Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Planning awards recognize projects that benefit communitie­s

- By Rachel Ravina rravina @thereporte­ronline.com @rachelravi­na on Twitter

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.

 ?? PHOTO COuRTESY MONTGOMERY COuNTY PLANNING COMMISSION ?? An aerial view shows the improvemen­ts to the Higher Rock Transporta­tion project in Montgomery Township.
PHOTO COuRTESY MONTGOMERY COuNTY PLANNING COMMISSION An aerial view shows the improvemen­ts to the Higher Rock Transporta­tion project in Montgomery Township.

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