Willows Mansion, Cottage Up for Grabs

Radnor Township is seeking proposals from businesses and nonprofits for the buildings and some grounds.


“The sky is the limit.”

That’s what the Radnor Township administration is saying the future could hold for the mansion and cottage at .

Anything is possible, including demolition or sale.

Township manager Bob Zienkowski has said that the township does not want to — or perhaps should not — be a landlord to an event space. The mansion has run in the red for at least the past five years.

So in a bit of an unusual move,

But here’s the rub: you can bring the idea, but you also need to bring the funding.

“We want it to be able to come to fruition,” Public Works director Steve Norcini told a group of people at a meeting about the Request for Proposals on July 25.

(Find a copy of the RFP in the pdf section of this article.)

Zienkowski said the township is looking for a partner to do something similar to what has done with . The township retains ownership, but the private girls school has built and maintains a turf field there.

“We want to see what opportunities sit out there,” he said. The Willows is “a diamond in the rough with tremendous potential, and we want to take it to the next level.”

What do you think should go in the Willows mansion and cottage? Tell us in the comments below.

Before the meeting let out, someone asked what perhaps is the most important question.

Everyone who makes a proposal will be expending time and funds. “What is possibility if you have the best proposal that it is ever going to come to reality,” asked Cas Holloway, a local developer.

“What are the chances that it would actually be approved?”

The odds might be pretty good. Come September 1, 2013 “this building will be shuttered,” Zienkowski said of the mansion.

Richard Kline July 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Beautiful place ....two of my children had their wedding receptions there. Renovate it, but keep it.
G Morrison July 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Jini Loos July 27, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Wow... So shocked to hear this! The Willows has been part of our family experience for more than 30 years and the Mansion. Is at the center of that! and the Cottage??? I thought this was part of the Radnor Conservancy ongoing project which many of us have loved for years! I'll be curious to see what offers come in, but truly hope it does not go to a developer for demolition!
Bob Adams July 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Sell it we need the money
Concetta R. Clayton July 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM
To renovate the facilities would cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars and would not be worth it. The Willows never made enough money to maintain it, which is one if the;reasons the township has come to this decision.
Frank July 27, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Lets buy Ardrossian too! "Once in a lifetime opportunity"
Anthony Wayne July 27, 2012 at 02:25 PM
If this gem is to disposed of by the township I feel every effort should be made to deed restrict the future development to one, two, or three parcels. Market these correctly and we would be able to enjoy a remnant of the unique look that area once had. The neighboring developments across the street and further west could have been done much better. Look at what has been done across from Overbrook as a possible model. Further, some portion of the fourty seven acres, could be retained as parkland for public use. It would be interesting to read the words spoken by the family upon the sale to Radnor. What promises were made by either party at the time of the transfer? A special referendum might be used to allow public participation in the decision process. Do not let the final say be in the hands of seven people. No good will come of that.
Ted M. July 27, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Tearing it down would be awful. On the last article someone suggested the grounds be used for a CSA organic garden. This is definitely the best idea i've seen. They mansion would make a nice B&B. The buildings are way too historically significant to be torn down. I'm appalled that they are not protected.
ND July 27, 2012 at 03:07 PM
feel bad this has happened. have very personal feelings about the willows. in 1986 had my parents 40th wedding aniversary party at the willows then 10 years later had their 50th anniversary celebration when we had the january"blizzard of 96"., had to cancel for obvious reasons but were able to have the party the following week eventhough still mounds of snow but all went well. mom has since passed and dad is in a nursing home. mom would be sad to hear this.
SharonG July 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
I LOVE the restaurant/B&B idea.! It would be a great addition to our area!
Janet July 27, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I was married here: http://www.openaireaffairs.com/pearl-s-buck-estate.php they should take over The Cottage
Martin Heldring July 27, 2012 at 09:05 PM
The Willows is a beautiful piece of property with a lot of history and memories for many people. Unfortunately, I think most do not realize yet how serious the Township’s financial condition is; $130 million of unfunded liabilities and more than likely that underestimates it. The Willows has operated at a deficit for years and the upkeep and operating expenses are daunting. I hope it is put to good use for everyone but the bottom line is the Township can no longer afford it.
SSK July 28, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Beautiful possibility @ www.bluehillfarm.com ! or something like simon pearce has done, with restaurant, store, glass blowing space - would be a sin to throw up more mac mansions! totally devaluing the housing market
Cheryl Graff Tumola July 29, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Three things really bother me about this: the timiming of presenting the RFP, midsummer; the very short period of time between the announcement of the RFP and the deadline (only a professional developer could cobble together a "solid" plan in such a short length of time) , 6 weeks; and the fact that the projects merit is to be judged by 5 township employees; three of whom don't live here and two who have moved here because of their jobs not for all that makes Radnor a wonderful community. This project needs more time and community input from the people who pay for open space and everything else in the Township...the citizens.
SSK July 29, 2012 at 06:43 PM
how can it be that township employees with that much sway do not live in the township? Don't you think that is not really a sensible idea?
SSK July 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Which township employees? and what are their positions? @Matt - How did the township get into this financial condition? What *has* the money gone to?
SSK July 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Matt - how did the township get into this financial condition? What has the money been spent on? That would be interesting to see (been pouring through the financial on RTSD.org)
SSK July 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Which township employees? and what are their positions?
Charles K. White July 30, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Lease some of the property with the mansion to a private Continuing Care Facility such as ACTS or to one of the religious based continuing Care operators. Lease the Cottage to Starbucks so all those people who are in business for themselves who don't have office space can go there and have some parking. Keep the balance as open space.
Sam Strike (Editor) July 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Susan, As it was explained to us, the deciding employees are Bob Zienkowski, manager, Tammy Cohen, director Parks and Rec, Steve Norcini, director Public Works, Kevin Kochanski, director Community Development, and Bill White, director of Finance.
Sam Strike (Editor) July 30, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Cheryl, I spoke with Bob Zienkowski today about your points and I will post something tomorrow morning on what he said!
Sam Strike (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Here's a follow up to some of the concerns expressed here: http://radnor.patch.com/articles/willows-preservation-will-weigh-heavily-radnor-manager
Jen McGowan July 31, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Is the entire parcel up for sale? If so, for how much and what would the taxes be?
Sam Strike (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 07:24 PM
No, the RFP is just for the mansion and the cottage and a small amount of land surrounding each. The rest of the park will remain township-owned for the public.
Barbara White Waterman August 02, 2012 at 10:58 AM
This beautiful 47 acre estate was rescued by my father , Bernard White, President of Board of Commissioners and members in 1973. They fought to keep this for Radnor Township !! Please Radnor Township residents come up with a sound solution. It is a beautiful area that has been enjoyed for almost 40 years. Bonnie White Waterman.
Martin Heldring August 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Susan- a lot of reasons why we are where we are. years of financial mis-management and lack of financial oversight. Also, employee pension and benefit plans that are inconsistent with anything I have seen in the private sector (e.g. after only five years, an employee can get a pension and health care for life). The CBFAC report on the Township web site is excellent. Currently, i think we have very professional and dedicated Township staff but I am not sure we have the political leadership to execute their recommendations in a timely manner.
SSK August 11, 2012 at 10:06 PM
@Sam Strike, Cheryl, Martin - again I ask - There are township employees making substantial and long term decisions for the township who do not live in the township? Does that make sense? and how can that be? Wouldn't it make more sense that people who live in the township weigh in on long term decisions for the township? It would be like having commissioners who don't live in the township or in the areas they make decisions for...
Martin Heldring August 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM
It is not a requirement for employees to live in the township. Ultimately, the decision will be made by the elected Board of Commissioners based on the staff's recommendation. I do not feel it need be a pre-condition for staff to live in the township for them to make recommendations that are both financially responsible but also in the long term interests of Radnor residents.
Martin Heldring August 12, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Frank- the township has over $130 million in unfunded liabilities. should taxpayers be asked to pay another $20 million to pay for Ardrossin? exactly how will we pay for all of this?
Ann McIlvain October 15, 2012 at 05:17 PM
AM This is a park that gets ALOT of usage by walkers, children watching ducks, artists painting the landscape. There is SO LITTLE OPEN SPACE! This property is a gem, and offers a retreat from our own little back yards. The gorgeous buildings could house a center for the arts.... dance, theater, music lessons and concerts, gardening, photography,sculpture in the carriage house,exhibitions, etc in conjunction with the Wayne Art Center, if the Township and private donors would guarantee to finance any financial risks from renovation and remodeling, and ongoing maintenance the Wayne Art Center can not take. They have the experience to offer the township wonderful programs that all could enjoy.


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