Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lower Merion's Schuylkill River Trail Connections Move Forward

Two important steps were taken last week in Lower Merion Township that move "Completing the Trail" forward.

On January 26, landscape architects Bryan Hanes and Kim Douglas presented final plans for the Cynwyd Trail at a public meeting. The next step for Lower Merion Township is to refine cost estimates for approval by the town's Commissioners. LMT Assistant Director of Building and Planning Chris Leswing expects to break ground on the paved path by the end of the year.

As seen by the drawing, the plans for the Cynwyd Trail include a spur down to the riverfront, which will neatly connect to riverfront trail segment on the O'Neill property that also moved forward lat week.

A couple of days earlier, Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners issued a final decision on O'Neill Property Group's proposed Righter's Ferry project, an 580 apartments + 780  870 parking spaces complex on the 13.8 acre former Connelly Container site on Righter's Road.  This decision requires that a riverfront trail be provided, but additionally, that the Penncoyd Bridge, which O'Neill Property Group owns, be open to public pedestrian access.  (The O'Neill Prop.  Group was granted a higher density of apartments and lower ratio of parking because of the Bridge's access to SEPTA and R-Train stops on the Philadelphia side.)  This new trail segment and bridge connection would directly connect to the Schuylkill River Trail on the Philadelphia side and up to the Cynwyd Trail in Lower Merion.

Mr. O'Neill's lawyer is appealling that part of the decision to provide public pedestrian access on the Penncoyd Bridge. As described in the Main Line Times article, "Because O’Neill is using access via the bridge to public transit within 1,500 feet to get both density and parking bonuses, the board found that the developer must provide pedestrian access for the general public, not only apartment tenants."  Michael Weilbacher of the Lower Merion Conservancy opined later last week that "This project will bring hundreds of people to the Schuylkill’s edge. Great. What the project also does right is allow the Schuylkill River Trail to ramble across its front door, people like you and me coming to hike its length, connecting from there to the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and Flat Rock Park in Gladwyne....As advocates for the evolving trail system, we urge O’Neill to accept this condition."

While far from over, the Board of Commissioners' decision to require public access over the Penncoyd Bridge is a huge victory for Completing the Trail.  The Commissioners deserve a hearty congratulations for showing fortitude and vision and we commend Chris Leswing and the Friends of Cynwyd Trail for moving this exciting set of trail projects forward.


Andrew J. Besold said...


Density AND parking bonuses because a project is close to transit and the developer is still unsatisfied because he is being asked to keep the Penncoyd Bridge open to the public?!?!

Give me a break!!! They should scuttle his parking bonuses and take the bridge by eminent domain if he doesn't like it!

Andrew J. Besold said...

Whoa! Wait.

After reading the Mainline News is seems the developer was given the right to reduce the number of parking spaces, NOT given the right to build more like PBN article above made it sound (reduction in parkings paces good!). BTW that's 1.5 spaces per unit or 870 spaces in total, not 780.

Still, if O'Neill doesn't like it they should do something like take his density bonus away.

Sarah C. Stuart said...

Sorry about that. I made the corrections in the story. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Ben said...

I don't understand the developers opposition to keeping the bridge open... why not make it available for everyone in the community? Everyone would love it and the high traffic would increase the profile of the apartments and increase interest in living there...