Plan for mixed-use building on Cricket Avenue moves forward

By Richard Ilgenfritz
rilgenfritz@21st-centurymedia.com
@rpilgenfritz on Twitter

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The Lower Merion Building and Planning Committee Monday night recommended the Board of Commissioners approval of the preliminary land development plan for the new mixed-use building on Cricket Avenue across from the better known “Dranoff” project of One Ardmore Place.

The plan is for a five-story mixed-use building that includes 77 apartment units and 10,738 square feet of retail space on the ground level. The structure will be located on the site of the former Gillane’s Tavern and Cardone Printing and on the current home of the Ardmore Auto Body shop. Along with the auto body shop, the site also consists of a parking lot.

“This is a true mixed-use development in Ardmore, right opposite One Ardmore Place,” said Chirs Leswing, assistant director of planning for Lower Merion.

According to Leswing, the project has been before the township’s HARB board on 12 occasions to refine the architecture of the building. The tentative sketch plan for the project was approved in April of this year.

The front of the building would be on Cricket Avenue and the rear of the building will be on Trolley Way that is currently township property.

The front on Cricket would have no curb cuts and part of the street level retail would be pushed back further than the MUST zoning ordinance in order to create a wider streetscape, Leswing said.

The rear would be an area for loading, access to parking for the commercial businesses and access to below grade parking for the apartment residents.

With the One Ardmore Place project to soon begin, Leswing said this project could start while the Dranoff project is still going on. Because of that, Leswing said the township has to coordinate the two projects. Angela Murray, assistant director, community and economic development, will be appointed as the liaison between the two developers.

To minimize the impact on businesses and the residential community of both projects happening simultaneously, Leswing said, “we’ve been requiring from both projects detailed analysis of when they imagine on a week-by-week basis the different tasks that are going on to try to make sure that things are done in harmony.”

Although construction could overlap for both projects, there is still an agreement with Lower Merion Township for use of the parking lot through next summer.

Ross Weiss, attorney for the developer, said in a follow-up to Commissioner Scott Zelov’s question regarding the possible extension of the parking lot lease, that the developer is willing to extend it through Jan. 1, 2018 so that in would include next year’s Christmas shopping season. Even if the lot is kept open, Weiss said they still might want to begin some preliminary work such as demolishing the auto body shop.

Weiss added that there would be no construction on Cricket Avenue. Instead, he said, the construction would be off Trolley Way. “The only construction that will take place on Cricket Avenue is to make the utility connection in Cricket Avenue,” said Weiss.

Christine Vilardo, executive director of the Ardmore Initiative, said she has been at most of the meetings leading up to the project including the HARB meetings and most of those with the local civic associations. “The support from the public, at least at all of the meetings I’ve attended … has been nothing but positive for this project,” she said. “So we would love to see this get built and I am very appreciative for extension of the lease to Jan. 1. That will make people happy.”