We are pleased to see that some serious and creative thought has gone into plans for the demolition of the old Wachovia Bank and the construction of a replacement facility on that site in Kennett Square. But along with delight, we have some questions.
Real Estate developer Jim Clymer of Key Real Estate has put together a packet of plans, studies and proposals that can impress even the most seasoned cynic. It shows a five-story building constructed in a style reminiscent of the original bank, but much classier with lots of windows.
Also included in the plans is a restoration of the Kennett Cafe next door. That's wise, because it will be an eating place and watering hole not only for the new office building employees but for borough residents and visitors from outside the area. A classy restaurant that is open every day of the week can keep people coming to that corner of town even when business hours are over.
Also, with the suggestion of some retail stores along Broad Street, shopping opportunities will increase.
Additionally, by adding more professionals to the working force of Kennett Square, the new building will also contribute to the tax base and might even interest some of those people to move into the borough.
With that said, we have some lingering doubts whether an office building is the best plan for a little town like Kennett Square.
For one thing, the people who work there might very well use the building for their job only and desert the borough at 5 p.m. The financial districts of big cities are examples of areas where things go dead as soon as the workers go home at night.
Another question associated with the proposed building is that one-third of the capacity will not be occupied by Genesis HealthCare employees.
What if no one wants to come and rent the other section? Will the building become a partial empty shell?
The borough zoning code and the objectives of the town Main Street association (Historic Kennett Square) call for a retail overlay in the center of town. This proposed office building will have a restaurant, but there is little explained in the way of retail for its bottom floor or next door.
Lastly, the developers intend to proceed with plans only if the borough commits to a parking facility. We hope that facility does not destroy some very historic elements of the town just for the sake of accommodating more cars.
So, as with most new plans, there are two sides.
Let's hope the increased numbers of employees with money in their pockets encourage the opening of upscale shops where people stop for necessities before they go home and return for browsing on the weekends.
Let's hope, also, that a number of the new employees will find the town so charming that they choose to live here, buying old houses and fixing them up rather than putting their money into a sprawling McMansion in the country.
With good planning, the weekend activities, attractions and festivals of the borough will continue, luring those employees and their friends to return after work for fun and food.
And finally, we are rooting for a well-placed parking garage that doesn't disrupt traffic or the town ambiance -- and that the county supports it in the form of a grant.
If all those factors work in the right direction, then the office building will be a boon, and the town will thrive because of it.