Author: Gerry Senker

Villanova Expansion Advances After An Emotional Late-Night Debate

villanova university main campus

A view of the main campus at Villanova by Alertjean via Wikimedia

At 1:10 a.m. this morning, the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners, by a vote of 5-1, introduced an amendment to the township zoning code that would permit Villanova University to proceed toward implementing a massive expansion program. The vote followed more than three hours of discussion involving the board, the professional staff of the township, and members of the community.

At times the debate became emotional and acrimonious. At one point Commissioner Jim Higgins had to intercede during a heated exchange between Commissioner John Fisher and Township Manager Robert A. Zienkowski. Zienkowski took offense to Fisher’s suggestion that the township planning staff was not up to the task of dealing with the university’s proposal. Fisher was advocating for Radnor to hire an independent planner for the project.

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New Organic Grocery Store — But Not Whole Foods — Will Take Borders’ Rosemont Square Space


Last week, the Inquirer’s Michael Klein wrote, “MOM’s Organic Market, a greener-than-thou grocery chain whose locations ring D.C., has signed to open its first Philly-area location. Its Facebook locates it only in ‘Rosemont,’ but insiders pinpoint it further: It will take the former Borders in Rosemont Square.”

We called the ultimate insider, Steve Bajus, founder and president of S.W. Bajus, the real estate development and management company that owns Rosemont Square. He confirmed that Mom’s will be taking 16,000 square feet (just about the same size as the current location of Whole Foods in Wynnewood) in the former Borders store at Rosemont Square.

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Montgomery Avenue: More Than Ever, a Magnet for Orthodox Jews



In 1957 there weren’t many Orthodox Jews in Lower Merion. There weren’t many Jews at all. The synagogues Har Zion, now in Penn Valley, and Beth David, now in Gladwyne were going strong, but they were still in Wynnefield. Main Line Reform was holding services in a big old house in Wynnewood. Adath Israel had already moved to its current location on Old Lancaster Road, in Merion, but construction on its big domed sanctuary did not start until the following year.

Also in 1957, Lower Merion Synagogue (LMS) moved to its current location, also on Old Lancaster Road directly across the street from Adath Israel. In 1957 LMS was the only Orthodox synagogue in the township. Its “monopoly” lasted for close to 40 years.

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Neighbors Invited by Bishop to Discuss St. Charles Re-Purposing


2 br, newly re-puroposed and renovated
Spectacular, Architectural-Digest-worthy historic building
Expansive drop-dead landscaping,
Walk to Overbrook Station – 10 minutes to 30th St.
LM schools.

Sounds nice doesn’t it? There’s only one problem. It’s not available yet. In fact, you might never see a listing like that; at least not for this property.

On the other hand, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did announce (last March) that it wants to “re-purpose” the buildings and the land in the south east section of its 75-acre St. Charles Seminary.

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250 New Condos Next to Wynnewood Station? Probably.

maybrook mansion

Photo of a glimpse of Maybrook Mansion by Dennis aka road_less_trvld via Flickr

In November of 2000, Merloc Partners filed plans with Lower Merion Township to build a 280 new condos on the site of the historic Maybrook Estate, located next to the Wynnewood Train Station, a few hundred yards north of the intersection of Wynnewood Road and Penn Road.

Last month a major legal obstacle, which until now was preventing Merloc from implementing its plans, was removed; Merloc and the Borough of Narberth agreed to settle a lawsuit that the developer brought against Narberth in 2002.

Based on a plan that was approved by the Lower Merion Commissioners, Merloc figured on having two points of entry into its development, one on Penn Road (which lets out onto East Wynnewood Road across from a Bed Bath and Beyond), and another on North Wynnewood Ave, near the Narberth Playground. When Merloc’s plan was first made public, Narberth residents were irate. The way they saw it, Lower Merion was going to get more traffic and a lot more new tax revenue. (All of the Maybrook property is in Lower Merion.) Narberth was going to get its share of the traffic too, but without a dime in new taxes to show for it.

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Bala Cynwyd Church Does Not Rule Out “Purchase Leaseback”


Yesterday Property reported that the beautiful Bala Cynwyd United Methodist Church on Levering Mill Road was for sale. Narberth real estate agency Duffy Real Estate Inc. is listing the property for $1,500,000. Today we talked about the church buildings with Michael Duffy.

He said that the church is for sale because the size of its congregation has declined. In addition to exploring any and all options with respect to its building, the members of the congregation are also looking into various options as to where and with whom they will be worshiping.

An ideal scenario from the congregation’s point of view, according to Duffy, would be to find a buyer who would be willing to lease the sanctuary back to the congregation. Duffy also said that the church “would not rule out” the possibility of keeping the sanctuary and only selling the education building.

As is usually the case, the zoning issues will probably add some complications to the potenital sale.

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Observed: Fourth of July Fireworks Store…in Wynnewood?

New fireworks store in Wynnewood

New fireworks store in Wynnewood

Jan Dorfman, the proprietor of the hugely popular Delancey Street Bagels, was among the handful of curiosity seekers who visited the brand new TNT Fireworks store that opened at Wynnewood Shopping Center this past weekend (don’t blink because it will probably be closed by next weekend).

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Lawyer Who Battled Basciano: “His Pitch Was That He Was Working to Change Things.”

Steven_WigrizerAttorney Steven Wigrizer and Richard Basciano will probably be crossing paths–again.

Basciano is the owner of the building that collapsed and killed six people in the Salvation Army store at 22nd and Market. In 2000, Wigrizer won a $5.25 million settlement on behalf of Judge Berel Caeser’s family. Caeser was killed in 1997 when he was struck by a sign that fell off a building on Broad Street near Pine. The building was owned by the estate of Philadelphia’s most notorious slumlord, Sam Rappaport. Basciano was the executor of Rappaport’s estate.

Before the case was settled, the two men met face to face when Wigrizer deposed Basciano. Wigrizer recalled Basciano as being “personable, forthcoming, and calm.”

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It Can Be Done: Homes in Lower Merion for Less Than $200K


Do you have your heart set on buying a home in fabulous Lower Merion Township? Take a look at this 8,000 square foot gem in Gladwyne. What’s that? $3,250,000 is more than you want to spend? Don’t be silly. Everything is negotiable. Go in with an offer of $2.6 million. You’ll go back and forth [...]

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Building Collapse Legal Q&A: Who Pays Out? Who Gets Sued?

victorian courtroom

Image of Victorian courtroom via

The lawyers are gathering–that much we know. But who is legally responsible for what happened? Or, perhaps better said, who will be targeted as legally responsible in various legal actions? As one local developer said, “Follow the money”–because much of what happens from here on out will be motivated by dollars and cents.

We spoke to Peg Underwood and Henry Donner of Jacoby Donner, a Philadelphia law firm that specializes in construction litigation. We also spoke with a local developer who preferred to remain anonymous. All three shared insights gleaned from past experience, which we put into a Q&A.

Will Griffin T. Campbell, owner of the construction company that performed the demolition, have to pay out?
A licensed contractor in Philadelphia is required to have an insurance policy for which he makes regular payments. He may also elect to have excess policy as well, which is added financial protection. Any successful lawsuit against Campbell would take the limit of the insurance. Beyond that, he’d be liable out of pocket and so would probably declare personal bankruptcy (something he’s done before).

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