Developer Carl Dranoff celebrated the opening Tuesday of his One Ardmore apartment building, capping an 11-year struggle to complete the 110-unit project amid community opposition and public-financing snags.

With the apartments’ completion, the building becomes the property of Denver-based Apartment Investment & Management Co. (Aimco), which agreed to acquire the project as part of a deal that also included other Dranoff rental properties in Philadelphia.

One Ardmore, at 35 Cricket Ave., just south of Lancaster Avenue, is the first of several apartment buildings planned or in progress in Ardmore that will add hundreds of rental units to the Philadelphia suburb. The area is drawing developers and residents with its walkable scale, eclectic shopping and dining, and proximity to a rail station.

Nancy Scarlato, executive director of the Ardmore Initiative business improvement association, said at Tuesday’s event that 30 businesses have opened in the town’s commercial district since One Ardmore broke ground in 2017, while just six have closed, and that property values have soared.

Less than a block down Cricket Avenue from One Ardmore, Southampton-based Core Development is building a 77-apartment project called Cricket Flats, which it aims to have completed by July 2020.

Kimco Realty Corp. of New Hyde Park, N.Y., wants to construct a 158-unit rental complex at the nearby Suburban Square shopping plaza.

And Piazza Management Co., owner of Ardmore’s Acura and Volkswagen dealerships, is proposing a 267-unit complex at the site of its auto businesses and adjacent Lancaster Avenue properties.

Completing One Ardmore “has been a journey filled with highs and lows, delays and setbacks, challenges and solutions,” Dranoff said. “But now, in 2019, we have transformed a nondescript and forlorn surface parking lot.”

What became the One Ardmore project was initiated in 2008, when Lower Merion Township selected the Philadelphia-based developer to build apartments and a public parking garage on what had then been township-owned lots.

The project hit its first major hurdle earlier this decade, when then-Gov. Tom Corbett withdrew a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to support the 200-space parking structure that had been awarded under Corbett’s predecessor, Ed Rendell.

In 2015, after the $10.5 million award had been restored and then disbursed by current Gov. Tom Wolf, the project became the subject of a challenge by residents living nearby who contended that the project was architecturally overwhelming for the town.

View of One Ardmore, a ground-up mid-rise in Ardmore.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
View of One Ardmore, a ground-up mid-rise in Ardmore.

The legal fight ended in 2016 when the state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of Commonwealth Court and said the development could proceed.

Dranoff got the final financial boost he needed to break ground on the development when Chicago-based LaSalle Investment Management joined the project as an equity partner, taking a majority stake in the venture.

Rendell and Wolf both attended Tuesday’s event marking the project’s completion, as did elected leaders of Lower Merion Township and Montgomery County.

The property’s conveyance to Denver-based Aimco was observed through the handoff of a cardboard key to Aimco’s eastern U.S. operations chief, Kevin Mosher.

Aimco said in its most recently filed financial disclosure that it expected to pay $65 million for One Ardmore after spending $308 million on the other area assets it agreed to buy from Dranoff: Locust on the Park in the Fitler Square neighborhood, 777 S. Broad and Southstar Lofts on South Broad Street, and the Left Bank in University City.

Aimco also had been under contract to pay Dranoff $71.2 million for the Victor Building apartments in Camden, but that deal fell apart amid a dispute — now the subject of litigation — over the transfer of tax breaks associated with the project.

In his remarks, Rendell highlighted the Ardmore project’s transit access and walkability, which he said would aid what he sees as a national imperative to reduce reliance on driving.

“This project, linking good suburban living with mass transit ... is an amazing project,” Rendell said. “It has vision.”