POTTSTOWN — On the heels of a $395,000 grant, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area was awarded a $226,000 Community Conservation Partnership Grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The money will be used to fund annual events sponsored by the Heritage Area, such as the Schuylkill River Sojourn and the Scenes of the Schuylkill juried art show.
Although the National Weather Service is predicting below freezing weather for the first day of 2014, that has not stopped local groups of finding fun ways to ring in the new year.
The 6th Pottstown Polar Bear Club’s celebration and bonfire will begin at 10 a.m. at Riverfront Park.
Residents willing to brave the icy water can dive into the Schuylkill River at 10:30 a.m. then warm up with hotdogs, sauerkraut for $2 as well as hot chocolate and coffee for $1.
Registration for the plunge starts at 9 a.m. at the park and ends at 10 a.m. at which time the bonfire will be lit.
Our favorite recreational river last year lost the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources annual (20 years running we might add) River of the Year competition to the Steel City’s (ugh!) Monongahela. Out of more than 24,000 ballots that were cast last year the Schuylkill fell short by just 146 votes.
This time around, the Schuykill leads the balloting for 2014 River of the Year honors with a hefty 40 percent of popular votes cast. The voting period runs from November 25th to December 27th, so we have a fews days left to make sure the the Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh Rivers, in second place with 21%, don’t close the gap.
Editor’s note: There are some really exciting projects going on in Philadelphia as of late.
To hear the champions of Philadelphia’s university district tell it, the west bank of the Schuylkill is poised to give Center City’s skyline a run for its money.
Last week, Brandywine Realty Trust announced plans for its third riverfront skyscraper, a sharply faceted, 47-story office-and-apartment tower at 30th and Walnut Streets. West Philadelphia office space now commands higher rents than the aging behemoths in the city’s legacy downtown. Such is the clamor to live close to the big campuses that at least five residential high-rises are in the works.
It’s nice to see the city’s skyline stretching west. But a clutch of shimmering skyscrapers do not a neighborhood make.
Overlooked in all the hoopla over Brandywine’s latest project, FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, are the conditions on the ground. The site is cut off from the Schuylkill waterfront by a large, triangular moat, which looks down on the train tracks that feed into 30th Street Station and is one of several barriers that make walking there an unpleasant, and often hair-raising, experience.
The administration and City Council on Monday revved up the plan to fix the city’s estimated 170 miles of sanitary sewer pipe, awarding an $847,747 contract to a firm just to oversee other contractors’ investigations of what’s wrong.
Hazen & Sawyer, Philadelphia, will use the voluminous data coming in from those other probes to build a computer model of the pipe system, assess where its problems are and what repairs are needed, and evaluate which areas will need more capacity in coming years.
“It’s important to have a firm that can handle the data,” Deborah A.S. Hoag, city utility systems manager, told council members.
She said the data coming from other contractors – who have built a special map of the system and televised and smoke-tested many of the pipes – is phenomenally huge.
RiverFest celebrations are on Saturday, Oct 12, 2013 from noon until 6pm at Riverfront Park (140 College Drive in Pottstown)
Learn to Kayak along the river between 12 and 4:30 were kayaks and equipment will be available for a low cost ($15/half hour) through the day.
Take a kayak tour at 4:30 – Take a 2-mile paddle trip to Tow Path Park – shuttle & equipment is available at a small cost of $35. You can register the day of or go to https://www.facebook.com/TakeItOutdoorsAG or email@example.com or 610-656-3969 (fist come basis).
Historic River Walks at 1:00pm AND 4:00pm – presented by the staff of Pottsgrove Manor.
Artists and Crafters will be present to display their creative arts and local music will be heard throughout the day!
POTTSTOWN, PA — In addition to the Halloween-themed Temple of Terror, Halloween Parade and Monster Dash 5K, another crucial element of the borough’s growing October-long slate of activities is the resurrection of Riverfest.
Scheduled this year for Oct. 12, from noon to 6 p.m. along the Schuylkill River and from 6 to 8 p.m. in downtown Pottstown, the list of things to do during this special day is truly dizzying.
It’s seen a century of Reading — the good and the bad, the highs and the lows.
It’s served as the entrance and the exit to the city, the first thing people see when they come and go.
But most of all, the Penn Street Viaduct — the formal name for the 1,337 feet of concrete arches that span the Schuylkill River to connect the main thoroughfares of Reading and West Reading — has become an icon.
To counter the stereotype of Philadelphia as Negadelphia, filmmaker Nathaniel Dodson set about to make a stunning time-lapse video to show his great city in a different light. He called it “Philly is Ugly.”
CONSHOHOCKEN, PA — Borough Council held a conditional use hearing Wednesday night on a proposal to build 619 apartments at 401 Washington Street proposed by the O’Neill Properties Group of Upper Merion.
The four buildings will have four stories of apartments built over a single level of parking. Part of the 10.7-acre parcel is located in the floodway of the Schuylkill River.
The conditional use was recommended by the Conshohocken Planning Commission with several land development requirements, said Christine Stetler, the borough Director of Community Development. Part of the parcel is located in Whitemarsh.
Attorney Edmund Campbell Jr., representing the developer, O’Neill Properties Group, said the conditional use would allow the walking trail, two storm water outfalls and several rain gardens to be built within 100 feet of the Schuylkill River bank.
Ever since Philadelphia began taking its waterfronts seriously a decade ago, it has dreamed of shores lined with lithe, elegant, Vancouver-style towers. Master plans were assembled, new recreation paths were laid, parks were created. Yet only a few high-rises have materialized, none of them the least bit thin or urbane.
That may be about to change. Developer Carl Dranoff is planning a 21-story apartment building on the Schuylkill that has the potential to raise the bar for all waterfront design in Philadelphia.
Before we venture further, a strong note of caution: The project is still at an early stage, when only the site plan and the tower’s basic form, or massing, have been established. We don’t know crucial details, like the color of the building or the material. But the tower’s profile is svelte enough, and its architect good enough, that it is possible to imagine something special emerging. Then again, we should keep in mind that Dranoff is the same guy who gave us the giant Pepto Bismol bottle called Symphony House.
Editor’s note: We find ourselves in agreement with the majority on council who voted for this undertaking. We also feel the tax breaks for Heritage Coach Co. were necessary. Having that property sit idle accomplishes nothing and provides no income for the borough or the school district. It also provides no employment which means there is less money to be spent on existing Pottstown businesses. Until the word gets out to the investment community that Pottstown is open for business and that establishing a business in Pottstown is a good idea, incentives will need to be used to attract development.
Cleaning up Pottstown would go along way towards fostering development. Nobody wants to open a business in a crime-ridden community. Unfortunately, that is the perception you are dealing with, whether it’s entirely true or not. Perception IS reality. Cracking down on crime, Section 8 housing and the pervasive drug problem need to be priority one in order to attract business, industry and homeowners. The number of rental units is too high, partly due to reputation of the Pottstown School District, the reputation of Pottstown Borough and the high taxes. Any real estate professional will tell you the same thing. Selling a home in Pottstown is difficult.
POTTSTOWN — Prospects for development along Keystone Boulevard have been bolstered by two votes of borough council Monday evening.
With a unanimous vote, the council approved a “memorandum of understanding” with West Pottsgrove that pledges both municipalities to pursue efforts to extend Keystone Boulevard, which runs parallel to West High Street and the Schuylkill River, into West Pottsgrove to connect with Grosstown Road.
“It’s a conceptual agreement for defining a path to move forward,” Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. explained to council.
The extension of Keystone Boulevard through the former Flagg Brass property in West Pottsgrove and over to the Stowe interchange has long been envisioned and was the subject of an $81,000 study by the Rettew Associates engineering firm.
The group camped out Tuesday night at Riverfront Park in the borough before paddling 17.8 miles to Mont Clare on Wednesday.
The 112-mile guided kayak and canoe trip started in 1999 after the Schuylkill River was named River of the Year buy the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
According to the group’s website, it takes seven days to reach the Philadelphia Boathouse Row from their launch site in Schuylkill Haven. The canoeists and kayakers paddle between 14 and 18 miles a day, stopping for lunch, then camping overnight.
POTTSTOWN — The first Pottstown team to compete in the Independence Dragon Boat Regatta in Philadelphia isn’t looking to just be an also-ran this weekend.
“The coaches who do this for a living and are involved with Boathouse Row have given a lot of positive feedback about our team,” said Rob Matthews, the owner of Crossfit Pottstown where the 20 rowers train. “If we can get their timing right, they’re going to be competitive.”
June 1 will mark the seventh annual regatta featuring 30 feet long boats with dragon faces, tails and paint jobs one might associate more with a Viking invasion than the Schuylkill River.
Beginning at 8 a.m., teams will begin the 500 meter races. Each team participates in a qualifying heat,which determines what category the team races in. The next round will take the top two boats from each heat and put them into a final race that will determine the winner. A consolation race comprised of the boats that came in third and fourth in the semifinals also takes place.
EAST COVENTRY TOWNSHIP, PA — In its heyday, Frick’s Lock Village was one of dozens of stops along the Schuylkill Navigation for coal making its way from the coal regions and the river’s headwaters to energy-starved industrial cities like Philadelphia.
But it lost its economic lustre when the railroads took over the job of carrying the coal and it slipped from public view entirely in 1969, when it was purchased by PECO as part of the construction of the Limerick nuclear plant.
But it never slipped entirely from memory, at least not for people like Bill Carl, who lived in the former locktender’s house in the late 1930s, when it had no electricity and no plumbing.
“We rented this from the Reading Railroad Co. for $5 a month,” he said.
Editor’s note: Replacing this bridge won’t happen soon enough!
POTTSTOWN — After being closed to traffic for nearly three years, the Keim Street Bridge project is seeing signs of life.
A letter sent to the borough council invites it to choose a volunteer to participate on a committee that will look at the historical significance of the area surrounding the Keim Street Bridge.
The letter was sent Lansdale based CHRS Inc., a company that specializes in making sure building projects comply with state and federal laws on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
For residents and businesses on both sides of the bridge looking for an end to the waiting period, some movement on the project could finally begin.
Forty-nine years ago, Conshohocken leaders began crafting a comprehensive plan to transform the grimy old mill town into a modern, livable municipality, albeit a small one.
It took several decades, but between the vision of past leaders and the impact of that pair of highways, Conshohocken has become one of the region’s hottest neighborhoods, with sleek condo towers, destination restaurants and corporate headquarters along the waterfront, and a locally owned, family-friendly strip of restaurants, bars, and stores along Fayette Street.
Over the last decade, Conshohocken’s population has grown younger, wealthier and whiter, according to U.S. Census data.
BIRDSBORO — Over the past year, residents of Birdsboro have been forced to use detours and circuitous routes to get around the borough due to two bridges under construction.
But that’s about to get easier. Well, for some people.
For their neighbors in Union and Amity townships, it might get harder.
Construction on the Hay Creek Bridge and a new bridge over the Schuylkill River on Route 345 both started in August 2012.
Motorists worried about finding alternate routes between Reading and West Reading while the Buttonwood Street Bridge is closed for two years can relax for now.
Bridge repairs, which were scheduled to start about now, have been delayed for a year. The work now is slated to begin in April 2014.
The hang-up is due largely to the need to figure out where traffic will go while the bridge is closed and getting all the necessary permits and reviews, said Ryan Hunter, Berks County facilities and operations director.
Various reviews are needed for bridges that cross water, railroad tracks and highways, he said. Buttonwood Street crosses all three.
It’s taken nearly five years to get to this point, but a half-mile walking trail along the Schuylkill River in Bern Township will be built by summer.
“It will be nice for people to get out on the trail,” Bern Township Manager Brian Potts said. “It’s picturesque in the summertime. It’s a nice location. Hopefully, people will enjoy it.”
The idea for the trail started in 1996, as Bern officials began working on a comprehensive parks and recreation plan. Potts said the trail was discussed again in the middle of the last decade, but Bern officials seriously began work on the project in 2007.