SNOW EMERGENCY IN KENNETT SQUARE; NO YMCA PROGRAMS; MORE SNOW TONIGHT

The old Wachovia Bank on the corner of State and Broad streets in Kennett Square is scheduled to come down soon. And with its demolition will emerge a new, five-story office building and a wholly restored version of the Kennett Cafe.

Developer Jim Clymer, of Key Real Estate, said his firm is proposing a new commercial building at the corner, fix up the adjacent building at 112 South Broad Street (the old fire hall) and redo the Kennett Cafe so it attaches to the office building and actually shares a dining room.

He estimates that the project will generate about 170 new jobs, more than $9 million in new payroll and upwards of $1 million per year of spending in the borough every year. He also said that the completed project would add about $100,000 in taxes to the borough coffers, nearly $90,000 to the school district and generate about $15,000 of county taxes.

The 75,000 square foot building project is being co-developed with Genesis HealthCare, the company across the street, who will invest 49 percent of the cost. In turn, Genesis will send about 150 employees from the building it now occupies on West State Street (the old Alvin's department store building) and occupy the upper floors for its data center.

The lower floor of the new building will contain office suites that Clymer says he hopes to rent out to other companies. He also expects to have a retail element along South Broad Street.

The idea with the Kennett Cafe, which Key Real Estate now owns, is to renovate it and attach it to the new office building. Patrons will enter the restored restaurant bar and, if they want, eat at an attached upscale dining room in the first floor of the office building.

And when will all this happen?

Clymer said he hopes the building will be completed by the summer of 2007, with a construction starting date of this spring. There is one caveat, however. He said they can't begin the project unless they have a place to park cars, and that depends on the borough.

"With the commitment to a parking facility, the building will come down," he said, and he hopes that the Borough Council will come to some agreement on that within the next two months.

According to borough officials, there are plans in the works for a new parking garage or lot, but they are not completed yet.

Borough Manager Marge Wolf said the additional parking is necessary for many businesses in Kennett Square, not just Genesis. She also stressed that while the borough is actively planning for that garage, they are not "building it for Genesis" and a location has not been chosen. County grant money will be sought for the project.

At a recent Borough Council meeting, council member John Thomas made reference to plans for the future parking garage on South Union Street at the location of the current lot and the Spruce apartments. But Wolf said plans have not gone that far, and possible locations still need to be studied. She said she was not sure plans for a parking garage would not be firm "by the time the crocuses come up," there should be some commitment soon.

The new building plans show a structure that resembles the original First National Bank that was built at the corner in 1908, with some modern updates that add large windows, a higher room and aesthetic lines designed by the architecture firm of Bernardon Haber Holloway.

Clylmer said the sketch plan has been taken to the borough planning commission and traffic and economic impact studies have been completed.

He said he believes the presence of the additional Genesis employees in the center of town plus other new tenants will encourage economic growth and the arrival of new stores to serve those clients. In the long run, he said, the building will ad greatly to Kennett Square's revitalization.

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