There have now been three zoning hearings involving the proposal by PREIT, the owner of the Plymouth Meeting Mall, to construct an apartment building on the mall property. The apartment community would be 11 stories tall with 503 units.
Thus far, PREIT’s attorney has followed the argument that is presented in its zoning application (view article with more detail). This argument is that apartments should be allowed because as written the current zoning for the mall property allows similar issues such as motels and elderly housing/assisted living facilities. PREIT presented expert witnesses who testified why they believed this to be true.
The attorney representing Plymouth Township’s Council, which is opposing the application, presented its own expert witness that disagreed that apartments were similar to motels and elderly housing/assisted living facilities.
One thing that was mentioned by a witness for PREIT was that you can’t tell the difference between apartments and a motel or an assisted living facility from a distance. The other side then would argue that they are indeed very different, especially on the inside. For example, apartments don’t normally have a communal eating space that is commonplace in assisted living facilities. Meaning, that just because they may look similar on the outside, they are in fact different types of uses.
Traffic has also been addressed in the hearing. There was testimony on traffic counts taken over the years and how traffic has declined at the mall so the impact of the apartments wouldn’t overwhelm the traffic situation. It was also testified that the widening of Germantown Pike in front of the mall was paid for by PREIT, which has helped alleviate previous traffic concerns.
PREIT has also presented traffic improvements that would be made to the property if permitted to build the apartments. One example was the traffic lights at the exit/entrance on Hickory Road. The light does not have a green arrow to take a left out of the mall and out to Germantown Pike. The SEPTA buses use that exit and with no green arrow, a bus is forced to wait and once the light moves to yellow, only one bus is able to make the turn. PREIT would upgrade the lights to have a green arrow.
The next portion of the hearing will be on February 15th.