January/February 2017 Newsletter and Dues Notice

Annual Dues Notice January/February 2017

Dear Neighbor:

This is the time of year when we ask for your financial support for our efforts to preserve and protect the North Ardmore/North Wynnewood community.  We sincerely value and appreciate our members.

Over the last few years we have reported on plans for the many new developments in our area.  Now most of those projects are under way and visible on the ground: the 625-space garage at Suburban Square, the 31-unit condominium building on the former YMCA property, the townhouse development on Montgomery Avenue near School House Lane and the similar one across from Sunrise Assisted Living, and the 250-apartment building plus garage on the Merriam Estate off Penn Road.

We have new information on a few topics, as follows:

  1. Kimco Realty Corp., owner of Suburban Square, has just announced that in October 2017 the former Macy’s Building will be occupied mostly by Lifetime Fitness, Inc., an upscale fitness club, with the remainder of the space to be leased by west elm, the retail furniture branch of Williams Sonoma. This is scheduled to follow the completion of the new 4-level garage in September 2017.  Kimco has also announced the arrival of a new nail salon and a blow drying salon, scheduled for early 2018.  Preparatory work for the foundation of the Trader Joe’s expansion (installation of an underground storm water management system) should be completed in March, freeing up a few more parking spaces in the back.  Construction work on the Trader Joe’s building expansion will commence at that time.  The historically valued railroad shed behind that property will remain in place for the foreseeable future.  Kimco would like to see the shed moved elsewhere but has shelved immediate plans to demolish it.  Talks with the Lower Merion Historical Society with the aim of moving the shed to the Cynwyd Heritage Trail have not identified a source of funding for dismantling and moving the structure.
  2.  In south Ardmore, Carl Dranoff’s One Ardmore Place project on the Cricket Lot (110 apartments plus multi-level garage) will see its first shovel in the ground in February 2017. The temporary surface parking lot on the other side of Cricket Avenue has been approved for a five-story 77-apartment building, with construction postponed to sometime in 2018.  We will report on new plans for the corner of Ardmore and Lancaster Avenues, and other new developments in our area, by email and on our website as these become available.
  3. SEPTA representatives speaking at our October annual membership meeting indicated that the train station renovations (new high-level platforms, disabled access to platforms on both sides of the tracks, accessibility improvements to the pedestrian tunnel, and a new station building) are to begin in fall 2017. Township officials are skeptical and predict that this will not happen until sometime in 2018.  Amtrak first needs to make adjustments to its catenary system.  When groundbreaking for the station improvements gets under way, parking between Anderson Avenue and the Public Safety Building on the north side of Lancaster Avenue will be unavailable.  There has been no word from the Township on any plans it may have to deal with this.  We were told that SEPTA’s current design for the new Ardmore Station imitates the Primos station in Clifton Heights on the Media/Elwyn line.  You can see pictures on the SEPTA website.  Meanwhile, NACA plans to continue to install and maintain flowers at the Ardmore Station from April to November.  Your membership dues buy the plants and our volunteer labor maintains them and helps to keep the station area litter-free.
  4.  An historically significant home in our area, 205 Llanfair Road, is in jeopardy.  The property was subject to a bank foreclosure a couple of years ago.  The current owner has tentative plans to subdivide, demolish the existing house, and build two single-family homes.  The property is quite steeply sloped and features a tributary to Mill Creek that carries most of the storm water runoff from the large surface parking lots off Montgomery Avenue down along Cherry Lane and Anton Road.   The owner says that these conditions mean that there can be no viable subdivision without demolition.  However, the owner has also indicated that it would flip the property at the right price.  Any interest out there?   NACA has for many years encouraged the Township to install some flow retarders on this property to temper the velocity of the massive storm water surges that do so much damage to the stream bed.  The state Department of Environmental Protection has flagged the substantial impairment of Mill Creek as a result of excessive storm water runoff, and the Township is supposed to devise and implement a five-year plan for remediation beginning in 2018.  A “task force” was established by the Township in 2015 to address the DEP requirements, but more than a year has passed without the Township moving forward on its recommendations.  Can we in 2017 achieve the twin goals of preserving the historic home and helping the stream?

As those who have read our semi-annual reports over the last few years know, NACA has devoted considerable time and financial resources – for which we are very grateful to our members – to trying to work with the Township and with Kimco to mitigate the impacts of the Suburban Square redevelopment on the North Ardmore neighborhood.

These efforts are consonant with our Vision for Ardmore (see the complete version on our website), which emphasizes pedestrian safety and walkability in the commercial areas as part of an overall conception of a well- designed town center.  Kimco has been cooperative where its interests are not directly in conflict with ours.  Kimco created a $100,000 fund for traffic mitigation measures on the feeder streets to Montgomery Avenue near Suburban Square.  However, it has been difficult to secure the agreement of the Public Works Department to the proposals submitted by our traffic engineer.  The Township will, on an experimental basis, install speed bumps on the first two blocks of Glenn Road.  Following the veto of nearly every other proposal made by NACA for improvements to the North Ardmore side of the Montgomery intersections at Llanfair, Edgewood, Glenn and St. Georges Roads, the Township has tentatively agreed to install gray stamped asphalt crosswalks designed to look like stone.  NACA believes these crosswalks should be an improvement (though not as good as we had initially hoped for) because the crosswalks will serve to differentiate our neighborhood from the commercial area on the south side of Montgomery Avenue.

Generally, our efforts to obtain assistance from the Township Public Works and the Police Departments for enhancing pedestrian safety and mobility in Ardmore have met with a lack of response or outright refusal.  Wynnewood Civic Association and NACA have joined in a long-standing campaign to lower the speed limit on Montgomery Avenue between Cherry Lane and Woodside Road from 35 mph.  This stretch of Montgomery Avenue bisects the Lower Merion High School, where there is constant pedestrian (student) traffic crossing from Arnold Field and Church Road to the High School complex, and continues along one of the main commercial developments in Lower Merion, the Suburban Square complex.  Some of the sidewalks in this area are terrifyingly narrow as vehicles speed by at 45 mph.  We note that other similar roads in the Township, such as Montgomery Avenue in the Narberth section, and Lancaster Avenue from Ardmore to Bryn Mawr, have 25 mph speed limits.  The Police Department Traffic Safety Unit brushes off pedestrian concerns as “mis-perceptions.”  Pleas for the improvement of crosswalk location and visibility are ignored.  Even keeping the crosswalks properly painted seems to be the lowest priority.  Kimco will fund the installation of pedestrian beacons and a slightly raised crosswalk on Anderson Avenue near Ruby’s; however, the continuing chaotic mess at Coulter and Anderson Avenues and the continuing blockages at the Church Road Bridge are symptomatic of the Township departments’ refusal, or lack of ability, to provide a thoughtful, systematic approach to resolving the pedestrian and vehicle mobility issues surrounding Suburban Square.

We hope to enlist the support of our membership in 2017 in focusing the attention of Township officials on these long-standing problems.

NACA was founded in 1957 in order to preserve the essential character of the residential neighborhoods north of Lancaster Avenue.  This core mission remains at the forefront of our work.  The careful design of and mitigation of the consequences of major new developments, and the effective management of storm water, are top priority concerns now.  Your membership support is vital to our work.

THANK YOU TO ALL OUR MEMBERS FOR YOUR CONTINUING SUPPORT IN 2017!

Hugh Gordon, NACA Membership Secretary