Multiple apartment projects in Ambler are on the horizon

As reported, on the agenda for the October 26th meeting of Ambler’s Planning Commission was an ordinance that would amend the borough’s Transit-Oriented District and the review of a preliminary plan for a 92-unit apartment building at 9 North Maple Street.

The amendment and the apartments are being proposed by Summit Realty Advisors, the company that renovated the boiler house building into office space and built the recently opened 114-unit apartment community The Crossings at Ambler Station (Disclaimer, The Crossings is an advertiser on

During the presentation by John Zaharchuk, principal at Summit Realty Advisors, and his attorney James Garrity, it was stated that the owner of the property adjacent to 9 North Maple Street is moving to propose a smaller apartment building on that property and that Summitt Realty Advisors has acquired property adjacent to The Crossings at Ambler Station and will seek approval to expand that apartment development.

In regard to the amendment, Garrity stressed that its language should encompass this future development so for proposals near the tracks and train station do not have to seek further changes in the future. Passing an amendment that benefited a specific property could also be viewed as spot zoning.

So what does the draft amendment change?

The big one is that the transit-oriented development language that is currently in Ambler’s code limits transit-oriented development to properties that have frontage along the railroad tracks. The proposed language would change this to be a specific proximity to the train station (proposed to be 675 feet). The point was made that there are properties closer to the train than those that have frontage along the tracks.

The developer would also now be able to maintain a portion of a wildlife preserve that is within 500 feet of the transit-oriented development instead of having a 20,000 20,000-square-foot “village green or plaza” on the property. One such preserve is across North Maple Street from the proposed apartments. Zaharchuk stated that he is in discussions with Wissahickon Trails (a 501c3 nonprofit registered as Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association) which owns the preserve to maintain a portion of it. Zaharchuk believes that the entryway to the preserve should be more welcoming and have an area with benches, which he would pay for and maintain. A representative of Wissahickon Trails was present at the meeting and acknowledged the discussions with the developer, but stated that it was still early in the process.

In the end, the planning commission unanimously voted to recommend the preliminary plan to the borough council with conditions, such as the amended ordinance being passed and the developer’s commitment to extend the sidewalk from 9 North Maple Street to Butler Avenue (which the developer proposed to do).

This was not the final step to approval. The borough council will now have to review and vote on the preliminary plan. It will then repeat the process with the planning commission and the borough council for the final plan. The proposed development also needs the borough council to grant a conditional use (to allow a transit-oriented development within the Retail and Service Commercial District) and the zoning hearing board to grant two special exceptions (involving what is allowed within the Floodplain Conservation District).

In addition, the proposed amended ordinance is going to be revised and resubmitted to the planning commission for review. It will then need to go before the borough council to either adopt or deny.

A few notes:

  • The name of the proposed apartment community is The Ambler, however, it was originally going to be called Lakeview (this proposal has been in various stages over the past several years). In attendance at the meeting was Borough Council President Glynnis Siskind, who stated that she preferred Lakeview, and the developer and the attorney started referring to it as Lakeview. Siskind also stated that she loved how the project turned out.
  • The Crossing at Ambler Station currently has 61 units of 114 leased. The leasing process formally started in mid-August.
  • If you compare the newer (last 15 years) apartment buildings in Conshohocken along the river (and near the two train stations) with The Crossing at Ambler Station and the ones mentioned as being on the horizon, the ones in Ambler are about a third of the average size in Conshohocken (the smaller ones have just over 300 units).
  • The developer talked about how apartment community design has changed since the pandemic. With more people at least partially working from home, amenities have become more important.
  • The proposed apartment community will have a rooftop deck with grills and seating areas.
  • A portion of the property falls within Upper Dublin and a representative of the county’s planning commission pointed out that it will need approval from that township. The developer seemed confident that Upper Dublin did not have any objections. An even smaller portion of the property falls within Whitpain Township, but nothing will be constructed in that area. A presentation was made by the developer to Whitpain’s Board of Supervisors and they did not object.

More to come.