Plans for the Lofts of State Street presented in Kennett Square
● By Steven Hoffman
Larger projects like Magnolia Place and Victory Brewing are progressing nicely in Kennett Square, and now another high-end project might be in the offing for the vibrant borough.
At the April 6 borough council meeting, officials from StanAb, LP, a West Chester-based real estate development company, made a presentation about plans for a multi-million dollar mixed-use project called the Lofts at State Street. At this early point, the project would include 175 luxury apartments in the 600 block of West State Street, as well as 8,700 square feet of retail space that would most likely be used for a pub or restaurant.
Tony Stancato, a principal of StanAb, provided an overview of the project to borough council. He said that the seeds for the Lofts of State Street were planted when Kennett Square mayor Matt Fetick invited StanAb officials to a breakfast meeting in the spring of 2013 to encourage them to explore real estate development opportunities in the borough.
StanAb LP was formed by Stancato and Vic Abdala in 1995 after they had spent more than a decade building and developing single-family residential neighborhoods in central Chester County. The move into commercial and multi-family projects included numerous high-end projects, perhaps most notably the redevelopment of the former Woolworth's Department Store site in downtown West Chester that featured a retail office strip center that was anchored by Iron Hill Brewery and office suites. The company also oversaw the development of the Green Tree Building in West Chester, which repurposed the space for 64 luxury apartments and 20,00 square feet of retail space.
At the meeting with Fetick, StanAb officials started learning about several large projects in Kennett Square, including The Market at Liberty Place, Magnolia Place, and the arrival of the Victory Brewing Company, and were impressed by some of the investments that were being made in the downtown. Stancato explained that StanAb officials also met with Kennett Square leaders to see the vision that they had for the future of the borough.
“We want to blend in with what Kennett’s vision is,” Stancato explained.
Throughout 2014, the company was able to secure several contiguous parcels in the 600 block of West State Street.
“We think it’s a dynamic area,” Stancato said, explaining that in many ways the revitalization of Kennett Square reminds him of what was happening in West Chester Borough at the time that the Iron Hill Brewery came to town.
A market study by Lisa Price & Associates determined that Kennett Square is an under-served market when it comes to rental properties. Even though there is a demand for rental housing, there is no newer rental stock within a nine-mile radius.
Stancato said that historic Kennett Square, with its walkable downtown and amenities, would be attractive to both older people who might be downsizing and younger people between the ages of 25 and 35 who might be delaying purchasing a home and want to rent instead. The market study noted that there is a definite trend of young professionals being reluctant to take on the commitment that comes with buying a house. The strong demand for rental properties, combined with the short supply, translates into low vacancies and escalating rental rates.
Ray Ott of Ray Ott & Associates, a West Chester land-planning firm working with StanAb LP on the Lofts at State Street project, talked about how the proposal fits in well with the overall vision of the future of the borough that was presented in the borough's comprehensive plan that was updated in 2013.
Ott noted that the comprehensive plan delineated nine character areas with similar land-use and development characteristics. The Lofts at State Street project would be consistent with the kind of development that has been envisioned for the central business district and areas along West State and Cypress Streets near the borough's boundaries. Ott pointed out that eh comprehensive plan even identified the western side of the borough, with its larger lots, as an area for redevelopment.
Ott said that the borough could consider creating a new use in the C-2 District that would provide for mixed use redevelopment, which would provide for a mix of office, retail, and residential uses within a building or track. Borough officials could also consider extending the Tall Building Overlay District. He also recommended applying for grants and funding from the business community to further extend the State Street streetscapes to the east and west, increasing the borough's overall appeal for pedestrians.
Kennett Square Borough Council president Leon Spencer said that he and his colleagues will need time to review the proposal in-depth before they could offer StanAb LP any feedback on the proposal.
“With the volume of information that we have been handed, it is critical that we have time to digest it,” Spencer said.“We as members of council need to study it individually and have some collective discussions as well.”
In other business at the meeting:
Kennett Square Borough Council approved the special event applications for a community-wide shredding event on April 18 and the Memorial Day Parade on May 25.
Council also approved the Architectural Review Board applications for new signage for Houppette at 101 West State Street and The Market at Liberty Place at 148 West State Street.
Mayor Fetick recognized the service of Steve Melton, who served as fire chief from 2003 to 2015. Fetick presented Melton with a citation, saying, “That’s a long time of service to be the first one up for a call.”
Four fire officers were also sworn in for the upcoming year at the meeting.
“We couldn’t begin to pay…for the service that these men and women give Kennett Square,” Fetick said.
Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square, reported that the popular farmers market is filled up and is still attracting interest from potential vendors. Historic Kennett Square is also working with Victory Brewing officials for the upcoming opening. The Third Thursdays events, which have been well-received in Kennett Square, will return on May 21, June 18, July 16, and August 20, Hutchins said.
Kennett Square Borough Council will meet again on Monday, April 20.