Horsham anxious to develop old Willow Grove military base

Posted: December 20, 2013

HORSHAM Horsham redevelopment officials are eager to take ownership of the old Willow Grove military base. But their plan requires the Navy to act fast and stay on schedule - which it has struggled to do for the last eight years.

The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority (HLRA) is trying to move on the nimble timeline of the real estate market.

"If a Fortune 500 company decides next month to move out of Manhattan and chooses the best place in the world, Horsham, we have to have it ready," said Michael McGee, executive director of the HLRA, which is trying to develop 862 acres of residential, retail, office, and community space at the former naval air station.

The Navy, on the other hand, is moving on the glacial timeline of a multiagency government bureaucracy. Of all the military bases closed in 2005, Willow Grove is the only one still in the realignment process.

The HLRA expects on Jan. 15 to vote on an economic development conveyance application to take over the land. Once the application is approved by the Navy, they would begin to negotiate a sale price.

The Navy says it could be ready to talk prices by June. McGee was skeptical, but said: "They say they'll be ready, so we have to be, too."

The township is eager to get things moving. The closure of the base in 2005 left 8 percent of the township's land dormant, and has cost an estimated $800 million in annual tax revenue and government subsidies.

The Navy has been working for more than a year on its environmental impact statement, which McGee said would be posted Dec. 27.

The Navy will hold public meetings in mid-January, and the HLRA hopes to have reviewed the impact statement, and associated public comments, in time for the Jan. 15 meeting, when it would approve the conveyance plan.

After that, the board would move quickly to choose a "master developer" who would partner on the project.

In McGee's best-case scenario - though still a long shot - construction on some residential units could begin "as late as possible in 2014. Like 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31."


jparks@philly.com

610-313-8117 @JS_Parks

www.inquirer.com/MontcoMemo

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