Schwenksville, Ursinus Win Planners’ 2021 Awards

NORRISTOWN PA – Development projects in Schwenksville and Collegeville, labeled as “outstanding” by the Montgomery County Planning Commission, were among five winners Wednesday (Nov. 17, 2021) during presentation of the commission’s 2021 Montgomery Awards during ceremonies held at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove.

Schwenksville Borough won the commission award for “outstanding adaptive reuse project” with its successful adaptive reuse and design of the former borough fire house into its new borough hall (at top). Ursinus College received the commission’s award for another adaptive reuse project, Schellhase Commons, that transformed “a beloved campus building” into an “an attractive, contemporary student center.”

Three other award winners were Cricket Flats, a transit-oriented development in Lower Merion Township; Whitemarsh Station, a residential infill project in Whitemarsh Township; and the Wissahickon Headwaters Stream and Riparian Restoration in Upper Gwynedd Township.

The “award-winning projects demonstrate the true value of vision and collaboration in creating exceptional places in Montgomery County, according to county Board of Commissioners’ Chair Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh. They represent “excellent models of transformation and sustainability,” she added.

Schwenksville Borough Hall

The Schwenksville award acknowledged the borough’s “vision and collaboration, successful adaptive reuse and design, and positive community impact” of its newly completed borough hall and community center complex.

The fire house was vacated following the borough fire company’s merger with the Lower Frederick Fire Company, at about the same time as Schwenksville formed its Main Street revitalization plans. That allowed the borough to transform the building into its borough hall and community center, assuring continued public use of a centrally located gathering place.

It’s “a great example of turning a negative into a positive,” Chris Melville, borough council member and chair of its Property Committee, said.

Schwenksville collaborated throughout the design and construction process with architects and planners Richard Kapusta & Company, and project architect Steve Eisenhart. The stone selection for the building facade was driven by key historical elements found in the borough’s streetscape plan and design guidelines, Eisenhart observed.

Eisenhart also noted “how well this building serves Schwenksville … both administratively and publicly.” Borough Manager Anne Klepfer acknowledged the borough “had been outgrowing our former Borough Hall for quite some time. We did not have enough space, and the building was not Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant, which made it very difficult to serve the public.”

The borough has seen an “uptick in new businesses coming to town, and a renewed interest in community events,” council members added. Its 2021 Summer Concert Series attracted large audiences during the summer to its Meadow Park.

Ursinus College Schellhase Commons

“This outstanding adaptive reuse project in Collegeville Borough received a 2021 Montgomery Award in recognition of successful adaptive reuse, creative architectural and site design, and significant community impact,” the commission said. “The project preserved a beloved campus building while creating an attractive, contemporary student center that offers students and the community a café, bookstore, and meeting space and serves as a new gateway to the college, welcoming all and integrating Ursinus more meaningfully with the community.”

Photo provided by Schwenksville Borough