Friday, October 28, 2011

Several King of Prussia projects may be coming together

by Peter Van Allen

" After delays and a down economy, some long talked about proposals are expected to become reality here.

A casino, a Wegmans and two new hotels are all expected to come online in coming months and a Target store may not be far behind, local officials said. At the same time, the region’s business-improvement district is tackling a series of initiatives designed to make the area more attractive and traffic-friendly.

In some respects, it’s hard to envision the area being more popular than it is now. The main attraction, the King of Prussia Mall, attracts 25 million people a year, while nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park brings in 1.2 million. Add to that an estimated 50,000 people who work in King of Prussia.

In particular, the casino is expected to make the area more of a round-the-clock destination, said Eric T. Goldstein, executive director of the King of Prussia Business Improvement District (

“We like the nightlife aspects,” Goldstein said.

Paul Decker, president of the Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the casino will add to the mix of attractions.

“It’s a new amenity, something else to get people excited,” Decker said.

The Valley Forge Casino Resort has been approved for the Valley Forge Convention Center. It will include 600 slot machines and 60 table games. Other features will include new restaurants, including a “slider” burger restaurant and an Asian noodle house. A spring 2012 opening is planned.

n On Oct. 26, the owners of the Valley Forge Shopping Center on DeKalb Pike submitted plans to Upper Merion Township to tear down part of the center and build a 178,000-square-foot section devoted to a Target store, Starbucks and other retailers.

The Target project has been talked about for a year. But the formal application process could still take another three months, according to an Oct. 17 letter from the township that went out to residents and property owners.

A Wegmans Food Market is planned for the Village at Valley Forge shops on a former golf course. The 107,000-square-foot store will open next spring.
Some 250 hotel rooms will come online, including a Hotel Sierra and Spring Hill Suites, adding to the Hyatt Place that opened last year with 129 rooms.
A “super” Wawa, the convenience store chain’s larger-format stores that feature gas pumps, is in the planning stages for a former Petco store on DeKalb Pike. If approved, the site would also include a Chick-Fil-A restaurant.
On the restaurant front, a Joe’s Crab Shack opened Oct. 24.
Going forward, Goldstein’s group is pushing ways to improve the liveability of the King of Prussia area. It is already doing extensive streetscaping, including turning median strips into gardens.

But Goldstein is also an advocate of SEPTA’s idea of extending the Norristown rail line to the mall, as well as ways to create walkable “downtown” areas and, in general, make the area less “auto-centric.”

“We’re very auto-centric. We lack scale. We lack pedestrian access. We lack public transit. We lack a town center or a central gathering place,” Goldstein said.

The business improvement district has hired a planning firm to study development patterns and help establish a vision for the future, Goldstein said.

On Nov. 8, Goldstein will talk at the Design on the Delaware conference about the topic, “Suburban Sprawl to Edge City.”

“Employees at hotels need public transportation to get here,” said Decker.

Goldstein acknowledges that significant change “could take decades,” but thinks adding rail service could be achieved within a decade’s time.

“Eight years is not outrageous,” he said. “We have right-of-ways now, but no tracks.”
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