Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 in this country, a trend expected to continue for the next 15 years.
Without immigration, especially from Central America and South America, the U.S. population would be shrinking, and Baby Boomers, who once dominated the country, have been supplanted by Millennials, who now represent the largest share of the population.
Such macroeconomic trends “affect everyone in this room,” said Todd Poole, one of the consultants hired in 2015 to study economic development in the Borough of Kennett Square and Kennett Township. Poole’s audience was the annual meeting of Historic Kennett Square.
Poole of 4ward Planning, and Mark Keener, the director of urban design for the RBA Group, were hired last year by Historic Kennett Square, the Borough of Kennett Square, Kennett Township, Chester County, Genesis HealthCare and Longwood Gardens to help set priorities for where and how the region grows, to continue the borough’s revitalization, and to protect the area’s natural, rural and historic heritage.
During his presentation at the Genesis HealthCare building, Poole provided a glimpse of the analysis that will be discussed in more detail during three public meetings on the $60,000 study, which was funded in part by a $35,000 grant from the Chester County Planning Commission.
The first meeting on the Economic Development Study will be held on Thursday, Feb. 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., also in the Genesis HealthCare building. Poole said it would feature information and key findings they gathered on demographics, labor and industry, real estate and more, as well as an update on what work has been finished and what remains.
Poole said the same national trends that some might see as challenges can also be viewed as opportunities. “You can either act or be acted upon … the purpose of this strategic plan is to act as opposed to being acted upon,” he said, explaining that understanding changes can help communities respond to them more effectively.
He said Millennials – born between 1982 and 2000 – tend to eschew ownership in favor of sharing. Businesses such as Uber and Airbnb offer examples of companies that have capitalized on that tendency. Now is the time to anticipate what the effects will be in the next 10 years when 20 percent of vehicles are driverless and many more are shared.
“Ten years is not that far away,” said Poole, asking how that development will affect issues such as parking.
Poole said retailers have already had to adjust to the fact that Baby Boomers are downsizing and Millennials prefer online shopping, patterns that are expected to continue. He said Kennett is fortunate not to have a surplus of office buildings because as telecommuting becomes more prevalent, the need for office space will diminish.
The Kennett area needs to get in front of the challenges created by movements such as the growth of home-based offices and the migration back to cities, he said. Residents will have an opportunity to discuss possible ways to accomplish that during the public meetings.
Outgoing Historic Kennett Square Board President David B. Myers said 2015 brought five new businesses to the central downtown district: Blown Away, Houppette, Nomadic Pies, Sweet Magnolia Bakery, and Kennett Brewing Co. He said the Longwood Christmas shuttle brought 1,000 visitors to the borough, Brewfest attracted 4,000, and Winterfest logged 1,000 participants.
“Between the two of them, we raised $125,000,” Myers said. “That’s a lot of money raised in two days that comes right back into our community.”
The year also saw the opening of Magnolia Place, which includes 33 luxury apartments, the Victory at Magnolia brewpub, and 79 townhomes, 55 of which have been sold, Myers said.
He said the borough is looking forward to increasing the number of Third Thursday outdoor dining events to five this summer, and it will continue a number of others, including the Kennett Farmers Market and the holiday pop-up park, “Meet Me by the Tree.”
In other business, the board of Historic Kennett Square bid farewell to Carrie Freeman, who is stepping off the board after many years, welcomed a new member, Chadd Fenstermacher, and ushered in new officers: Nicole Grebloskie, president; Tom Sausen, vice-president; and Daniel Gannon, treasurer.