Township in the Dark About Progress at Old Acme Site

The township approved a mixed-use development called The Promenade in 2009. However, the Sycamore Street site still sits abandoned.


If you drive down Sycamore Street, you can’t miss it: the decaying former Acme supermarket that has become what seems like a permanent eyesore.

The Acme on Sycamore Street has been closed since the early 2000s. In 2009, the township approved a plan for a mixed-use development called The Promenade, which features residential units as well as retail. The developer for this project is McGrath.

However, despite the fact that the applicant came before the township in late summer pleading for zoning relief to scale back the plan – and was granted that relief by the zoning board just months later – little activity has been seen on the site.

The sign that previously advertised the future development and provided contact information for the sales department has been removed and construction vehicles are nowhere to be found.

Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Gallagher said it’s not the just the residents who are in the dark about the project – the township’s leadership has “heard nothing” from McGrath.

Despite attempts to reach out, “we’re getting no answers from them. We can’t get a clear answer on where they’re at (with the project),” Gallagher said.

McGrath representatives did not respond to Patch’s requests for comment, however a salesperson that answered the phone said she had no information as to when information about The Promenade would be available.

Gallagher said the stalemate puts the township in a tough place. Since the land is private property, there’s not much they can do, he said.

“We can keep in touch with them and help speed them along,” he said. But with a lack of communication, that strategy has so far proven fruitless. 

In August, representatives for the applicant came before the township proposing to amend the existing plan because of a change in the market.  The new plan, which the Zoning Hearing Board approved in November, has less retail and smaller residential units. It’s 20,000 square feet smaller than the original 83,000-square-foot plan.

“If we can’t make it happen quick, we can’t make it happen,” Jim Worthington, a project investor, told the supervisors in August.  At that same meeting, Worthington added that if the amended plans are approved quickly, construction could begin in a matter of months. 

However, nearly five months have passed since the township approved the amended plans.

Hank March 30, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Thanks to Kara and the Patch for the honest update. This situation is simply disgusting. Hopefully everyone will remember promises made and not kept when the next election comes around.
John Larkin March 30, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Is this a situation where the Township can start eminent domain proceedings to get the land back and either develop a public area or resell?
Doug M. March 30, 2012 at 06:55 PM
How about the eye-sore across from Genuardi/ACME shopping centers? There was supposed to be development there. Now, it is just a decaying place where xmas trees get sold last 2 years.
Kara Seymour March 30, 2012 at 07:04 PM
John, according to township officials that is not an option right now. Doug, a senior living facility was approved for that site within the last 9 months or so.
Borough Resident March 30, 2012 at 11:58 PM
http://acmestyleblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/abandoned-acme-newtown-pa.htm Here is the link to a website that you can go and see pictures of the skateboard ramps that have been put up in the old abandoned Acme property. It says the property was closed in 1991 and has been sitting vacant ever since. And still the Newtown Township politicians say they are helpless to do anything.... really????
Kara Seymour March 31, 2012 at 01:03 AM
interesting photos. I got the early 2000s date of closure from the minutes of past meetings but does anyone recall exactly what year it in fact closed?
carol K. March 31, 2012 at 01:51 AM
there's no way that it was closed in 1991. i shopped there in 1998 when i lived in newtown!
D C Signs March 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM
It's a terrible eyesore that's gone on way too long!! I realize there are a lot of complications but it sure would be a perfect spot for a Trader Joe's!!
D C Signs March 31, 2012 at 12:42 PM
We moved to Newtown in 1992 and I remember shopping at that Acme a few times over several years.
pamela ann fitzpatrick March 31, 2012 at 01:26 PM
McGrath would already have this developed if they drew a plan that complied with the zoning. Their first plan was 3 times the size and density allowed. It is the back and forth trying to maximize their profit( Supreme Court rules a developer is entitled to a profit, but not entitiled to maximize their profit.in other words, build to the max) that has taken so long. The other issue is this is a Gray fields site, which requires specialized removal and cleanup of the asbestos, etc. This is a perfect location for a community center, walking distance from the schools , the Borough and the Twp. Mr. McGrath seems like a nice man, the time I met him. It would be nice to work out a solution that benefits the historic character of the street and supports the community. The bottom line is it takes money for anything to happen.
Stewart March 31, 2012 at 01:40 PM
McGrath Homes is having financial problems. There was a news story about them on TV, not finishing a home they sold in a development. They have slashed prices on new housing developments between $30,000 - $100,000. They have not built clubhouses in their two 55+ developments in Newtown, as they promised the residents.
Man Landers March 31, 2012 at 01:44 PM
It closed in 2001, Kara.
Dori McCrane March 31, 2012 at 01:54 PM
It seems the new Acme opened sometime in the mid 1990's. It was open at least a few years before we moved to our new home in 2001. Doesn't Piladelphia have a fix-or-demolish law? Maybe Newtown should get one. As for the boarded up houses at Eagle and Durham, I would think securing funding for an adult living facility wouldn't be too difficult with the rate of the Boomers reaching advanced age.
Barbara March 31, 2012 at 02:36 PM
What? Who are you?
Barbara March 31, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Yes. In favor of that!!
Barbara March 31, 2012 at 02:51 PM
You are quite a piece of work!
Carol Boyle March 31, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Rob Lowe recently visited our town to do filming - and where did his trailer sit at night? In this delapitated parking lot. Wow. I'm sure that made a sad impression. I'm sure I'm asking an already thought of question, but can the township demand that this site be demolished due to not just eyesore, but cleanliness? There are signs of youth entering the building since there is a skateboard ramp inside. We're lucky this isn't a drug hangout! Are we just asking for trouble? Would the township allow a residential house to become this delapitated before stepping in and demanding action? What about court ordering the demolishing? I'm sorry that McGrath is having financial problems. With so many businesses having difficulties in this economy, I understand McGrath's hesitation. Everyone is having financial difficulties. It's not new news! Can we all just put our heads together to think of other more affordable otions? I'd rather see a parking lot right now rather than this eyesore. Then in the future it can be turned into something that Newtown can be proud of.
bobrodo March 31, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Government reimbursement for adult living facilities isn't as lucrative as people think so hopefully that site doesn't follow Acme in being an eyesore. Maybe we can have our own lottery and all the twp and boro adult residents and businesses can throw in at least $20 and winner gets half and the other half goes to buying mcGrath out and making community center that would compete with mr. Worthington's NAC. Would that light fire under them.
pamela ann fitzpatrick April 01, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Response to bobrodo. I like the idea of asking all the Borough and Township residents if they would like to buy the site, creating a community cooperative kind of arrangement. I do not know if that is possible, but putting the idea out there. I like hearing, first from the residents for ideas of what they want, rather than being told what we have to accept, after all the deals have been done. Thanks.
Betsy Hunt April 01, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Carol...GREAT idea!
the VOICE April 02, 2012 at 07:04 AM
Dream on !
Townie April 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
This is a mess created by the Newtown Supervisors in the mid to late 90's. Acme should not have been granted a permit to move to their current location without securing the Sycamore Street location (and removing the building). Supervisors at thet time were people like Goren, Jirelle,Goodnoe,Harp, Sanderlin. This was about the same time the way too dense parking deficient "Goodnoe Corner" was approved. What to do now? First thing is it is an easily trespassed upon unsecure site. The owners should be required to secure the site or else risk an eminent domain takeover. Langhorne has a similar problem with the abandoned gas station. At least the were able to clean up the sight and paint the building. The housing market shows nor sign of picking up, so this "project" looks to be hung up for the foreseeable future.
Joe Thompson April 03, 2012 at 12:32 PM
That's a good site for McDonalds. Right on the main road in the middle of everything. Better a Mickey D's than a fenced in abandoned eyesore!
HCCrusader April 04, 2012 at 02:41 AM
In the past, I've watched the Newtown board of directors chastise borough homeowners for a slightly wrong colored roof shingle. Now this? This board needs to figure this out - fast. This is a leadership problem. Fix it. This is ridiculous.
Barbara April 04, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Newtown Township Supervisors don't "chastise borough homeowners" -- ones the Township the other the Borough. Unfortunately, this is all Newtown Township decisions, not the Borough...although they have a vested stake in it.
Karen April 04, 2012 at 01:21 PM
agreed Barbara
Alex R. April 04, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Knock it down & turn the land into a little park w/flowers,fountain or something...its cheaper then building way more stores that Newtown doesnt need. All that area of Newtown really is...is just stores...nothing fancy about it. The mall look is an eye sore. I dont get why anybody would want to make a movie there, there's way nicer towns. Have you seen how empty The Village of Newtown is. I don't think the building right next to Wells Fargo has a single business in it. If they want more "fancier" looking shops just fix up the Village of Newtown, those already look old. They should have made that Acme spot the skate park(but also a park) so that the kids were a little more out in public & not near the crabby residents. They complain about "noise" when they live next to a 4 LANE HWY & some how manage to be bugged by little wheels.I would think the football announcer at the stadium would bother them more,but yet they moved there. But we all know noise wasn't the reason they just didnt want kids hanging around close to them, hello they live near a high school. I'm pretty sure the old Acme is a drug hang out,esp since many areas of Newtown are. All the houses they made people move out of on Eagle&Durham..to build more even more town clutter, just sell them cheap as fixer uppers. They dont have $ to deal w/these properties but they do for more baseball parks even though theres already many in the area that dont make the town look any more appealing, should have left it open land.
Kristine April 12, 2012 at 04:07 AM
A community center would be FABULOUS!
CouldBeComingBackWe'llSee April 15, 2013 at 06:20 PM
if everyone behaves wed night, you won;t see anything...if people act-up, you'll likely see some new info on this builder


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