Update on the Proposed Apartment Community on Riverfront in Conshohocken

Last night, Conshohocken’s Zoning Hearing Board held a hearing involving several variances sought by a developer, High Street Conshohocken I, LLC, in connection with an apartment community it proposes to build on Conshohocken’s riverfront. The photo above shows the building if looking from the river.

In the first article about this, there was a question to its exact location. The location is described as west of the Matsonford Bridge on Washington Street. Last night we got a clearer picture of its location.

The SEPTA logo shows the location of the new train station in front of the building.

As we have reported before, there is a plan to move the Conshohocken Train Station to just west of Oak Street. A railroad track crossing would then be added at Oak Street. The proposed apartment community would be directly behind the new train station (between the tracks and the river).

The variances sought last night were minor things, except for two. One is to allow building in the flood plain (which obviously isn’t hard to obtain because all the big buildings on Conshohocken’s riverfront are in the flood plain). The second involved the bulk of a building (how long it can be). The code is for no more than 300′. The proposed building is over 500′ long.

What we did learn is that this proposed apartment community will need to go before Conshohocken’s Borough Council. The property is in the Specially Planned – 3 Zoning District, which allows apartments as a conditional use. This means there will be a hearing before elected officials who will have to determine whether to grant or deny the conditional use.

There are three conditions that need to be satisfied in regards to obtaining a conditional use approval for an apartment community. From the zoning code:

A. Single- and multifamily residential developments in the SP-3 District shall conform to all of the requirements for nonresidential land uses contained herein as well as any additional requirements required by Borough Council.
B. Provisions for adequate park space and recreation facilities shall be integrated into the design of any single or multifamily residential development. However, such facilities shall be designated for public use by all residents of the Borough.
C. The design of single-family and multifamily residential developments shall incorporate features such as pedestrian and vehicular connections and other community infrastructure that to the greatest extent possible integrates riverfront residential communities with existing neighborhoods of the Borough.

During last night’s hearing, how the developer will satisfy “B” and “C” were presented. There will be a trail along the river that the public will have access to. In addition, there will be a space for public events. The public will be provided access to the trail and event space by two sidewalks on either side of the building. One of the sidewalks will be a direct path from Oak Street.

There were about a dozen members of the public in attendance. Questions and concerns expressed mainly focused on traffic and parking (the number of parking spaces currently exceeds what the code requires). Two nearby property owners, Roseland and the HOA from The Grande, requested to be made parties to the case. Roseland owns 51 Washington and has approval to build an apartment community on that property. The Grande is a condo community on the other side of the railroad tracks.

One thing that came out of this hearing that doesn’t have to do directly with the developer or this proposed apartment community is that SEPTA doesn’t really have a set plan to increase parking once the train station moves. SEPTA is considering buying the lot on the western side of this proposed apartment building to use as a surface parking lot, but that did not sound like near a done deal.

In a recent interview on 6ABC Action News, Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s general manager stated, “We are also this year starting a project to enhance make a much bigger station at Conshohocken to be able to handle more people so that they don’t have to get on the Schuylkill Expressway.”

Where “more people” will park seems to be what needs to be determined first.

The Zoning Hearing Board took no action last night. There will be a second hearing, likely in June, involving the variances sought.

The attorney for the developer mentioned that the conditional use approval will be sought from Borough Council over the summer.

More to come.