Inn Plan Advances at Borough Meeting

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Town Center West project — the development between the SEPTA train station and the PPR cluster known by many students as the “Swarthmore Inn” — inched forward at Thursday night’s packed Swarthmore Borough Hall meeting. The plan, which includes a forty-room inn, a restaurant, and a bookstore intended to replace the one in Clothier basement, was presented to the borough board by several architects, engineers, and a lawyer for the college. The night’s goal was to address zoning changes that were necessary for the project to be green-lighted and the meeting thus represented members of the borough’s best chance to have a say.

On display at the meeting was a set of neat-looking posters detailing the site plan and a tentative diagram for the building interior. These same posters had been displayed earlier in the afternoon at Eldridge Commons in the Science Center.

In brief, the current iteration of the project requires moving the softball field and Fieldhouse Lane to the south, abutting PPR. The new, moved Fieldhouse lane would terminate in a roundabout at Rutgers Avenue and Chester Road, an innovative traffic tool that might help to stem the jet stream of traffic barreling through the Chester Road underpass. The three-story building, intended to be at least LEED silver, would sit between there and the train station. A major goal of the plan, which is being marked in part as a downtown revitalization plan, is to further integration between the college and the borough. For example, the building will be designed to match the architecture facing it across Chester Road, and at the same time, one of the entrances is designed to be directly in line with Magill walk.

The plan, which has occupied town residents and college staff for the better part of a decade, seems to be moving forward. But Board Chairman Tim Kearney said not to expect a working inn by spring 2015, though everything is slated to be completed in 2014. The meeting, which lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours, was often confrontational, and some residents flared up about the “sea of parking” to be built just to the west of the new building (east of the athletic buildings and the barn). Several people in the room raised concerns that the college might even be hiding information. How could Swarthmore have already completed the new dirt circle (future softball field visible from PPR) if, as the college says, they don’t have full site and utility plans ready to present to the borough? One resident who eloquently defended his right to green space near downtown elicited grins from the handful of Swatties present. Overall, meeting attendees respected and tolerated the project, but clearly found the college plans imperfect.

Also of interest to the Swarthmore community were other vague plans for a future parking lot in the Cunningham Fields property. Details are not clear at this time.

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