Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Land acquisition in Royersford’s former industrial district first step in revitalization project

By Michael Sneff, The Mercury
The Riverfront at Royersford LLC recently acquired a six-acre section of land in the former industrial district of Royersford, intersecting 1st Avenue and Main Street, on the Schuylkill River. The acquisition is the latest step in ongoing efforts to revitalize the former industrial district along the borough’s waterfront.

“Royersford already has so much to offer and it is our intent to expand business and recreation along the riverfront,” said Richard Lewis, president of The Lewis Group, in a press release. The Lewis Group owns Riverfront at Royersford.

During a recent walkthrough of the property, Lewis stated that the Riverfront at Royersford is a “legacy project,” one that has the future of the borough in mind above all else.

“This end of town historically has been commercial,” Lewis said. “We really think that this can be a game changer in terms of bringing some new businesses and new life to this end of the borough.”

The land formerly belonged to Buckwalter Stove and was the site of factories and other industrial operations, including Continental Stove Works, which at one time, was one of the biggest stove factories in the United States.

There are currently several businesses operating along the waterfront, according to Lewis, ranging from an aerospace engineering company, a foundry and a bowling supply company.

The deal, according to Lewis, took nearly seven years to lock down, as plans have changed and been adjusted. Under a previous contractor, plans called for the development of new apartment complexes on the site.

“For us, residential was really not the most ideal of situations, considering the railroad and crossings,” Lewis said. “A motivating factor in acquiring the site was actually to keep a residential property from being developed.”

Lewis said the property would be much more beneficial as a commercial setting. With a residential complex already being established across Main Street, Lewis said having a place for those people to shop and recreate would be more of a draw.

Anil Dham, president of the Royersford borough council, has been working closely with The Lewis Group as well as other local business owners and citizens to revitalize the borough.

“Only a few years ago on Main Street, there were 13 or so empty store fronts. Now, there’s only one. That says something about this town,” Dham said. “With this, the development will bring in more tax money, as well as create additional recreational opportunities.”

Prominent locations on Main Street include multiple cafés and restaurants, as well as businesses and offices. The plan, according to Dham, is to add on to the precedent they have there now.

The riverfront site is connected to an abandoned railroad trestle which Lewis is looking to bring back to life as a pedestrian walkway and bike path connecting Royersford to the Schuylkill River Trail system across the river in Chester County, according to a press release.

“We want people to see the Riverfront for the asset that it truly is, and get people back down into this end of town,” Lewis said. “We’ve met a lot of great people here; it’s a great place to live.”

Lewis said that a big inspiration on how to do a revitalization project right, is what he is seeing in Phoenixville and Pottstown, and that Royersford is in a good place to start something similar to what has been done in the other communities.

“We’re trying to temper some excitement from people living around here,” Dham said. “This project’s really got some legs, and we’re very excited to see where it goes.”

A surveying process of the property is currently underway, and the lot will be cleared of debris by Lewis Group crews. Further consideration of the potential development opportunities is ongoing.

Based in Royersford, The Lewis Group also operates Lewis Environmental Inc., Lewis Property Services and works in the remediation, revitalization and repurposing of former industrial sites.

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