The special event on Tuesday, July 18 in Chester County’s only city has been a long time coming.
The day marks the official groundbreaking for Coatesville Gateway, a roughly $22 million redevelopment project planned for the area around First Avenue and East Lincoln Highway, an intersection often referred to as the gateway to the city.
The mixed-use project calls for new retail and office space with the hope of generating a wave of further investment in the city of 13,000 people.
“I think it’s going to be incredibly catalytic,” said Sonia Huntzinger, Economic Development Administrator for the Coatesville 2nd Century Alliance. “Coatesville has been on the verge of revitalization for a long time, and it’s only been a matter of getting that first domino to fall.”
The Gateway Project is being managed by DEPG Associates, an affiliate of Plymouth Meeting’s Legend Properties, a leader in commercial real estate brokerage in the Greater Philadelphia area.
“Our view is that when we build it, others will follow,” said Jim DePetris, CEO of Legend Properties. “We saw an opportunity in Coatesville. At one point, the city was the center of the universe for people who lived in the area.
“We’re hoping that the intersection turns into a place to eat and shop like it was 50 years ago.”
Currently, Legend Properties works with more than 20 retail and restaurant chains to provide site location services, and has valuable, long-standing relationships with leading developers and with the ownership community in the region.
While its primary focus is on Greater Philly, Legend Properties also has exposure in eastern and central Pennsylvania, central and southern New Jersey, and Delaware. Legend’s Smithfield Gateway Project, for example, is a proposed shopping, business, and residential apartment complex in Smithfield Township, near East Stroudsburg.
Coatesville has recently drawn expectant comparisons to other areas – like West Chester and Phoenixville – that have seen their fortunes turned around through investment and revitalization.
“We were successful in West Chester and Phoenixville,” said DePetris. “Pretty soon, people are going to be saying that Coatesville is a business friendly community.”
Catherene Cardinale, the Marketing Coordinator of Legend Properties, said that an historic former bank building on the southeast corner of East Lincoln Highway has generated interest from several restaurant operators.
Huntzinger, meanwhile, has definitely seen an uptick in enthusiasm for Coatesville from investors, now that the Gateway Project is breaking ground.
“We’ve had a significant increase in the interest for investment and redevelopment of certain properties in Coatesville, and a lot of the stakeholders here believe it is a direct result of the DEPG Gateway Project,” she said.
“The city is now receiving funds from the state, so it almost feels as though the planets have lined up. The state is paying attention, the county has contributed significant resources, the city is poised for revitalization, and it’s just a matter of hitting that tipping point.”
While other revitalization efforts are in the planning stages, some will soon be under way. Later this month, a groundbreaking will be held for the first phase of work on the Third Avenue Streetscape, a project that will transform the Amtrak station and surrounding area.
The city also received funding from PennDOT for a much-needed realignment at the intersection of First Avenue and East Lincoln Highway to improve traffic flow and safety. The Gateway Project has also kindled interest in improving Coatesville’s infrastructure, in looking at new uses for old warehouses and in soliciting new developers for future projects.
According to Huntzinger, however, economic development must go hand-in-hand with community development to be successful.
Fortunately, Coatesville was the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation to conduct research on its residential neighborhoods. The goal is to put a plan in place that employs creative strategies to address new challenges residents will be facing.
“In short, we’re trying to make sure our residents are prepared for all this,” said Huntzinger. “We want to make sure our residents are taking advantage of it and poised to be able to capitalize on all that economic development that is imminent in the city.”
The Coatesville Gateway groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 2 PM at 112 East Lincoln Highway. Those interested in attending should RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-941-4034.
“It’s an important milestone,” DePetris said of the groundbreaking. “A lot of developers in the past have come into Coatesville and, for various reasons, left town. But we’ve been committed.
“It’s critical that people see that the project is moving forward. It’s a slow beginning, but it’s a beginning.”