Kennett economic study reaching conclusion

Residents of Kennett Square and Kennett Township got their first glimpse of an economic study that could change the landscape of both municipalities.

The Kennett Region Economic Development Study, conducted by the RBA Group, is being finalized, but residents had the chance to hear some of the recommendations during a public meeting at the American Legion Hall in the borough on Thursday night.

Once the study is finalized, it will be posted on Historic Kennett Square’s website, according to Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square. She is hoping to have it posted in seven to 10 days.

However, some of the highlights were revealed during Thursday night’s meeting.

The study looked at seven areas, which were then dropped to six when two areas — Mill Road and the former NVF site — were combined in the study. Other areas include Birch Street, Miller’s Hill, Ways Lane, State Street and Cypress Street.

The report includes visions, goals and a “who, when and what” consideration, according to Todd Poole of RBA.

While there are no concrete recommendations — those will be up to the borough and township — there were general recommendations.

Architect Mark Keener, of RBA, presents the Kennett Economic Development Study during a public meeting in Kennett Square Thursday evening.

Architect Mark Keener, of RBA, presents the Kennett Economic Development Study during a public meeting in Kennett Square Thursday evening.

Millers Hill, the one-mile long downward slope leading into the borough from Route 1, is viewed as a potential “beautiful signature landscaped gateway,” according to the report.

Among the goals for the hill is the introduction of landscaped and well-lit sidewalks or walking trails to create a sense of welcome.

Housing and infrastructure development is envisioned for the Ways Lane area of Kennett Township.

According to Mark Keener, an architect with RBA, the thought is to create a village atmosphere, a new village east of the borough.

“One of the things we wanted to make a place for was affordable and accessible housing, looking at the tiny house movement and a place for a lower price point. That’s been looked at and welcomed in other places for just this type of landscape,” Keener said.

Housing is also being looked at for the Mill Road and NVF site, though part of the NVF property is unsuited for residential use because of contamination.

Pop-up businesses are considered for Birch Street, a former industrial area of the borough where The Creamery opened this summer. The Creamery is a pop-up beer garden on the site of an old creamery.

Citing The Creamery, Poole said that stretch of Birch Street is an excellent area for adaptive re-use.

He called the pop-up culture “organic” and suggested that those temporary ideas can become permanent. One way to make that happen is to think of creating “pink zones,” where municipal governments “dilute the red tape” to make it easier for local entrepreneurs to get businesses going.

Recommendations for Cypress and State streets include improving walkability and the ability to bicycle through the borough, increasing parking as well as improving the appearance of streets and shops with the use of landscaping and additional horticulture.

The study — which began in the spring — was funded through a group comprising Kennett Square, Kennett Township, Genesis Healthcare, Longwood Gardens, and Chester County. It identifies how and what type of revitalization should continue in Kennett Square, while preserving the natural, historic, and cultural assets of both the borough and the township.

Factored into the recommendations were socio-economic trends such as a rising incidence of poverty, a demand for rental properties and an increase in smaller households as well as trends in labor and industry: growth in lower wage industries, a shrinking labor force and a desire to attract young professionals — millennials. Real-estate trends were also considered.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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