In 2005, property owners in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore came together to form the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) to oppose Lower Merion Township’s plan to bulldoze businesses in Ardmore’s historic downtown as part of a revitalization plan. In the face of SAC’s campaign, the Township backed down. Now, SAC has received an award from the township. On May 15, 2007, the Historical Architecture Review Board of Lower Merion Township awarded SAC with the 2007 Historical Preservation Award for Stewardship.
SAC’s efforts to protect small business owners from eminent domain abuse also helped protect the historic character of downtown Ardmore. As they brought attention to their situation in local and national media, SAC began cleaning up their community by organizing clean-up efforts, repainting buildings, and removing deteriorating awnings and signs. Their tactics included a minor restoration of the façade of the Hu Nan Restaurant’s building and cleaning graffiti from area buildings—all part of a plan to take away anything the township could use against business owners to make a bogus claim of blight in the wealthy suburb’s downtown.
Although it would seem unlikely that the township would reward its former adversary, SAC’s vast network of support from their successes made it impossible for the township to deny their contribution to the community.
In his letter of recommendation, U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach praised SAC’s success not only on a local level but also on a national level.
“It has battled the destruction of historic resources by the municipal exercise of eminent domain,” he wrote. “It has also promoted legislation at state and federal levels of government to combat the improper taking of private property.”
Their state representative, Daylin Leach, said SAC’s defense of its property rights was a model other citizen groups throughout the country should emulate.
“They were never over-the-top, and they never failed to conduct their campaign with dignity and respect,” wrote Rep. Leach. “If we can get a group like SAC in every community, it would be difficult for people to develop in a way that doesn’t preserve the quality of life.”
These and other letters of recommendation praised SAC’s ability to become a respected grassroots community organization in the face of stiff opposition from local government.
Since their victory in Ardmore, SAC has extended its efforts to spread awareness about property rights and the ability to redevelop with eminent domain beyond just Ardmore to other communities and neighborhoods in southeastern Pennsylvania.
In his letter nominating SAC for the award, SAC Vice President Scott Mahan summarized the organization’s mission as it continues to be voice for the citizens who want to be involved in the redevelopment of their communities: they will continue to spread the message of the importance of balancing historic preservation with development.
The Castle Coalition agrees with the state Senate of Pennsylvania: SAC “truly serves as a role model worthy of emulation” for all grassroots organizations battling the abuse of the eminent domain.
To find out more about the Save Ardmore Coalition, visit their website: www.saveardmorecoalition.org.
 Rep. Jim Gerlach 6th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, “Letter of Recommendation” to the Historical Architecture Review Board of Lower Merion Township, March 12, 2007.
 Rep. Douglas Leach 149th Legislative District, “Letter of Recommendation” to the Historical Architecture Review Board of Lower Merion Township March 15, 2007.
 Scott Mahan, “Application for Lower Merion Township Historical Preservation Award nominating The Save Ardmore Coalition,” March 16, 2007.
Senate of Pennsylvania, “Letter of Congratulation” to the Save Ardmore Coalition, May 8, 2007.