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Chester County Press

Editorial: Protect the Pearl

08/15/2017 01:10PM ● By Richard Gaw
The creation of a natural pearl is made by means of protection.
When a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a mollusk and settles inside the shell, the mollusk, irritated by the intruder, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a perfectly round pearl.
Highly valued as an object of beauty for many centuries, the pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable.
Over the last decade, through the foresight and proper economic planning of its business owners, elected officials and concerned residents, downtown Kennett Square has evolved and in the process has grown to become that rarest of things -- a thriving hub of commerce, activity and accessibility -- built on the firm handshake principle that a town should measure its progress by its people, not by the amount of tax ratables it can accumulate.
They have chosen to protect the town from over-commercialization and overbuilding, and in the process, they have created that natural pearl.
At an Aug. 7 meeting of the Kennett Square Borough Council, members of the Kennett Realty Group, in association with The Commonwealth Group and Harvey, Hanna & Associates, proposed the construction of an upscale hotel at the intersection of Broad and Cypress Streets in Kennett Square. If constructed, the seven- to eight-story hotel would have between 100 and 110 rooms, a small restaurant, meeting rooms, and two levels of parking.
Looking at it from nearly every angle, the hotel makes sense. Economically, the hotel would employ 200 people during construction, and have jobs for as many as 50 employees when it opens. It would increase tax ratables for the borough. It would serve as a premiere accommodation center for out-of-town visitors who would be less than a few minutes' drive from Brandywine Valley attractions and a few steps from restaurants, events and commerce in the borough. Further, the building blocks of its construction would be supported by the strong reputation of its real estate development team.
For all of these reasons, the hotel is a brilliant idea.
Build it, but build it somewhere else in Kennett Square.
The construction of the hotel in its planned location would permanently redefine, alter and subsequently ruin nearly every smart decision made in the last decade that has built and retained downtown Kennett Square to be a town of people and not buildings. It would further complicate traffic along State Street to the point where a mild nuisance would fester into an 18-hour daily bottleneck. Its marketing efforts -- to imagine itself as Kennett Square's bedroom -- would package up the unpretentious eclecticism of the town's vibe and sell it under another name, to an audience who look at small towns like they are amusement parks -- and not miracles of collaboration.
They would be on top of it, every day, and they would not let the town breathe, until it suffocated under the weight of its own popularity.
Building a hotel of this kind in downtown Kennett Square is like building a hotel adjacent to the Italian Water Garden at Longwood Gardens.
To the planners of this hotel, we say "Wait."
Wait for the nature trails to connect with one another in the town's outer reaches.
Wait for the vision of the new Center for Economic Development to blueprint its plans for the future.
Wait for Kennett Township's Sustainable Development Office to secure its dream to create Kennett Square as a world center for indoor agriculture.
Wait for the last brick to be installed in the building of the new Kennett Library.
Wait until you have heard ideas and opinions from every resident and every shopkeeper who cherishes Kennett Square's precious connectivity.
To the planners of this hotel, your idea is a good one, but if you wait, and if you listen, you will better be able to determine a more optimal location to build the hotel, close enough to the vibrancy of downtown Kennett Square but not right in its way. Remember that there are streetscape, sidewalk and nature trail projects that are either underway or being planned that are reimagining Kennett Square as a walkable community, to connect neighborhood to commerce and services in a vital and continuous link. 
Follow those links. See where those walkable connections finish, and build your hotel there.
Leave your own legacy. Illuminate the pearl, but save it in the process.

slug: editorial Aug. 16

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