Miller-Bell House, Righters Ferry Road
Miller Bell House
335 Righters Ferry Road, Bala Cynwyd
The core of this historic building dates to 1695, making it one of the ten oldest buildings in Lower Merion Township. It has been home to the Miller and Bell families from the 1840s through today and is one of the earliest examples of a local farmstead. As its historic barn was demolished a few years ago, the Miller-Bell House remains the only link to the property’s rural and agricultural past. Although the historic property qualifies for historic designation, it currently has no preservation protection.
The property went up for sale in 2011. In 2012, Lower Merion Township enacted new zoning for the City Avenue District to “encourage higher density, multiple-use, and pedestrian-oriented development for properties in the vicinity of City Avenue.” The new zoning splits the six-acre Miller-Bell property into two distinct zones. The portion along Righters Ferry Road, where the historic house stands, is zoned R6A for transition between commercial and residential districts. The larger, rear portion of the property is now zoned CAD-RCA falling within the new City Avenue District and can be used for high-density development.
The property is currently under a sales agreement with Nolen Properties. In a recent application made to the township, the developer plans to construct a nine-story building with 284 apartments. At this time, the developer intends to keep the historic house, renovate it, and use it for administrative offices for the new apartment building. However, they are not required to preserve the historic house because of a lack of preservation protections. Although the newly adopted City Avenue Zoning District includes density bonuses as a historic preservation incentive, the current plan does not take advantage of this option. If the incentive was used, the Miller-Bell would automatically be placed on the Historic Resource Inventory and provided with local preservation protections.