Anthony Weagley, the new boss at Malvern Bank since his predecessor was ousted in a shareholder revolt, is moving the formerly depositor-owned Upper Main Line lender upscale. Last night Weagley, his team and bank associates including Cassandra Toroian, whose Bell Rock Capital Weagley hired to manage client investments, held a get-to-know-you at Ardrossan, the 50-room Montgomery Scott family mansion in Radnor made famous as the inspiration for the mid-1900s Philadelphia Story movies, starring first Katharine Hepburn, then Grace Kelly.
The many heirs to the family's old railroad and investment fortune have sold off half the original square-mile-plus grounds for fancy homes over the years, and have been busy lately carving up the rest; Radnor Township plans to borrow north of $10 million to buy three chunks for parkland. I invited a neighboring property owner, retired Goldman Sachs partner Ed McGinley, to join me at the Big House, where parking valets arranged dozens of higher-end SUVs that had crept up the narrow driveways. Inside we mingled with bankers, brokers and local business owners like Devon photo studio owner John Ansley (who remembered my brothers growing up in Berwyn village 40 years ago), as caterers passed drinks and bits of tenderloin and crab in the paneled first-floor rooms under generations of Scott oil portraits.
Weagley, a veteran of North Jersey's Union Center Bank before its merger with Englewood-based ConnectOne Bank last year, spoke confidently of the improved service Malvern will offer business owners, developers, consumers. The venue wasn't incidental; Weagley told us Malvern planned to finance 17 new homes at Ardrossan. McGinley asked if Malvern had a deal for the rest of the 65+ additional houses planned for the property; the banker said he wasn't familiar with those additional lots. He should be, said McGinley: Neighbors worry the farm-country roads that bring traffic to the estate -- Newtown and Darby-Paoli -- are already plenty busy and won't easily handle the increased commuter trips.
Radnor Township officials don't seem worried; construction is only being held up by final PennDOT approval, neighbors say. But, heading home, I was trapped with scores of cars in all three directions at the nearby crossroads (in front of The Willows township park, the old Gov. Sproul mansion) by Radnor police and accident crews removing a newly-wrecked car.
It sure looks like they could stand to finance the construction of highway shoulders and turning lanes, and hire some road engineers alongside the bankers and real estate agents and tax advisers, if they're going to keep raising million-dollar-plus homes as the township's chief cash crop, in the soon-to-be-former estate country. Which is no knock against Malvern Bank; they will no doubt earn their share.