At Eagleview, a traditional neighborhood continues to grow

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A row of live/work buildings along the town center, based on the idea that some will want to live above their workplace. Hankin Group

When Robert Hankin launched Eagleview 25 years ago, he had no idea that the traditional-neighborhood development in Chester County would still occupy his time in 2017.

But, just as Rome was not built in a day, creating a new community on 800 acres in Upper Uwchlan and Uwchlan Townships at Route 100 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Exit 312 at Exton could not have happened overnight.

Eagleview remains, Hankin acknowledged, a work in progress, with 1,400 residential units, 2.5 million square feet of Class A commercial space for 100-plus companies, and a growing town center that added two restaurants in December.

Justin Weathers and Joe Monnich, both of whom worked at Steven Starr's Parc on Rittenhouse Square, opened Bella Vista and Al Pastor side by side, adding to Brickside Grille and Nudy's Cafe.

"People seem excited by the restaurants," one Italian, the other Mexican, said Weathers. "The buzz about them is amazing."

Hankin, whose father was a builder in Chestnut Hill and who was reared in Mount Airy, believes "no one pays attention" to Eagleview even though, at a cost of $50 million so far, "we are big."

"It is an island of nice stuff," he said, including a town center that offers a host of concerts and other events, soccer fields, two day-care centers (with plans for a third), and four swimming pools.

As Hankin shuttled a visitor around Eagleview on a chilly early-December afternoon, the talk turned to stormwater management, which has been a major issue.

"To create a town, you need to create an infrastructure, and starting with the early buildings in the late 1980s, we centralized stormwater distribution, with effluent discharged into the wetlands," Hankin said.

The cost of stormwater management for the 1.5-square-mile Eagleview is high, but more than worth the effort. For example, he said, for an $8 million office building under construction, $2 million is devoted to stormwater management.

Those early buildings, by the way, are already being renovated to accommodate 21st-century needs.

Ten miles of trails wind through Eagleview, and Hankin spent a lot of time on them in the 10 years he lived here.

"After a while, I couldn't deal with meeting people who bought houses, looking to have their screen door repaired," he said with a laugh.

So he moved back to Chestnut Hill, close to the start of the Schuylkill River Trail, along which he bikes 21/2 hours to Eagleview and Exton - the last three miles on the road.

Chestnut Hill plays a role in Eagleview, because some of the townhouse and single-home facades were based on photographs of houses in that distinctive, upscale Philadelphia neighborhood.

As a traditional-neighborhood development, Eagleview incorporates housing styles that reflect earlier times. Such neighborhoods are intergenerational and mixed-income communities. They also are compact, pedestrian-friendly, and oriented toward a town center.

In addition to the restaurants, Eagleview's town center has live/work units, including a pharmacy and retail, and a year-round farmers' market. A bookstore, Wellington Square Books, owned by Hankin's brother, Sam, is in a building resembling an old-fashioned train station, with an interior that looks like Fezziwig's holiday party in A Christmas Carol.

"It is becoming a gathering place," Sam Hankin said.

Future development will result in 8,000 working in Eagleview. Today, one-third of the workforce also lives there, either owning or renting apartments in Claremont on the Square ($2,000 to $2,200 a month).

There has been a Hilton Gardens Inn here since 2014. With demand increasing, a franchise agreement has been signed with Marriott to build a Marriott Springhill Suites adjacent to the Hilton Gardens.

The latest housing entry is the active-adult Meridian Eagleview, priced at $400,000 to $700,000.

"We started in 2008, just as the downturn hit," Robert Hankin said. "They were rentals first."

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472 @alheavens

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