Earlier today, the Internet was abuzz with news that the parent company of aggressively au courant Philadelphia-based (and found in a college town near you) retailer Urban Outfitters has leased a vacant 6.5 parcel of land, formerly home to a garden center, in tony Easttown Township, Pa. with plans to transform it into a mini-city.
Could it be true? Would Philadelphia’s famed Main Line be getting a New Urbanist community where the dress code involves skinny jeans, ironic kitten T-shirts, and/or $40 peasant blouses? An insufferably hip spin on what IKEA has planned for East London? A full-on Urban Outfitters company town?
Mercifully, none of the above seem to be true as Devon Yard, the working name of the project, is being envisioned as more of a shopping-centric lifestyle “lifestyle experience” than an actual planned community. When completed, the proposed development will include ample retail space, both high-end and casual dining options, a fancy spa and/or “boutique exercise studio,” a specialty grocery market, and a 93-room “authentic, handcrafted, and unique” boutique hotel that Dave Ziel, chief development officer of Urban Outfitters, tells the Main Line Times will be “the main driver of the village concept.” The five-story hotel, to be called the Devon Inn, will take up roughly half of the new town center development.
At this time, there are no plans for housing at Devon Yard. However, on the topic of Urban Outfitters and housing, I’d personally like to thank the company’s Massachusetts Ave. location in Boston for helping to furnish a succession of dorm rooms and off-campus apartments from 1999 through 2003. All those tapestries, throw pillows, and overpriced picture frames served me well.
And as for the retail component, there actually won’t even be an Urban Outfitters at Devon Yard (keep in mind that this is the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia, not Ithaca or Austin). There will, however, be a Terrain, an upscale, agrarian/artisanal-minded UO offshoot that’s basically the love child of a garden center, Martha Stewart’s basket house, and a mountain of upcycled Mason jars (in all honesty, Terrain, which currently does brisk business over the Web and operates brick-and-mortar locations in Westport, Conn. and in Glen Mills, Pa. is pretty great). The Devon Yard Terrain location will feature a farm-to-table café and plant nurseries according to the Main Line Times.
The development will also be home to an Anthropologie, UO’s decidedly more sophisticated and worldly older sister with higher price points, a bevy of lovely home decor and accoutrements, and not a stitch of kitsch in sight. Anthropologie, which boasts over 175 stores worldwide, maintains a flagship store in nearby Wayne. The other buildings at Devon Yard will be subleased to non-UO tenants including the aforementioned eateries, spa, market, etc. As for the hotel, it will be operated by an unnamed boutique hotel operator “with a similar aesthetic” as the company.
If Devon Yards officially gets the green light from the township and all goes as planned with permitting, construction of the development — construction that Ziel says will take a “reclaimed natural materials, found objects approach” with the centerpiece hotel being built by Amish stonemasons — would be finished in April 2016. And as for parking, Urban Outfitters has entered a unique parking lot arrangement with the neighboring grounds of the Devon Horse Show, the oldest and largest multi-breed horse show in the U.S.
It’s worth pointing out that the president of the Devon Horse show, Wade McDevitt, along with developer partner Eli Kahn are the owners of the proposed Devon Yard site (aside from being a long-time equestrian, McDevitt most conveniently, also operates a retail brokerage firm that handles all UO real estate affairs). McDevitt's wife, Wendy, is the president of Terrain and has been with Urban Outfitters since the early 1990s. His brother-in-law, Scott Belair, is a co-founder, along with ultra-conservative current CEO Richard Hayne, and board member of the retailer-cum-controversy magnet.
Keeping it in the family, indeed.
Via [PSFK] via [Curbed], [Main Line Times]