Status of the College Gateway Zoning Overlay
Review of the proposed College Gateway Zoning Overlay was completed at the Nov. 18 Collegeville Planning Commission meeting. All changes will be made and the revised zoning overlay draft will be ready for final review and a vote at the Commission’s Dec. 16 meeting. If the zoning is approved, it will then be discussed and a vote will be held at the January 3, 2022 Borough Council Reorganization Meeting.
The purpose of the zoning overlay is to encourage additional innovative and creative mixed-use development (retail on the first floor, apartments, student housing, or offices above) for the Fifth Ave. corners of Collegeville Borough’s Main St. (map it). The new zoning will provide a unique transition area between the top of the borough’s commercial corridor and Ursinus College’s institutional campus.
For more information on the zoning overlay see our post College Gateway Zoning Overlay Proposed for Collegeville’s Main St.
Proposed New Borough Business l – The Barnyard
Local entrepreneur Ashleigh Hill hopes to open a children’s imagination play space in the former Rock n’ Roll After School space in March, 2022. The location is in the Marketplace at Collegeville (Redner’s) Shopping Center, behind Tortugas Mexican Eatery in the back lot. This fits in with the Collegeville Borough’s business district positioning of working to attract families with children of all ages.
The Barnyard is a make-believe farm and small town that would provide children’s entertainment for ages 2 to 10 years. There will be a fire station, produce stand, and post office along with a farmhouse and barn with animals. There would also be two party rooms and a separate infant area so the smallest ones could play safely.
A parent seating area will have a view of all the play spaces, so that parents can work with their laptop while they watch their kids play.
Ashleigh also plans to hold a summer camp for ages 4 to 8 during the mornings, as well as a Melissa and Doug toys’ retail space. Ashleigh said that she would like to partner with other local women-owned businesses, and feature different businesses monthly so they could get known in the community.
Other offerings at The Barnyard could include a child drop-in service, “Mommy & Me” nights with perhaps painting classes for the Moms, a “Dad’s Night” with video games Dads’ style, as well as a “Toddler Time.”
Ashleigh is also considering a “Mother Hen Room” for mothers who are nursing children or to calm down children who are overstimulated.
Proposed New Borough Business ll – Coffee House / Performance Space
Trappe residents Brenna and Jeremy Sowers are looking into the possibility of opening a coffee house on the model of Phoenixville’s Steel City Coffee House on the first floor of one of the College’s former dormitory building at 476 E. Main St (map it). The building is the current location of the CEDC’s office.
In addition to coffee and small bites, the Sowers would create a performance space and book live music and poetry slams over the weekends.
The Sowers are currently in discussions with Ursinus College and the Borough. If all goes well, the venue could possibly open in mid-2022. We believe this would be a sought-after business by both the residents and students of Collegeville.
Thrift Shop to Open in the Former Sears Store
The 501(c)(3) non-profit Worthwhile Wear, will open their latest Worthwhile Thrift store in the Marketplace at Collegeville (Redner’s) shopping center. The store will be in the former Sears Hardware location. Development Director Ray Creighton hopes that their Collegeville store will be open by February, 2022. Worthwhile Wear has opened a similar store on Easton Road in Plumsteadville, PA.
The mission of Worthwhile Wear is to restore women affected by human trafficking through their Worth It community outreach and empowerment program and a two-year restoration home called The Well, through which survivors learn community living and ultimately move toward economic self-sufficiency. The trafficking victims then move toward financial independence beginning with employment at Worthwhile Thrift.
Proposed Main Street Restaurant Stymied by Legal Issues
The owners of the proposed American Bistro Restaurant “Victoria’s on Main,” which hopes to open in the former DaVinci Pub building, is dealing with legal issues connected with the property. Apparently when TransFleet Concrete bought The Powerhouse, they also acquired the rights to the former DaVinci’s driveway, which back in the 1800s was the original driveway from Main Street back to The Powerhouse.
It is our understanding that TransFleet wants to buy the DaVinci building from the current investor who owns it to relocate their company’s offices there. All of TransFleet’s properties flooded in the aftermath of the highly destructive Hurricane Ida in late August.
We will provide more news as it is available.
Collegeville’s Iconic Whitby Jewelers to Close
Whitby’s Jewelers has been a destination business in Collegeville for 30 years. Now Cindy and Mike Whitby are retiring and closing their store at the end of this year. Over the years Mike and Cindy have been great neighbors and ardent supporters of all of our Main Street revitalization efforts. We will miss them.
Eventually they hope to sell the building, which could make a great retail space for another business. Individuals interested in the space should contact the Whitbys at [email protected].
UC’s Main Street Sidewalk Replacement Begins
In late November Ursinus College began the work of replacing sidewalks along Main Street through a Multi-Modal PennDOT grant they received in 2020. The college will contribute $300,000 and the grant provides them with $600,000.
Sidewalks being replaced include those from 5th to 9th Ave. on the campus side of Main St.; 5th to 8th Ave. on the campus housing side of Main St., including the Trinity UCC church, and some sidewalk sections on 6th Ave. near Main St.
The new sidewalks will represent a significant improvement to Main Street in that area and we are grateful for the planning, grant writing and money Ursinus College is putting into this. And to Collegeville’s Borough Manager and former Main Street consultant Barth Consulting Group for guidance and support.
Introduction to a Similar College Town, Kutztown
Kutztown Borough is a similar small borough the size of Collegeville—about 5,000 people.
To support the business district, Kutztown University and the Borough started the Kutztown Community Partnership in 2002, which is now headed up by Sandy Green. Similarly the CEDC was started in 2003 by Ursinus College and Collegeville Borough. Grants to start a Main Street program to revitalize small town Main Streets were being awarded that time.
However, Kutztown University is much bigger than Ursinus at 8,500 students vs about 1,500. And their Main Street and business district is much, much larger.
A notable resident of Kutztown is artist Keith Haring who grew up there. Kutztown has started a murals program, with at least one of the murals painted by Keith Haring’s niece. Others have been designed by Kutztown University students.
Their Main Street also is fortunate to have a classic movie theater called “The Strand,” which in addition to showing arts movies is now being used by Kutztown University as a performance venue. Kutztown has a destination business, Sorrelli Jewelry, which draws visitors from as far away as NYC. The businesses most patronized by the students are Tommy Boy’s Pizza, home of the 32-inch pizza (we’re not kidding!); a vinyl records store, Shorty’s Pub and the K-Town Pub which smokes its own meats.
Members of Collegeville’s Business Development Committee will be meeting with our colleague Sandy Green over the next month to tour Kutztown and take back ideas that might apply to Collegeville’s College Town.
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