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New mixed-use building proposed for Bala Cynwyd

New mixed-use building proposed for Bala Cynwyd
October 4, 2017

Another new mixed-use building with apartments in Bala Cynwyd is now undergoing the beginning of the approval process.

Monday night, the Lower Merion Planning Commission recommended the approval of the tentative sketch plan for the new building.

The plan would consolidate six properties along North Highland and Bala avenues for the construction of a five-story building with a 41,704-square-foot footprint. The structure would have 6,650 square feet of ground-floor retail space located along Bala Avenue. There would also be 86 apartments on the upper floors and two levels of parking. The parking would be accessed from driveways on both Bala and North Highland avenues.

The new project would have 112 parking spaces in the on-site garage and nine spaces on the street.

The builder is Cross Properties, the same company with two other projects in the area. They include the mixed-use building at 10 Union Avenue. The other project, still undergoing its approval process, is across Union Avenue at Cynwyd Road. That mixed-use building is expected to go before the Planning Commission for its preliminary plan next month.

Chris Leswing, director of Building and Planning for Lower Merion Township, said the three projects together will bring about 260 apartments to the area.

Bobby Fijan, a partner with Cross Properties, said they expect to market the apartments to younger people. Of the 86 apartment units, 9 percent of them would be two bedrooms and the rest would be studios and one bedrooms, he said.

“So the average size of these units is quite small,” Fijan said. “That’s intentional in that we believe … since it’s going to be a mixed-use area … we think it’s going to be younger folks who are going to want a smaller space.”

There is also a building right on the corner of North Highland and Bala avenues that also is owned by Cross Properties but will not be included in the new structure. Ken Aaron, attorney for Cross Properties, said they might do something with that corner property but for the time being they are going to leave it alone. According to Aaron, although the corner property is not designated historic, it could be the oldest standing building in the area.

“We do recognize the desire to keep the integrity of that building,” Aaron said. “If we tried to integrate it into this building we would most likely mess up the integrity of the building.”

A few residents spoke up on the project.

Baruch Lichtenstein, a resident of the area and the head of school at the nearby Kosloff Torah Academy, expressed concern over the project’s proximity to residential areas, the added cars the new residents would bring. He said there are also three schools in the area with numerous school bus stops along Highland and Bryn Mawr avenues.

“I think the children’s safety must be considered as we go into a commercial development such as this,” Lichtenstein said. “The second point I want to bring up is butting up against a residential area. Right behind the proposed building are single family homes with young families so that’s going to impact the total nature of the neighborhood.”

With the favorable nod from the Planning Commission, the project should next be discussed publicly at the Building and Planning Committee meeting Oct. 11.

Written by Richard Ilgenfritz for The Main Line Times.

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