Thursday, August 22, 2013

Keystone plans 18-story hotel in Conshy

This meeting was last night. Private sources tell me the Borough Council was salivating at the proposal and rendering drawings.

by Carl Rotenberg, Times Herald

Conshohocken Council and borough residents will get two presentations Wednesday night during the regular council meeting on how two realty firms plan to rebuild the Verizon building, redevelop a vacant Fayette Street parcel and provide additional parking for downtown shoppers.

Officials of Brandywine Realty Trust (BRT) of Radnor, Delaware County, will make their presentation at 8 p.m., Wednesday, and Keystone Property Group (KPG) of Lower Merion will follow at 8:45 p.m., said Council President Paul McConnell.

“My guess is that council will not make a selection on Wednesday night,” McConnell said. “As council people talk about the two plans, the world of questions will open up.”

McConnell said it was important for Conshohocken residents to attend the meeting to learn the details of the two plans.

“The public should come,” he said, “and they will have a chance to ask questions.”

McConnell said that many residents had already questioned how traffic on Fayette Street would be affected by the two plans. He said it was unclear how much of the historic Washington Fire Co. building and adjacent apparatus building would be preserved and reused in each of the plans.

“I’ve already gotten feedback from many people. It is not just a choice of one plan or the other,” McConnell said. “The question that everyone asks is about traffic and the biggest concern people have is traffic.”

The Times Herald received redacted versions of both proposals from the Redevelopment Authority of Montgomery County (RDA) on Aug. 1 after filing a Pennsylvania Right to Know request. The Times Herald has filed an appeal of the RDA redactions with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in Harrisburg.

The redacted version of the Brandywinte Realty Trust proposal included an executive summary and six conceptual drawings illustrating the firm’s plans for replacing the Verizon building, at 402 Fayette St., with a 24,000-square-foot building for borough workers and the Police Department.

“Our development concepts contemplate a 400-car, fully automated parking garage beneath a 226,920-square-foot office building and the addition of 200 parking spaces at our existing parking facility located at 1 and 101 West Elm St.,” the BRT proposal states. “Our development plan utilizes the existing facade of the historic firehouse and incorporates a public amenity in the form of a restaurant into the building’s use.”

The conceptual drawing for the proposed office building on the vacant, 15,768-square-foot parcel at the intersection of Fayette and Elm streets shows a 14-story building. Phase I of the BRT proposal includes the parking garage under the office building.

A two-way garage entrance would be located on West Elm Street. A garage exit ramp and the lobby entrance for the office building would be located off a driveway to Fayette Street.

Phase II includes the demolition of the Verizon building and construction of “a new public park and a new 24,000-square-foot building,” the proposal said. “Our Phase II development includes 70 parking spaces, a portion of which will be secured for police vehicle parking which includes a sally port for secure police access to the building.”

Borough administrative offices and a public meeting space would occupy 10,000 square feet in the three-story building. Police offices would occupy 10,000 square feet on the lower level.

The redacted BRT proposal given to The Times Herald did not include the proposal description, schedule, terms, response to the request for proposal and the exhibits.

The redacted version of the Keystone Property Group proposal included six conceptual drawings showing an 18-story hotel at the Fayette and Elm street intersection with ground-level restaurants, an eight-story parking garage to replace the existing three-story garage and a new, 200,000 square-foot office tower at the intersection of First Avenue and Fayette Street.

The hotel would have more than 200 rooms, conference facilities and a rooftop lounge. The new parking garage would have parking for the hotel guests, office tenants and a minimum of 300 parking spaces for downtown Conshohocken businesses and visitors, said William Glazer, the CEO of KPG.

The historic firehouse would be converted into a brew pub. An outdoor plaza facing Fayette Street would be built between the hotel and office building.

The Verizon building would be renovated with a new facade, roof and building systems. The lower level would be demolished to create additional parking. A “dedicated parking area for police vehicles, as well as a separate sally port entrance into the second floor” would be created for the police department.

Glazer said KPG would “provide Conshohocken Borough with (a redacted) return on their initial $3.25 million acquisition of the building, making their investment ‘money good.’”

The redacted KPG proposal given to The Times Herald did not include the land parcel proposed deal structure and estimated project schedule; the proposed deal structure, capital improvements/schedule and letter of intent for the Verizon building; a standard lease document and examples of tenant billing/CAM statements.

Conshohocken owns the Verizon building and the historic firehouse, while the RDA owns the adjacent apparatus building and the vacant parcel. Borough officials purchased the Verizon building for $3.25 million from the Verizon Corp. in September 2007. Council rejected a purchase proposal for $3.25 million in December 2008.
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