Last night Conshohocken’s Borough Council voted 6-0 to amend the Borough’s zoning code to create a new zoning district, which is known as SP-4 The change was proposed by Keystone Property Group. This new zoning district will allow for a hotel at the corner of West Elm Street and Fayette Street, two new larger office buildings to replace the existing ones (one at the corner of West First Avenue and Fayette and the other on West Elm Street between the Washington Fire Company No. 1 and Saint Mary Church), a larger parking garage to replace the existing one and a public square in the middle of it all. The old fire house, also surrounded by all of this, will also be renovated into a restaurant.
Prior to voting, Council member Jane Flangan (D, Ward 5) spoke and said that the additional parking the redevelopment will bring to downtown Conshohocken (150 spaces during the day and more at night), job creation, increasing the tax base and that the developer would pay for the improvements needed at the intersection of Elm and Fayette Streets, were the reason she supports the proposal.
The vote was 6-0, because Republican Bob Stokley recused himself. What is interesting is that Stokley didn’t recuse himself when Keystone Property Group was selected over Brandywine as the developer for the Borough owned properties in 2013. There was also a second vote that passed 6-0 that pertained to a conditional use involving the parking.
During public comment, two residents and one resident/business owner spoke up not with outright objections, but more concerns. Resident Amy Peiffer expressed concerns that the new development will result in additional traffic and the taller buildings resulting in Conshy feeling less like home.
Another resident, whose name we didn’t capture, expressed concerns for the residents right around the development and the potential for parking issues. Members of Borough Council responded that they would look in to addressing those concerns.
The owner of Coyote Crossing and a resident, Carlos Melendez, expressed concerns over the potential for additional liquor licenses coming into the Borough. He shared his experience from West Chester, where seven new licenses were added after he opened a location of Coyote Crossing there. The result was the existing restaurants having to reduce prices and increase drink specials in an effort to survive. This caused issues for the businesses themselves and the community as a whole (such as more excessive drinking) and the restaurants all eventually went out of business anyway. He stated that West Chester went from having a mix of good restaurants to a town with just bars.
Members of Borough Council, and its solicitor, explained that the addition of new liquor licences, excluding the hotel and old fire house, require approval from Borough Council and that this additional approval requirement was put in place to address the same concern.
Another member of the public also expressed concerns over what happens to adjacent property owners due to his experience with a townhome community under construction on his street. He shared that his yard and the street had been dug up and couldn’t figure out who is responsible for repairs.
So it will be interesting to see how fast this project takes off. The other approved large projects in Conshohocken haven’t moved forward. The last high rise to be built in Conshohocken was Eight Tower Bridge, which broke ground in 2001. Seven Tower Bridge, 400 West Elm Street and The Millennial all remain to be built.