Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance Launches to "Keep the Character"
Patch takes a look at the new organization and its mission.
In the ongoing discussion about the future of Conshohocken, those who favor small, local development may have a new voice: the Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance (CRA).
Launched in May 2012, the alliance describes itself as a coalition of local retailers, real estate professionals, and concerned citizens with a mission to "promote the expansion of the Borough of Conshohocken in alignment with its existing character and community," according to the group’s Facebook page.
It appears the CRA will make its first rallying point the opposition of the proposed "super Wawa" at 11th and Fayette Streets.
"The CRA believes a proposed Super Wawa at the EF Moore Chevrolet site at the corner of Fayette and 11th Streets does not fit the character or complexion of the community," said the CRA in a press release. "The alliance plans to present a unified opposition to the Wawa development."
In addition, the CRA has already released renderings of an alternative mixed-use apartment complex at the site, pictured above, and promises two other alternative proposals are on the way. While not official proposals for the location, the CRA says it hopes to spur interest from the community and potential developers.
Michael Bernardini, who answered the CRA's phoneline, told Patch that while the organization doesn't have any particular problems with Wawa, they don't believe it's right for the community.
"We're not against Wawa as a company by any means," said Bernardini, who complimented the gas and retail chain on its Pennsylvania roots and operations. "But we're interested in different ways the space can be used."
Who is the Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance?
However, that brings up another question: who is the "we" when it comes to the Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance? Bernardini told Patch that a list of organizing members would be released Wednesday, but said that the CRA was aware of potential suspicions regarding the objectives of those involved.
"Obviously there are going to be business owners involved, so some people will automatically assume we're trying to keep out big business," said Bernardini. "For many owners, [Wawa] wouldn't have an immediate effect on their business… instead we want to preserve the historic roots and the community's character. We're about welcoming new businesses that fit within the scale of the  revitalization plan."
Bernardini says that the CRA has not registered as a business or non-profit, but does own office space in the Borough. He said he would have to look into whether or not the CRA received services-- such as the renderings of the proposed apartment complex-- as pro bono contributions from its members.
However, the CRA is receiving pro bono support from DeFazio Communications, a prominent public relations firm located in Conshohocken, for services such as social media development and the creation of press releases.
"The [CRA] is something Tony DeFazio, our president, is involved with," said Liz Trubey, an employee at the company. "He lived in and owned a business in Conshohocken and got involved with the business owners... we all do a little bit of work for them."
Bernardini is also an intern with DeFazio, but says his role with the CRA is something he's doing on the side out of an interest in local civics.
What's the end goal for the Alliance?
While it appears that the CRA is, so far, composed mostly of members from the local business community, there are certainly many residents who will find its mission and opposition to Wawa appealing.
Bernardini says that the CRA will be taking a number of steps in the coming weeks to get more residents involved.
"We're developing different ways for them to get involved, and currently have an online petition [against Wawa]," said Bernardini, who added that the CRA hopes to interact directly with the community and encourage residents to attend meetings and join the conversation around Conshohocken's development.
"We don't want people to think that we started this as a way to get rid of Wawa and aren't being transparent," said Bernardini. "We want to make sure the community and residents are being heard."