Have you ever taken the time to explore the winding country roads, beautiful open spaces, and vibrant town centers in southern Chester County? The Chester County Planning Commission did just that during a recent tour of the Kennett area.
The 90-minute tour was mainly by bus but also included a walking tour of downtown Kennett Square. The tour took place June 12 prior to the Planning Commission board’s regular monthly meeting and included 29 points of interest in Kennett Township, Kennett Square Borough, and New Garden Township. The points of interest covered agriculture, transportation and infrastructure, the environment, recreation, economic development, housing, and community services.
“What an interesting and enlightening tour,” said Chester County Planning Commission Board Chairman Kevin Kerr. “A world-class restaurant in the borough, diverse mushroom operations, beautiful horse farms and a myriad of other interesting activities and properties. What a challenge to constantly balance so many very divergent needs. The collaboration among local officials is the key to making this all come together. It’s a very exciting community!”
The agriculture industry is booming in southern Chester County, particularly with mushrooms. The tour passed by multiple mushroom farm operations; there are approximately 50 mushroom farms in Chester County, which leads the state and nation in mushroom production.
When it comes to transportation and infrastructure, the tour visited a variety of trail and roadway improvement projects and locations. For instance, there is a Streetscape and Transportation Improvement plan underway in Toughkenamon village in New Garden Township that is funded by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and being developed by McMahon Associates. This project is proposing multimodal improvements, including proposed alternatives for gateways, sidewalks, and potential traffic pattern changes, as well as potential land use changes to enhance the village and create a walkable town center.
New Garden Township Manager Tony Scheivert also described the township’s spray irrigation fields located on the north side of Old Baltimore Pike. The township was the first to apply and be funded under the Chester County Commissioners’ past Spray and Drip Grant program. In addition, Scheivert pointed out Manfredi Cold Storage, a state-of-the-art food distribution facility that recently expanded.
One of the trails highlighted was the Parrish Trail.
“The Parrish Trail is part of the proposed Kennett Greenway, which proposes a 12-mile loop through both Kennett Township and Kennett Square Borough,” said Planning Commission Environment and Infrastructure Director Brian Styche. “This trail is part of a local success story where the protected open space along the West Branch of the Red Clay Creek south of Pennock Park has allowed for the development of the trail that will connect to the Chandler Mill Preserve in the southern part of Kennett Township.”
Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary highlighted parks in the Kennett area, including the popular Anson B. Nixon Park. The park includes playing fields, playing courts, pavilions, a dog park, trails, a disc golf course, a community garden, composting, and kiosks. The park also was the topic of one of the case studies in a new county report, Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Chester County.
Part of the tour included a stop in downtown Kennett Square where the event attendees strolled along State Street. Kennett Square Borough Manager Joseph Scalise pointed out shops and restaurants “right in the heart of the borough.” The walk began near the Michael R. Walker Building at Union and State streets, which is the headquarters for Genesis Health Care. Walker was instrumental in locating the headquarters in downtown Kennett Square and made the decision not to have a cafeteria so employees would patronize local restaurants.
Planning Commission Urban Planner Kevin Myers noted that Kennett Township and Kennett Square planned cooperatively a few years ago and utilized a Chester County Vision Partnership Program (VPP) grant for a joint economic development study. The two municipalities received another VPP grant to amend their ordinances.
In addition to the economic vitality generated by the diverse stores and shops of Kennett Square, the tour bus passed by Chatham Financial and Exelon. Both are large employer sites in southern Chester County.
The tour route passed by several housing and apartment development sites in the Kennett area, including Granite Ridge. The 112-unit multifamily development has provided affordable and workforce housing in Kennett Township. Another multifamily development is Magnolia Place, which includes over 30 apartments on three floors above Victory Brewery Company’s Kennett Square location in addition to about 80 townhouses on a grid pattern of streets to the rear.
Planning Commission Community Planning Director Susan Elks pointed out important community services, such as the Kennett Area Senior Center, the Kennett YMCA, La Comunidad Hispana, and the future Kennett Area Library site. Using a VPP grant, the Kennett Library and region completed a community visioning study that helped develop consensus around a location for a new library at the intersection of State and South Willow streets in Kennett Square and the types of uses that should be accommodated within this critical community facility, according to Elks.
“We were thrilled to have the Chester County Planning Commission come out to see everything we have been working on in the Kennett area in person,” said Kennett Township Supervisor Whitney Hoffman. “The municipal cooperation between Kennett Township, Kennett Square and New Garden Township, and the tremendous support from the Chester County Planning Commission will enable us to continue to achieve our goals of smart development while providing economic opportunities for all.”
After the tour, the Planning Commission board conducted its monthly meeting at the Kennett Township Municipal Building. The board normally holds its meetings in the Planning Commission suite in the Government Services Center but occasionally takes a meeting on the road to another municipality in Chester County. Last year, the board visited the City of Coatesville.