Sunday, June 26, 2011

city avenue redistricting

I think I finally understand what the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners wants to do with the City Avenue redistricting plan.

Lower Merion's "Golden Mile" sort of "just growed" like Topsy when construction started in the 1950's. The land closest to City Avenue and Conshohocken State Road was offered to my father, to buy, but he refused because, there was a small apartment house on the property and he did not want to be a landlord.

And, the buildings just appeared, and branched out, without much rhyme or reason. And, with the construction of the Schuylkill Expressway, the ease of travel into center city Philadelphia increased the value of the property and more and more buildings appeared. There was a hotel with restaurants, many office buildings, lots and lots of retail shops, and plenty of parking spots - but without consideration of needs or desires of the Lower Merion community. The Presidential Apartments, on the city side provided customers for the retail shops.

Now, with new office complexes popping up as competition to the City Avenue spots, and with the redesign of Bryn Mawr shopping area, and the hoped for redesign of the Ardmore shopping area, the City Avenue "golden mile" needs more than just a face lift.

The commissioners are reaching out to everyone in the community for input - what we would like to see on this valuable real estate. What kinds of buildings with what kinds of uses. And what problems the resulting increased automobile traffic would have to be resolved. Although the best guesses are that increased traffic will present problems to the "feeder" roads, like Bala Avenue, Bryn Mawr Avenue, Conshohocken State Road, Belmont Avenue, Winding Way, etc., just remember what happened to all the anticipated traffic when the Schuylkill Expressway was closed. It disappeared. And then, as soon as the Expressway reopened, the traffic was back. To this day, no one really knows where all the displaced traffic went. It did not appear on any of the alternative routes.

Parking is a mysterious problem. King of Prussia has more parking spots than anyone would ever have thought would be necessary, and yet, I have never been there when parking was easily available. NEVER.

When it comes to a planned community, we have to determine what we want, where we want it, and how much we are willing to pay for it in terms of convenience and money (and property value changes). All the side streets, off of Bala Avenue, and Montgomery Avenue, are home to beautiful residences. It would not be fair to the residential streets to permit tall, expansive buildings that would block light and sun. Our community is known for gracious homes, wonderful schools, and caring neighbors. And yet, it would certainly be convenient, and add to the revenue stream, if high quality, property tax paying retail shops made their homes in Lower Merion.

In planning the new community, we have to be mindful of crime prevention. A series of police sub-stations, scattered throughout the new community would be helpful and probably a crime deterrent. Well lighted pathways would also help. And caring residents who do not barricade themselves in their home behind steel gates are a must.

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