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Market project aims to boost Quakertown

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An artist’s rendering illustrates the Trolley Barn Public Market, a project in Quakertown that is under development and projected to open in 2019. RENDERING/CHRIS LABONGE
An artist’s rendering illustrates the Trolley Barn Public Market, a project in Quakertown that is under development and projected to open in 2019. RENDERING/CHRIS LABONGE

The first of three anchor businesses is gearing up to open in the Quakertown Trolley Barn Public Market, a massive redevelopment project slated to open next year in the heart of downtown Quakertown.

Developer Chris LaBonge unveiled Black River Farms of Lower Saucon Township as the first anchor for the 18,000-square-foot main building project.

Andy Warner, who along with wife, Kris, owns and operates the vineyard and winery, said the project was attractive because of its location and because of Quakertown’s ongoing revitalization.

“There are an awful lot of people driving through Quakertown, and we want to give them another reason to stop and visit,” Warner said.

Black River could be joined by up to 12 niche retailers – including a bakery, deli and sushi bar, as well as a restaurateur for a stand-alone building on the project.

Trolley Barn developers want to create a destination where business people, families with children, couples or singles can meet, stop, shop, relax and engage with merchants.

LaBonge said casual venues that incorporate co-working spaces and a variety of retail services are the future and rely less on sales volumes than on providing “quality, authenticity and craftsmanship” experiences.

“It’s all about creating collaborative experiences,” LaBonge said.

LaBonge said while many outside investors had been hesitant to commit to the redevelopment project, Warner “stepped up.”

About 15,000 cars travel through Quakertown on Route 313 – known as East and West Broad streets to locals – just about every day.

Warner said borough officials offering up to 180 public parking spaces and new lot lighting was another project benefit.

Along with parking the project is expected to bring more than 100 new jobs to Quakertown.

A FOUR-BUILDING MAKEOVER

The roughly four-acre project involves a complete rehabilitation of the corner of Front and East Broad streets and includes four buildings and their properties.

The properties are: the former Mammy Kleine’s storefront; the old trolley barn, which housed the Quakertown Traction Co.; the former J&D Whistle Stop hobby shop; and the old rail station freight house, which was used to load and unload cargo during the railroad’s heyday.

In addition to the 18,000-square-foot public market, a 10,000-square-foot outdoor wine/beer garden is planned. The space will connect the 3,500-square-foot freight house building to the main market building.

LaBonge said a planned Phase I opening was slated for spring 2019, with the complete project open later in 2019.

Once complete the market complex would bridge the antiques shops farther east along East Broad Street (Route 313) with the traditional “downtown triangle” business area, along the 300-500 blocks of West Broad Street.

To grow the retail center, LaBonge is banking on traffic volumes, a high-end mix of merchants and trends toward public gathering and market spaces, along with an area hungry for an upscale local destination to shop and gather over a meal, snack or drinks.

“I became fixated on the idea of a public market in Quakertown after being introduced to the concept while visiting several other markets in New York, Philadelphia and even overseas,” LaBonge said.

Quakertown economic consultant Ed Scholl said the project’s tone was about building a community and gathering place. A lifelong resident, Scholl’s family has lived in Quakertown since the early 1700s.

He said the project was unique because the tenants would have a voice in how the market would evolve aesthetically.

“They’ll have a say and a voice in the design and décor of the space. They’ll definitely be invested in creating the atmosphere,” Scholl said.

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