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April 28, 2019
Making Change: Historic Kennett Square
Placemaking is often an invisible process. A lot of thought, long-range planning, and hard work behind the scenes make Kennett a desirable place to live, work, and play. The creative and dynamic collaboration between Historic Kennett Square, Kennett Township, and the Borough of Kennett Square benefits all residents and visitors. This inter-municipal work is also a unique model that the county and state are watching closely. “They’re looking to Kennett as a leader in this,” says Kennett Township Manager Lisa Moore.
“Historic Kennett Square has a strong ongoing partnership with both the Township and the Borough,” says Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square (HKS), the nonprofit community and economic development organization committed to helping Kennett thrive. “Township residents see the Borough as their downtown, where they shop, eat, and attend events like Third Thursdays,” says Lisa. “Enhancing the Borough enhances the lives of our residents.”
Because these collaborative working relationships were already in place, it was natural for these three entities to come together to ensure a positive future direction for the area. “Kennett has experienced significant growth over the past several years,” says Mary, “and we recognized that we needed guidance to develop responsibly.” In 2015, a county grant was secured to fund a Kennett Region Economic Development Study with seven focus areas including Ways Lane, Birch Street, and Mill Road/NVF. The Township, the Borough, HKS, Longwood Gardens, and Genesis HealthCare provided additional funding.
When the study was complete, the Township, the Borough, and HKS worked together to conduct a nationwide search for an economic development director to put into action the economic development goals and priorities of both the Borough and the Township. They were unanimous in their decision to hire Nate Echeverria, a Media native with a Master’s degree in City Planning and experience in land-use and zoning. The Borough and Township pay Nate’s salary, he’s a team member with an office at HKS, and he works with both Borough and Township staff on economic development projects. “We wouldn’t have been able to hire someone like Nate on our own,” says Borough Manager Joe Scalise.
Nate came to Kennett Square via San Jose, California, where he was the Director of Policy and Operations for the city’s downtown association. He was drawn to the position here precisely because of this unique collaboration. “Neighboring municipalities working together is just a much smarter strategy for this type of work,” he says. “And it’s surprisingly rare.” Events like the Economic Development Community Workshop that Nate put together help to educate the wider community and involve residents in the development process. The Township, the Borough, and HKS also collaborate on more visible joint projects. The popular Holiday Village Market at the Creamery, for example, is a collaboration between HKS and the Township. “The Market attracted 10,000 visitors last year,” says Mary. “Township and HKS staff work together to manage and run the event. It raises some funds for HKS, but it couldn’t happen without the Township.”
In addition to ongoing discussions about concerns such as the safest and most effective way to move freight around the area, says Joe, all three entities are working together in various capacities to connect trails and sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians—a concrete illustration of how this kind of collaboration benefits everyone.