22 Aug 2014
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Bowling Alley, Trader Joe's Wanted in Lansdale

The possibility of businesses revitalizing the Hillcrest Shopping Center and The Pavilion Shopping Center were discussed at Lansdale's Town Hall session

Bowling Alley, Trader Joe's Wanted in Lansdale

Lucky Strike Lanes at Hillcrest Shopping Center?

A Trader Joe's at The Pavilion where Super Foodtown used to be?

These were two necessities discussed at the top of the hour Tuesday at Lansdale's informal town hall session at the parks and recreation building.

Councilman Steve Malagari said Lucky Strikes would be a perfect addition to the borough, but he was unsure if the company would be willing to come out to a suburban area.

Lucky Strike is a bowling franchise that offers a bar, lounge and a bowling alley under one roof. Lucky Strikes are located in 11 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. In Pennsylvania, there is one in Philadelphia on Chestnut Street. Another one exists in New York City.

A look at the locations on its website shows that many of the Lucky Strikes are in major metropolitan cities. Plus, each Lucky Strike abides by a strict dress code.

"It is very nice on the inside and decorated to the utmost degree possible," Malagari said.

On the idea of a Trader Joe's opening at The Pavilion, Malagari said it was a great store with a big potential to open in Lansdale.

"If you threw one at the Pavilion, we could then market to the Towamencin area and further out to grab business," he said.

A Trader Joe's currently operates out of the English Village Shopping Center in Horsham on Bethlehem Pike.

Malagari said he wanted to bring the ideas to the Economic Development Committee.

Councilwoman Mary Fuller, who runs the town hall session with Lansdale Business Association head Doug DiPasquale, said the new events coordinator position being drafted in the borough would have that as part of his or her job - to get people to come into the borough and business improvement district and come up with ideas of how to strengthen commerce in the town.

"They have to come up with ideas. Where can we match open space with owners? It's critical," Fuller said.

"It's worthwhile to plant the seed now," Malagari responded.

Community Development Director John Ernst said seeds have been planted as far as bowling alleys, grocery stores and schools coming into vacant spaces.

Resident Nancy Frei said the Super Foodtown grocery store was a nice concept with a nice selection of lunch items and beer, but it didn't catch on with the public.

"Another eyesore is the McDonald's building," she said. "I know what I'd like to be in there."

Frei is referring to her desire for a Krispy Kreme to open at the East Main Street location.

Fuller said the borough has tried to find out what is going on with that property. 

Ernst said he fields two to three calls a month of people looking to do different types of things with that property.

However, the property remains an eyesore for a number of different factors.

One problem, Ernst said, is the location. Another problem is the difficulty in making left turns into and out of the property.

"One reason the owner left is the new design of the drive-through system did not work in that footprint," Ernst said. 

Fuller said that property could remain vacant and boarded up until the property owner decides to sell.

The property went up for auction last year, but there were no bidders.

"That would be a perfect location for Krispy Kreme," said Frei. "I can't imagine how it would not do good."

Malagari brought the discussion back to the powers of the borough Economic Development Committee. He said the members of the committee can delegate some duties to get some things rolling.

"There's a market here for bowling. We have the potential," he said.

DiPasquale, an avid bowler himself, said the issue comes with the cost to operate and construct a bowling alley. He said the cost to construct a single bowling lane is around $250,000.

He said the original plan for a group that wanted to open an alley at the former Clemens/SuperFresh at Hillcrest wanted to make it more of an entertainment venue. 

"The lanes would be smaller and that's not pleasing to me," he said. "They are marketing it for entertainment."

Frei said something like that would be a draw for young and old alike.

Ernst did not confirm or deny that a bowling alley would open at Hillcrest Shopping Center.

"I can say that it's a very delicate balance between finding a business that wants to come in and a management company that manages the property," he said. "What it comes down to is the drive of management to get numbers to work."

He said the borough can court as many businesses as its wants, but once a business owner and management company are put in the picture, the borough is out of the picture.

"In my experience, most problems come when those negotiations fall apart," he said. 

He said a bowling alley and family fun center are $750,000 to $1 million investments. Tack on the fact that a company wants to draw business to a development that was done in 2012 versus one done in 1962.

"To find someone to find money in this particular economic situation is not as easy," Ernst said. "If it was a successful proposition, it would be happening. Lansdale is right on the edge of making that happen."

Further complications arise when building codes need to be brought current, Ernst said.

"It may cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars that they weren't ready for," he said. "They will cut their losses and go elsewhere where they don't have to do that."

The Lansdale town hall session occurs every fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the .

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