Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo
UPPER MERION — With the latest inflow of funds, it won’t be too long before folks in King of Prussia will be enjoying those First Avenue Linear Park amenities that have been envisioned for years.
It was recently announced that Gov. Tom Wolf and the PA Office of the Budget awarded nonprofit business advocacy group King of Prussia District (KOP-BID) a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant in the amount of $1 million to support Phase 2 of the First Avenue Linear Park in Moore Park KOP.
“We received $2.4 million for the first phase of the Linear Park several years ago,” noted Eric Goldstein, executive director of King of Prussia District. “We still haven’t moved that to construction yet, although we do open bids for that on Aug. 22, so we’re getting very close to construction for the first round of grant money that we received.”
Goldstein predicted that construction could begin as early as October.
Although the entire Linear Park, a collaboration between King of Prussia District, Upper Merion Township, PennDOT and many private property owners, will take years to complete, a finished first-phase, 450-foot patch of the area, was showcased as a little preview for a small group back in May, 2017.
“That was to show people what the full park would look like,” Goldstein recalled.
The project that will ultimately transform a stretch of sidewalks and grass that is much longer than it is wide and is billed as a one-of-a kind recreational amenity for 20,000 Moore Park KOP workers and the community, turning commercial lawns into a close-knit space for walking, running or just hanging out on a sunny day, had its fantasy-like beginnings about four years prior to the debut of that crafted space.
“The idea started back in 2013 when we were working with the township in rezoning the business park,” Goldstein explained at the time.
“It occurred to us that the first 50 feet of space between the roadway and the building was a required setback. When we were looking at that 50 feet of space we noticed that some property owners didn’t have any sidewalks; a lot just had grass. One of our board of directors said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were able to link all of these property owners together with a multiuse recreational trail that would connect every property in that 50 feet that developers can’t use anyway?’ So that was the beginning of the idea.”
Once complete, the First Avenue Linear Park will also feature vibrant rain gardens and planting beds, new solar bus shelters, solar pedestrian lighting, seating areas and programmable space, and a
With the announcement of the latest grant, which he helped initiate, State Rep Tim Briggs noted in a press release: “The Linear Park will create a public space along First Avenue that, when completed, will be used by workers and residents alike. I am pleased that Governor Wolf and the Commonwealth have made this investment into Moore Park as it continues to grow into an economic engine not just for our community but for all of Pennsylvania.”
Having received a $421,699 Multimodal Transportation Fund (MFT) grant through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development in partnership with Upper Merion Township for Phase 2 back in April, Goldstein noted that the pace of the project was perhaps not always in keeping with its creators’ plans.
“We were probably hoping that the process would be a little faster, but because of all the environmental reviews that are required from the funding source it’s been a little slower than we anticipated,” he said. “But we’re looking forward to being at the point now where we’re ready to move forward with construction.”
This fall, the first steps of the 10-foot-wide, 2.6-mile-long, ADA-accessible multimodal recreational path eventually connecting 24 privately owned parcels should be seen going in, Goldstein said.
“And the rest of the project probably coming early in 2020, which would include all of the other Linear Park elements, like trash receptacles, seating plazas, landscaping. We envision First Avenue being completed in three phases, but we’re a few years away from phase three.”
Phase one, Goldstein explained, generally starts around the area of Valley Forge Casino Resort, “down to where Arkema is, and from Moore Road to around Geo Blue, the new office building that was built a few years ago. It’s important that people understand,” he added, “that this is a part of what a lot of planners refer to as a ‘complete street.’ The Linear Park is the second part of an initiative to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety on First Avenue. The first part was the ‘Road Diet.’ First Avenue used to be a four-lane road and we reduced it to be a three-lane road, so there is one travel lane in each direction and a safe center turning lane so people can make left hand turns. We added bike lanes and a safe pedestrian crossing. Once the linear park is done we think First Avenue will be a lot safer for both pedestrians and motorists.”
To date, KOP-BID has received more than $4 million in state and federal funds to construct the First Avenue Linear Park. More than $450,000 in private contributions from property owners along First Avenue will be used as a match against the new grant funds. KOP-BID will also provide matching funds for design, engineering and construction management.
If not for KOP-BID, which was founded in 2010, ambitious concepts like the Road Diet and First Avenue Linear Park, among many others, would probably never be realized, Goldstein admitted.
“This is why they created us, to work on issues and challenges just like that, in partnership with the Township.”