"By the time I'm finished this meeting, another building will probably be down," Eli Kahn said Wednesday morning.
Less than a mile away, demolition had quietly started on East King Street. Kahn, the developer behind the East King Street Revitalization project, was in the Malvern Borough administration building, explaining to residents and businesspeople that the construction will probably take about 18 months to complete.
Perhaps the biggest piece of news he was able to share with the roughly 50 people in attendance at the Malvern Business and Professional Association open meeting was that of an imminent lease with a popular Unionville restaurant.
"I'm happy to say we have signed a letter of intent, and we are close to executing a lease with The Whip Tavern to open up their second restaurant here in downtown Malvern," Kahn said.
"The Whip Tavern is a spectacular restaurant. The owner is a gentleman by the name of Casey Kulp. A lot of people from this area visit The Whip Tavern, so he has decided to make this his second spot."
'Exciting mix' of businesses
Kahn said he is close to signing agreements with other businesses to fill the 25,000 square feet of retail space that will be available on East King Street, but it's too soon to release their names. There will also be about 5,000 square feet of office space in a building on the east end of the property.
An "exiting mix" of businesses would likely include a restaurant, a coffee shop and a couple boutiques, according to Kahn.
A member of the audience asked if he expected any chain restaurants to move in. Kahn replied that he didn't think it was the right environment for chain restaurants.
"We initially went out to a couple of the national coffee houses, but it's really not their cup of tea," Kahn said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.
All apartments, no condos
Though condominiums were in the original plans, all 190 residential units in the East King Street Revitalization will now be rentals, due to changes in the market. A few will be three-bedroom apartments, but most will be have one or two bedrooms.
Courtyards will be behind the units, card-access parking will be underneath them, and the buildings will feature communal green and TV rooms. The roadway will be expanded to allow as many as 20 new street parking spots.
The apartments will be built to appeal to empty-nesters and young professionals, Kahn said.
After lauding Malvern's history, train station and potential to grow as a walkable community, he drew a contrast to the nearby Uptown Worthington project. The large development endeavor in East Whiteland that has been stalled for years due to financial problems.
"[Uptown Worthington] is trying to create a little town in the middle of nowhere. This is a town. It's been developed over 300 years. You can't fake this. The charm of Malvern is really what is going to make this project successful," Kahn said.
Questions and Answers
Among the paraphrased questions from the audience and answers from Kahn:
Question: Will you remove the sidewalk island jutting into the street?
Answer: I don't recall if we engineered that out of the project, but we will add a lot of street parking. And the sidewalk will be 10 to 20 feet wide, before the building starts.
Question: So The Whip Tavern will have outside seating?
Question: If the plan is 18 months, you expect to be complete in the fall of next year?
Answer: That's the goal, yes.
Question: What will be the style of the residential buildings?
Answer: We haven't really picked a style yet. But it will be varied—we've looked at brick, stucco, stone—to create the look of multiple buildings. The same technique will be used for the offices.
Question: Any chance of getting sidewalks from Willistown streets?
Answer: Not at the moment. We'll run sidewalks to the end of our property. We asked Willistown to change the zoning to mimic Malvern, and they very abruptly told us, "We're not interested." I appreciated a quick answer on that, but in a perfect world we would have liked to have seen sidewalks continue down, on both sides of the street. It makes sense.
Question: Will there be a change in the traffic pattern?
Question: Will there be more stop signs?
No ground-breaking ceremony
Kahn said that there would probably not be a ground-breaking, but he does plan to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the project is brought to fruition.
At the end of the meeting, the developer noted that he lives in the borough:
"If anybody has any thoughts, Pat [Reeser, MBPA President] knows how to get in touch with me. And I live just right down the street."