Construction begins on 53 townhouse development in Kennett Square – Daily Local

KENNETT SQUARE – While curious drivers are only beginning to see the walls rising in Kennett Pointe as they leave town on East Cypress Street, the Township of Kennett and local community members have been laying the groundwork for this project ever since. years.

What is visible now, on the corner of Ways Lane opposite Waywood Beverage, is the framework for a mixed-use building which will house retail space on the ground floor and apartments above. A carefully landscaped community of 53 townhouses will also soon be under construction. The design of the 13-acre site includes green spaces, walking paths, several different public plazas and an art studio. Local developer Don Robitzer smiles as he describes a beautiful and vibrant place where people will love to live, shop, dine and meet friends and neighbors – a place people will love to call home.

Part of what sets a development like Kennett Pointe apart is the community process that created it.

“We are collaborators,” says Robitzer, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Commonwealth Group and co-founder of Montchanin Builders. The 2015 Kennett Area Economic Development Study was a catalyst for him and his partners to consider projects here. This study, a collaboration between the Borough of Kennett Square, the Township of Kennett and Kennett Collaborative (formerly Historic Kennett Square) with additional funding from the county, Longwood Gardens and Genesis HealthCare, involved significant public input. Robitzer believes that the community charette process is an essential layer in a successful project plan, and when he saw the Gateway project identified by the economic development study, he knew he wanted to be part of the transformation of concept from vision to reality.

“The more local residents engage in thinking and discussing the kinds of growth they want to see in their communities, the better,” says Bo Wright, executive director of Kennett Collaborative. “It is exciting to see this project, in addition to the plans for Birch Street also identified in the study, beginning to take shape.

The original name of this project – Kennett Gateway – describes its location at the entrance to Kennett and its function as a community anchor on the eastern outskirts of town. Although the name has changed, the vision remains the same. Diane Hicks, director of planning and zoning for the Township of Kennett, says the concept for this mixed-use development that emerged from the Economic Development Study was exciting and the first of its kind for the township. “I found the idea a step in the right direction, a movement to be developed according to the current needs of the community and a

An overview of the site from a concept plan for Kennett Pointe shows the development in context as an anchor for the town. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

it would help develop residential and economic opportunities,” she says.

When evaluating new projects, Robitzer looks for infill sites or sites that can be connected to existing infrastructure, and Kennett Pointe is no exception. Kennett Pointe’s design maximizes the form and features of this slice of land and will be serviced by public water and sewer. Robitzer also enjoyed working with the municipality throughout the process. “The Township of Kennett has been very supportive in finding ways to make this work,” he says.

Build buildings that are built to last

Robitzer describes the work of Commonwealth and Montchanin Builders as “contextual local development” that weaves into the fabric of the surrounding community. At Kennett Pointe, for example, the commercial building’s brick exterior fits in with the town’s aesthetic and, together with the Victory Building, will create “bookends” for the town.

The Commonwealth Group is a third-generation, family-owned development company founded by Robitzer’s father-in-law, Brock Vinton, in 1973. Robitzer, which focuses on all aspects of new projects from concept to final delivery, joined company in 2000 and enjoys working as a team with Vinton, Tim Jones and Tony Ruggio on quality driven projects unique to each community. “In 2008, Claymont became the first community in Delaware to approve a charette-based TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development) with a forms-based code, including an affordable housing component and density bonuses,” says Robitzer. “In 2009, Tim and I joined forces with homebuilding veteran Tony Ruggio and started Montchanin Builders to build this site.”

In addition to engaging in these thorough planning processes before we begin, Commonwealth also cares about the future. “We use natural, hard-wearing materials that are designed to withstand ages,” says Robitzer. Building better is not easy. With Covid-related delays compounded by harsh weather conditions, coordination and timing have become more critical than ever at Kennett Pointe. D&B Construction is well underway with the mixed-use building, and Montchanin will begin building the townhouses later this month.

While thoughtful concern for residents is at the heart of every community Commonwealth and Montchanin build, Robitzer brings another level of personal investment to building in his own community. “I want to build something that my community

“We are collaborators,” says Kennett Pointe developer Don Robitzer of himself and his partners Brock Vinton, Tim Jones and Tony Ruggio of Commonwealth Group and Montchanin Builders. (DYLAN FRANCIS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)

she wants to be a part of,” he says. “It’s important to us that this mix of authentic housing and commercial space enhances the community.”

As the husband of small retail business owner, Heather Robitzer of No. 109 Shop, Robitzer knows how important it is for new establishments to support existing businesses. “Creating density in this corridor, filling gaps and meeting needs, elevates the community and helps State Street businesses, Birch Street vendors and the community as a whole,” says Robitzer.

The plan for commercial space at Kennett Pointe is for restaurant-market space as well as three or four small retail businesses with a public courtyard. Robitzer describes a Parisian garden landscaped with gravel paths, a trellis and park benches, a performance pavilion with event lawn and walking paths – a place where people can meet their neighbors for coffee, where local employees can take-out lunch or dinner, and where a variety of community-focused programs like craft fairs, concerts, children’s shows, movie nights, and more. activate this public space.

Connecting Kennett Pointe walking paths to borough destinations like Birch and State Streets is part of the larger vision for the area, and the neighborhood’s new sidewalks will bring pedestrian access closer to the borough. Kennett Pointe has already sparked talk of other infill projects, on Ways Lane as well as Cypress, that could drive this residential and commercial thoroughfare in and out of Kennett.

Centered Clay Studio: Bringing Community Connection and New Life to a Historic Building

Contextual development also means using existing resources. As part of this creative, community-focused vision, Robitzer worked with local artist Debby Wyatt to breathe new life into a historic building and a “hidden gem” on the site as a studio space. creative and inclusive art.

The original Italian American Club, built in 1922 and located across from their current building, which was built in 1949, is listed in the township’s historical inventory. “Until recently, the original clubhouse was used as the Boy Scout headquarters for Troop No. 53,” says Hicks. “To Montchanin Builders’ credit, the historic structure is being renovated to create an adaptive reuse of the historic structure.”

Robitzer’s sign outside the converted historic building on Birch Street that houses Braeloch Brewing, Chaikhana Chai and West Branch Distilling Company sums up its creative and collaborative approach with an invitation: “Come join us!” Bring your ideas. Wyatt saw this sign and pitched his pottery studio concept to Robitzer, who knew immediately that the historic building, with its abundance of natural light and accessible parking, would be the perfect space. He also knew that Wyatt’s Centered Clay Studio, which will provide clay arts education and open studio access for artists of all skill levels in a fully equipped, eco-friendly clay studio, would further enhance the community of Kennett Pointe.

“It’s a big building, it’s so open and the light is amazing, and Don is a great partner,” says Wyatt. She started pottery 14 years ago when, after years of raising children and building a career, she took a series of classes and fell in love with the process and the ability to work with clay. She continues her studies, buys her own wheel and joins a guild of potters.

When Wyatt moved to Kennett Square four years ago, she found no local studio space where she could create alongside others working on their own projects. “I’ve had a lot of personal growth throughout my journey with clay,” she says, “and I want to build that here and share that.” Having researched similar spaces through her travels across the country over the years, she describes Centered as her utopian space, bringing together the best of these different places.

She is thrilled to have found a space in Kennett to be able to fully engage with the community where she lives and is excited to introduce the process to people who have never touched clay before, as well as offering Unlimited studio access and pop-up display space. to members. “We’ll start with adult workshops and see where that takes us,” she says. Centré will have two ovens, ten wheels and large work tables. Wyatt, who hopes to open the studio in August, is busy testing enamels made specifically for the studio and preparing behind the scenes to make this longtime dream come true. Sign up here to receive updates on Centered Clay Studio.

Robitzer says Kennett Pointe’s first townhouses should be ready by late summer and the mixed-use building by early 2023. When construction is complete and people are living, working and enjoying the spaces of Kennett Pointe, the only part of its foundation that will still be visible is the spirit of the community process that gave birth to it.