KENNETT SQUARE—It seems just about everyone wants to live in Kennett Square.
A real estate development company based in West Chester is seeking to build 187 high-end luxury apartments in the western section of the borough, within easy distance of the downtown historic district.
Just last week, ground was broken for a four-story, 175-unit luxury apartment complex on a 14.4-acre tract on Millers Hill Road, very close to the Kennett Area YMCA which includes underground parking. And construction will finish soon on Kennett Crossing, located at 753-754 West Cypress Street that includes 7,500 square feet of retail and office space.
It was just a couple of years ago that the boom began with the construction of Magnolia Place, a 5.2-acre property developed by Cannery Row Properties, LTD which not only features luxury apartments and townhouses, but Victory Brewing Co. on the ground level.
The StanAb real estate company is looking to build its latest project on the 600 block of West State Street. But the firm first needs approval from borough council to allow for larger, taller buildings along West State Street, from Washington Street to Mill Road. The site is located in a C-2 district, and for the project to become a reality, a new zoning district will need to be created.
The project, called The Lofts at State Street, will have such a profound impact on the borough that council has called for a public meeting June 17 for public comment.
"The existing businesses and parking lots could be replaced by what's called Class-A apartments, or by any other use-by-right building, and we want the community to know that we consider that a significant change," said Councilor Doug Doerfler, who chairs the borough's Municipal Relations Committee. "We value the businesses that occupy the area between our wonderful historic shopping district and Mill, and we're equally aware that the less-intensive uses present an opportunity for change.'
Doerfler said the idea has been through a dozen public meetings of council, the planning commission and the Municipal Relations Committee.
Buildings are limited to 35 feet in the C-2 zoning district, which includes the State Street-Cypress Street corridor on either side of the borough's C-2 secondary commercial district. This height would increase to 55 feet, but only in the area along West State Street and West Cypress streets, starting at the South Washington Street intersection of West State Street to the borough line.
The overlay zoning district includes Magonlia Place, but the 26 acres formerly occupied by the NVF company is not included. The changes will also allow buildings up to 400 feet in length.
Victor Abdala and Tony Stancato of StanAb purchased the multiple parcels in two separate transactions assembling two-plus acres of State Street frontage at the borough’s western edge in 2014 with a vision of continuing the positive momentum that Kennett Square has enjoyed. The pair identified a need for quality rental housing stock within walking distance to the core of the quaint shops and eateries just four blocks to the east of the site.
“We saw the success and the momentum that was happening with Magnolia Place just two blocks south of this site and learned that there were no Class ‘A’ rental projects within nine miles,” said Abdala. “We realized this site really is a perfect location for that use. We initially proposed a project that would have been much too large and out of scale for the Kennett market in 2016. We attended several meetings with the Planning Commission, Borough Council, and the Borough Staff and Consultants and heard their concerns.
“So we went back to the drawing board to rethink our approach. After about a two-year break from the process, the newly appointed Borough Planning Consultant, Nate Echeverria, requested a meeting with him, Mary Hutchens of Historic Kennett Square, and us, where they encouraged us to restart the process incorporating the improvements that we had come up with.
“In November of 2018, we restarted the process and have had numerous meetings with the various committees, consultants, and staff to arrive at this point. We have submitted a text amendment that if approved by Borough Council would allow us to move to the next step in the journey.”
The developers said they chose Kennett Square after an extensive marketing survey determined that rental housing was needed. A survey of 466 employees of Genesis, Chatham financial, Exelon and Kennett Consolidated School District, among others, found that living close to work is very important. And a majority said they would consider downsizing to a luxury, maintenance-free apartment.
Kennett Square has become popular partly because of its many festivals, including Midnight on the Square, the Mushroom Festival, the Kennett Run, the art strolls, the Farmers Market, Third Thursday Dining on State Street and many more. In addition, crime is very low there and it has a diverse community.
The public meeting will take place at the Red Clay Room, 423 Dalmatian Street in Kennett Square, and will start at 7 p.m.
StanAb specializes in transforming blighted and underutilized real estate into successful projects by working with communities. Past projects include Ravello (Kennett Township), Townes at Shannon Hill (West Bradford Township), and Chestnut St. Lofts, The Greentree Building Renovation, and Iron Hill Brewing (all in West Chester).