LOWER MAKEFIELD >> A final vote on Prickett Preserve, a mixed use development on Stony Hill Road anchored by a 100,000 square foot Wegmans Food Market, is scheduled via Zoom for Wednesday, April 7 in Lower Makefield.

After several years of discussion and debate, the Board of Supervisors is poised to vote on preliminary/final land development plans for Prickett Preserve, which proposes to transform a swath of Office-Research zoned land into a mixed use commercial village along I-295.

DeLuca Homes and Equus Capital Partners are jointly proposing the project, which will be anchored by a 100,000 square foot Wegmans market, 200 luxury apartments with a clubhouse and swimming pool and a 55,000 square foot commercial village, with a 13,000 square foot drive-thru pharmacy, a 3,000 square foot drive-thru bank and 35,000 square feet of restaurant and retail uses.

Another key element of the project, said the landscape architects, would be the preservation of two historic structures on the Prickett property - a farmhouse and a barn - that will be adaptively reused as commercial space and become a focal point of the commercial village and its civic open space.

“When we began to design this project we focused on framing those two elements at the central core of the village,” said Seth Shapiro, principle director of planning and urban design with Barton Partners. “That’s what makes this very different from any kind of typical retail center. It’s really about focusing on that central space.”

The standalone retail buildings, including the pharmacy, bank and restaurants, will surround the perimeter of the central village open space, which envisions community gathering areas with seating and movable tables, a synthetic turf field for exercising, an informal stage area, shade sail canopies, picnic areas and more.

The residential portion of the project will be “highly amenitized” with a clubhouse featuring a fitness center, activity rooms and swimming pool. In addition, the grounds in and around the apartment buildings will include green spaces with bocci courts, places to throw a frisbee and a dog park.

The plan also includes preserving a number of old growth trees and building walking and bicycle trails that would link the project internally and to nearby Edgewood village via a new pedestrian connection over I-295.

“The pedestrian linkages between the residential community and the commercial areas really sets this apart,” noted Shapiro.

The developer would also sink $6.5 million into major road improvements, including new lanes, updated signalization and road widening at three major intersections - Stony Hill and Route 332, the exit ramp at Route 332 from I-295 westbound and at Stony Hill and Township Line Roads.

“With the improvements,” said the developer’s traffic engineer Chris Williams from McMahan & Associates, “traffic conditions will dramatically improve and even with the added traffic from a mixed use development on this property conditions will improve and for the critical locations along the bypass traffic conditions will be better than they are today.”

The project is slated to be built on 37 acres in the township’s office research zone located on Stony Hill Road between Township Line Road and the Newtown Bypass across from Shady Brook Farm and nestled in between the north and the south campuses of the newly rebranded Makefield Crossing Corporate Center.

Vince DeLuca, a Principal with DeLuca Homes, said the vision is to “create a live, work and play neighborhood” by incorporating retail and residential uses and pedestrian connections to the neighboring corporate center, historic Edgewood village and Shady Brook Farm.

At its April 7 Zoom meeting, the supervisors will officially vote on final plans for the development. They’ll also consider a pair of conditional use applications from the developer for two drive-thrus - one for a proposed JP Morgan Chase Bank and one for a proposed pharmacy at Prickett Preserve.

On March 17, the supervisors heard a brief update from the developer, including a request for four waivers on the height and location of light poles, removal of top soil and from minimum dimension requirements.

The developer also announced its withdrawal of a requested waiver from the township’s tree ordinance. Instead it will pay the township a fee and lieu estimated at between $250,000 to $300,000.

The developer had initially requested the waiver partly because it would be outlaying millions for offsite road improvements, which is above and beyond what is required under the ordinance.

The developer’s traffic engineer also detailed updated plans for its proposed pedestrian connection over I-295 on Stony Hill Road.

The new walkway will now be built on the north side of the bridge with the existing walkway on the south side eliminated. After crossing over the bridge the new walkway will continue east before crossing over Stony Hill to the south side at a new ADA compliant crossing at the new Artis Senior Living.

In early September, the board of supervisors opened the door to the project by approving a mixed use overlay district that would allow the OR (office research)zoned land to be developed with a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The mixed use Prickett Preserve is the latest in a string of proposed developments brought forward by the developer over the past few years for the site, including an already approved 180,000 square foot multi-story office building.

In April 2019, after struggling to find tenants for its approved office building, the developer shifted gears and appeared before the zoning board seeking a special exception to instead build a 125,000 square foot warehouse and distribution center on the site.

A warehouse use is permitted by special exception in the Office Research Zone.

That proposal, which did not include the Prickett property, brought opposition from nearby residents and local commuters who said adding 18-wheelers to the traffic mix, especially at rush hour and during special events at Shady Brook, would be dangerous.

The developer’s land use attorney, Ed Murphy, argued that the use would be substantially less intense than the previously approved 180,000 square foot office building.

Plans depicted a single story warehouse sited on the 14.855 acre site with 252 parking spaces and 45 bays located to the rear of the building and facing the interstate.

The developer pretty much said at a meeting last year that if its mixed use development doesn’t pan out, the warehouse proposal would be back on the table as a consideration for the site.

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