Media Council’s work session rarely draws a standing-room-only crowd. December was an exception as dozens of residents attended, having been invited by the board to view a county-proposed development.
Council President Brian Hall opened the session by saying legislators wanted the communities’ help in determining the particular issue connected to the project—whether the borough should vacate a portion of West Second St. between and Orange and Citron sts. which now is a pass through with buildings atop.
Delaware County is hoping to replace all structures in the two blocks bordered by Orange, Front, Citron, and Amber sts. They include the Sweeney and Toal office buildings, both from the mid-1900s, and several garages used for juror parking as well as county vehicles.
The driving force is the deterioration of the four-story, 1974 garage structure, said Steven Burke, and engineer with Jingoli, a construction management firm. Burke said an estimated $8 million of improvements are needed in the garage alone. However, the office space is crowded and inefficient with ADA incompliance issues.
In showing what is still a concept plan, the entire two blocks would be demolished and replaced by a multi-story, 60,000 square feet total, office complex and parking for slightly more than 700 vehicles, a substantial gain of the current 409 spaces.
The approximate 1.75 acres, which is already occupied, will be rebuilt with more parking and offices to better serve employees and the public. Project representatives said the estimated cost would be about $55 million.
The images showed a relatively modern design meant to be aesthetic on all four sides, particularly as it borders a residential neighborhood on its western front. Although plans have not yet been formally submitted to the borough, Council held the special meeting for those more directly impacted.
Of the several dozen residents attending, fewer than a dozen commented, and the sentiment was essentially uniform—the structure looked too large, too “monolithic,” and not creative. While one resident said it should be designed to reflect a Victorian atmosphere, the borough has buildings dating from the 18th century into the 21st, as later noted by Council Vice President Paul Robinson.
Comments were also as far-ranging as “why build this?” seemingly ignoring the fact that Media is the county seat where the government and courts are located. Environmentalists wanted more trees; motorists wanted less traffic. People somewhat differed on the fundamental question of closing W. Second St.
Interestingly, no mention was made at any time of the precedent when West Second St. was vacated between Olive and Orange sts. for construction of the government center.
Robinson was the only Council member to comment at this juncture, saying he hoped the county would come back to the table on a joint project with the borough and SEPTA to expand parking at the existing Baltimore Ave. and Orange St. lot.
The final public comment came from Michael Kinsley, chairman of the borough’s Planning Commission and a professional architect.
“I will give you this challenge,” Kinsley said to the project team. “I hope you read our comprehensive plan. The scale of this building is way too big. But we will see you at planning, so be prepared.”