The Lansdale streetscape project has become a bane for some businesses on Main Street – they are faced with flooded basements and shoddy brickwork.
Yet business owners won’t speak up about it because they are either afraid or they don’t want to be viewed as a problem business.
That’s according to owner Joe McQuillin, who talked about his frustration with the streetscape project at town hall session Tuesday night.
McQuillin claims that the construction of the streetscape sidewalks gives stormwater no place to go but the path of least resistance, which is his basement.
He said the contractor is using “play sand” to fill in the gaps of the brick on the streetscape.
He said the construction begins on a bed of clay, followed by a layer of stone and finally brick. Play sand is filled in the gaps.
“Water is going right in and it’s got to go somewhere. Where do you think it’s going?” he said.
McQuillin brought his issue to utilities director Jake Ziegler. McQuillin said he was told there would be maintenance with the new sidewalks.
“We didn’t have it with the old one,” he said.
McQuillin suggested the contractors remove three feet of brick that is abutting the façade, and the pour concrete to seal in the remaining bricks.
McQuillin said it’s a matter of time before the brick starts to heave and cause more problems.
“There’s nothing backing the brick. It just sits in there,” he said.
McQuillin said he spoke of the potential problems with an attorney, and asked what happens if he gets sued.
“He said, ‘Your response is I didn’t design it and I didn’t build it,’” he said.
Economic Development Committee chair and town hall mediator Mary Fuller said the lowest bidded project isn’t always the best choice.
“Something nice is being done (with the streets), but potentially it could be a bigger problem,” she said.
Fuller suggested business owners with problems over the streetscape should contact her to resolve the issues.
McQuillin said he’s heard similar complaints from the owners of and .
“Only one has opened their mouth so far,” he said, referring to himself. “People don’t want to say anything.”
owner Doug DiPasquale, who, as president of the Lansdale Business Association co-mediates the monthly town hall sessions, said he has faced similar problems with the streetscape outside the front door to his business.
“Out the door, to the right, it would collect water. Jake Ziegler looked at it and they repoured it. But it’s now higher – now the left hand side collects water,” he said.
McQuillin said he was told by Ziegler that his solution to the flooded basement is to use “a couple fans and humidifier.”
“I said, ‘OK, when are you going to deliver them?’” McQuillin said.
McQuillin furthered said that a contractor told him that “somebody wasn’t getting paid” and that they “ran out of bricks” for the streetscape.
“When they estimated the amount of brick, the numbers were wrong and they ordered so many square yards instead of square feet. They were off by a factor of nine,” McQuillin said. “They didn’t have enough tiles. They ran out of stock.”
DiPasquale recommended a solution in the form of a letter to all businesses on Main Street asking for their anonymous responses to streetscape issues.
“We are running out of time,” he said. “If we take corrective measures now, it will take six months to do it. We haven’t paid for (the streetscape) yet.”
Resident Nancy Frei asked why the streetscape wasn’t taken up to the railroad tracks on Broad Street in front of
Fuller said it may have to do with SEPTA ownership.
“Why didn’t they take it on North Broad down a block to the Gulf station?” Fuller said. “I asked twice and I still don’t have an answer.”
Frei agreed, stating that the streetscape should continue on the other side of Broad Street up East Main Street.
“That’s all part of the borough. It’s stupid,” Frei said.
Fuller reminded Frei that it is PennDOT – not Lansdale – that decides on the streetscape.
“There’s no question that Main from Broad to Cannon is the hub of the business center,” Fuller said. “They need to broaden that.”
Resident Jean Fritz said all three major shopping centers – Hillcrest, Pavilion and the area of businesses comprising Starbucks, Pizza Hut Express and Amber Asian Café at West Main Street and Valley Forge Road – should be included in the streetscape.
“Those are three great gateways,” she said.
Fuller said the major issues of businesses in Lansdale revolves around changing the mindset of people.
“It’s not about sharing ideas and getting construction done – you have to change the mindset of everybody,” she said. “I equate that to how the borough is doing now to what it was doing four years ago.”
“People say Lansdale is ‘anti-business.’ How can that be? But it is what people are saying and there’s the hurdle,” Fuller said. “What we have to battle is perception. We have to change the perception that Lansdale is a dumpy town or Lansdale doesn’t care about businesses. The redevelopment will help.”
Contact Mary Fuller with your issues on the Lansdale streetscape by emailing email@example.com.
The Lansdale town hall session occurs the fourth Tuesday of every month, except December. It will meet again January 24.