The Freedom Valley Chronicles: The Millennium Fire – Part Two Re-Shaping The Riverfront

For generations, industry utilized the riverfront of Conshohocken and provided job opportunities to thousands through the years. The waters of the Schuylkill and the Schuylkill Canal as well as two railroads moved products to and from the lands along Washington Street.

People labored long hours in factories to help provide for their families – to put food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and roofs over their heads. Buildings here were used to manufacture a wide range of products from iron to batteries.

As the economy of the Freedom Valley changed, the value of this land shifted from industrial use to a mix of residential and office uses.

Several developers worked to implement the shift in the use of this land.

One of those developers was J. Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Properties Group. According to a news article dated May 12, 2000, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Borough of Conshohocken gave official approval to development plans by Mr. O’Neill for Millennium 2000. That was the original name used for the development site located along Washington Street, between Ash and Cherry Streets.

Groundbreaking for development at this site took place on June 8, 2000, according to a news article dated June 18, 2000, in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Kool and the Gang, according to the news article, provided “thunderous sounds” to entertain the attendees. On this occasion, the name of the development was the “Millennium Center for Internet Excellence”.

Other names were also used for this development. Eventually, the name of this site was shortened to just “Millennium”.

Through the years, the ownership has changed for several of the pieces of real estate of Millennium.

President George W. Bush signed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act at Millennium in Conshohocken on January 11, 2002. Standing left to right in this photo are Representative Paul Gillmor of Ohio, Representative Robert Borski of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, Representative Joseph Hoeffel of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker. The man behind the Governor is not identified.

Millions of dollars of taxpayer money was loaned or granted to firms that developed Millennium. Leaders in Norristown, Harrisburg, and Washington approved these expenditures of public monies to help fund aspects of Millennium.

According to a news article dated August 25, 2000, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, governmental sources awarded a $3 million loan administered through Montgomery County and $2 million in grant money from the United State Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additional taxpayer funds were used for infrastructure improvements in the area, including of Washington Street itself.

President George W. Bush personally endorsed the redevelopment of the Conshohocken riverfront. On January 11, 2002, President Bush visited Millennium Corporate Center (the name at that time of the office development at the site) to sign into law the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. You can read the remarks by the President by clicking here.

The original plans presented for Millennium are not what was eventually built. In an artist’s conception of the “Millennium Project” printed on June 12, 2000, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, two, ten-story buildings were depicted at this development. A five-story parking garage is shown on Washington Street. News reports indicated that a skating rink would be among the amenities at this site. Restaurants and 50,000 square feet of retail space were included in the original plans. At least seven boats were seen on the Schuylkill in the artist’s conception.

While the plans for Millennium were changed over the years, the overall theme – live, work, play – of Millennium did remain the same.

Class “A” office space. Luxury rental housing.

Today, two low-rise buildings provide office space to a variety of businesses, while a third mid-rise office building does the same. Mid-rise apartment buildings are grouped around courtyards. Amenities beckon residents and workers to spend time at these buildings and along the river.

Millennium includes three office buildings on Washington Street: Millennium I, Millennium II, and Millennium III.

According to a news article dated July 27, 2001, in The Times Herald, several businesses had already occupied space in Millennium I. The news article indicated that “Millennium II and Millennium III buildings are nearing completion this summer.”

The office buildings were built on ground that formerly was the Schuylkill Iron Works.

A few years later, residential construction began on land to the east of these office buildings. In 2005, Riverwalk At Millennium began renting apartment units. By the Spring of that year, several dozen people were living on the site.

Eventually, four buildings were built at Riverwalk At Millennium.

The apartment homes were built on ground that formerly was used by Kempf Building Supply.

For a time, the land in between Millennium III and Riverwalk At Millennium remained vacant. As the anticipated market for residential rental housing increased, construction began on Stables At Millennium.

Construction was well underway by August of 2008. Masonry structures formed the base for each of the buildings under construction. Wood was utilized for much of the framing in the new construction.

More than a thousand people lived, worked, and played at Millennium by August of 2008.

Hundreds more were expected to join them as Stables At Millennium opened.

Instead, a fire on August 13, 2008, would alter the history of Conshohocken.

Please join us at 4:53 PM this afternoon to remember the start of an inferno that devastated this area ten years ago today.

Londonbury At Millennium as seen in 2017. This site was initially called “Stables At Millennium” Much of the construction site for this apartment community was destroyed by fire in 2008.

The photographs of Riverwalk At Millennium, Londonbury At Millennium, and the three office buildings at Millennium are courtesy of Google, 2017.

The photograph of President George W. Bush and other leaders visiting Conshohocken was produced by Mr. Eric Draper and is courtesy of The White House, 2002.

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© 2018 Richard McDonough