Developers will scale back plans for Franklin Mint site

Posted: April 16, 2011

A plan to redevelop the abandoned Franklin Mint property in western Delaware County was put on hold this week after developers agreed to downsize their proposal.

Mark Dambly, president of Pennrose Properties and part of the development team, agreed to adjust plans for the mixed-use development on the 173-acre site to address residents' main concern: that the development, which was to have 1,253 houses, a 225-room hotel, and more than a million square feet of shops and offices, is too big.

"We're willing, certainly, to make some concessions," Dambly said in an interview Friday. But, he added, the development, which aims to be a place to "live, work, and play," requires a "critical mass" of density to sustain itself.

The development team announced its plans at a community meeting Thursday night.

Dambly would not say how much the developers were willing to reduce the density, but he expected the revised plans would be submitted to the Middletown Township Council in 30 to 60 days.

At the hearing Thursday night, three of the seven council members said that they liked the idea of a mixed-use development but that they would have voted down the project as it stood.

Noting that the plan had "a lot of the right components," Councilman Mark Kirchgasser said, "If we had to vote on it last night, it would have been voted down, and voted down easily."

In 2006, the council voted against a similar mixed-use plan for the site. This is the developers' second shot.

Kirchgasser said he was optimistic that the council and developers could reach a middle ground. The site, which would include a reopened SEPTA station, could be ideal for the kind of walkable community the developers envision, he said.

But Kirchgasser wouldn't say what size development the council would accept.

"They've been advertising that it would generate 65,000 cars per day," Kirchgasser said. "If you're talking that type of traffic, I just don't think that we can absorb that."

Tony Ieradi of Middletown, a member of Save Middletown, a group that opposed the plan, said it was frustrating that the developers took this long to agree to scale back.

"What a waste of four years," he said. "At the end of the day, the same people and more are saying the same thing: It's just too big."

Ieradi said some residents were tired of hearing about plans to redevelop the site, which have dragged on since the factory closed in 2004.

"Everybody knows what they don't want; they don't know what they want," said Ieradi, who is running for the council this year. "I don't know why the township didn't come out with something concrete that says, 'This is a good project.' After four years, you'd think we'd be able to do that."


Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or jfarrell@phillynews.com.

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