mulberry purse sale Cyber Monday Former O’Neill site on Rock Hill Road goes up for sale
Bala Cynwyd>> A long awaited building project that was supposed to be part of the transformation of an old rock quarry along Rock Hill Road in Bala Cynwyd has officially gone back on the market. Except for a groundbreaking and some preliminary work a couple of years ago, the approved project never moved forward.
The site was to become a mixed use development proposed by Brian O’Neill, owner of O’Neill Properties.
According to Flynn, the 8.2 acre site was approved for four buildings of four stories each with parking decks underneath. There would also be a surface lot and numerous other amenities.
O’Neill owned the site since 2004, when it was purchased for $3.5 million, according to online Montgomery County records. In 2014, the site was sold to an LLC called Alexander Street, for $11.122 million as the preliminary work was being done. They were to be the financing arm of the project.
Another site across the street on Rock Hill Road had also been owned by O’Neill and had been sold in 2010.
It’s not clear why O’Neill is apparently divesting himself in his holdings in that area. Calls to the company this week were not returned.
Although the project that spans 131 to 151 Rock Hill Road was thought of as one part of a major transformation of the old industrial and mining area, for now the primary issue is finding a new buyer for the large site. Flynn said there is currently no price listed on the site and they’ve sent out information to the capital markets seeking out potential buyers.
The site has been on the market for a couple of weeks and he hoped to have a buyer in the next month or so.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries and we’re just answering a lot of the questions people have right now,” Flynn said. “Probably in a month or so we should be getting ready to [finalize a] sale.”
Rock Hill Road is among the last vestiges of Lower Merion’s industrial past. It was once home to numerous mills. One of those mill buildings was once owned by a man named Benjamin Schofield Jr. and was called the West Manayunk Woolen Mills. At other times it was called the Belmont Mills. Today it still stands on the corner of Belmont and Rock Hill Road but the structure, known as the Shoddy Mill, named for the type of wool that was made there, is abandoned and has fallen into disrepair. Across Belmont Avenue, on the site of the current Cynwyd Heritage Trail, was a former train line that connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the bridge to Manayunk.
Along with the mills and the access to railroads, the area, including the site now up for sale, also contained stone quarries.
But through the 20th century, that part of Lower Merion’s past became history and, in the 1990s, a new vision for that area began taking shape.
Lower Merion Commissioner Liz Rogan was on the township’s planning staff at that time when concerns over traffic led to discussions about improvements on Rock Hill Road. “What happened, and it’s still happening, is people could not stand all of the traffic . at that intersection at the off let for the Schuylkill [Expressway] and the traffic that happens along Belmont was driving people insane,” Rogan recalled in an interview this week.
The township wanted to find a way to help direct development in a way that would help make Rock Hill Road into what was being called “a gateway for Lower Merion,” Rogan said. “Development happens and unless you plan for development,
it will happen in an unplanned way.”
She said the Neighborhood Club of Bala Cynwyd at the time got behind an effort to help plan for what would later become the Rock Hill Overlay District.
“The ROHO Rock Hill Overlay District is established to encourage the redevelopment of the existing underutilized industrial corridor into an economically dynamic, attractive gateway to Lower Merion Township,” the ordinance reads in part. “The ROHO is designed to promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Lower Merion Township by using pedestrian oriented design; promoting mixed use redevelopment that is attractive and appropriate to the area; protecting existing natural features; and improving traffic flow and pedestrian and vehicular safety.”
The ordinance goes on to discuss the goal of “providing an attractive destination and link between the residential areas near the corridor and the Schuylkill Expressway, Schuylkill River and Manayunk Neighborhood of Philadelphia.”
The idea was that when new development came in, each would be required to install sidewalks and landscaped areas. The township also hoped to minimize curb cuts. The sidewalks would be similar to what has been built at the new CVS at Rock Hill Road and Belmont Avenue. Along with the sidewalk, the parking lot for the CVS also has dedicated parking spots for the Cynwyd Heritage Trail that starts across Belmont Avenue.
Along with the property currently for sale, O’Neill also purchased two other properties along Rock Hill Road. Some on the township staff thought this could benefit the district.
“When this first came forward, part of the hope was that there would be a master developer for the corridor and that was always intended to be O’Neill Properties,” said Chris Leswing, assistant director for Building and Planning for Lower Merion said.
O’Neill Properties, headquartered in King of Prussia, had purchased some of properties along the stretch of Rock Hill Road with plans to build a combination of commercial and residential development. The plan was that he would create the mixed use, pedestrian friendly attractive area Lower Merion wanted for the area.
So the idea was that once it was complete, there would be tree lined sidewalks that would run up and down Rock Hill giving pedestrians room to walk the area.
And there was little reason not to think that O’Neill’s company could do the job.
In 2006 Brian O’Neill cut the ribbon on a project called the Corinthian on Presidential Boulevard in Bala Cynwyd in what was being billed at the time as the Main Line’s first new luxury condominiums in over 20 years.
“The Main Line finally has what it’s been missing for a generation: a luxury condominium with five star service and amenities,” O’Neill said in a press release about the project. “We’re thrilled to unveil the Main Line’s newest landmark and a modern icon that embodies the elegance, sophistication, and carefree lifestyle of the Gilded Age. Corinthian’s debut begins a new chapter for the Main Line.”
There were also plans to convert a historic mill building in Gladwyne into a luxury condominium site. That site now sits abandoned and for sale.
O’Neill Properties is finishing up its latest Lower Merion project, the Royal Athena, along the river at the end of Righters Ferry Road in Bala Cynwyd.
But it now appears that, for unknown reasons, O’Neill’s company is divesting itself from the Rock Hill Road area. Calls this week to O’Neill Properties asking about the project were not returned.