Editorial: Eight pillars for future designs
By Richard Gaw
While this newspaper believes that the presentation was conducted with courtesy toward skeptics, naysayers and the cautiously optimistic, it had all of the earmarks common to a first draft. Sketchy narratives. Gaps in details. A general fuzziness of character development. A lack of a proper ending.
To those whose task it is to move the proposed project forward, we offer the following suggestions, in the hopes that they serve as a guidepost, as pencils continue to be sharpened and designs are further formulated.
Change the name immediately, and do not make any future comparisons to PREIT. To many of the residents New Garden Township, “White Clay Point” is the equivalent of a vulgar term, and a reminder of a time in recent history when corporate greed attempted to bulldoze its way past township residents and official, with a demonstration of blatant indignance that still lingers fresh in their memory.
The fact that the imprint of this proposed development will be far less than the plans created for the same property by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) means nothing. An imprint covering an old is still an imprint, and it will not distance this project from the original White Clay Point. Rather, it will continue to link to it.
Do your homework. The flimsy data that was provided on Dec. 16 that attempted to hitch the reason for this mixed-use development to Need and Projected Demographics will not continue to pass muster in the court of public opinion. When it comes to potentially changing the residential and commercial face of New Garden Township forever, hunches and corporate rolls of the dice will not cut it here. In future presentations, only exacting statistics and projections will be permitted.
What does M Capital Partners, Inc. know about Landenberg? Toughkenamon? West Grove? New Garden Township? Life east of the Rockies? M Capital Partners, Inc., the company who has been hired by JP Morgan Chase to develop White Clay Point, is a Los Angeles-based real estate company that defines itself on its website as “a real estate company with a proven track record.” Really? Where? A review of your website (www.mcapitalrep.com) reveals a concrete jungle of formations developed – or being developed – in California and Utah, most of which are strip and industrial retail.
Go local. Trust us when we say that if you create this project in Los Angeles or in some bunker far removed from New Garden Township – without the steady influx of ideas and suggestions from the residents and stakeholders – you will never be forgiven for your decision to do so.
The steerage of this project will best be done by the hiring of a local township planner, preferably an agency who has already done substantial projects in Chester County, who will chair a committee that includes elected and appointed New Garden Township officials, local business owners, representatives from the Kennett Consolidated School District and private citizens.
Go green. While a sufficient chunk of the proposed development will be consumed by residential and commercial space, the original draft does project a portion to open space, some of it extending to the northern edge of the St. Anthony in the Hills property, that the township has purchased for open space and a trail system in the future.
We highly recommend that the development partner with area conservation experts, who can study the broad overview of the development's design and broker a compromise that respects both profit and preservation.
Introduce yourself to your future neighbors, Mr. Moshtaghi. Prior to forming M Capital, Navid Moshtaghi was an executive director for JP Morgan’s Principal Real Estate Investment Group, where he served as head of the West Coast Division from 2007 to 2012 and oversaw the investment, management, and disposition of a $1 billion + commercial real estate portfolio.
At the Dec. 16 presentation, Moshtaghi sat silent, holding his credentials close to his chest, while Bill Romanelli, a familiar face in local development projects, spoke to the general public. This is an area where transparency is believed to be the most vital asset to assembly, so when this revised presentation reaches the agenda of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors, Moshtaghi's name had best be on it. If revelation is the ultimate truth, then Moshtaghi must share his.
Establish local identity. The original sketch design for White Clay Point that was first shared with local residents on Dec. 5 and later presented on Dec. 16 suffered from an “Anytown, U.S.A.” blandness that was palpable. There is nothing in the original design that says “Chester County” or “New Garden.” There is more of what ought to be there than there is there.
To those whose names who are being assigned to design this 186-acre development, we suggest that you get on a plane to Philadelphia, rent a car and drive through the country lanes of Chester County. Spend a week getting to know the people, the landscape, the history and the culture of small town after small town. It will reinvigorate and reaffirm your purpose, which is to design in accordance with the simple concepts of “Home” and “Place” and “Identity.”
Design in order to preserve. In an editorial published in its Nov. 27 edition, the Chester County Press introduced the residents whose lives will be affected should this project be completed. “They advocate for smart growth that properly plans for expansion,” it read, “and they are steadfast in their belief that any plans for growth should be accompanied by plans to protect the environment around that growth.”
Here is hoping that during the course of this project – at every draft and in every brainstorming mission – that this very simple message is never far from those who will bring this project from imagination to reality.