‘FEEL THE ENERGY’
Ground broken on Madison Lansdale Station development
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.”
Representatives from Lansdale Borough, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, SEPTA and Equus Capital Partners break ground for the Madison Lansdale Station project Tuesday.
PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Madison Lansdale Station project Tuesday.
Shovels stand ready for the dignitaries who will break ground for the Madison Lansdale Station project.
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.