Division 1 women’s team and mens club program that have utilized a warehouse at 601 Washington Street in Conshohocken for more than two decades.

With the region’s other universities and colleges operating their rowing programs further downriver at picturesque Boathouse Row, Villanova has long utilized the warehouse in Conshohocken. In 2003, Villanova’s student newspaper, The Villanovan, published an article titled “Boathouse Woe” that outlined the poor conditions of the warehouse that included broken windows, raccoon and bird droppings covering their equipment and the floor, and how it was not maintained by the university as other sports facilities were.

We reached out to several people connected to the rowing programs and the athletic department at Villanova without luck in an attempt to learn what was done to improve the facility after the 2003 article and gather more details on the plan for the new facility. We did not receive any responses.

Villanova University

However, there is a page dedicated (this page has been deleted since we published this article) to the planned new rowing center on Villanova’s website. The 5,000-square-foot rowing center will include two bay doors for boat egress/ingress, racks to store boats, restrooms, showers, changing areas, and a 1,250-square-foot mezzanine for a fitness/ergometer rowing machine area. The page is dedicated to fundraising for the boathouse. One question we had hoped to get answered was whether it has been fully funded.

The property in question has recently been part of a development plan from an entity associated with Brian O’Neill, who has owned the property since 1999. This plan consisted of 270 apartments. According to Whitemarsh Township’s website, the plan was given its preliminary major land development approval in October 2022. Public records show O’Neill still owns the property.

We inquired with Whitemarsh Township’s zoning officer regarding the property and as of Monday, March 27th, no plans had been submitted by Villanova.

The initial tips we received also involved the potential for additional development on the site by the university. One thing mentioned was possible student housing for graduate students.

Currently, the Conshohocken riverfront in the borough and Whitemarsh Township is home to a handful of rowing programs. The Whitemarsh Boat Club and Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy have boathouses at the Hines Rowing Center at 801 Washington Street. The Haverford School, Malvern Prep, and the Borough of Conshohocken operate out of the Conshohocken Rowing Center at 307 Washington Street. Harriton High School rows out of 601 Washington Street.

The Whitemarsh side of the border on the riverfront is currently poised to undergo major changes. There is an approved plan for 597 apartments that straddles the border with the Borough of Conshohocken. There is a townhouse community approved for 901 Washington Street. At 801 Washington Street, there is an initial plan to construct a warehouse facility (this has not yet been approved).

More to come.