@hedtb36:Borough future dominates presentations
@heds:Financial spokesman calls for more affordable housing in Kennett Square.
@by:By Chris Barber
@bod:Kennett Square is likely to take on a new look if all the plans that were presented at Monday night's Council meeting come to pass.
In an extended special meeting, a host of speakers laid out their ideas and diagrams -- overall for the whole borough, but specifically for the uptown area.
Larry Bosley, who serves as the chairman of the Economic Development Committee of the Historic Kennett Square Main Street Program, gave his report on more than a year of work by his group. In summary, he said the members had collected data, sent out surveys and looked into the successes of other towns in order to reach their conclusions. All this, he said, was to figure out how to bring business to town and effectively make Kennett Square thrive.
He first outlined his methods for the 40 or so visitors at the meeting in the American Legion Hall, and then listed his exact recommendations.
He said parking and truck traffic is on the top of the list. "The biggest impediment to economic growth is parking," he said. "Whether this is an actual or perceived problem is irrelevant. A report must be completed that includes a plan to address and solve the problem in a way that changes the perception, if not the fact, of the problem.
He also listed as necessary steps recruiting business owners, controlling renovations and signage, promoting a central anchor building, facilitating communication among Kennett stakeholders, identifying and showcasing historic buildings and focusing on regional business development - including developing strong ties to Longwood Gardens.
Jim Clymer, a real estate developer with Key Realty in Kennett Township, also gave a pitch for the borough future. He showed in a series of architect's renderings the plans he has for the demolition of the Wachovia Bank at Broad and State streets and a new, 75,000 square foot replacement building to house employees from Genesis HealthCare.
He spoke at some length about the size of the building and asked the Council to grand a variance to permit a five-story, 75-foot high structure. He also described the appearance of the planned building and added that his firm intends to renovate the adjoining Kennett Cafe and the old firehouse next door on South Broad Street.
Some people in the audience as well as Council member John Thomas grilled him on whether there would be plenty of retail space allocated on the first floor of the new building -- a goal of the retail overlay regulations enacted several years ago. Clymer said he intends to keep the first floor open for 27 months with the goal of filling it with retail establishments.
To enhance Clymer's presentation, architect Kerry Haber and traffic engineer Dan Altman presented positive aspects of the new building's effect on the town and vehicle flow.
After the discussion of the new Genesis building was finished, planning consultant Peter Simone, who has been working on the borough's vision plan, presented his recommendations for the future of the uptown section, the NVF property and Birch Street. He said he believes Kennett Square needs changes in its zoning that would permit higher buildings in the middle of town.
As for the roughly 25 acres of land that will be available if and when the bankrupt NVF company leaves, he said the industrial zoning designation should remain with the addition of commercial and residential overlays permitting a wide variety of uses over which the Council could exercise control.
The area of Birch Street, he said, is an opportunity for "adaptive reuse." He said there are many old and interesting buildings that could be renovated, and the idea for a trail along the railroad tracks was still a possibility.
Keying on the agenda item that listed Simone's report, Mike Bontrager, president of Chatham Financial, a local risk management and investment company, said the Kennett Square Council must consider the need for affordable housing, which he identified as under $300,000. He said he has young employees between 26 and 33 years old who are looking for houses in the borough but cannot find them. He added that accommodations should be made for providing this kind of housing so these young professionals can move to town and raise their families there.