‘FEEL THE EN­ERGY’

Ground bro­ken on Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion de­vel­op­ment

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @dan­sokil on Twit­ter

LANSDALE » The as­phalt and park­ing me­ters have been re­moved, bull­doz­ers and steam­rollers are hard at work, and the ground has now of­fi­cially been bro­ken.

Lansdale, county, state and pri­vate of­fi­cials held a for­mal ground­break­ing cer­e­mony Tues­day af­ter­noon on the for­mer Madi­son Park­ing Lot, which will be trans­formed over the next year and a half into Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion, a com­plex of lux­ury apart­ments un­like any in town.

“It’s 181 res­i­den­tial units, with 15,000 square feet of re­tail space. We’re go­ing to make th­ese things first class,” said Dan DiLella, pres­i­dent and CEO of de­vel­oper Equus Cap­i­tal Part­ners.

“This place will look very dif­fer­ent about a year from now: You’ll have re­tail, you’ll have apart­ments, you’ll have peo­ple, and hope­fully it will ex­pand, and con­tinue, the growth of Lansdale,” he said.

Tues­day’s ground­break­ing cer­e­mony marked the next step in a project that has been dis­cussed, in var­i­ous forms, since early 2011, and the plans for which were fi­nal­ized ear­lier this year. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Equus, Lansdale Bor­ough, and var­i­ous state and Mont­gomery County agen­cies were on hand Tues­day to mark the start of the project, which will see a com­plex of six apart­ment and re­tail build­ings, a pub­lic plaza, and pub­lic and pri­vate park­ing ar­eas built atop the for­mer park­ing lot.

Pen­nDOT Sec­re­tary Les­lie Richards said the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship in­volv­ing the bor­ough, the de­vel­oper, the state, which pro­vided grant fund­ing for nearby road widen­ing, and other out­side agen­cies such as SEPTA should pro­vide a model for sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ments else­where.

“This place will look very dif­fer­ent about a year from now: You’ll have re­tail, you’ll have apart­ments, you’ll have peo­ple, and hope­fully it will ex­pand, and con­tinue, the growth of Lansdale.” — Dan DiLella, pres­i­dent and CEO, Equus Cap­i­tal Part­ners

“We’re look­ing for fund­ing where the pri­vate sec­tor, and the pub­lic sec­tor, and our com­mu­ni­ties can work to­gether to build health­ier, bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties, and that’s what we see here in Lansdale,” she said.

Penn­syl­va­nia’s Act 89 of 2013 pro­vided a se­cure stream of fund­ing for trans­porta­tion re­lated projects around the state, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of a new 680-space SEPTA park­ing garage just across the rail tracks from the Madi­son lot, and Richards said she and Gov. Tom Wolf and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are look­ing for sim­i­lar projects around the state.

“We at Pen­nDOT, and Gov. Wolf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, are com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing a gov­ern­ment that works, and we ap­plaud the in­no­va­tive pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship that will en­hance Lansdale, and its res­i­den­tial, shop­ping, and trans­porta­tion op­tions for decades to come,” Richards said. “This de­vel­op­ment is go­ing to be fan­tas­tic. I al­ways said I could feel the en­ergy in Lansdale, and we’re very ex­cited: Now we see it.”

SEPTA Gen­eral Man­ager Jeff Knuep­pel said the ground­break­ing was the lat­est proof of a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween bor­ough of­fi­cials and SEPTA, which has led over the past five years to con­struc­tion of the new Ninth Street SEPTA rail sta­tion and the open­ing of the new garage ear­lier this year.

“What I was so im­pressed with was how we all sat down and put a plan to­gether, not even just for this site, but for this whole area in terms of trans­porta­tion. It was an amaz­ing part­ner­ship that de­vel­oped be­tween Pen­nDOT, SEPTA and Lansdale,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to the garage and new sta­tion, other projects cur­rently in the works be­tween Lansdale and SEPTA in­clude con­struc­tion of a new bus stop and trail ex­ten­sion along Rail­road Av­enue out­side the bor­ough mu­nic­i­pal build­ing, and an ex­ten­sion of the bor­ough’s brick streetscape along East Main Street that will in­clude sev­eral SEPTA bus stops, planned for next spring.

“Qual­ity of life, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, all of th­ese things are be­ing pro­vided by all of this co­op­er­a­tion. We don’t just talk about do­ing things, we get them done,” he said.

DiLella de­scribed how each unit will have high ceil­ings, stain­less steel ap­pli­ances, and ac­cess to shared swim­ming pools, fit­ness cen­ters, in­door lounge and busi­ness cen­ter ar­eas, elec­tric car charg­ers, and even a pet spa.

“We’d like to de­liver the high­est-end prod­uct we pos­si­bly can,” he said.

Equus Vice Pres­i­dent for De­vel­op­ment John Knott said the to­tal con­struc­tion time­line is pro­jected to run 18 to 20 months, de­pend­ing on weather, with vis­i­ble ver­ti­cal con­struc­tion likely to be­gin in early spring 2018. The pub­lic plaza that will be built north of the cur­rent in­ter­sec­tion of Madi­son and Wood streets will be open for bor­ough events and “treated like a pub­lic park,” he said, and Equus and their con­trac­tors will aim to min­i­mize dis­rup­tion to nearby neigh­bor­hoods.

“We hope that we are good neigh­bors to them, and that they’ll bear through some of the noise that goes on while we’re tack­ling some of the im­prove­ments. At the end of the day, they’ll have a lot of pub­lic im­prove­ments that will be com­pletely vis­i­ble, and avail­able to them,” Knott said.

Once the project is done, an ex­ten­sion of the Lib­erty Bell Trail will run along the rail tracks on the north­east end of the com­plex, and an 8-foot screen­ing fence will pro­vide a vis­ual bar­rier be­tween the rail tracks and the trail and apart­ments. No ten­ants have been signed for the re­tail space yet, “but we’ve got a lot of good prospects,” Knott said.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Park­ing Au­thor­ity Chair­man Dan Du­ni­gan thanked the var­i­ous state and county agen­cies for their as­sis­tance, and the de­vel­oper for their pa­tience.

“The num­ber of twists and turns this project took would likely have been too much for many other firms. But you and your com­mit­ment to this project, and to Lansdale, is — and will be, for many years — ap­pre­ci­ated,” Du­ni­gan said.

“This is the most trans­for­ma­tive project ever un­der­taken in Lansdale’s 150-year his­tory. It will be a hall­mark project for the re­gion, and the com­mon­wealth, set­ting the tone for on­go­ing re­de­vel­op­ment lo­cally, and across the re­gion, and its im­pact will be felt for decades to come,” he said.

Bor­ough Man­ager Jake Ziegler said in the more than 35 years he has worked in Lansdale, he’s heard sev­eral ver­sions of plans for re­de­vel­op­ing the park­ing lot, and when he ar­rived, a power plant still op­er­ated at the rear of the site near Third and Richard­son streets, and the lot, SEPTA sta­tion, and garage site were all in need of at­ten­tion.

“If you told me that, one day, I’d be here par­tic­i­pat­ing in a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony to start off this project, to bring a so­phis­ti­cated tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment project to Lansdale, I’m sure I would not have be­lieved it, and prob­a­bly many of you wouldn’t ei­ther,” he said.

Ziegler added thanks to state Rep. Bob God­shall, R-53, for se­cur­ing the grant funds needed to widen the por­tion of Madi­son Street run­ning along the lot, and for­mer Man­ager Timi Kirch­ner, who he said “was sort of like the quar­ter­back in get­ting this thing rolling.”

He and As­sis­tant Man­ager John Ernst said the work hours on the Madi­son lot will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on week­days only, with work pos­si­ble on Satur­days if nec­es­sary. The pedes­trian bridge run­ning over the rail tracks will likely be open only on week­ends, and the con­tract has been awarded for the widen­ing of Madi­son Street, with con­struc­tion mo­bi­liza­tion on that project likely to be­gin by the end of De­cem­ber and the widen­ing work slated to end around early sum­mer.

Bor­ough po­lice have be­gun to en­force tar­geted park­ing re­stric­tions in the neigh­bor­hood ad­ja­cent to the lot, and Ernst said res­i­dents in that area are en­cour­aged to con­tact po­lice, if they see com­muters park­ing there, or bor­ough staff if they have other prob­lems.

“There will be noise, and there will be dust. There will be an im­pact. It’s a $20 mil­lion con­struc­tion project, there is def­i­nitely go­ing to be an im­pact. How­ever, we en­cour­age the res­i­dents to keep us in­formed of their con­cerns, so we can ad­dress them with the con­trac­tor ap­pro­pri­ately,” Ernst said.

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Den­ton Burnell said the re­cent in­flux of sev­eral new busi­nesses near the project site was a sign that the 180-plus new cus­tomers will be wel­comed by lo­cal busi­nesses.

“It’s not an un­der­state­ment to say that the mere prom­ise of this project it­self has been in­stru­men­tal, in many ways, in jump start­ing Lansdale’s al­ready bur­geon­ing re­vi­tal­iza­tion,” Burnell said. “As far as I’m con­cerned, it’s a face-lift, it’s an up­grade. It re­ally is go­ing to bring the type of change that we need, to sus­tain the re­vi­tal­iza­tion that’s al­ready un­der­way.”

BOB RAINES —DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Lansdale Bor­ough, the Com­mon­wealth of Penn­syl­va­nia, SEPTA and Equus Cap­i­tal Part­ners break ground for the Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion project Tues­day.

BOB RAINES —DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pen­nDOT Sec­re­tary Les­lie Richards speaks at the ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for the Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion project Tues­day.

BOB RAINES —DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Shov­els stand ready for the dig­ni­taries who will break ground for the Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion project.

BOB RAINES —DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Den­ton Burnell, pres­i­dent of Lansdale Bor­ough Coun­cil, speaks at the ground­break­ing for the Madi­son Lansdale Sta­tion project Tues­day. Be­hind him is Dan DiLella, pres­i­dent and CEO of Equus Cap­i­tal Part­ners.

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