The Lower Providence Planning Commission held its monthly meeting Oct. 24, in which both commission members and members of the business and local communities discussed the vision for the western portion of Ridge Pike.
Sean Metrick, senior planner with the Montgomery County Planning Commission, who helping the Planning Commission with the Ridge Pike project, gave a comprehensive presentation of the development ideas made by commission members at the previous two meetings.
According to Metrick, a new water service area along the stretch of Ridge Pike between Evansburg Park and the Perkiomen Creek, has now made it possible to attract investors for development.
He said one of the major issues facing development in that area is the fact that there are nine zoning districts that would make it difficult for certain types of development to connect. He added that this stage of the Ridge Pike West development project is in need of a vision, which would lead to a plan and then appropriate coding.
“The plan will turn into zoning,” Metrick said.
Eventually, the overall development plan would include the entirety of Ridge Pike in the township, from the Perkioment Creek to Trooper Road. However, the commission is making such development more manageable by splitting it into three sections, with Ridge Pike West as one section.
According to Metrick, currently the land along Ridge Pike West is 43-percent open space. He pointed out that traffic does not tend to slow down in this area, because of the undeveloped space in front of and between existing businesses. He added that due to Route 422, Ridge Pike no longer needs its four lanes. He did acknowledge heavier traffic heading into Collegeville, but said that a potential second bridge may help alleviate that traffic.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which is concurrently conducting its own study as to the future needs of the township, and is expected to share concrete traffic data with the planning commission.
During the previous meetings, the Planning Commission members brainstormed ideas as to what a developed Ridge Pike West may look like.
Such ideas included narrowing Ridge Pike to slow down traffic and increase walkability in between structures, such as sidewalks.
A majority of the structures, which could be office, retail or light industrial, would be concentrated at certain intersections along the pike (see media gallery).
Implementation, Open Space and More Walkability
Prior to the meeting, the township sent out letter invitations to 44 businesses and 144 adjacent property owners along the Ridge Pike Corridor. The approximately dozen members of the public that attended the presentation identified themselves as business owners.
“It’s a great idea, but is anyone preparing to develop there?” Greg Keyser, Ridge Pike business owner said. “I understand the business concept of what you want, but why put sidewalks in where people don’t walk?”
Keyser owns the properties that house Weinstein Plumbing Supply and Collegeville Deli, which are both near Crosskeys Road. He, along with other business owners in attendance, asked if the township would provide tax incentives for developers and other businesses to come in and make the project a reality.
Keyser also pointed out that the township’s Ridge Pike Business District initiative, which is mostly situated at the other end of the township, and suggested that it may not have been as successful as the township had hoped.
According to the Lower Providence website, the Ridge Pike Business District provides the opportunity for various development bonuses for commercial redevelopment along Ridge Pike.
Randee Elton, Lower Providence director of Community Development, responded that the Ridge Pike West project envisions more user and business friendly development.
Keyser and others in attendance also questioned the timeframe as to when such development would be completed.
“What comes first will be the vision,” Kristina O’Donnell, Planning Commission member, said. “This isn’t all going to happen overnight.”
While most members of the audience spoke in favor of the increased walkability along Ridge Pike, one of the residents spoke of the potential danger of just getting to the pike itslef.
Ursala Campman, a longtime Level Road resident, said that trying to walk from the residential neighborhoods off of Level Road to Ridge Pike businesses, such as Franco’s Pizza, would be, “risking your life.”
She said that the walkability of the Ridge Pike development should be extended into the neighborhoods, as well.
“I would love to see that in my life time,” Campman said. “But to begin it would be wonderful.”
Another resident, Jean Regar, expressed concerns for keeping open space. In response, Planning Commission member David Atkins said that the Planning Commission’s goal is not to over-develop the area, pointing to the focus of developing intersections and keeping the areas in between and at its ends (Evansburg Park and Perkiomen Creek areas) open.
Also in the audience was Upper Providence resident and 150th-legislative district state representative candidate Kelly Devine. She said she was curious to learn about any new development concerning Ridge Pike.
“There’s not one person that lives here that doesn’t travel Ridge Pike,” Devine said. “I like the vision for Ridge Pike and the western end of Lower Providence.”
She said that she would encourage more residents and stakeholders to come out to future Ridge Pike discussions to also have their voices heard.
The public workshop portion of Metrick’s presentation will take place at a future Planning Commission meeting. Members of the public are always invited to attend Planning Commission meetings, and the topic of the Ridge Pike Corridor is expected to be an ongoing item on the commission’s agenda.
A website dedicated to the Ridge Pike Corridor project is also expected to be up and running in the near future, and may be accessed through the township’s website.