Plans aired to make Fort Wash­ing­ton Of­fice Park com­pet­i­tive

The Ambler Gazette - - OBITUARIES - By Linda Finarelli

Flood con­trol, an east­bound slip ramp and pro­posed zon­ing changes in the Fort Wash­ing­ton Of­fice Park were among the items served up at a Sept. 20 lun­cheon meet­ing of the Fort Wash­ing­ton Busi­ness Al­liance.

A “State of the Fort Wash­ing­ton Of­fice Park” pre­sented by Up­per Dublin Town­ship Man­ager Paul Leonard touched on the is­sues of flood con­trol, im­proved trans­porta­tion, ameni­ties and mar­ket-based de­vel­op­ment poli­cies.

“A lot is go­ing on,” Leonard told about 40 mem­bers of the busi­ness group.

Flood­ing, a “cen­tral is­sue” of the of­fice park, is be­ing ad­dressed, in part with the con­struc­tion of two dams — one be­hind the Mercedes- Benz parts and ser­vice fa­cil­ity on Dresh­er­town Road, the other near the CHAC ath­letic fields on High­land Av­enue, he said.

The town­ship hired a lob­by­ist to help se­cure an $11.6 mil­lion grant from the state, with the town­ship putting up about $3.5 mil­lion for the dams, expected to be op­er­a­tional by next Au­gust or Septem­ber, Leonard said. Of the 19 struc­tures in the of­fice park that are prone to flood­ing, eight will not flood af­ter the project, but 11 still will.

The town­ship is also work­ing on zon­ing changes in the of­fice park that will “make it more dif­fi­cult to in­vest in prop­er­ties in a flood plain,” he said. One ini­tia­tive is a TDR, trans­fer of de­vel­op­ment rights, that will put a value on a prop­erty that floods and of­fer a trans­fer of cred­its to a tract on higher ground, as “a pay­back for peo­ple we’re say­ing it’s hope­less.”

“We want de­vel­op­ers to de­velop here out­side the flood plain,” Leonard said.

Trans­porta­tion im­prove­ments would in­clude an es­ti­mated $32.5 mil­lion to re­build all the roads in the of­fice park, which are 57 years old and “shot,” he said. There would be more of a fo­cus on mul­ti­modal tran­sit in­volv­ing the Fort Wash­ing­ton train sta­tion, and the town­ship and Turn­pike Com­mis­sion have dis­cussed a pos­si­ble east­bound on-off slip ramp on the op­po­site side from the ex­ist­ing west­bound on-off slip ramp off Vir­ginia Drive, es­ti­mated at $20 mil­lion, he said.

“We think [the ad­di­tional slip ramp] would raise the rents in the of­fice park by $2 to $3 a square foot,” Leonard said.

The im­pact of the im­prove­ments in the of­fice park are es­ti­mated to bring in $406,600 in new prop­erty tax rev­enues for the town­ship and $2.05 mil­lion for the school dis­trict, he said.

An­other way to re­vamp the of­fice park is to of­fer some mixe­duse zon­ing, he said.

“The town­ship is putting its zon­ing and land de­vel­op­ment or­di­nances on the ta­ble,” Leonard said, with the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing town­homes or apart­ments and re­tail per­mit­ted. The con­cept is to have the park a place peo­ple “want to live, work and play.”

A lob­by­ist has been iden­ti­fied to look for fed­eral and state money and the town­ship is con­sid­er­ing hir­ing a pro­fes­sional plan­ner in or­der to make the of­fice park com­pet­i­tive, he said. To spruce up the turn­pike/309 in­ter­change, Pen­nDOT is expected to put in some new plant­ings and the town­ship will take over their main­te­nance, he said.

Wawa will soon break ground on the site op­po­site LA Fit­ness on Vir­ginia Drive, and the town­ship has re­ceived a $250,000 red light en­force­ment pro­gram grant that will put cam­eras on five traf­fic sig­nals, not for tick­et­ing, but to im­prove the flow of traf­fic in the Dresher tri­an­gle area.

State Rep. Todd Stephens, who at­tended the meet­ing, told the FWBA mem­bers, if re-elected, he plans to es­tab­lish a small busi­ness ad­vi­sory coun­cil in 2013 to meet quar­terly and “dis­cuss is­sues that are go­ing on in Harrisburg and is­sues fac­ing busi­ness own­ers.”

In ad­di­tion, Stephens said he would hold town hall meet­ings to find out “what we can do in Harrisburg to help your busi­ness grow.”

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