Sidebar Summer 2018 - 22




By M. Joseph Clement, Esq.


rive through Lansdale Borough and it's hard not to notice
the construction projects reshaping the formerly sleepy
little community. Lansdale, a densely populated, 3-square
mile borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, located 28
miles northwest of Philadelphia, and bisected by a rail line, has
quickly become a hotbed for redevelopment and public-private
partnership projects. Less than a decade ago, Lansdale was viewed
as a stagnant, working class, anti-development community with
a perceived higher-then-average crime rate for a Philadelphia
suburb, and an aging public infrastructure. In 2010, that began to
change as members of Lansdale Borough Council and the Lansdale
Parking Authority focused on making the borough more than just
a train stop and town people drive through on their way to the
Montgomeryville Mall. They had a vision of turning Lansdale
back into a destination. Borough Council tasked then-Borough
Manager Timi Kirchner, our firm [Wisler Pearlstine, LLP] and
Borough staff with making that happen.
Over the last 8 years, I have been involved in rebranding
and redeveloping Lansdale Borough, most recently as Special
Counsel to Lansdale Borough and as the Lansdale Parking
Authority Solicitor. Lansdale Borough Council and the Lansdale
Parking Authority provided us the latitude to use our expertise to
implement their vision. The results are tangible. Over 52 million
dollars in public funds and grants, and over 55 million dollars in
private investment, have been poured into approved projects in
Lansdale Borough -- all of which are either built-out or underway,
including nearly 500 residential units; new retail/commercial
spaces; a new municipal complex and police station; redevelopment
of a brownfields site; SEPTA's first new commuter train station
in three decades; a commuter parking garage; over a mile of
contiguous, recreational trail; public amenities; a new street-


crossing of the train tracks at 9th Street; and countless adaptive
reuse projects and commercial fit-outs of existing structures.
Revitalization is not accomplished with a quick, onetime cash infusion that may occur through, for example, the
sale of a piece of municipally owned property, and it doesn't
happen overnight. Sustained community revitalization requires
attracting a critical mass of people with disposable income
to spend in the community. And, in the absence of a large
commercial or industrial district, the best way to draw people
with disposable income is to encourage the construction of
housing stock in which they want to live. Today, that means
creating walkable communities with public amenities like
parks, pools and trails and, especially, easy access to public
transportation or highways.
The unlikely keystone of Lansdale's resurgence was a
dilapidated, municipally-owned parking lot. The Madison
Parking Lot tract is a 6.4 acre site that was home to a metered
parking lot, partially paved and partially gravel, desperately in
need of repair, and criss-crossed by aerial utility lines. Some of
the meters worked, some didn't, and the lot was overrun with
SEPTA commuters on a daily basis. The Madison Parking
Lot site, located in the heart of Lansdale, on the opposite side
of the train tracks from the SEPTA's Lansdale Station, and
formerly the site of the Lansdale electric generation plant,
didn't look like much on paper either. It is geometrically
challenged (consisting of 3, irregular triangle-shaped pieces),
adjacent to a freight train yard, home to an electric substation
and one block off of Lansdale's downtown. However, we knew
we had a diamond in the rough if we could find a way to get
people safely across the tracks from the site to the train station.
With that in mind, we proposed that Borough Council

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sidebar Summer 2018

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