At their March 28 meeting, the Collegeville Borough Business Development Committee discussed the status of the new College Gateway Overlay District Zoning, the borough’s grant application for a Main Street Master Plan, and Ursinus College’s commitment to our Main Street. They also heard an update on the former DaVinci’s Pub, information on the borough’s work toward cleaning up the blighted Perkiomen Bridge Hotel, and a new development regarding a Reading to Philadelphia Passenger Rail Line.
New College Gateway Overlay Zoning Approved
The Collegeville Planning Commission approved the College Gateway Overlay District Zoning slated for the 5th Ave. corners of Main St. at their March 17 meeting. The zoning was then subsequently approved by the Borough Council to be advertised to the public. The zoning will also be posted on the Borough’s website.
Residents will have time to review the proposed zoning and to meet with the Council to register any comments or concerns before the zoning is brought to a vote. This new zoning, which concerns the area where the Ursinus campus connects with the top of our Main Street, encourages mixed-use buildings with retail and restaurants on the first floor and residential housing or dorms above.
The zoning respects our small-town character and encourages any new architecture to fit in with the current historic buildings on our Main St. It also allows buildings up to 50 feet high to encourage development. And it encourages and provides standards for a walkable and safe streetscape, building setbacks, parking, infill between buildings, lighting, water features, art and gardens.
Many thanks to the members of the borough’s Planning Commission for the thoughtful and thorough job they did in reviewing and revising this zoning, and also to the Collegeville Council.
Collegeville Borough Applies for a Grant to Create a Main Street Master Plan
In March, Collegeville Borough, in partnership with Ursinus College and the Montgomery County Planning Commission, applied for a Local Share Account grant from the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED). The grant would cover the planning, consulting and design costs of developing a Main Street Master Plan. This plan would act as a road map in revitalizing our Main Street, with particular emphasis on the 400 block. If we are fortunate enough to get the grant, we could hire the Derck & Edson Architectural Firm to help us with this project (see example planning presentation image, top of page).
The grant amount requested was $74,000; there is no match required for this grant.
The Importance of Developing a Main Street Plan for the Borough and College
For the last several years our Borough has been working to engage our residents, Main Street property owners and local businesses to promote a vibrant walkable Main Street district. As a small, independent college, Ursinus College has data showing the importance of developing a vibrant “college town” in order to stay competitive and attract future students. And our residents have told us in surveys that they would love to be able to walk to, and would actively support, more local restaurants and retail in the borough.
The aspiration of the Borough, the CEDC, and Ursinus College is to build on our positioning as a college town to become a destination for unique businesses that serve our students and community as well as the greater Collegeville region. Through our strong partnership with Ursinus College, local businesses and property owners, and the Montgomery County Planning Commission, our Borough seeks to both preserve the character of our historic architecture along Main Street while promoting the adaptive reuse of existing buildings.
Additionally on our Main Street, the Borough and Ursinus College seek to create a public gathering space, more effective parking and a safe and walkable commercial district. Although this plan includes those properties fronting onto the 200, 300 and 400 blocks of Main Street, the plan singles out the 400 block as most important for immediate development for its proximity to the College.
The plan will also provide a series of public improvement plans for the streetscapes, crosswalks, parking areas, civic spaces and public ways that will connect Main Street as a welcoming and walkable district, as well as 3D before and after transformation renderings to illustrate the desired outcome of the plan.
Ursinus College ‘s Commitment to the Revitalization of our Main Street
Collegeville Borough Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggins and Council President Cathy Kernen met with the incoming president of the College, Robyn Hannigan, on March 14th. President Hannigan, who is currently the Provost of Clarkson University, discussed her experience in obtaining redevelopment grants. She also expressed her commitment and support for the work being done on the revitalization of our Main Street.
Former DaVinci Restaurant Impasse Continues
As we mentioned in the December issue of the Revitalization Notebook, it is our understanding that the new owner of the building that contained DaVinci’s Pub is in litigation with TransFleet Concrete. When TransFleet Concrete bought The Powerhouse, they also acquired the rights to the former DaVinci’s driveway, which in the 1800s was the original driveway from Main Street back to The Powerhouse. Without access to a driveway back to their parking lot, the restaurant is unable to open.
Victoria and Dave Davies, who leased the space from Ping Chen, the DaVinci building owner, were caught in the middle of this unfortunate development. They have now walked away from “Victoria’s on Main”, the restaurant they hoped to open, and are no longer interested in opening a restaurant in Collegeville.
Following a discussion with Borough Manager Tamara Twardowski about the look of the property, TransFleet owner Terry Franks has agreed to move the construction trucks to the rear of the lot and will use the front of the lot just for employee’s cars. They have also removed the orange jersey barriers.
Because this situation involves lawsuits between two private business owners, we need to wait for the law to dictate the final outcome.
Perkiomen Bridge Hotel
Work toward cleaning up the blighted Perkiomen Bridge Hotel continues.
Historic construction experts from the Historic Trappe organization donated their time and expertise on March 7 to tour the Perkiomen Bridge Hotel and determine whether the left and central historic sections, which are made of stone, are structurally sound. Fortunately, the hotel was deemed structurally sound despite the battering of the hotel by numerous floods, including our recent historic flood, Hurricane Ida.
To learn that the hotel was structurally sound is a major milestone for future owners who may want to preserve the hotel as a historic monument or to begin work to adaptively reuse the building for a commercial purpose.
The Historic Trappe experts also reviewed the extent of the damage and what it would cost to remove the non-historic sections left hanging on the building from Hurricane Ida.
The experts estimated that about $200,000 would be needed to tear off and cart away debris from the non-historic sections and to secure the building. Special thanks to Lisa Minardi, Executive Director of Historic Trappe, and her knowledgeable historic construction experts for their expertise and support for the hotel.
Collegeville Borough is looking into several different options to have the non-historic debris removed, to get the area cleaned up, and to secure the hotel so it is no longer an eyesore.
Passenger Rail Authority Proposed
A proposed partnership between Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties, would support the advancement of a passenger rail line from Reading through Phoenixville and Valley Forge to Center City. If approved, it would form a new “Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority.”
There is a Montco Public Hearing on the Eighth Floor of One Montgomery Plaza at 425 Swede St. in Norristown (map it) at 2 p.m. on April 20 to discuss this new structure. The Montco Commissioners believe that the Authority would provide a governmental body that could formalize agreements and better work with Amtrak and other state and Federal partners. They could also better compete for possible funding from the $1.2 trillion Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved last fall.
Borough Business Spotlights
G&S Style Opens on Main Street
G&S Style, unique and tasteful gifts / home décor and design services, held their Grand Opening on the weekend of March 19. Located at 360 E. Main St. next to Main Street Nutrition (map it), the shop is currently open only on Fridays and Saturdays.
See our Collegeville Business Spotlight post, G&S Style: Upscale Gifts and Home Goods, to learn more.
YogaSix, which opened in December, 2021 in the Collegeville Shopping Center next to Kimberton Whole Foods (map it), is holding a Grand Opening celebration. The April 8-10 celebration includes free classes, raffles and prizes and a ribbon cutting Saturday at noon.
Find out what they’re all about in our post YogaSix Collegeville: State-of-the-art Boutique Yoga Studio.
The Barn Yard
The Barn Yard, the indoor children’s imagination play space we reported on previously, located in the Marketplace at Collegeville Shopping Center (map it), had their grand opening Saturday, April 2nd. Congratulations to owner Ashleigh Hill and her staff and welcome to Collegeville.
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