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KOP District expands area it will cover in Upper Merion

December 6, 2019

Source, Philadelphia Business Journal, Natalie Kostelni

Changes are underway at King of Prussia District that involve expanding the geographic area it covers and adding industrial and multifamily to the commercial properties it assesses to fund the organization. These additions were approved Thursday night by Upper Merion officials, which also signed off on renewing the organization for another five-year term.

King of Prussia District was formed in 2010 as a business improvement district for the Upper Merion community and is funded annually through a special assessment of commercial property owners that have real estate within the territory that it covers. Its boundaries have included Moore Park, the Village at Valley Forge, King of Prussia Mall, Route 202, South Gulph Road and Henderson Road, the district’s boundaries will now include the Renaissance Corporate Park as well as MLP Ventures’ Discovery Labs and related facilities.

In addition to office, hotel, restaurants and retail properties, industrial and apartment buildings that have more than 100 units will also be assessed to financially support the district’s work. In light of that, King of Prussia District will now involve 434 property owners, which is up from 306 owners. The changes will take effect Jan. 1.

In the time the business improvement district has been around, King of Prussia has experienced unprecedented development and investment activity. Eric Goldstein, executive director at King of Prussia District, talked about what the organization has achieved over the last decade and what the changes mean for it moving forward.

What do you count as some of the organization’s accomplishments? We have very successfully raised the visibility of King of Prussia as a place. That is the biggest thing that got lost. King of Prussia didn’t have anyone marketing it as a place. The work we have done with the township to rezone the business park was important. (Upper Merion officials passed an ordinance in 2014 that permitted mixed-use development in what was then known as King of Prussia Business Park but rebranded as Moore Park.) Third, advancing the King of Prussia rail project.

What is some unfinished business? The construction of the linear park in the business park. We are about to break ground on the first phase. Getting both of the proposed Pennsylvania Turnpike interchanges built in Upper Merion. One is located off Henderson Road and we are working on plans to make improvements to the existing Valley Forge interchange. We want it revised to make full movements in and out of the business park without going on local roads. So many of the things we do is controlling traffic and congestion. The rail project is unfinished business and getting it started within the next five years would be huge. I think the chances have increased dramatically with Leslie Richards becoming the general manager of SEPTA. She’s a big proponent of rail and I think she will see the power of that project.

Why did the organization expand its boundaries? When the BID was first formed, it included only two thirds of commercial properties. The other third is in Renaissance Park. It represents about two million square feet of office space and that’s a third of all of the office space in the township and represents 12,000 to 15,000 employees, which is 20 to 25% of all employees in Upper Merion. By bringing them into the fold, it’s going to help us dramatically tell the whole story of King of Prussia holistically.

Why did you add in more property types? When we were first started, it was only office, hotel, restaurant and retail. We’ve added industrial and multifamily over 100 units. They are already in the district and it’s a matter of equity.

Any other changes? Those are the major changes. There are other sections of the township where the zoning needs to change or be modernized much like we did in Moore Park. Aging business parks need more flexibility to encourage more uses. We would really like to work with the township on a design code to improve the quality of design along commercial corridors. By expanding our geographic boundaries and adding a new classification, we are adding new board members starting in January. Industrial Investments owner John Bown, Lea Anne Welsh, COO of Korman Communities, and Audrey Greenberg, managing director of Discovery Labs. Our budget will also grow. Our 2020 budget for 2020 is $2.3 million of which $1.8 million is from the assessments. The rest comes from money we raise through other measures such as grants.