Editorial: An open letter to JP Morgan Chase
By Richard Gaw
In April of this year, JP Morgan Chase, your company, purchased a 187-acre plot of land along Route 41 known as White Clay Point from the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) for the sum of $11 million.
On Dec. 16, you will give a presentation before the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors and very likely dozens of township residents that will unveil a sketch plan for how your company wishes to develop the property.
We know that your original plans include the construction of a mixed-use development that will feature both retail opportunities and between 300 and 350 residential units; and that you will make all necessary improvements along Route 41 in order to accommodate this development and the increased traffic that will no doubt arise.
We also know that the proposed size of this mixed-use development will, in fact, make up a far smaller imprint than the outdoor mall structure that PREIT pitched several years ago.
The property that you purchased several months ago sits – as it has for more than a decade – in a decaying acreage of tangled weeds and brush, a brittle reminder of the attempts by PREIT to fill that patch of earth with an oversized and outdated relic of a business model that was buried for good at the turn of this century and should have had a proper burial back in the 1990s.
Every attempt by PREIT to build that development failed – due in part to the courageous and persistent involvement of several township residents to call both PREIT and the township to task for a series of violations that all ruled in the residents’ favor.
PREIT’s ideas also failed because they chose not to listen to anyone but the sound of their own aspirations. Rather than meet the township’s residents in a crossroads of compromise, they chose to go it their own way – normally in the personage of blank-faced suits who sat silent and stone-faced in the front row at township meetings – with no acknowledgement that the business opportunities they sought would have a huge impact on local residents.
They faced forward at those meetings. They never turned around and shook hands and introduced themselves as neighbors.
Now, with your purchase, it is your company’s time to take this blight of a tabula rasa and shape it into the design of your own vision. Sometime within the myriad of the plans that you will share with the residents of New Garden Township on Dec. 16, we ask that you look upon them not just as a population you’re trying to win over – but as fellow architects in your vision.
The Chester County Press serves as the newspaper of record for southern Chester County. It is a distinction that it takes us into the public meetings and private homes of New Garden Township, to where we are within earshot of the township’s people, their way of life and their continuing narrative of how they want to see the township grow.
They advocate for smart growth that properly plans for expansion, and they are steadfast in their belief that any plans for growth should be accompanied by plans to protect the environment around that growth.
For those lucky enough to be born in New Garden Township, they are as committed to maintaining the semi-rural landscape of Landenberg, Toughkenamon and Avondale nearly as much as they are committed to their own families. For those who were not born there, they have chosen to live in the township for much the same reason, and they show the same commitment.
Pitch the idea of a mixed-use development, and they will reject the idea of megastores in favor of smaller shops and boutiques; cozy bistros instead of chain restaurants; and the creation of walkable parks and gardens that could in the future connect to the trail network proposed for the St. Anthony in the Hills property that the township now owns.
They are executives and farmers, small business owners and teachers, retired and at the very start of their professional and personal lives, but at the very heart of New Garden Township, it is an area that is defined by the unrelenting strength of families.
They want safety for their children. They want accessibility to services that are both convenient and affordable. They want small carbon footprints, not monstrous and ugly ones.
Before you firmly take pencil to paper, however, we ask you for only one favor: Look around and educate yourselves. Take a walk along New Garden Township Park; enjoy the windings trails and introduce yourselves to the young parents pushing strollers or holding the hands of their young children. Take in the beautiful enormity of how the township and its many volunteers are transforming the park to truly become New Garden’s centerpiece of activity.
Take a tour of the new home for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, and soak in the dedication of every officer and staffer there.
Attend a meeting of the township’s Historical Commission, to understand the priceless value the township places on its history.
Then, we ask that you get off the grid for a few hours and disappear into the township’s intricate trail system that were carved into place by the hands of township residents.
These are not only our valued readers, they are our neighbors. So as you and your colleagues begin to design your infrastructure, we ask that you acknowledge every one of them. We ask that you be vibrant in your vision. We ask that you be unique. We ask that you break the mold and shatter the ceiling. We ask that you take the concept of sustainable design to an entirely new level.
Finally, we ask that you be nothing short of brilliant. We’ll be watching, and so will they.
The Chester County Press