What to do with the Verizon Building? A Grocery Store?

All the Wawa controversy has kept me from focusing on the article I had hoped to write earlier this week about the Verizon Building.  Here is a little history….the building was sold back in 2007 to partnership GHP Office Realty and UBS Realty Investors.  GHP had been involved with a few other purchases of Verizon’s properties.  They even made a nice sales presentation.  As Co-Star reported back in 2007:

Continuing a trend of recent sales, Verizon Communications sold its office building at 402 Fayette St. in Conshohocken, PA, to a partnership of GHP Office Realty and UBS Realty Investors for $7.5 million, or about $115 per square foot.

Verizon will lease back the property through February 2009. Jeffrey Dunne, vice chairman of CB Richard Ellis in Stamford, CT, represented Verizon in the deal. The buyer was represented in-house.

The 64,959-square-foot building was constructed in 1959. It sits on about an acre near I-476 and I-76, and offers potential residential or retail redevelopment options.

Something went down with this deal, and since it does not really matter I didn’t investigate.  The building was sold a few months later (December of 2007) to to the Borough of Conshohocken at about half that price.  When the Borough bought it, it was considered a location to create a unified Borough Hall, along with a police station.  Currently, the Borough leases office space near 1st and Fayette and holds meetings at the Old Borough Hall at Fayette and 8th.  The current police station is adjacent to Old Borough Hall.  However, the Verizon Building needs a new roof and the bids they have received to fix this problem are around $250,000.  The roof remains unfixed.

The Verizon Building is a key property in Conshy.  4th and Fayette is really where the walkable area of Fayette Street ends and you are met with three gas stations between 5th and 8th.  A vibrant use of the space at 4th and Fayette can help connect lower Fayette with the upper avenues.

What It Shouldn’t Be

So let me start by suggesting what it should not become.  I know it is popular to say that Conshohocken needs a grocery store, especially to help the seniors who have been without a grocery store in town since the demise of ACME (which is now a CVS).  Conshy does not need a grocery store and here are my reasons why:

  • Conshohocken is getting younger, not older.  You develop for the future, not the past
  • There is a Genuardi’s and two Giants within a mile and a half of Conshohocken and a Whole Foods a little further
  • There are two specialty food stores in Conshy zip code, Lee’s Produce and Edwards-Freeman Nut Company
  • CVS, 7-11 and two Wawa’s are available for necessities
  • The Borough provides transportation to seniors for free and to others at a very low cost through the Rambler.  While it only runs two days a week, it does stop at all area grocery stores.
  • Septa also offers transportation to all of these shopping centers
  • The name “Trader Joe’s” is what I hear as the most as the desired store.  Putting a Trader Joe’s at 4th and Fayette will create a number of traffic issues.  First you are putting in the center of the Borough a major retailer that requires thousands of shoppers a week to survive.  It will also increase traffic along West 4th, West 5th and associated side streets as people avoid Fayette or make their way to Colwell Lane.

So those are the reasons I think the idea of bringing a grocery store in Conshy should be squashed.  Feel free to tell me I am wrong in the comments or on Facebook.

The Ideas

These ideas are not going to be earth shattering or very exciting.

While I am may have said a Trader Joe’s shouldn’t be in the Borough, I could see a specialty store like a Carlino’s Market or a small market like the Market of Lafayette Hill work on the ground floor of this space.  Other independent shops could be brought in to compliment it along the ground floor. These shops would provide the street level connectability that can help provide a more walkable Fayette Street.

The 2nd floor can be office space or housing, I do not think it really matters.  The key is at street level.

Should Borough Hall be relocated there?  I do not see a problem with it on the top floor, but I do not think you can combine retail, office and a police station.

Comments are open here and Facebook.