Planners, residents continue to share ideas for revitalization of Toughkenamon
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Despite a steady downpour that rained down on Toughkenamon on Dec. 9, more than 50 local residents came to the Harvest Ridge Winery Community Room to share their ideas for the future of the village with representatives from McMahon Associates and Thomas Comitta & Associates, at a workshop that reviewed the Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan.
The event was the third pubic workshop of its kind and served as the latest stopping-off point for a 15-month plan that was approved by the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors last December at a cost of $79,000 that is enlisting the ideas of community partners, businesses and residents.
The timeline for the improvement plan is to collect data, evaluate existing conditions in the village, develop transportation and land use strategies and generate a supplemental plan that is expected to be finalized and presented to the New Garden board in early 2020.
Because the revitalization of the village is a key component of the township's 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the township formed a committee of stakeholders – which include residents and business owners – to guide the streetscape plan, identify ways to improve transportation and mobility in the village, and enhance aesthetics, create a diversity of housing opportunities and encourage investment.
Eventually, the plan that will enable a mixed-use business corridor along Newark Road, Baltimore Pike and Main Street that will include sidewalks, ADA considerations, safe routes to public transportation, crosswalks, pedestrian amenities, landscaping, a park, and overall beautification of the Village.
While the end-goals of the plan to re-energize Toughkenamon are clear, there are still several puzzles to be solved, such as determining methods of curbing traffic congestion; finding ways to increase the amount of pedestrian and bicycle use; decreasing the amount of cut-through traffic; discovering more opportunities for public parking; developing civic open spaces for public use; creating a community identity and generating community interest in the plan.
While the big-picture solutions remain for the moment on the many architectural renderings and streetscape concepts that were shared at the meeting, achieving those goals will be a one-step-at-a-time process, said New Garden Township Board Chairman Steve Allaband. He said that it will coincide with PennDOT's project to improve the intersection of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike, which received a $2 million grant in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal Transportation Fund.
“The next step will be to rewrite the township's zoning laws, in an effort to encourage mixed-use development,” he said. “For a village like this that has a lot of potential and several two-story structures, we need to create zoning to allow for businesses to run on the first floor and residences to be built on the second floor.
“It has to be done not only with zoning regulations, but through the design and development of a safe and attractive streetscape as well. We need to include streetlights and sidewalks in order to create a more pedestrian-like atmosphere. In turn, that enhances Toughkenamon’s identity as a village and encourages walking instead of driving.”
Jennifer Reitz, a municipal planner with Thomas Comitta & Associates, a member of the consulting team, said that the plan will be a two-step process; first, to develop the core of village that is bordered on the west by Reese Street and Union Street to the east.
“Our goal is to give this district a boost in terms of increasing walkability, developing street beautification and having more retail businesses along Newark Road,” she said. “This plan is also looking down the line, to answer, 'Where does the village have the room to grow?' Our plan is to expand this district along Willow Street and encourage redevelopment to occur in that direction, .
“We conducted a lot of interviews with stakeholders as part of the [New Garden Township Comprehensive Plan], and in the process, heard from developers who told us that given the success of Kennett Square, Toughkenamon is the next logical place for development. They're just waiting for the township to put out the 'Welcome' sign. This plan is a way of saying that Toughkenamon does welcome business, especially when it is compatible with the community’s vision.”
Public input, Reitz said, continues to drive the project forward and solidify the plans for Toughkenamon.
“At the last workshop [held on Sept. 19], we proposed the idea of converting Church and Main streets into one-way streets,” she said. “The community was very much against that option, so we listened to their concerns, and we have since taken the proposal off the design board. A major part of these workshops is getting community ideas and support. In the end, we very likely won't be able to please everyone, but we will certainly try to get as much input as possible.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.