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Black Horse Inn

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Source: Springfield Sun
Date: July 18, 2003
Byline: Joe Barron

Developer seeks to move inn

If a new developer has his way, the historic Black Horse Inn will continue to stand beside Bethlehem Pike, much as it has since 1744.

The only difference is that it will stand across the street.

Moreland Development of Bryn Mawr entered into an agreement of sale last month with the Mendelson Family Trust, the property's owner, to purchase the Black Horse and its surrounding lot, The company plans to build a Walgreens pharmacy and a combined liquor store and office building on the land

As part of a plan presented to the township planning commission Tuesday, the developer proposed to move the Black Horse to an open space on the other side of Bethlehem Pike.

Township Manager Don Berger said the owner of a property along the pike agreed to accept the Black Horse building.

The property owner wishes to remain anonymous until the agreement is approved,, Berger said, but both he and Moreland's representatives said the inn would be moved "directly" across the pike, and the only open space on that side is between the Veterans Memorial and an office of the Carson Valley School.

In taking over the Black Horse lot, Moreland replaced the Hampton Real Estate Group of Allentown, the developer that planned to build a CVS Pharmacy on the property.

CVS terminated its contract with Hampton in May, because the developer did not adhere to the pharmacy's timetable for building, according to Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman at the CVS headquarters in Rhode Island.

In October 2001, after prolonged negotiations, the Hampton Group and the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners entered into an agreement under which the developer would pay to move the Black Horse to the rear of the property.

Nevertheless, they said, their revised plans would keep the Black Horse on the pike and eliminate other problems they saw in Hampton's original design Joshua Petersohn, a principal of Moreland, and Robert E. Blue, a consulting engineer from Blue Bell, reviewed the new design to a packed meeting room at the township building and answered questions from the planning commission and members of the public.

Under Moreland's plans, the proposed liquor store and office building would be built at the southern end of the lot, instead of next to Bysher Avenue, as called for in Hampton's design.

The entrances to the liquor store and offices would be installed at the rear of the building, out of sight of Bethlehem Pike.

The liquor store would be only a retail outlet, they said, and not a warehouse and distribution center as had been rumored, and deliveries would be made to the store only once a week.

Under the agreement with Hampton, the Black Horse Inn would have been deeded to Springfield Township. In the new proposal, the deed would pass to the unnamed property owner, Berger said.

Moving the inn across Bethlehem Pike would cost Moreland $125,000 more than the $250,000 estimated for the move to the back of the lot, according to Blue.

"We are prepared to go to the added expense", he said.

Although members of the public said Moreland's plan was superior to Hampton's, most also made it clear they would prefer to see the Black Horse remain on the site it has occupied for the past 260 years.

Speaking on behalf of the Springfield Township Historical Society, Cynthia Hamilton said the society regarded moving the inn as a last resort, but if it had to be moved, she said, the society preferred it to remain visible from Bethlehem Pike.

Owners of homes and business near the inn also objected to traffic problems they said the development would cause at the intersection of Bethlehem Pike and Bysher Avenue.

Tony Mariello, the owner of Collex Collision Service, which occupies the intersection's north-east corner, said that at present, no more than two cars can line up between the intersection and the existing exit from the liquor store parking lot on Bysher.

Any additional cars exiting the Walgreens store on Bysher would stop across a lane of traffic, causing a a bottleneck, he said.

Steven Wilmot, a resident of Bysher Avenue, warned Petersohn that customers would stop coming to the Walgreens once they understood the difficulties of exiting and entering the lot.