On the February 2nd agenda for Conshohocken’s Borough Council is an item involving the potential eminent domain of the Outbound Station property at 2 Harry Street. The agenda reads:
Discuss and consider authorizing advertisement of an ordinance to authorize eminent domain of 2 Harry Street (Tax Map Parcel No. 05-00-04876-00-6)
According to property records, the property has been owned by Joe and Barbara Collins since 1978. According to a source, the Collins were not aware this was being considered. Joe Collins is a former mayor of the borough.
In recent years, there have been three cafes that have leased the building. It has been vacant since the beginning of 2019.
As you may remember, MoreThanTheCurve.com has reported that this property is set to become a home to the Couch Tomato and it is expected to open in the coming months.
The 2 Harry Street property is unusual in that it is almost completely surrounded by parcels under different ownership. The surrounding parcels are owned by the estate of Ray Weinmann, who was one of the original developers behind the redevelopment of the lower end of Conshohocken. He passed away in 2021. These parcels are currently for sale.
The fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States covers eminent domain. It reads (we bolded the relevant language):
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
We emailed Borough Manager Stephanie Cecco to inquire what the “public use” for this property would involve. We did not receive a reply (to be fair we only sent the email at 12:13 p.m.).
Two obvious uses are no longer needed. SEPTA recently announced that it is building a parking garage that will add approximately 400 spaces to the train station area. The apartments under construction at 400 West Elm Street also will add amenities connected to the use of the Schuylkill River Trail.
How the Outbound Station property could be utilized for “public use” without the neighboring parcels is curious.
Is the intent to eminent domain this one property and other adjacent ones in the future?