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Plans for Willow Grove Naval Air Station to be Decided Next Month

Montgomerynews.com - October 20, 2011, By Caitlin Burns - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Horsham Land Reuse Authority will share a final plan for the Willow Grove Naval Air Station with the public in November, now that the authority and Horsham Council have agreed upon what elements they would like to see there.

The Willow Grove Naval Air Station officially closed Sept. 15 after being placed on the Base Realignment and Closure list in 2005 by the Department of Defense. The HLRA is the board appointed to decide what will be done with the almost 900-acre property.

At the joint meeting of the HLRA and Horsham Council Wednesday, both bodies agreed to having a town center, hotel and conference center, residential area, open space and maybe even a regional sports complex.

“All these elements you were asked to consider,” said RKG Vice President Russell Archambault, the planning consultant hired by the HLRA to come up with a plan for the base property. “We tried to pick elements that we liked.”

The most discussed and popular concept was the town center.

Archambault said the town center would need to be not only a local amenity, but also draw a regional crowd. He emphasized to both boards that placing the town center along the south end of the base property on Horsham Road or Route 611 would be critical to its success.

“The paramount issue to me is that the town center is viable and sustainable,” Horsham Council Vice President Greg Nesbitt said.

While Archambault pressed locating the town center on the major roads, not everyone agreed that was the best place for it.

HLRA member William Donnelly suggested having it north of Norristown Road in the center of the property. He said signage could be placed along the main roads directing people to the center.

The boards agreed amenities like a bowling alley, a movie theater and ice skating rink should also be included in the plans.

A regional sports complex was also agreed upon for being placed in the final plans. It would be an indoor complex that could be used by local teams and for regional events.

“I think it’s an important use to be placed on the wish list,” Nesbitt said. “It would not be absolutely necessary.”

Besides the town center and its amenities, another aspect the boards decided was that the center be walkable. Both agreed a high vehicular traffic area is not the type of center wanted.

They preferred a center that was within walking distance of residents and industries on the property, so people coming into the center would be able to walk to it without driving from store to store.

“It seems to me that if you’re going to draw traffic,” council President Mark McCouch said, “I think it would be ideal to make it foot traffic.”

Archambault said the town center amenities would be within walking distance so the car traffic was cut down. He defined walkability as three or four blocks, which is approximately a five-minute walk.

“I think we have to think out of the box,” HLRA member Donnamarie Davis said. “It really needs to stand out.”

She suggested RGK look at Peddler’s Village in Lahaska as a successful example of what the boards want.

According to Davis, it’s walkable and aesthetically pleasing, with residency and hotels within walking distance and in a busy area. She said her concern was that it would end up like the Valley Square Shopping Center in Warrington along 611.

Archambault also emphasized the need for balance in the plan. He said should the boards decide to have an excess of open space or an overly heavy residential area, the Navy would most likely not accept the plan.

“They’ll push back,” he said.

In addition, the boards agreed on having varying residences, from luxury apartments to single-family homes; no age-restricted housing; a high-end hotel and conference center; a grand boulevard that runs from Keith Valley Road to Maple Avenue; and approximately five road connections that would cut through the property.

For more information go to the HLRA website at www.hlra.org.

To view this article at the source publication, go to http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2011/10/20/public_spirit_willow_grove_guide/news/doc4ea07161f3a66643115785.txt?viewmode=fullstory.

The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.