Ardmore ready for makeover

January 10, 2008 8:56:09 PM PST
A section of the Main Line is getting a major makeover and officials in Lower Merion Township have decided who will do it.The township commission heard five hours of discussion on Thursday night before handing the job to developer EBL&S.

The project has been in the works since last June.

"I think the eyes are on Ardmore and have been as we look at Ardmore's future," Doug Cleland, the Merion Township Manager, said.

What is essential to the project is connecting the business district with Suburban Square, which is separated by the town's train tracks.

"The challenge for us is to get a development that does that and, at the same time, retains the character of Ardmore which people enjoy," Bruce Reed, the Lower Merion Township Board President, said.

The township's Economic Revitalization Committee had been evaluating the proposals from five developers with national reputations, high levels of expertise, and a wide range of creativity.

"It's led to an entirely new dimension to the planning process because we've involved community professionals in the field and we've got some good ideas," Reed said.

Those ideas include the complete revitalization of the Ardmore business district, which would produce a lot more activity on the street.

Liz Rogan, the chair of the Economic Revitalization Committee, believes that the changes will bring a lot more opportunity for new businesses, as well as, allow existing business to do better.

Indeed, the before-and-after proposals for the downtown district, the transit center, and for housing, provide a stark contrast between what is now and what will be.

"The difference is between the housing we have now, which is old and poorly maintained, to what we will have in the future, which is going to be 21st century, modern housing and hopefully also available to all different economic spectrums in the township," Rogan said.

Ardmore community groups agree on this much: the redevelopment needs to promote pedestrian traffic, connect downtown to the bustling Surburban Square and keep the old world charm in tact.

"We also believe Ardmore should retain it's village feel. It should not be a big urban center," said Sherry Tillman.

With Ardmore's designated historic business district, another project priority is making sure that area is enhanced.

"It's very important that whatever is done in Ardmore is done to compliment the historic district and the many amenities that are already here," Cleland said.

The revdelopment will focus on the train station and other township owned land, mainly existing parking lots. That is raising concerns that the area will become too dense.

"We want parking that isn't just one big garage. We want a mix of surface parking and garage. We don't want traffic jams and big tall buildings that are out of scale with the Ardmore we have," said Carla Zambelli of the Save Ardmore Coalition.