Kennett Square Borough to explore expansion of parking garage
By Steven Hoffman
Plans to expand the parking garage in Kennett Square have accelerated.
At the Jan. 20 council meeting, Kennett Square Borough Council asked interim borough manager Joseph Scalise to take immediate steps to seek funding for the project.
The borough has had a $3.1 million expansion of the parking garage in its Capital Improvement Plan for several years, but the project is moving forward now because Genesis Health Ventures, the town’s largest employer, finds itself in need of additional parking.
“Mr. Scalise and I have had some discussions with Genesis to see what their needs are,” explained borough council president Leon Spencer.
Scalise said that Genesis Health Ventures has acquired some companies in California, and as a result they expect to need to add between 30 and 80 employees in its Kennett Square headquarters within the next year. Genesis has the necessary space in the buildings for the additional employees, but they will need parking.
Scalise said that the parking garage currently has 350 spaces with 310 of them designated as permitted parking spots. Genesis Health Ventures currently utilizes 340 spaces—that’s more than 100 percent capacity, which is possible because all the employees with spaces aren’t using them at the same time.
A $3.1 million expansion of the parking garage would add 203 spaces, Scalise said.
Council members said that if Genesis Health Ventures needs additional parking then it was the town’s responsibility to explore the options that are available.
“I don’t think we need a parking garage expansion right now as a borough,” said council vice president Dan Maffei, “But a very large company in town…needs additional parking.”
Maffei pointed out that not only is Genesis a large employer in town, having those employees working in Kennett Square is a benefit to the shops and restaurants.
“You can’t overestimate how important that extra foot traffic is for a town this size,” Maffei said.
Spencer said that when Kennett Square officials were having discussions with representatives from Genesis Health Ventures, it was apparent to him that Genesis was maintaining its offices in Kennett Square for the long haul.
“They are very dedicated to remaining in town,” Spencer said.
Maffei said that if the borough moves forward with an expansion of the parking garage, two things will be necessary: significant grant money and private capital to help offset the costs of the expansion.
Genesis could make a financial contribution up front or agree to higher parking garage rates. Scalise also said that agreements could be worked out so that the owners of the Genesis buildings would be sharing in some of the costs.
Currently, the fee is $700 annually for a parking space in the garage.
Scalise said that he has already met with county officials to discussion a grant for economic development. The window for the county grant opens in February, Scalise said, and the borough would need to contribute 25 percent as a match to the county’s 75 percent.
The larger state grant that is available for economic development could provide up to half the total project cost of $3.1 million.
Scalise informed council that the deadline for the application for the state grant is approaching, and the council authorized Scalise to retain the Lancaster, Pa.-based RETTEW Associates, an engineering and planning design firm, to assist with the grant application process.
Council member Geoff Bosley said that once the borough council knows what funding is available, they can make a decision on how to proceed.
Spencer said that the goal is to fund the project without passing along the costs to borough residents.
“If this is to happen, it should not impact the taxpayers in the community,” said Spencer.
In other business at the Jan. 20 meeting, council approved a memorandum of understanding with neighboring Kennett Township that will allow the borough police to enforce the weight limits on the bridge on State Street near the Rite Aid pharmacy. The bridge itself is located in Kennett Township, but Kennett Square mayor Matthew Fetick said that it would be a benefit for the borough to have control over the enforcement because it will likely serve as a deterrent to overweight trucks that are passing through the borough.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce truck traffic in town,” said Fetick.
Additionally, the memorandum of understanding will also allow Kennett Square Borough police to patrol and respond to calls throughout Anson B. Nixon Park, instead of just the portion of the park located in the borough.