Former Commissioner Ettelson Says Kimco Going Forward With Suburban Square Plans?

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carla's picture
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It was announced at the September 25th, 2008 Ardmore Ad Hoc meeting that Kimco Realty is moving ahead with their plans to develop every inch of the Ruby's lot in Ardmore, PA. There will be one of those extra special commissioners' meetings to hold a public hearing to decide if there will be a public hearing to re-zone the property. As the Ruby's lot is currently zoned, Kimco is unable to be piggy. Perhaps that is why the lot is zoned the way it is and should remain the way it is?

In any event, we were told the meeting is Tuesday October 7th, 2008 in the Township Boardroom during a Building and Planning Committee.

Former Commissioner James Ettelson appears to be representing Kimco/Suburban Square on this. Last time we saw him in Ardmore was when he was involved with the very unpopular still 130 Cricket Ave Project.

Now I understand the man has to make a living, and aside from the fact he seems to like eminent domain, Jim is quite an affable fellow truth be told. And he's a busy guy, as someone recently pointed out he is also supposedly on some Montgomery County task force? The Montgomery County Strategic Economic Development Policy Task Force, which supposedly expires November 30th, 2008? What's that all about?

But of course, the problem is, affable fellow or not, his legacy is partially the failed bid for eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore, which is one reason why Brian Gordon is now the Commissioner in Ward 12, once held by Jim Ettelson.

So the thing is this: Jim is the paid advocate of Kimco on this re-zoning bid. And while some commissioners may argue in Lower Merion that it is Kimco's god given right to re-zone and bring forward what I feel to be piggy development, I say not so fast. I say not so fast that Lower Merion needs to stop being selective when it comes to private property rights. A LOT of people would potentially be impacted if Suburban Square/Kimco develops this Ruby's Lot. A lot of private property rights would be impacted that were on the scene long before Kimco purchased Suburban Square.

Kimco purchased a gem when they purchased Suburban Sqaure. The Ruby's lot does not need a couple hundred living units, and I find it hard to swallow that Kimco's research shows a need that great, especially in this economy, right? Just like I am sure that their traffic study will show that the Emerald City has parking and pedestrian perfection instead of what the problems really are, right?

I sound jaded, but honestly, I am tired of the spin and the hype. We have a redevelopment plan for Ardmore that Carl Dranoff is the developer for. Why can't we get that built first and then re-evaluate any future development? If Ardmore had a Master Plan, or if Lower Merion Township could admit that MUST is extremely problematic and needs fixing or ditching, maybe we would not have so many problems in Ardmore.

But this Kimco Creation is not needed. There is no need to build this, only a "want to build". There is no hardship on Kimco's part, is there? They purchased a very successful mall, right? Do we need to live in the mall and shop in the mall?

What about parking? Do we see valets who park in every nook and cranny and even on residential streets in the future? Where would Suburban Square park everyone if they got rezoned and started construction? Where would they park everyone if they were approved for rezoning and were doing construction the same time as the Dranoff team?

Where will all the cars go?

Suburban Square has many unresolved parking and traffic issues now. Why should Kimco be given a green light until pre-existing issues are resolved? I think North Ardmore would have very serious issues as a result of this development.

And the plans, I saw some plans a few months ago at another Ardmore Ad Hoc meeting. I tried to be nice, but walked out of the meeting wondering what the heck Kimco was so excited about other than the hope of dollar signs floating in the air? I thought the building was a design disaster - institutional looking beige stucco nothingness. As in nothing to write home about, do we need over 200 units on the Ruby's Lot in Ardmore wrapped in more retail? How can Kimco say it wants to be a partner in Ardmore's renaissance when all they want to do is seemingly compete for market share? And what of saturation point? Is this more new math?

Was it not just yesterday that new numbers came out on new construction having like the lowest numbers in years? The Philadelphia Business Journal reports home sales were down 29.9 percent in August. The Philadelphia Inquirer says "August existing-home sales fell 25.1 percent in the eight-county Philadelphia region over 2007". Mortgage delinquency and foreclosure rates are rising nationally, so how do we know they could even build this sucker, let alone sell it?

And once again, is this needed in our community? Is Kimco really desirous of being a community partner? According to many sources in New York, some of which are captured here, is Kimco really neighbor friendly?

I think the rest of Ardmore needs to get started first, and I think Kimco has issues it needs to deal with NOW before any rezoning is considered. I also think that this idea of rezoning is a bad idea, and I don't think that Kimco plan willl be an asset to North Ardmore. Now Kimco might not like these thoughts, but I am allowed to have them.

I think residents in this township need to take a stand on this issue. So I hope everyone leaves the armchair quarterbacking at home and shows up to the Township Building when this is being discussed - as in people should show up every single time it is discussed until the matter is settled. Now is not Kimco's time. They don't need to build this, they want to. But what they want and if they are actually "ready to go" as they claim may be open to some debate.

My final note is to re-read this article:

Posted on Wed, Jul 9, 2008
Deja vu?
Debate over development mars board meeting
By Cheryl Allison

....As long ago as March, when Dranoff was selected as the potential development partner, Commissioner Lewis Gould had abstained in the vote, saying that he was taking a different view of the Ardmore project. Citing concerns about losing the federal earmark, he favored moving ahead on the train station component, but dropping projects on other township properties in the downtown in favor of private development.

He reiterated that position last month, when the board approved early plans for an apartment complex on Cricket Avenue - the first project to be developed under Ardmore's new Mixed-Use Special Transit District zoning, and heard a presentation from the new owners of Suburban Square on proposed rezoning of its Ruby's lot.

Kimco Realty wants to rezone the split-zoned parcel to develop another MUST-inspired mixed-use building with as many as 250 upscale apartments. The board declined to immediately schedule a hearing on the request.

Again last week, Gould opposed accepting the letter of intent, citing his objection to committing more public funds to the Ardmore project - and to what he sees as an effort to forestall competition with the downtown project. Kimco "has a plan ready to go to complete a mixed-use building right where we want it, at no cost to taxpayers locally or statewide," he said. "That was the original goal of transit-oriented development; this board is frustrating it."

I also still think MUST and Transit Oriented Development is code spreak for "we haven't a clue where to put all of the cars, let's just build anyway"

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