The owners of the Acura and Volkswagen dealerships near Ardmore’s commercial core want to redevelop the auto-showroom sites and adjacent land into what would be the largest apartment complex ever to rise in the suburban Philadelphia community.
Piazza Management Co.'s proposal calls for two connected buildings with the 257 apartments, 123,000 square feet of commercial space, and an 840-space, partially underground parking garage, Lower Merion Township assistant manager Bob Duncan said in an interview.
The project would span a block along the south side of Lancaster Avenue between Ardmore and Greenfield Avenues.
Ardmore, traditionally a quiet community of single-family homes, has been attracting developers and apartment dwellers with its walkable scale, increasingly eclectic shopping and dining, and proximity to a rail station serving Center City and New York.
Other projects include Philadelphia-based developer Carl Dranoff’s 110-unit One Ardmore Place, which is scheduled to open next month, and the 158-unit apartment building that Suburban Square owner Kimco Realty Corp., of New Hyde Park, N.Y., wants to build at its outdoor shopping plaza.
Some in the community welcome the influx of residents, whom they see as helping to invigorate the area’s commercial and cultural life by attracting new businesses.
But others say the big apartment projects are out of sync with what had been Ardmore’s small-town vibe and worry about overcrowding. Opposition to One Ardmore Place, for example, delayed the development for years, as legal challenges to the project went all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Marie Kramer, president of the Ardmore Progressive Civic Association, a neighborhood group whose sphere of activity includes the development site, said the unfriendliness toward development comes from fears that population growth will overtax area schools and clog roads.
“It might be controversial,” Kramer said of the Piazza Ardmore proposal in an interview Thursday. “I don’t think people want to see more apartments where they feel they’re impacting the schools. And traffic has been very challenging.”
Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh said after an earlier version of this report was published that it was not yet known when township commissioners would consider the proposal. A township official had said erroneously that it could be considered Monday.
The easternmost portion of the project would be built on an empty lot at Lancaster and Ardmore Avenues where a much smaller apartment building with a lower-level Target Corp. store had previously been proposed by Bala Cynwyd-based RMC Developments LLC. A Target spokesperson said Thursday that the Minneapolis-based retailer continues to have a signed lease in Ardmore.
RMC’s development site, which also includes a former car-wash property, was acquired by a Piazza affiliate for $10 million in October, according to Montgomery County property records. The affiliate, VMDT Partnership, already owned the IHOP restaurant and auto dealerships on the western half of the block, according to the records.
Piazza Ardmore would be completed in phases so the Acura and Volkswagen dealerships can continue operating as the five-story eastern building is constructed, said Duncan, who has reviewed the proposal’s planning documents. The dealerships, which would be displaced by a six-story western building, ultimately may become permanent occupants of the complex’s lower-story commercial floors, he said.
Duncan said 100 of the project’s 840 parking spaces, which will be located underground and in a structure between the two apartment buildings, will be available for public use, with the rest set aside for apartment tenants and users of the commercial space.