A multifamily residential development isn't just a collection of structures; it's a community of neighbors. It's a home. After more than 50 years building homes in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States, we've learned that it's very critical to look beyond land development plans and to consider how new homes will integrate into a vibrant, existing community.
With southeast Pennsylvania's rich American history, developing communities often requires more than just creating opportunities for families to grow and be part of the local community. When a municipality has been shaped by historic events and structures, preserving that history – and with it, the fabric of the life there – is crucial.
Often, those goals can vary among interested parties. But, community growth and historic preservation can coexist, with responsible development.
So, how do you design a modern development in a historic neighborhood? First, you listen.
In 2015, K. Hovnanian Homes proposed a townhome community in Whitemarsh Township, in Montgomery County, on what is now the Corson Estate. Woven between the historic structures of Abolition Hall and Hovenden House, this land is marked for high-volume residential development in the Whitemarsh Township Comprehensive Plan. It's also important to the community for its historic value.
At every stage of the development process, we have met with and listened to neighbors and community leaders. Those conversations – and the invaluable insights of preservationists and local officials – have helped shape our plans.
In May, we issued a "Commitment to Montco's Preservation," which will maintain the surrounding land's historical value and maximize open space. Much of that commitment is based on feedback from neighbors. The plans were adjusted to add distance between the townhomes and the historic structures, to incorporate a walking trail that will be a part of Montgomery County's "Cross County Trail" system, and to include open space that could function as a welcome park adjacent to the historic neighboring Abolition Hall. This open space will be owned by members of the Whitemarsh community, as part of The Villages at Whitemarsh Homeowners Association. Our current plans use just 70 percent of the allowed density on the site and will have a minimal impact on traffic at the intersection.
Perhaps most important to some local residents, we are committed to supporting efforts to ensure these sites remain on the National Register of Historic Places. We understand the needs by many community members to fully preserve the property as part of the development.
>>READ MORE: Commentary: Save Abolition Hall in Montco
After the construction of the community is underway, the proposed plans include subdividing the land around these sites, and to sell the properties to a buyer who values this historic setting. Township ordinances ensure that Abolition Hall and the Corson Estate will continue to be preserved, and we have taken great care to ensure that the views and land around these sites is maintained in the proposed plans.
Striking a balance between preservation and growth is essential to building a vibrant community and a vital historic district. In Whitemarsh Township, we look forward to being part of that critical balance and providing a place for families to grow and call home.
Barry McCarron is Division President at K. Hovnanian Homes BMcCarron@KHOV.COM