Plans aired to make Fort Washington Office Park competitive
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.”