New buildings, businesses, and traffic improvements could come to the Dartmouth Mall
With a low vacancy rate and more tenants clamoring for a location, Dartmouth Mall officials hope to expand outward with new buildings, better traffic solutions, and an overall nicer look for the mall property.
Officials from the mall’s parent company, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, are developing a master plan outlining many changes, including transforming extra parking lots into new, stand-alone businesses. Officials presented a conceptual version of their vision to the Planning Board on September 24.
"We're very pleased with the mall, and it's doing very well," said Director of Development Stephen Hutchinson. "As a result of that, we had strong interest from additional tenants to join us at the mall."
The new buildings would be similar to the current Olive Garden and Sears Auto Center buildings on the property now, Hutchinson explained.
The buildings could be located along the eastern edge of the property and within other parking lots near the Faunce Corner Road entrance.
Even with the reduction in parking spaces, the mall would still remain compliant with parking space requirements, project manager Nathan Kirschner, from engineering firm Lagan, told the Planning Board.
The mall currently has more than 3,200 parking spaces, but under town zoning regulations, it is only required to have 2,689 spaces.
Company officials are also looking at traffic flow, especially at the Faunce Corner Road entrance.
Traffic back-up is a problem, especially during the busy holiday season, Kirschner noted. The firm is exploring ideas to separate traffic entering the mall from pedestrians to improve safety.
The corner of Route 6 and Faunce Corner Road could also receive a facelift.
“We’d like to create a little bit of a gateway,” Kirschner said.
Modifying the land elevation to provide a better view into the mall from the intersection, and improving landscaping was discussed, as was adding a signature Dartmouth Mall landscaped sign.
The master plan was presented to the Planning Board at an early conceptual stage because mall officials had hoped the Planning Board would offer more flexibility for the company when it begins the process, as the development plan could change.
The Planning Board was not enthusiastic about that idea, with board members noting they need to know at least basic details about each building -- such as the proposed use -- when making decisions regarding site and design reviews.
“I don’t have a problem with projecting what you want to do, but I do have a problem with not being able to see the buildings,” member Lorri-Ann Miller said. “Different sites need different things. One could turn out to be retail, but you planned it for drive-thrus.”
A timeline for the process to move forward is unclear.
“In summary, we need to sharpen our pencils, come up with some thoughts on how we’re going to approach this master plan idea,” Kirschner said
He said he felt the Planning Board appeared supportive of several items of the plan, including traffic changes and a better Route 6/Faunce Corner Road corner.