Commercial Landscapes Series
The Commercial Landscapes planning series highlights the importance of repurposing significant commercial areas in Chester County and realistic strategies, recommendations and best practices for the following topics:
- Reinventing Office Parks for the 21st Century
- Building Communities with Transit Oriented Development
- Stimulating Community Revitalization Through Brownfields
- Transforming Greyfields into Dynamic Destinations
- Executive Summary
The series is a collaborative effort between county agencies and a task force that included municipal representatives, developers, consultants and others concerned about the future of commercial properties. The goal is to offer guidance to municipalities, developers, real estate professionals, property owners, and professional planners about how to maximize the value of these commercial areas.
Reinventing Office Parks for the 21st Century
Vision — Chester County office parks will remain viable and competitive in the future with diverse businesses that attract talented and creative workers. These office parks will remain employment centers, but will be able to react to market forces and transform when necessary by allowing for land uses, amenities and features that meet the needs of today’s employers and workers.
Building Communities with Transit Oriented Development
Vision — Development near train station areas will provide a mixture of land uses, create a sense of place, offer alternative living and working options and reduce environmental impacts by enhancing walking, bicycling and transit ridership. Transit Oriented Development will assist in encouraging investment in the County’s growth areas and will provide an attractive easily-accessible destination for County residents, businesses and visitors.
Stimulating Community Revitalization through Brownfields
Vision — Brownfields in Chester County will be transformed into environmentally-safe redevelopment areas acting as an economic development catalyst for the community’s overall planned vision. Brownfield development will be implemented through a streamlined redevelopment process that encourages reuse of existing infrastructure in the County’s growth centers to create a sense of place and enhance the quality of life of the adjacent community.
Transforming Greyfields into Dynamic Destinations
Vision — Chester County retail areas will maintain their place as centers of commercial activity in our communities while adjusting to changes and new realities in the commercial real estate market. In today’s market, those retail areas that have become greyfields can be revitalized by allowing for a greater mix of uses, creating more green space, and creating a ‘third place’ for local residents to gather outside of the home or office environment.
How Do We Get There?
The Commercial Landscapes Taskforce developed strategies from the following perspectives organizational, regulatory, and physical.
- Build capacity, begin public outreach and remove barriers to implement successfully
- Form supportive organizations, such as BIDs or economic development committees to champion implementation
- Create inventories of potential sites to develop or redevelop
- Have a clear vision and master plan
- Know the steps, tools and programs to use
- Update zoning and subdivision land development ordinances with desired uses and flexible standards
- Create an “expedited process” for targeted areas
- Reduce parking standards and/or ratios
- Use model ordinances and planning tools to assist with implementation
- Create a feeling of place designed at the human scale
- Improve transportation options and walkability on popular corridors and targeted areas
- Incentivize and allow for temporary or pop-up uses to occur
- Enhance existing infrastructure to better serve larger community
What are the benefits?
Improving our underutilized and vacant commercial properties can provide a variety of benefits to both the landowner and the municipality, while responding to changing market conditions:
- Maximize value. Repurposing these properties allows the owner to improve value and return on their investments. Repurposing addresses a changing retail market in which physical stores are competing with online sales.
- Increase tax base. Improved and reused properties can provide increased property tax revenue to municipalities. These properties will generate revenue while posing limited demands on services for both the municipality and the school district.
- Use existing infrastructure. Reuse of commercial properties takes advantage of existing utilities and infrastructure, reducing the demand for extension into greenfield areas of the county.
- Address lifestyle changes. The introduction of a mix of office, commercial and housing will be responsive to changing lifestyles, particularly with the millennial generation who prefers options to auto-dependence.
- Improve public safety. Reducing the number of vacant and underutilized properties will improve overall public safety and the quality of life in our communities.
The redevelopment and reuse of commercial sites in Chester County should be a prime consideration of municipal, economic, and building industry interests. When redeveloped correctly, these sites can act as economic development catalysts and assist with the revitalization of downtowns and suburban centers, while preserving and enhancing a community's quality of life. While there are obstacles for repurposing of any of these uses, they present an opportunity to better define character, implement green infrastructure, and create community space. The recommendations in this series include creative reuse strategies, ordinance changes, design options and other ideas to give local communities, developers and stakeholders a starting point for creating strong and viable destinations.