Kennett Square area officials seek economic development study to plan for future growth
● By Steven Hoffman
As one of the region’s most vibrant communities, Kennett Square is a natural location for commercial and residential growth. Officials in the Kennett Square area are collaborating on an economic development study that will help them plan for the future by providing an economic development strategy and an implementation plan.
Historic Kennett Square, the organization that does such a good job with Kennett Square’s revitalization efforts, initiated plans for the study last year, and is collaborating with the Borough of Kennett Square and Kennett Township on the project. Work on the study is expected to begin later this summer.
“Historic Kennett Square is excited and pleased with the increase in the region’s economic development activity, and our goal with the plan is to respond in a responsible manner,” explained Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square. “The commitment to planning for the region’s future is a major step to preserving and improving our town center, while retaining the natural and historic heritage of the region. And we couldn’t be happier with the collaboration between Kennett Township and Kennett Borough. It just feels right to address some of the economic development in a cooperative manner.”
Hutchins informed Kennett Square Borough Council at its meeting on July 6 that Todd Poole of 4ward Planning and Mark Keener of the RBA Group have been hired as the consultants for the study.
A task force comprised of representatives from Kennett Square Borough, Kennett Township, Historic Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens, the Chester County Planning Commission, and community members is being formed to help with work on the plan.
“Between Historic Kennett Square, Kennett Square, and Kennett Township, we wanted to develop a plan for the future,” said Tom Sausen, a Historic Kennett Square board member and chairman of the Economic Development Task Force, in a statement. “It’s important to have a community vision.”
Lisa Moore, the Kennett Township Manager, echoed the sentiment about Kennett Square and Kennett Township working collaboratively on a vision for the future.
“We felt it was important to be a part of this study since the township totally surrounds the borough,” Moore said. “It is extremely important that we have an agreeable vision for the areas that border both municipalities.”
Input from local residents, business owners, and municipal officials will be an integral part of the economic development study.
The project will help establish priorities for where and how the Kennett area grows, taking into account the borough’s ongoing revitalization efforts and the need to protect the natural, rural, and historic heritage of the community.
The consultants from 4Ward Planning and RBA Group will focus on seven areas that include the State Street corridor, the Cypress Street corridor, Birch Street from Walnut to Broad streets, the former NVF site in the borough, the Ways Lane area in Kennett Township, the west side of Mill Road in the township, and the area known as Millers Hill on the eastern border between the borough and the township.
“The primary areas currently have the most potential in the short- and long-term with future economic development,” Sausen said.
Moore added that those areas that will be focused on in the study serve as gateways to the borough and are areas “that need to be improved with creative, innovative development.”
According to Hutchins, a Vision Partnership Program Grant from the Chester County Commissioners, administered by the county’s Planning Commission, will fund part of the $60,000 study. The remainder of the study will be funded by the two municipalities, Historic Kennett Square, and Longwood Gardens.
Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, who serves as the co-chair of Vista 2025, said, “The county is pleased to provide funding through the Vision Partnership Program to help support this project for the Kennett region. The focus of the study—to provide technical data, community consensus, and the vision needed to responsibly guide Kennett’s future development—will improve coordination between the municipalities, the public, and the business community. It will set priorities for where and how the region grows, while protecting its heritage—all very important aspects of the county’s VISTA 2025 strategy.”
4ward Planning and the RGA Group have completed economic studies locally and nationally. In 2013, 4ward Planning completed a market study and financial analysis of the former industrial site in Yorklyn, Del. Additional projects have been undertaken in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Jersey.
Poole will be leading the consulting team as the project manager. He is the president and founder of 4ward Planning and has more than 22 years of experience in economic development issues.
Keener is RBA Group’s director of urban design and has more than 15 years of experience as an urban designer and architect.
The scope of the project will include reviewing planning documents that pertain to the county and the two municipalities; interviewing stakeholders, including residents, municipal officials, developers, and property and business owners; conducting a comprehensive market analysis of the Kennett region; developing a plan of action for economic growth in the region; and reviewing the borough and township zoning requirements as they relate to the seven focus areas.
The consultants will create a draft report of the outcomes of this work and present it to the task force and the municipalities for review and comments. A final report, once approved, will include an executive summary, a PowerPoint presentation, maps, and renderings.
The task force will meet eight to ten times with the consultants, and a total of three public meetings will be held during the planning process. The study is expected to be completed by December of 2016.
“We have high hopes for this,” said Sausen. “These are areas that have a lot of potential for growth. There needs to be a consensus. And the consultants’ job will be to provide some ideas and get that consensus.”
In other business at the July 6 Kennett Square Borough Council meeting:
~ Kennett Square Borough Council approved a resolution for the 50-year extension commitment of SECCRA Operations.
~ Borough council authorized the Civil Service Commission to generate a certified list of candidates to work for the borough’s police department. Mayor Matt Fetick explained that Kennett Square has had a full-time position open since last year, but the department has been using part-time officers to provide shift coverage. Generating an updated Civil Service Commission list is the first step in filling the position. Fetick said that the police department will be evaluating whether to fill the full-time position, but securing an updated list of certified candidates is a good idea because it keeps the information about the candidates current.
~ Borough council approved the Special Event Applications for the Marshall Street block party on July 18, the National Night Out on Aug. 4, the Carter Community block party on Aug. 22, the Mushroom Festival Parade on Sept. 11 and the Mushroom Festival on Sept. 12 and 13.