New Britain’s main street plans moving forward

Daily Intelligencer – by James Boyle, Staff Writer, August 5, 2016

Officials from New Britain, Bucks county and Delaware Valley University have discussed for the past three years the plans to redevelop a stretch of Butler Avenue (Business U.S. Route 202) into a Main Street-style, walkable university town.

“There’s been a lot of talk and ideas for the Butler Avenue corridor,” said Lynn Bush, executive director of the Bucks County Planning Commission. “We are now seeing something actually happening.”

Bush highlighted two major steps that have propelled the project: the New Britain Borough Council’s July 12 approval to demolish the former Knoell factory on Shady Retreat Road and an adoption of a mixed-use zoning ordinance for the 7-acre property.

The former site of the woodworking company sits minutes away from Delaware Valley University and plays a major role in the redevelopment. Warminster based County Builders purchased the property in 2014 for $2.4 million through a subsidiary, Ashley Property Management, LP.

Representatives of the developer previously have said their plans include a three-story building with retail and office space on the first floor and apartments on the top floors. A presentation of the Butler Avenue project Wednesday afternoon gave a preview of how it would look.

Using Newtown Township’s Promenade at Sycamore and Jefferson streets as a model, the new buildings would combine residential and commercial spaces, with storefronts abutting the sidewalk and parking access in the back.

“There’s a lot of potential for this site,” said Matt Walters, a community planner with the Bucks County Planning Commission. “We encouraged a mixed-use property like the Promenade in Newtown. It will contribute to the Main Street character in New Britain.”

The Bucks County Planning Commission partnered with New Britain to create a draft plan to develop Butler Avenue between Bristol and New Britain roads. Funding for the study came from a $100,000 grant by PennDot’s Transportation and Community Development Initiative. It was presented to the public during a May meeting at Delaware Valley University and is under review by the New Britain Planning Commission. If the draft is accepted at the commission’s August meeting, it will be sent before the New Britain Borough Council for final approval.

“We’ve had a lot of input from the community groups,” Walters said. “We don’t expect any major changes. Since we started meeting with them in 2013, they have been pretty clear with their vision and where they want to go.”

The document lays out a set of building and landscaping guidelines designed to help the borough maintain its plan for a business friendly Main Street district. Besides the university village, it also includes landscaping and sidewalk suggestions for the Town Center shopping center at Butler Avenue and Lenape Drive, stretching down to Bristol Road.

A third section dubbed Historic Village sits in the middle, from Beulah Road to Lenape Drive. Sidewalk, crosswalks and pedestrian friendly lighting will connect the three sections, each separated by its own gateway that will give the borough a stronger identity, said Walters.

“We created safe boundaries for pedestrians that promote the neighborhood’s walkability,” he said. “It gives the corridor a real sense of place and let’s people know they are in New Britain Borough.”

Member Spotlight: Perkasie Borough

Feature Article – Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce

June 28, 2016

 

While downtown revitalization efforts may be more prominent now, years of planning and discernment have gone into the Borough’s current economic vitality and investment strategy yielding residents, business owners and borough officials results they can see, touch and feel.

From modernization efforts that never got off the ground in the 1970s to a catastrophic fire in 1988 that wiped out an entire block in the downtown, to national recognition last year for holding the oldest Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the country, Perkasie Borough is a small town, American innovator.

With the goal of creating prosperity, several elements came together. Local leaders built a comprehensive plan with the help of the Bucks County Planning Commission.

“We held public meetings to gather people together, and what people wanted, in Perkasie,” explained Stephen Barth, Perkasie’s Director of Economic Development. Borough officials and planners took on a master plan process in 2013 to gather up a “wish list” from residents and community members.

A winning combination of strategic partnerships, local leadership and input from residents and business owners continues to gain traction and fuel Perkasie’s reclaimed vision.

Maintaining a walk-able downtown business district with community support and patronage, ongoing sustainable economic development and an attractive small town community vibe, build upon Perkasie’s assets.

“Our number one goal was to rebuild the downtown. In order to create dynamic revitalization, you have to bring various groups together,” Barth said.

Stimulating interest from entrepreneurs, new business start-ups and attracting national and international firms, meant considering what makes a town appealing to investors.

For starters, borough officials slashed building and improvement permit fees by 50 percent. The result has been more than 30 new business openings, according to Barth.

The byproduct of lower permit fees has been a ripple effect, which spurred residents to “spruce up” their homes and properties, too. What looks good, feels good.

The American House at Perkasie, located at 7th and Market Streets and the Perkasie Commerce Center, are examples of new buildings resulting from partnerships with investors, Perkasie Town Improvement Association and the Borough. Apartments and retail are mixed-use hallmarks of the new buildings.

Attracting housing development is another gauge of interest in a community, according to Barth. When people are buying homes and locating somewhere, it’s because they see value in the community and want to be part of it.

Major companies such as Free Will Brewing Company attract visitors from out of town, and serves residents in the community.

“Free Will is a major player and their headquarters is right here,” Barth said.  “The popularity of microbrews” is a larger national trend, playing out on the local level in downtown Perkasie.

A new [rooftop dining] pub is planned next door to Perkasie Borough Hall, located on West Chestnut Street in an historic building, is viewed as another dining option for visitors to the downtown.

Options to serve Perkasie natives, as well as new residents are part of the overall plan.

“We have about $100 million in new housing developments underway and a plan for a hi-tech center at the Pennridge Airport,” Barth said.

With new residents comes disposable income and with new business development comes investment and validation in the community and its infrastructure.

The Pennridge Airport development on Ridge Road is estimated to have 700,000 square feet of space under roof and is aimed at attracting high tech companies and jobs to the area. “Industrial space, high speed internet and a hotel and conference center” are part of the proposed plan, Barth said.

Barth said leaders are using a holistic approach to creating prosperity, and it’s working.

“We were told we couldn’t accomplish this much in 20 years, and we have done it in two,” Barth said.

For more information on Perkasie Borough log onto www.perkasieborough.org.

 

A small-town boom

Inquirer-RealEstate-ASmallTownBoom-Page1The Philadelphia Inquirer
Real Estate
by Alan Heavens
April 10, 2016

Development is matched by high demand. One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region’s communities. From what Realtors say, Perkasie is a place coveted by those enamored of small-town living. A whole lot of building designed to enhance that small-town experience is going on now in the Bucks County borough 30 miles north of Philadelphia.

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Perkasie Pipes Up – Covered in Lehigh Valley Business Journal

Lehigh Valley Business Journal
By Brian Pedersen, August 31, 2015 at 8:00 AM

In June in Perkasie, a three-story building started going up on a property vacant for nearly three decades following a devastating fire.

It was a groundbreaking with significant meaning for residents, officials, executives and business owners. Perkasie, you see, may be a tiny borough – but it boasts big plans for economic development.

Bucks County Soapstone Co. on West Walnut Street is an example of a downtown Perkasie business that renovated its storefront, adding planters to beauty the streetscape. – (Photo / Brian Pedersen)

It was a groundbreaking with significant meaning for residents, officials, executives and business owners. Perkasie, you see, may be a tiny borough – but it boasts big plans for economic development.The $2.3 million American House at Perkasie represents the beginning of a surge in revitalization throughout the borough, including hundreds of new residential units, many of them upscale, and the potential to attract businesses using corporate jets at Pennridge Airport in Perkasie and neighboring East Rockhill Township.

Add a growing push to highlight and promote downtown businesses and attract a nighttime business cycle of entertainment and dining options, and the borough has the makings of a rejuvenation that could spark strong economic growth. It could even serve as a potential model for other smaller municipalities to follow. Continue reading "Perkasie Pipes Up – Covered in Lehigh Valley Business Journal"

Downtown Perkasie’s Revival Covered in News-Herald Article

Our exciting revitalization project in Downtown Perkasie continues to receive positive press coverage. This article appeared in the Perkasie News-Herald in November.

Rising From the Ashes

Perkasie News-HeraldPerkasie’s downtown poised for resurgence nearly 30 years after devastating fire

Written November 26, 2015 by Eric Fitzsimmons

PERKASIE » For 27 years after a fire that swept through Perkasie’s downtown, the site of the American House Hotel sat vacant. Now a new development that broke ground on the same site this summer stands to be the hallmark of the borough’s recent revitalization efforts.

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Perkasie Project Featured in Bucks County Herald

Last July, the Bucks County Herald wrote the following article, which discussed the $2.3 million project to revitalize downtown Perkasie:

Groundbreaking signals start of rebirth for Perkasie’s downtown

Written July 3, 2015 by Joe Ferry

Developer Peter Stampfl offers remarks during the groundbreaking for The American House at Perkasie as Borough Manager Andrea Coaxum and Mayor John Hollenbach stand by.
Developer Peter Stampfl offers remarks during the groundbreaking for The American House at Perkasie as Borough Manager Andrea Coaxum and Mayor John Hollenbach stand by.

Almost 27 years to the day that a fire destroyed most of Perkasie’s quaint downtown, officials last week broke ground on a $2.3 million project they hope will lead to its re-birth.

“It’s like the Phoenix rising from the ashes,” said Stephen Barth, the borough’s Director of Economic Development.

Located on a vacant lot at 7th and Market streets, The American House at Perkasie will feature just under 6,000-square feet of retail space on the first floor and a total of 10 apartments on the second and third floors. It will look and feel like the 19th century building that was destroyed by the infamous blaze on a hot, windy June day in 1988.

The American House circa 1900.
The American House circa 1900.

“The developers have designed a new building that honors the small town Victorian feel of the community,” said borough council President Jim Ryder.

Developer Peter Stampfl said a meeting with Barth early in the process convinced him and partner Joe Price about the importance of history and the architectural landmarks in the borough. It inspired them to find ways to honor the look of the original American House in their new building, including a distinctive turret seen frequently in the borough’s Victorian architecture.

This is what the new building will look like.
This is what the new building will look like.

“Everyone we have worked with here in Perkasie has truly had their arms open,” said Stampfl.

Matt Aigeldinger, chairman of the borough council’s Economic Development Committee, called it “a very exciting time” for borough residents and business owners. He said council has been pro-active in making the borough an attractive destination for developers by lowering permit fees and working collaboratively on plans.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Aigeldinger said. “For 20 some years, we hoped someone would develop this property and grow the spark created by the strong entrepreneurs who make their living in downtown Perkasie and who enrich our lives. For 20 years we hoped, and then we took action.”

Baeth said the 7th and Market project is the linchpin of the downtown revitalization. Eventually, he hopes the entire town center will be developed.

“This is a very rare event that you get to rebuild your downtown, so I hope you realize how lucky you are,” Barth said.

Soon, The American House at Perkasie will be joined by another smaller building on an adjacent property. Developers Tom Skiffington and Dan Soliday said they will break ground on an as yet unnamed project that calls for a three-story building about 2,000-square feet of retail space and six apartments.

Those two projects are among several other commercial development possibilities, including the former Delbar property and the former Perkasie Regional Authority property on 5th Street.