Occupancy has begun at Promenade at Upper Dublin, a mixed-use residential and retail complex at 1100 Market Street in Dresher, PA. Two expansive five-story buildings, with retail at the ground floor and 402 rental apartments above, will provide a dense, walkable urban node for the sprawling suburban community in Montgomery County north of Philadelphia. BET Investments Inc. is the developer behind the $200 million project.
Promenade at Upper Dublin spans a 25-acre site at the corner of Welsh Road and Dreshertown Road in an area sited between a low-density suburban community and a commercial district with “big box” stores, business centers, and warehouses. The development replaces vacant, overgrown space with a complex intended to emulate the “main street” feel, according to the official brochure.
Instead of an indoor mall-style environment, the 143,686 square feet of retail faces the sidewalk, inviting pedestrian activity and activating the streetscape. The sidewalk’s ample width allows for space for outdoor café seating while planted areas soften the landscape. Retail frontage is segmented with various façade treatments that emulate smaller-footprint buildings common in traditional urban corridors. A material palette of stone, steel, and brick in muted colors further reinforces an urban ambiance. Street-facing balconies allow residents to visually interact with street life without leaving their apartments. The buildings’ prominent height will also allow for expansive, unobstructed views from many upper-floor units.
The apartment amenity list also reads like one commonly expected in a contemporary complex in the city, featuring a fitness center, pool, clubhouse, business center, and elevators. Green roofs, electric car charging stations, and bike shares are some of the environmentally friendly features. A 2.7-acre park will connect three miles of existing walking trails and pedestrian links connecting to the surrounding residential neighborhoods and office parks.
To the south is a single-family community extension that spans a slightly larger lot ad accommodates 114 single-family homes. In contrast to the apartment complex, the extension is suburban in style with detached houses ringed by a belt of woodland. Regency at Upper Dublin is a similar complex to the west across Dreshertown Road, with 105 single-family houses. Although both communities are suburban in layout, they are more urban in spirit than the surrounding area, with more compact and closely located houses, smaller blocks, and sitting within short walking distance to the shops at the Promenade, which include a fresh grocer.
The Promenade is part of a nationwide trend to transform single-use, car-oriented shopping malls into mixed-use “lifestyle centers” that reintroduce urban amenities while still catering to their car-dependent surroundings. King of Prussia, the region’s predominant mall, introduced the King of Prussia Town Center in 2016. Suburban Square, a shopping center in Ardmore in Philadelphia’s western suburbs, is entering the final phase of a similar conversion. In an out-of-state regional example, the Westfield Mall in Paramus, NJ, west of New York City, plans to convert an extensive parking lot into a communal green space surrounded by mid-rise buildings with ground-level retail and apartments above.
Despite its car-oriented surroundings, Promenade at Upper Dublin is located in a relatively densely populated area, at least by suburban standards, which may qualify as an “edge city,” a term Joel Garreau coined in his 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. The complex’s promotional material seeks to capitalize on this proximity, as evidenced in a chart that compares the densities of consumer markets around other local shopping centers.
With ample surface parking, both along the main promenade and on parking lots in the rear, even the Promenade’s dense central area still feels rather suburban compared to “true” urban development in central city cores. However, from an urban planning perspective, the complex is a bold step for the local community toward a denser, balanced lifestyle.