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  • Writer's pictureAndre Watson

Villanova pays $11.5M for land to build new Conshohocken boathouse

The Villanova women's crew team.

Villanova University plans to build a new boathouse along the Schuylkill River after acquiring a 9.8-acre parcel of land that had been proposed for a 270-unit apartment project.

The school closed on its $11.5 million acquisition of the land at 601 Washington St. in Conshohocken last month, according to property records. Villanova said the "best-in-class" boathouse facility would be used by the Division I women's rowing team and the men's club rowing team. The school's rowing teams had been using a warehouse on the lot.

No timeline or design for the project has been finalized.

The new boathouse will be funded in part by a lead gift for an undisclosed amount made by Terry and Patty Cavanaugh, whose daughter graduated from the university in 2017 and was a captain on the rowing team, Villanova said.

The site was sold by an entity linked to MLP Ventures, a real estate firm led by developer Brian O'Neill. The entity, 601 Washington St. Associates LP, purchased the lot for $700,000 in 1999, property records show.

Villanova will take on a new vision for the property after MLP Ventures' preliminary plan to build hundreds of apartments on the land were approved by the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors in October after a back-and-forth following the denial of an original proposal in 2019.

Villanova's rowing facilities sit separate from the rest of the "City 6" schools including the University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Drexel University, Saint Joseph's University and Temple University. Penn, La Salle and Drexel's rowing teams are housed in the heart of the iconic Boathouse Row just north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while St. Joe's and Temple's boathouses are a couple of miles upstream.

Penn recently spent $13.5 million to renovate its 19th-century boathouse, completing the yearlong upgrades in the fall.

"In order to compete at the highest levels of Division I and offer the best possible student-athlete experience, we have been actively looking for a more permanent location on the Schuylkill River for our successful Rowing program," said Director of Athletics Mark Jackson in a statement. "The purchase of 601 Washington Street is a significant milestone toward making our vision for Villanova Rowing a reality, and I want to thank the Cavanaugh family for their generous support of the project and Villanova Athletics."

The school did not return a request for additional comment.

Also on that stretch of the Schuylkill are the Whitemarsh Boat Club, the Mount Saint Joseph' Academy Boathouse and the Conshohocken Rowing Center.

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