The Cricket plan, drafted years ago but held in abeyance by the developer, would "jump start business and make Ardmore a place people want to be," said Teri Simon, a former member of the township's planning commission.
During a meeting at the Lower Merion township building Thursday night, township officials and developer Carl Dranoff solicited views on these projects from business owners and residents.
Most in the audience of 50 said any plan should include expanding parking, stimulating business, improving the Ardmore train station - all at an affordable cost.
As ideas were tossed about, Dranoff winced, realizing that the $3 million already spent on planning the $100 million transit center project might be for naught. The transit center has been discussed for eight years.
"I'm as frustrated as anyone," said the white-haired developer. "My hair was brown when this started. If we keep this up, I'll be ready for the nursing home."
With nudging from township commissioner Cheryl Gelber, those at the meeting zeroed in on several proposals. Township planners were asked to calculate costs so they could be reviewed at a public meeting April 7.
The Cricket Avenue project would occupy land now used as metered parking. It would include 11,000 square feet of retail space facing Cricket. One hundred and twelve three-story living units would surround 113 underground parking spaces for residents. Access would be from Cricket Avenue. Another deck of parking, covered but above ground, would be for the public.
There was a drawback, Dranoff warned, saying condos would be a bad idea, given the state of the economy. "In this market, condos could not be financed," he said.
The second idea discussed was to build the $100 million transit center as planned - with 500-car garage, a mini-Main Street, apartment building and a new train station and platform - but do so in phases, as funds became available.
The third approach was to scale down the transit center project to $60 million, with 270-car garage, smaller apartment building, mini-Main Street, but no new train station or platform improvements. Critics have dubbed it the transit center without the train station.
The fourth proposal was taking the $60 million project and adding two decks of parking to create 88 more spaces for an added cost of $6 million.
The fifth version was to build a 600-car garage and drop the apartment building, but retain the project's other features.
Dranoff said that no matter which project was chosen, funding would be an issue.
"There's going to be a gap, no matter what. Let's jump on the least (objectionable) project and go with it," Dranoff recommended.
Promised state funding for the center suffered last year when the federal government denied Pennsylvania permission to toll I-81 in order to fund transit improvements. That prompted SEPTA to shelve 22 capital projects, including the Ardmore station, in effect removing $10 million on which the township had counted.
"We tried to gain the funding, and working through the obstacles that are in our way, but we have to recognize that we've got insurmountable obstacles," township manager Douglas Cleland said.
Merchants at the meeting said attention must be given to creating temporary parking for shoppers during construction, or shops would die.
"Without temporary parking, you might as well put a nail in the coffin of every retailer in Ardmore," said gift-shop owner Sherry Tillman.
Planner Angela Murray said the township has drafted a tentative plan for temporary parking, and is looking for more spaces.
Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or email@example.com
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