August Business Development Committee (BDC) Meeting
In addition to reviewing the ongoing work of Committee members, the August meeting featured guests Steve Barth and Michelle Shire of Barth Consulting, Ed and Laura Vernola-Simpson, owners of Steel City Coffeehouse and Brewery, and Eric Jarrell, Section Chief, Community Planning, Montgomery County Planning Commission.
News from Barth Consulting
Steve Barth reported that he is communicating with Collegeville Borough and Ursinus College on a weekly basis. Barth complimented Collegeville Borough Manager Geoff Thompson, saying Geoff “provides expert level detail to our zoning and codes creating innovative solutions towards Collegeville’s Revitalization”.
Barth recently learned from the Collegeville Rotary Club that they plan to enhance the look of our Main Street through a donation of an ornate town clock. The clock would be placed on a lot next to one of Joe Greenwald’s commercial properties in the 300 block.
Ursinus College wrote and submitted a $1 million Pennsylvania Multi-Modal Grant for Main Street Collegeville and Perkiomen Trail connections through the campus. This was a collaborative project with Ursinus College and a team of local officials.
Ursinus College’s U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies is taking a lead with Steve in completing plans and approvals for bringing Steel City Coffeehouse and Brewery to Collegeville. Steel City was a proud sponsor of 150Fest, family food and fun fest for the entire community to kick off the College’s 150th birthday year celebration held on Sunday, September 1. And they will be programming the music space in the new College Commons, currently under construction at the corner of 5th Avenue and East Main Street.
Perkiomen Water Trail
And there was more exciting news. With a grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and other organizations, the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy (PWC) completed a water trail feasibility study. The study was to identify ways to enhance recreation opportunities along the Perkiomen Creek.
Collegeville Boat Ramp and Creek-Side Park
Barth reported that an old stone boat ramp had been located in Collegeville Borough by PWC Executive Director Ryan Beltz. The boat ramp leads from the shore into the Perkiomen Creek just off First Ave. It is in an area deeded to the Borough through a FEMA buyout of water-damaged properties. Map it.
Barth would like to help the Borough become a part of this project that can create Collegeville as an “experiential, adventures destination community” by applying for grants to transform the area into a creek-side park with a parking lot, boat launch, picnic tables, and other amenities.
Community Planner Eric Jarrell told the Committee that Montco Planning had landscape architects on staff who could help us design the park. Montco Planning also administers its own grant program, called Montco 20/40, which awards park grants, among other grants, to local communities.
Updates from Steel City Coffeehouse and Brewery
Steel City is taking a Two Phase approach to open in Collegeville. Phase One will be the opening of their brewing facility and tasting room located in a five car garage building. Detailed plans are currently being developed.
The first phase of Steel City’s development is to locate brewing equipment in the garage on the property. They would then open a tasting room with very lite fare selling take-out craft beer in crowlers and growlers, and bottles of Maple Springs wine from Bechtelsville, PA. Residents could enjoy the brew and wine at one of Collegeville’s many BYO restaurants or take it home.
The Steel City owners emphasized that their restaurant will be family-friendly with an 11 p.m. closing time and will never function as a “college bar.”
Comprehensive Planning Assistance from Montgomery County Community Planner Eric Jarrell
Over the years Montgomery County Planning has helped 36 local boroughs and townships with a wide range of planning, and Jarrell discussed the many ways Collegeville Borough could benefit from that knowledge base.
The Borough of Collegeville’s last Comprehensive Plan, which provides a roadmap for future development, was written in 1971, 13 years before the completion of the Collegeville exit of the 422 Expressway brought a development surge to the region.
The outdated plan no longer applies and we defer to the Central Perkiomen Valley Regional Planning Commission (CPVRPC) plan. That plan provides a general framework for all communities in the commission, but does not address issues specific to the Borough of Collegeville. Furthermore, municipalities in Pennsylvania are required to update their plans every 10 years.
If Collegeville had a contract with the Montgomery County Planning Commission, the group could provide much-needed data and studies to update the Borough’s Comprehensive Plan, including a Main Street study, ESRI data, which uses demographics to compile data on what businesses and services are most needed by area residents, help with zoning overlays, and tasteful design and signage standards for our Main Street among other services.
The contract would also include “flexible assistance” so that designated individuals could ask Montco Planning for help on specific issues as they come up.
Jarrell explained that the first step in planning is to undertake a visioning process which invites residents of all ages to weigh in on the improvements and amenities that they would like to see in the Borough.
More on Regional Planning
The CPVRPC is adjacent to the Lower Providence and Upper Providence Township Planning Commissions. A committee member pointed out that plans for rerouting the Ridge Pike in Lower Providence include a plan for a second bridge over the Perkiomen that ends in the Borough of Collegeville.
The bridge will affect Lower Providence, Upper Providence, and Perkiomen townships as well as Collegeville Borough. Why isn’t there a Collegeville Regional Planning Commission that encompasses all these communities so they can review the contingencies together?
Jarrell replied that the communities or boundaries planning commissions are based upon are those that make up the school district.
Committee Approves Planning Request
BDC Committee head Cathy Kernen then made a motion which was seconded and unanimously approved by the Committee to request the Borough Finance Committee to include a line-item in the 2020 Collegeville Borough budget to hire the Montgomery County Planning Commission. The cost of the contract would be $12,000 to $15,000 annually.
The request was subsequently made at the September 4 Collegeville Borough Council meeting.
Created in January 2018, the Borough of Collegeville Business Development Committee oversees economic development and business recruitment in the borough. It is made up of volunteers from the borough and administered by a Borough Council member.