At Ardmore's Suburban Square, apartments may rise

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Artist's rendering of the residential project planned on east side of the Suburban Square shopping mall along Coulter Avenue in Ardmore.

Suburban Square in Ardmore is expanding its footprint to accommodate what will be the long-running outdoor mall’s first residential units.  

Owner Kimco Realty Corp. is in the process of acquiring 1.3 acres on the mall’s western edge along Coulter Street, with plans to build a 158-unit apartment building with ground-floor shops at the site.

The developer is scheduled to present its plans Monday to the Lower Merion Planning Commission to secure the required approvals.

The apartment plan is the latest of Kimco’s moves to capitalize on the 90-year-old mall’s compact, walkable footprint and easy Center City train access to offer an urbanlike experience at a suburban remove.

“It’s sort of this concept of ‘live-work-play,’ ” Kimco’s vice president for mid-Atlantic acquisitions and development, Gregory H. Reed, said in an interview. “When you’re home, you can walk right to the farmer’s market, to the retail. You can walk right over to the gym.”

Kimco hopes to begin work in fall 2018 on the apartment building, to be situated on five contiguous parcels the developer has either already purchased or is under contract to buy.

Currently occupying that site are a row of small office structures with tenants that include a podiatrist, the Marlyn Schiff jewelry store, and a Main Line Health office.

The development also will displace the Urban Outfitters store adjacent to the parcels being acquired. That store will relocate within the mall, Reed said.

The project will add 19,300 square feet of retail space – enough for about six new stores – plus about 200 underground parking spaces, he said.

It will be only the most recent apartment or condominium project planned in proximity to the Ardmore train station, which is served by SEPTA's Regional Rail to Center City, as well as by Amtrak service to New York.

Other nearby residential projects include developer Carl Dranoff’s proposed 110-unit One Ardmore on a nearby Cricket Avenue parking lot and a 77-unit development at 47-65 Cricket Ave. planned by Pete Staz and Peter Spain of Core Development.

In the meantime, Kimco is months from opening a new multilevel garage with 629 spaces on Coulter Avenue, across Glenn Road from the project site, that is meant to alleviate what Reed characterized as a chronic parking crunch at the mall.

Crews also have begun work on transforming the former Macy’s building at the mall’s center – originally completed in the late 1920s to accommodate the first Strawbridge & Clothier department store outside Philadelphia – into a branch of the Life Time Fitness chain of upscale health clubs.

Other previously announced plans call for an office building with ground-floor retail on what is now a parking lot between Coulter Avenue and the train tracks near Ardmore station. Kimco is aiming to complete that project, to be called Station Row, in fall 2018.

Kimco’s overall objective is to make Suburban Square feel less like a typical mall and more like a gently urban town center, with less surface space given over to parking and more storefronts along its sidewalks, Reed said.

“This concept of open-air, outdoor, avenue shopping is extremely popular," he said. "Twenty years ago, [traditional indoor] malls were in, everyone was building malls. ... Malls are out now."