Montgomery County Pennsylvania construction records ‘banner’ year of non-residential construction as new housing development lags

By  –  Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal

Montgomery county Pennsylvania construction shrugged off supply chain issues and the pandemic last year and constructed 2.26 million square feet of non-residential development, according to a new report by the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

“This was a banner year,” said Daniel Farina Jr., senior county planner. “The only other year similarly high was 2016. If you go back further, it was in the ‘90s when the county was building big office parks and beyond the bedroom communities.”

In 2016, 2.4 million square feet of commercial development was completed in the county. The expansion of the King of Prussia Mall, the addition of the King of Prussia Town Center and Center Square Commons in Blue Bell accounted for much of the construction activity that year.

Last year, office construction “roared back,” Farina said. It was the most robust area of commercial development with 863,932 square feet of new space coming on the market, which was the most in years. The addition of Sora West and Seven Tower Bridge in Conshohocken accounted for most of the new office space. Included in the figure is a 102,279-square-foot addition that SEI completed on its Oaks campus.

While offices are influx as a result of the pandemic and hybrid work, the addition of nearly 1 million square feet underscores a continued need for new office space, Farina said.

The data from last year show just 280,423 square feet of new industrial space was built in the county. “Even though it’s not apparent in this report, industrial is what is on fire,” Farina said.

This year is expected to make up for that paltry showing as industrial buildings with more than 1 million square feet are in the pipeline to be built. Most of those projects are clustered in Souderton, Hatfield and Lansdale in the northern part of the county, which has access to Route 309 and I-476, and some projects are along Route 422. Those industrial buildings in the works are mainly last-mile and range from 48,000 square feet to roughly 200,000 square feet.

Where new commercial development occurred was also notable. Much took place closer to other centers of business and growth areas such as in King of Prussia, Plymouth Meeting, Conshohocken and Bala Cynwyd. This meant many projects were built closer to transit as well.

“I think this whole corridor along the Schuylkill River and 76 is really lightning on fire,” Farina said.

Most projects were also built in inflill sites and on previously developed land.

When it comes to residential development, the county isn’t producing as many units as it needs and that has been a general trend for a few years, Farina said. A total of 2,209 new housing units — apartments, single-family attached and townhouses — were built last year and that’s down 35% from 2020.

The inadequate number of new housing units as well as the high cost of construction has exacerbated the issue of affordability. Supply chain problems have also meant the length of time to build a house has taken longer, causing some prospective buyers to fall out of eligibility for a mortgage. “It’s pushing people out,” Farina said.



Apartments, such as 555 Flats in Horsham and Luxor in Bala Cynwyd, accounted for 1,026 of the new residential units. Another 3,060 apartments are either currently under constriction or in the land development phase in nearly every corner of the county and in mostly established boroughs with transit.

For example, in Upper Merion, MLP Ventures has proposed 300 market rate apartments at 2901 Renaissance Blvd. and 300 age-restricted units at 2501 Renaissance Blvd. Toll Brothers Inc. is building 142 stacked townhouses called the Overlook at Town Center at the Village at Valley Forge.

The largest of the multifamily projects under construction is in Collegeville at the Residences at Providence Town Center, which involves 586 new apartments.

Aside from a concentration of new multifamily development, there were other trends to emerge from last year. Single-family, detached development ticked up in established communities such as Lower Merion, Upper Merion, Cheltenham and Abington. These new houses are being built on smaller parcels. For example, two detached units being built on one lot also with a mix of townhouses and single family.


An example of that is Stonebrook off Ross Road in Upper Merion. Toll Brothers is developing 65 single-family detached houses and 208 single-family attached, or townhouses.

The exurbs are also making a come back as the scarcity and high cost of land is pushing developers further out. In contrast to past years, that housing is denser and, may include, for example, a mix of detached and multifamily units. More open space is also being preserved in these new communities.

“It’s exurb development that is more environmentally sustainable,” Farina said.

Tom is a construction estimator with over 35 years of experience in the industry from field work to general contracting.

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