Kennett Square inks deal selling land to Kennett Library at below-market rate

FRAN MAYE -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Pictured at the Kennett Public Library’s land deal are (from left) Matt Fetick, Kennett Square mayor, Joey Scalise, borough manager, Wayne Braffman, councilor, Goeff Bosley, councilor, Tom Swett, president of the library’s board of directors, Doug Doerfler, councilor, Ethan Cramer, councilor, and Dan Maffei, president of Kennett Square council.

KENNETT SQUARE >> Kennett Square officials on Sept. 6 officially sold a parcel of land it owns in the center of its business district to the Kennett Library, setting the stage for construction of a state-of-the-art library that could house an auditorium.

“I almost have tears in my eyes, of joy,” said Tom Swett, Kennett Library chairman immediately after papers were signed. “The journey has begun.”

The decision to sell was unanimous by borough council.

“I think this is a good agreement we are signing,” said Councilor Wayne Braffman.

The borough sold the Weinstein lot, a 22,000-square-foot parcel on State Street off South Willow Street, to the library for $386,000, well under the recently appraisal of $550,000. Dan Maffei, Kennett Square council president, said the price difference, $164,000, can be considered the borough’s contribution to the new library. Because the borough is selling municipal land to the library, it does not need to go through public auction.

“This has been a dream of both the library and the borough for quite some time,” Maffei said. “I am delighted both parties were able to work together to find the very best possible solution to find a new home for the library.”

The borough will continue to utilize the Weinstein lot until closing, expected in late 2018 or early 2019. Library officials will conduct a capital campaign, and must give the borough eight months’ notice when it wishes to close on the deal.

Now that the land has been acquired, architects will begin designing the new facility, which could include an auditorium that can be used by both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Environmental assessment and soil testing must take place to ensure suitability for a multi-story building. After the tests are complete, final payment will be made and the land will transfer to the library.

Library officials plan to raise funds to build a $10 million facility.

“The Weinstein lot is one block east of our present building and is located right along State Street near the YMCA,” Swett said. “We are putting up a sign shortly so everyone will know exactly where the new library will be in a few years.”

Swett said the library currently serves 120,000 visitors every year, and predicted the new building will bring in 200,000 people per year.

“We want to build a library were people of every generation, every background, every economic circumstance, is welcome every day to read, study and explore,” Swett said.

Brenda Mercomes, library trustee, said the sale will benefit not only Kennett Square, but many surrounding communities.

“It’s not difficult to see that a newer, bigger and more accessible library will quickly become a community centerpiece for the borough and for all those who visit,” she said.

The current library building is very old, not accessible by handicapped persons to all areas, and some classes, such as ESL, must be held off-site due to lack of room. The heating system is very old, it lacks air conditioning, and does not have many of the features that new libraries have. Still, the library is one of the most popular places in town.

The Kennett Public Library serves eight municipalities in southern Chester County: East Marlborough, Kennett Township, Kennett Square Borough, New Garden, Newlin, Pennsbury, Pocopson and West Marlborough.

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