Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
Planning awards recognize projects that benefit communities
NORRISTOWN >> As the process to review submissions for the 54th annual Montgomery Awards Program gets underway, officials were looking for excellence.
“We’re trying to emphasize what’s really exceptional so that it can inspire people to keep doing that,” said Pattie E.B. Guttenplan, the assistant director of design and outreach for the Montgomery County Planning Commission.
There have been 222 projects recognized since the awards program was first created in 1967, according to a county spokesperson. More than 50 years later, the county’s planning commission continues to review residential, commercial, historical, revitalization, transportation, and open space projects.
Guttenplan oversaw the proceedings of the 53rd annual award ceremony, which occurred in the midst of the public health crisis.
Guttenplan said the distinguished applicants were considered to be “the whole package:” They needed to be completed, functioning projects with a “great process” that were beneficial to the community. She added the outstanding projects should also be a “catalyst for the community to do something more.”
Nominations for the 2020 round were due last May, according to Guttenplan. Following that deadline, staff members conducted site assessments and wrote up “four page documents about each” project before visiting the locations in August.
To comply with health and safety restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Guttenplan said roughly 10 people, consisting of staff and planning commission board members, had to pivot from traditional protocols for site visits.
“We did it by car caravan,” Guttenplan said. “So everyone was in their own individual car.”
They started in Pennsburg one August morning, and ended the day in Upper Moreland Township.
Of the 16 nominated last year, seven were selected, which consisted of the following ventures:
• Bridgeport Zero Energy Ready Homes, which involved “the construction of four twin homes in a residential neighborhood” in Bridgeport.
• The Willow Grove Branch of the Greater Philadelphia YMCA in Upper Moreland Township was revamped to include “the construction of a new 98,000 square foot recreational facility” as well as “stormwater, floodplain management and community transportation improvements.”
• The Higher Rock Transportation Improvement Project, which involved extending “Witchwood Drive to a new intersection with Bethlehem Pike” in Montgomery Township.
• Jacksonville Green, a residential project that transformed factory buildings “into 45 contemporary apartments” and “a new 40unit apartment building” in Hatboro.
• The Lederach General Store project involved restoring “original stone general store built in the late 1700s” in Lower Salford Township.
• Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center in Pennsburg involved creating a “38,000 square foot addition to the existing library and the relocation and reconstruction of a Pennsylvania Bank Barn.”
• Station Row at Suburban Square in Lower Merion Township allowed for the “construction of a 37,500 square foot building” that included “art Deco-inspired architecture, a pedestrian-friendly streetscape, and inviting public space” near the Ardmore Regional Rail station.
Guttenplan noted the projects spotlighted urban and rural areas across Montgomery County.
Guttenplan emphasized the importance of choosing projects that moved development forward and continued overall improvement in Montgomery County.
“This [past] year we were fortunate that we had a nice spread throughout the county, a nice cross section of different projects and ones that were both private and public,” she said.
Once the projects were chosen, they needed to be formally recognized as part of the annual awards ceremony.
Nearly 100 county officials, beneficiaries and others interested in the program tuned into a 2020-style awards ceremony on Zoom in November 2020.
In a statement following the November 2020 event, Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh praised the initiative.
“These award-winning projects are excellent models of transformative and sustainable development, realizing the community’s vision through extensive collaboration. All of our winners touch on the goals and themes of Connected Communities, Sustainable Places, and Vibrant Economy contained in Montco 2040: A Shared Vision, Montgomery County’s comprehensive plan,” Arkoosh said in a statement.
For more information about the Montgomery Awards Program, call 610278-3972 or visit montcopa.org/1288/Montgomery-Awards-Program.