West Reading Avenues Spring 2017 - 14

IN THE COMMUNITY

The Transition Begins!

West Reading Area Development
by John Buccinno

W

est Reading, PA is about to
get a jolt to their already vibrant main street Avenue scene.
Along with neighboring Wyomissing, a
massive redevelopment undertaking is
happening at the former VF Outlet site
that straddles the two boroughs. VF Corp.
has been quietly trying to sell the VF Outlets for several years and had the property
under contract in 2014-2015 with a Maryland-based development group that tried
to preserve all of the buildings with plans
to convert a large portion of the space into
multi-family residential apartments. For
those who are familiar with the site, you'll
remember that there are three very large,
early 20th century brick fa├žade towering
structures that formerly housed the bulk
of the textile manufacturing process of
Vanity Fair Corporation, later renamed
VF Corporation. These three buildings,
along with five smaller "annex" buildings,
account for nearly one million square feet
of total usable space packed tightly in an
approximately 18-acre parcel of land. The
total site is much larger, closer to 45 acres;
however, the bulk of the additional land
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Avenues Spring 2017

area is situated across a railroad ravine that
is not traversable without going onto public
surface roads. This posed a challenge to the
developer who attempted to keep all of the
buildings as part of its redevelopment plan.
How do you account for parking 1 million
square feet of building space on such a
small parcel? Unlike major cities that can
easily have 3 million square feet on a single
city block, the West Reading / Wyomissing
area doesn't have the infrastructure such
as parking garages, high volume public
transportation to shuttle pedestrians to and
from the area, and supportive amenities for
such permanent population density. It was
a problem that this particular developer
couldn't work out so ultimately walked
away from the project.
Not long after this occurred, another developer, Equus Capital, headquartered in
Philadelphia, started looking closely at the
site. I was fortunate to be representing UGI
Energy Services for its new headquarter
relocation assignment when discussions
with Equus started to focus on the VF
Outlet site as a potential fit.

After over a year of negotiations, a deal
was eventually struck to anchor the new
development plan with the UGI Energy
Services corporate headquarters in a portion of one of the "Big Three" buildings.
In a spectacular plan to preserve as much
of the iconic look and feel of the original buildings, approximately half of the
existing building area will be taken down
to open up parking, green space and pedestrian circulation, with UGI occupying about 140,000 sq. ft. of the former
"Blue" building facing Penn Ave. The Blue
building is currently almost 400,000 sq. ft.
so over 100,000 sq. ft. on either end will
be demolished, leaving the center core
as a stand-alone building featuring new
glass windows, an impressive entrance,
and modern architectural features. Based
on UGI's employment projections, the
building is being designed for over 450
employees with close to 300 occupying
at completion of the renovated space by
4th quarter 2018.



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