Residents bring their ideas to Toughkenamon improvement plan
● By Richard Gaw
When McMahon Associates and Thomas Comitta & Associates formally unveiled the 15-month design plan for the Village of Toughkenamon in March, representatives from both companies said that they would enlist the ideas of community partners, businesses and residents.
On May 14 at the Harvest Ridge Winery Community Room, that's just what they did.
In conjunction with New Garden Township, McMahon Associates and Thomas Comitta & Associations held a community workshop that drew several dozen residents and partners to review the specifics for the Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan. Approved at a cost of $79,000 by the township's supervisors last December, the plan intends to develop a top-to-bottom improvement of the village.
Its chief target points are to increase walkability; reduce speeding and cut-through traffic; provide new road connections; create a consistent streetscape that will include sidewalks, lighting and signage; increase parking accommodations; improve aesthetics; increase the availability of housing; establish a park that’s near the village; and explore investment and revitalization opportunities in the town.
Jennifer Reitz, a municipal planner with Thomas Comitta & Associates, identified the key goals of the plan: To re-energize Toughkenamon into a village with a variety of restaurants and shops that serve the local community; create a diversity of housing options for all ages; and develop attractive open spaces and streetscapes that welcome visitors and residents to the heart of New Garden Township.
Throughout the meeting, residents met with the chief architects of the plan, and were given several opportunities to share what they believe are the village's key needs.
“I live a half-mile from the main center of town, so I'm interested in seeing how we can create an identity for the town, because there really is no identity,” said 20-year Toughkenamon resident Morgan Miller. “I'm also interested in traffic patterns and parking, because transportation is important, and whether the plan will include being able to create affordable homes for the workers who live in the area.”
Natasha Manbeck of McMahon Associates said that a major driver in the plan will be the improvement of the Baltimore Pike-Newark Road intersection – a PennDOT project – which received a $2 million grant in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal Transportation Fund.
“Design is under way to provide improvements, and the hope is that it will lead to translate to other improvements in the village, such as reducing speeding and cut-through traffic on the village roadways,” Manbeck said. “People also agree that the village should be more walkable, and that sidewalks would make them feel more comfortable walking to destinations like post offices, churches and other establishments.”
The Toughkenamon improvement plan builds upon the township's Comprehensive Plan, which identified the village as a priority focus area. It also dovetails with several other plans that have been done in the village, including a study by the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC) that explored methods of providing better bicycle, pedestrian and transit accommodations along the Baltimore Pike corridor. The CCPC also conducted a housing and transportation study for the village, and a similar study was done by New Garden Township in 2011.
In addition, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is at work to develop a Kennett-Area Freight Transportation Framework Plan, which includes the Village of Toughkenamon.
It's this overlap of projects that Manbeck said will help draw more interest in the plan.
“One of the keys to Toughkenamon's future will be investment, whether it comes from the township, the state or whether it comes from the private sector, so having some investment will jump start translating that vision into a reality,” she said. “I think it is the role of the township and the community to drive and establish the original vision for the plan.
“We have two key outcomes of this plan. One is to identify capital improvements that can be implemented. The second is policy recommendations, which will include design guidelines to make sure that the village retains its character and continues to be Toughkenamon, as changes continue to occur over time.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.