Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo
UPPER MERION — It’s nearly two years since a small sampling of First Avenue Linear Park was first unveiled.
The project that will 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 King of Prussia workers, turning commercial lawns into a close-knit space for walking, running or just hanging out on a sunny day, is gradually but surely moving along.
Although the Linear Park, a collaboration between the nonprofit business advocacy group 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 for a small group in May, 2017.
“The idea started back in 2013 when we were working with the township in rezoning the business park,” KOP-BID executive director Eric 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.”
It was recently announcd that Upper Merion Township received a Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) grant through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development in the amount of $421,699 for constructing Phase Two of the First Avenue Linear Park in Moore Park KOP, formerly known as the King of Prussia Business Park.
A press release noted that the Multimodal Transportation Fund provides grants to local government to encourage economic development through safe and reliable modes of transportation for residents of the Commonwealth. This program is jointly administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development and PennDOT under the direction of the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The First Avenue Linear Park is one of 106 projects to receive a MFT grant in this funding cycle, totaling $54.7M.
“We are excited to move this project into Phase Two, and look forward to the day when we can welcome the public to the First Avenue Linear Park,” said Goldstein.
A 2012 “vision” study had originally identified the 50-foot deep setback area on each side of the four-lane roadway as the ideal place to build the linear park.
Property owners have always been obligated to keep the 50-foot area as open space.
The Linear Park proposal is highlighted by a paved, 8 to 10-foot wide path running through the 25-foot area next to the roadway along with seating plazas, pocket parks, new lighting and decorative landscaping.
Funding had kicked off with a $1.2 million grant from the state MultiModal Transportation Fund and a $360,000 (30 percent) matching grant from King of Prussia District and the commercial owners for construction costs. An $88,000 grant from the Transportation and Community Development Initiative from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and $22,000 matching grant from King of Prussia District had financed a conceptual plan for the park, an earlier release indicated.
While the overall design plans now move forward, the aforementioned 450-foot long “demonstration” project for the Linear Park was built in front of the Brandywine Realty Trust (BRT) building at 650 Park Avenue.
Twelve commercial property owners on First Avenue, located from North Gulph Road to American Avenue, will contribute proportional funding to the construction project.
When finally completed, the First Avenue Linear Park will feature vibrant rain gardens and planting beds new solar bus shelters, pedestrian solar lighting, seating areas and programmable space, and a 2.6 mile, ADA-accessible multimodal recreational path connecting 24 privately owned parcels between North Gulph Road and Allendale Road.
The Linear Park will be open to the community, as well as the 20,000 employees working in Moore Park.
Phase One, which will begin construction this fall, will extend the existing Demonstration Park down to 900 First Ave. (Arkema) and 933 First Ave.(GeoBlue) along both sides of First Avenue. Additionally, new sidewalks will be installed along the frontage of Valley Forge Casino Resort and Parkview Tower.
This spring, with additional funding opportunities, King of Prussia District will work with property owners and designers to begin design and engineering for Phase Two, which will extend the multimodal trail to Allendale Road.
To date, King of Prussia District has received $2.4M in state and federal funds to construct Phase One of the Linear Park. King of Prussia District is providing the financial match for landscape design, engineering, permitting and legal expenses. Additionally, Upper Merion Township and King of Prussia District were awarded a $100,000 Montco 2040 Implementation Grant to improve bus shelters and stormwater infiltration along the Linear Park.