by Pete Mazzaccaro
A partnership of Wyndmoor residents won zoning Monday, March 27 from the Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board to move forward with a town center development plan that will bring what they hope is a transformational change for a “downtown” in need of modernization.
The project’s three partners, Jay Overcash, Gus Repetto and Bill Casey, all live in the neighborhood and are eager to bring a development to the area they can enjoy with their own children. It’s a mixed-use development that will include a corner market, a coffee shop, yoga studio and a family friendly Mediterranean restaurant and wine bar. Repetto told the Local that they have preliminary deals in place with tenants, but don’t want to reveal the names of businesses until the deals are finalized.
The restaurant, coffee shop and yoga studio will be on the ground floor of a three-story building that will have 10 condominiums on the top two floors. The building is being designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm DIGSAU, which has built a number of award winning projects in Philadelphia, Delaware and elsewhere. It designed the café and welcome center in Logan Square, the Dogfish Head craft brewery in Milton, Del., and the Philadelphia Union’s training facility in Chester.
“The plan is to create a transformative project for Wyndmoor that will hopefully attract other developers and people to come in along the strip,” Overcash told the Local in an interview last week. “We want it to have a village feel … We want to select tenants and an aesthetic that would create walkable, friendly community environment consistent with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Repetto agreed, noting models for the development could be found in Ambler, Keswick and even Chestnut Hill.
“We’re not trying to replicate Chestnut Hill,” he said. “We’re trying to maybe create an annex to it. This creates somewhere else for them to go as residents of Wyndmoor. Willow Grove Avenue needs redevelopment.”
Overcash grew up in Chestnut Hill, on the 100 block of E. Hartwell Lane, before moving to Wyndmoor as a teen. He went to school, married and settled in Center City. When he and his wife had children, they moved back to Wyndmoor.
“I noticed that Willow Grove Avenue hadn’t changed much,” he said.
His thought at the time was to change that for the better.
Then about two years ago, he learned that the building housing Wyndmoor Supply Hardware, at 907 E. Willow Grove Ave was going on the market. He was made aware of the hardware store’s desire to sell by his father James Overcash, a long-time area resident and contractor.
After speaking with the hardware store owner for 25 minutes, Overcash had a deal in writing to buy the property.
Over the next year, Overcash got the opportunity to buy three more adjacent properties to the west of the hardware store and eventually made a deal to buy the Lukoil gas station next door.
Overcash brought in Repetto and Casey, principals of the Center City financial investment firm Locust Capital. He needed partners, he said, not just for added capital, but for additional expertise and help managing the project.
“This is a lot to take on a project like this,” Overcash said. “We all bring different experiences and skill sets. It’s worked out nicely.”
Overcash and Repetto both said they’ve been very pleased with the reception their plan has had in the community. They have support of their contiguous neighbors, all of whom are glad to see the hardware store and gas station replaced with the sort of amenities they now have to drive to.
Jeff Harbison, president of Springfield Township’s board of directors, was very positive about the development plan.
“I think it’s great,” Harbison told the Local. “We need investment like this. It’s good for the people in Wyndmoor. This is the kind of development that appeals to the community. It’s not a McDonalds or something similar that would generate traffic and hurt home values.”
Both Repetto and Overcash said they had gotten offers from national chains but were committed to bringing independent businesses to their development. They have respect for the neighbors, in no small part because they too are neighbors.
With zoning in hand, the partnership is finalizing work with Springfield Township’s Planning Committee on things like landscaping, utilities, and other finishing touches that it expects will be completed in a little less than two months. It hopes to break ground in the fall and have construction completed in spring of 2018.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8802