Rockdale Arts District is located in the historic section of Aston Township known as  Rockdale, which was once a thriving industrial center in the 18th and 19th centuries, as described in the book “Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution” by Anthony F.C. Wallace.

During that period, Mount Road was the main street of Rockdale and it was lined with store fronts, a newspaper press, a funeral home, movie theater, churches, bars and restaurants, and residences; all of which served the workers of the nearby textile mills along Chester Creek. Everything the workers needed was within walking distance built into the rolling hills and valley around the creek.

The goal of Rockdale Arts District is to support the growth of a vibrant, welcoming, creative community in the old mill town of Rockdale along Chester Creek in Aston Township.

The visual, performing and cultural arts in the Township of Aston include a valuable inventory of museums, galleries, performing arts venues, activities for families and children, special events and programs. These assets have contributed significantly to the Township’s economic base, overall quality of life, and growing reputation as a home for artists and art facilities.

The purpose of the Rockdale Arts Overlay District (hereafter referred as RAOD) is to encourage a mix of small-scale, creative home business uses and arts related businesses in commercial spaces oriented toward or supporting the visual, performing, and cultural arts, while maintaining the residential character of the underlying residential neighborhood. This overlay district establishes enclaves predominantly within single-family residential neighborhoods where artists may live, create work, and market their art. Regulations are established to promote and achieve optimal conditions for artist functions, while maintaining adequate protection for the adjacent properties.


ARTIST – For the purposes of this section, the term “artist” means an individual who practices one of the fine, design, graphic, musical, literary, computer, or performing arts; or an individual whose profession relies on the application of the above-mentioned skills to produce a creative product. The term “artist” includes, but is not limited to, individuals who practice the following:

VISUAL ARTS- Shall include but not be limited to painters, print makers, drawers, sculptors, potters, jewelry makers, glass makers, craft artists, makers, lapidery, textile artists and photographers.

PERFORMING ARTS- Shall include but not be limited to musicians, composers, playwrights, choreographers, and dancers;

LITERARY ARTS- Shall include but not be limited to creative writers and literary translators;

Architecture and design- Shall include but not be limited to architects, landscape architects, engineers, urban designers and planners, interior designers and decorators, industrial designers, graphic designers, and fashion designers; and

MEDIA ARTS- Shall include but not be limited to filmmakers, video and audio artists, and web-based designers.

HOSPITALITY- Shall include but not be limited to concerts, theatre, performance venues, restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries, art galleries, neighborhood retails shops, museums, culinary arts, breweries and distilleries.


The Rockdale Creative Community is an overlay district and shall overlay all other zoning districts within its boundaries. See overlay map a copy of which is appended hereto.  See also  Chapter 1256.02

Procedural requirements shall be in accordance with the underlying zoning district. Where there is a conflict between the provisions or requirements of this overlay district and those of any underlying zone, the provisions of the RAOD District shall govern. 

Uses permitted under the RAOD are subject to Conditional Use Approval as set forth in Chapter 1290.

When located in an R-1 R-2 or R-3  zoning district, a RAOD home business use shall be an accessory use to any single or multi-family dwelling units where a residence is considered the principal use. The residence shall be occupied by the proprietor, or an assistant, of the cultural overlay district home business use.

High-hazard uses, as identified in the Fire Prevention Code, are prohibited in residential zoning districts.

Large national franchises or any other businesses not listed in section above are prohibited. Procedural requirements shall be in accordance with the underlying zoning district. Where there is a conflict between the provisions or requirements of this overlay district and those of any underlying zone, the provisions of the RAOD District shall govern.  

  • Arts Festivals
  • Farmers Markets
  • Arts & Crafts Markets
  • Concerts and Performances
  • Microbrewery or Brewpub
  • Restaurant, sit down, without banquet facilities
  • Restaurant, with banquet facilities or dinner theater
  • Tea house/Coffee House/Cafés, sidewalk café
  • Bakery, candy, pastry, confectionery or ice cream retail sales
  • Florists
  • No-impact arts related home-based business
  • Educational faculties – School for the Arts
  • Structured parking facility for parcels located in the LI District, only
  • Public park or civic plaza
  • After School programs/Home School programs / Summer camps
  • Accessory use on the same lot which is customarily incidental to any of the above permitted uses
  • Light metal processes, including metal finishing, grinding, polishing and heat treatment, metal cutting and extrusion of small products (such as costume jewelry and pins)
  • Small scale farming/beehives 
  • All design standards and proposed use information shall be submitted and reviewed as part of the Conditional Use process 
  • Proposed use under the RAOD must fit within the existing character and aesthetic of the community 
  • Exterior walls should contain architectural elements and colors that are consistent with the building façade, i.e., Victorian era late 1800’s/ early 1900’s 
  • Outdoor decorative lighting, Sternberg Heritage style, shall be installed on the frontage of the property. 
  • Proposed signage- all proposed signage shall be submitted as part of the conditional use application 
  • Proposed parking – parking requirements will be evaluated on an individual basis, subject to the existing conditions and intended use of the property 
  • Kilns, heating devices for glassblowing, metal fabrication & casting shall be installed and operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and directions and any applicable fire and life safety codes

Kilns may be located outside. Outside kilns shall be set back from the lot line of any abutting property with R-1, R-2, or R-3 zoning by at least ten feet.

  • Glassblowing, metal fabrication, casting, painting & sculpture shall follow setback, & other arts related production techniques as well as the underlying zoning setback guidelines.
  • Proposed uses involving anything hazardous or carcinogenic shall be reviewed by the Township Fire Marshal. 

Outdoor displays of any kind are prohibited unless during designated art shows or open houses.


Art-related activities, whether individually or as part of any arts-related RAOD wide special event, shall comply with the Aston Township noise ordinance, as set forth in Chapter 1280.03(e)(1).