At last week's Lansdale Borough Council session, Lansdale Parking Authority Chairman Dan Dunigan was asked to put to bed rumors regarding the redevelopment of Madison Parking Lot by Equus Capital into residential and commercial properties.
“We want to make sure we are communicating accurately to the public,” said council President Jason Van Dame. “We have some pretty significant projects in stages in the borough … the Madison Lot development is in the early stages of development and I asked the chair of the parking authority to give an update on the project. We have heard different rumors.”
Dunigan said the purchase agreement between the parking authority and Equus – of which Lansdale Borough is not a party – affords Equus the right to three extensions of time for the project. At present, Equus is in the middle of its second 120-day extension.
“Such are common in the development world,” Dunigan said, “especially on a project of this size and complexity.”
Dunigan said Equus' principals have recently submitted several required permits to the state that must be obtained in order to proceed on the project.
“It's a complex project, not simply due to location, but the decision by SEPTA to construct a parking garage adds a considerable new wrinkle to things,” he said.
Dunigan said dialogue continues between SEPTA and Equus on two large scale projects in the heart of the downtown.
“We initially said Equus is pushing SEPTA, but now that might be the other way around. Regardless, it does hold promise for Lansdale and it will positively impact the future of Lansdale,” he said.
Councilman Ray Liberto asked what exactly is the “wrinkle” between SEPTA and Equus. Liberto said both projects are separated by the train tracks and would be completed by separate work crews.
“One project really shouldn't impact the other as far as the development of it,” Liberto said.
Dunigan said part of the wrinkle is SEPTA is requiring a considerable amount of parking to get the project underway.
“About 100 spaces utilized every day will be taken up, and we are in discussion on how to shuffle that around,” he said, adding additional spaces at Pennbrook station on a lot off Church Road is an option.
“It seems like it's an excuse Equus is using to push 120 days without a valid reason,” Liberto said.
Dunigan said Equus does not have to give a reason for its extensions.
“They can give a soft reason, because the way the agreement is structured, when they decide to exercise their option to extend, it's their options, not the parking authority,” Dunigan said. “I think that's part of the back and forth dialogue between Equus and SEPTA. If Equus takes longer to start, that's 100 less spots that (SEPTA deputy director) Jeff Kneuppel has to scramble to find.”
Councilwoman Mary Fuller said Equus is entitled to a third 120-day extension.
“There's no reason to believe this is not going to go forward,” she said.
Dunigan agreed – even Moulton Builders' Andale Green development on Hancock Street has gone through its changes and still plans on being built across from Stony Creek Park.
“I had an entirely different hairline when that was proposed,” the former councilman said.
Dunigan said the Equus project is a phased project, and rightly so, seeing how the market and absorption rate can affect rent and the number of residential units.
“The phasing is to accommodate the construction process,” Dunigan said. “Part of the concern that the developer had would be to overload the market with so many units at one time. As things build up, they are able to raise prices as they go along to create the perception of demand, and that results in higher sale prices. I imagine that would result in higher rents.”
Van Dame said he would rather see the developer take their time to get through all the due diligence.
“We have a building in the center of town that was pushed through quick,” he said, referencing 311 W. Main St. “We have to figure out the right solution for it now.”