CCEDC-led Task Force Looks to Develop Rt. 1 Corridor

Wednesday, December 26th 2012

CCEDC-led Task Force Looks to Develop Rt. 1 Corridor

The Philadelphia Business Journal recently covered CCEDC efforts to bring business activity along the stretch of Route 1 between Nottingham and Kennett Square in Southern Chester County. Read the article below.

“An economic development group has designated the Route 1 Corridor in the southern tip of Chester County as the next frontier for commercial development.

The Chester County Economic Development Council has established a task force to focus on driving more business activity along a bucolic stretch of Route 1 between Nottingham and Kennett Square.

The group consists of representatives from a dozen municipalities and first came together earlier this year to figure out what needs to be done to draw more businesses to the area. Roughly 3 million square feet of commercial space in the works or in the planning stages is expected to become available over the next 10 years, according to the economic development council.

The Route 1 task force is working on creating a brand and website to help market the area and is initiating a series of studies of the top issues stakeholders believe are holding the area back. Those areas include: public transportation, affordable housing, sewerage and other infrastructure, land planning and assessing what properties are available for development, and an economic development analysis of the corridor.

“I think it is extremely important,” said Curtis Mason Sr., chairman of the board of supervisors in Penn Township. “We don’t have infrastructure available to attract some of these businesses. There are problems and what we’re trying to do is resolve them.”

A lack of public sewer and water systems and the length of time it takes to install those systems are major issues stunting the area’s ability to attract businesses, Mason said. Road improvements and adhering to a lengthy PennDot approval process are also hurdles.

“It’s the roads, it’s the sewer and the water and the process of trying to get everyone to work together,” Mason said. “We lose a lot of commercial development to other states because of this process.”

Though it has its problems, the corridor has attracted some recent economic development activity and new jobs.

“This happens to be in the crosshairs of a lot of corporations,” said Bob Grabus of the Chester County Economic Development Council who was instrumental in identifying the corridor and forming the task force.

Jennersville Regional Hospital in Penn started a major, multimillion dollar expansion and renovation project in 2010, Flowers Foods plans a $31 million, 90,000-square-foot expansion of a Tasty Baking production facility in Oxford that will add 77 new jobs for a total of 222 at the site, and Dansko Inc. is completing a new 205,000-square-foot distribution center in West Grove. Other companies, including Calico Corners, Anholt Technologies, Dole Mushroom and Herr’s Foods Inc. have a presence in that part of Chester County.

The area has a lot going for it, Grabus said. It can draw labor and companies from not only southeastern Pennsylvania but Delaware and Maryland, land is less expensive and Route 1 in that area doesn’t have stop-and-go traffic slowed by traffic lights or rush hour.

“What we’re trying to do is smart economic development,” he said.

Others are skeptical that the large swaths of farmland that flank both sides of Route 1 are ripe for commercial development, according to one commercial real estate developer. While that part of Chester County has a certain amount of affluence, it lacks a concentration of executive housing seen in other areas such as the Main Line or Fort Washington. While it seems trite, many executives like to locate offices near where they live.

When it comes to attracting distribution or industrial businesses, Route 1 lacks convenient access to other major highways and even the section of Interstate 95 that runs parallel to that part of Route 1 is seldom congested and there’s still a lot of developable land along the interstate that would compete with Route 1.

Despite that, the effort has gained support. Betsy Brantner, manager of Oxford Borough, is encouraged with the potential of the corridor and the group’s work so far, especially since it involves so many boroughs and townships. Part of Oxford’s contribution is also seen in its effort to enhance its own borough, including spending $1.5 million on a streetscaping, ramping up its Main Street program, creating a Business Improvement District and organizing First Friday events, she said.

“We used to say we’re at the end of the line in Chester County and we have done so well revitalizing our borough that we are now considered the gateway of Chester County,” Brantner said.”

 

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