Big Plans to Revive Bala Avenue, Starting With A Cup of Java

Cross Properties' $100 million NoBA project aims to inject new life to the flagging suburban Main Street by throwing residents into the retail mix. A pop-up coffee shop is the wake-up call.

10 Union, the first of the three buildings to be built as part of Cross Properties’ NoBA development. | Rendering: Barton Partners via Cross Properties

Bala Avenue in Bala Cynwyd is one of those small commercial districts that make Philadelphia’s suburbs such attractive places to live. But over the past few decades, the once-lively Main Street has frayed as businesses have shut down, most notably the street’s iconic movie theater.

Philadelphia-based Cross Properties is embarking on a revival plan for the Bala Avenue district. This week, the company announced the start of a $100 million redevelopment project that aims to turn the district back into the vibrant community hub it once was by adding residents, public gathering places and new retail space. And to give area residents a taste of what’s to come, a series of pop-up stores will offer their wares to the locals, starting today.

The NoBA project involves three buildings: 10 Union Ave., 1 Cynwyd Rd. and 202 Bala Ave. The last of these is in the heart of the Bala Avenue commercial district and involves an existing structure; the other two are across Union Avenue from each other, a few steps away from Bala Avenue south of the main commercial hub. Together, the three properties will contain 240 new residential units in buildings with roof decks, plenty of parking, 15,000 square feet of lifestyle amenity space, public gathering spaces and 20,000 square feet of retail space.

The 1 Cynwyd building. 10 Union is visible at the right edge of this rendering. | Rendering: Barton Partners via Cross Properties

“In developing the concept for NoBA, we worked closely with neighborhood groups to ensure that the reimagined NoBA will not only be a lively district that is established in its history, but better serve the community and the future of Bala Cynwyd,” Bobby Fijan, partner at Cross Properties, said in a news release. “The development capitalizes on the existing Bala Cynwyd and will blend in seamlessly, from the façade of the buildings to the connectivity of trails and roads and accessibility to public transportation. NoBA will serve the growing town and its economy for decades to come.”

The development will be built in phases. Work on 10 Union, the first phase of the project, is already under way; a formal kickoff event that featured food trucks and a beer garden took place in late July in front of 210 Bala Ave. The 10 Union building is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019.

202 Bala incorporates an existing structure on Bala Ave. | Rendering: Bernardon via Cross Properties

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the kickoff, Rival Bros. Coffee, a highly regarded Center City coffee roaster, will open a pop-up coffee bar tonight (Friday, Aug. 25th) from 5 to 8 p.m. at 210 Bala Ave. The store will offer an experience similar to what Rival Bros. offers at its two Center City locations at 2400 Lombard St. and 1528 Spruce St. The only major difference: a more streamlined food menu that features pastries from Au Fournil in Narberth, delivered fresh daily.

After tonight’s opening, the Rival Bros. pop-up will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This is the first in a series of pop-up stores and events Cross Properties is sponsoring in order to give the Bala Cynwyd community a preview of the town center environment the company plans to create with NoBA.

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