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New zoning overlay may lead to shopping center revival

This blog has on several occasions written about the efforts of neighborhoods to stop or significantly modify various development proposals in the Philadelphia area. Now, a decision by a local zoning board to approve a significant re-zoning to allow an expanded commercial real estate development appears to have the approval of all concerned parties - including the adjacent neighborhoods.

The Towamencin Village Shopping Center has been vacant for several years. In a recent action, the Towamencin board of supervisors voted to amend the township zoning ordinance and approve a zoning overlay map that will allow redevelopment of the shopping center. The residents at the recent meeting expressed unanimous support for the action.

The new zoning overlay will permit the construction of offices, restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs, schools and nursing facilities where existing zoning permits only light industrial and shopping center uses. The shopping center is adjacent to another tract where the same developer constructed the American headquarters for a Swedish manufacturing firm.

The developer and the township have been involved in talks about how to best combine the two tracts. The creation of a single "campus" will allow more efficient parking and new driveway access. A representative of the developer told the board of supervisors that the re-zoning will facilitate the attraction of a major anchor tenant, such as Lidl, a German-based supermarket chain. The neighbors' support of the rezoning was predicated on the assumption that redevelopment of the shopping center will lead to a revitalization of the entire neighborhood.

This case shows how neighbors can be persuaded to support a commercial real estate development. The new zoning, however, is not a significant departure from the existing permitted uses in contrast to proposals that want to substitute high density residential uses for undeveloped or low density uses. Here, the neighbors' interest in reviving the shopping center coincided with the developer's plans for the land. In situations where those interests do not coincide, the services of a knowledgeable real estate lawyer can provide guidance about relevant laws and ordinances and assist in developing a strategy for achieving an optimum outcome.

Source: The Reporter, "New overlay for Towamencin shopping center approved," Dan Sokil, July 27, 2016

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