During last night’s Zoning Hearing Board meeting, Brian O’Neill referenced a story from over a decade ago detailing plans for a high tech office complex, with numerous amenities, that he hoped to build on Conshohocken’s riverfront. We had actually read the story a couple months ago while doing some research for another story. Here are a few excerpts from the story:
Called the Millennium Project, it is being built on the banks of the Schuylkill at Conshohocken, which O’Neill likes to call “Philicon Valley.”
It is a complex designed for make-it-big-while-you’re-young entrepreneurs who work 15-hour days and have zero patience with inconvenience.
It will be 20 minutes from Center City and near where the Blue Route crosses the Schuylkill Expressway, the region’s hottest crossroads for offices and hotels. But O’Neill has designed the complex so tenants won’t have to leave for much.
It will offer first-class office, retail and residential space, day care, exercise salons, and places to play on a 30-acre riverfront campus.
As we stated above, this story is from 2000 and the project was to have occupancy by 2002. So what happened? The dot com bubble burst and the project, designed to attract the growing technology companies, was no longer viable.
Now in 2014, O’Neill is proposing to move forward with a revised version of this project and is seeking a few variances. Without getting into all the technical details of the variances he is seeking, they mostly involve the length of the buildings, the position of the parking garage and issues involving the flood way.
The revised plan includes two new office buildings, about 90′ high” built in front of the Millennium office building on the 200 block of Washington Street (this was the original location from 2000). While we said it is two buildings, technically it is one building that is connected with glass (the whole project is designed around glass and allowing as much natural light into the buildings as possible). There is also an enclosed walkway that connects this structure to one of the existing office buildings (M3 on the site plan above). The connectors actually are part of the issue involving the variance involving the allowed length of a building. The connectors create one building, out of the three it connects. The connected combined structures then exceed the length allowed.
Why all the interconnection? O’Neill has a potential tenant that has helped drive some aspects of the building’s design. The tenant, which would bring 1,000 jobs to Conshy, is an international technology driven company that desires a mix of modern and more traditional office space. The company would occupy part of M3 and all of the new buildings. In addition to office space, the top of the building would be a space for a coffee shop, yoga and other activities to allow employees to take a break.
The project also includes O’Neill making good on a promise to build an amphitheater along the riverfront. As you can see in the site plan, there is an area labeled amphitheater. This would be a tiered grass covered area where the tenant and residents would be able to stage events. So imagine breaking out lawn chairs and blankets for a concert on summer nights along the river. There is also a plaza (or piazza) planned for the Washington Street side of the buildings and formal garden closer to the river.
The Zoning Hearing Board did not vote to approve or deny the variances last night. Instead they decided that they would like to keep the hearing open and seek the testimony of the Borough’s engineer in regards to the project. There is also a question regarding the requirement of the Borough’s code for the project to receive approval from the Department of Environmental Protection. The issue is that the Department of Environmental Protection requires municipal approval of a project before it will review it. Obviously something has to be done to rectify this situation.
The date of the continuation of the hearing is not yet announced. When we learn the date, we will let you know.
For now, what do you think Conshy?