In January 2020, I was offered the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of Kennett Collaborative (then Historic Kennett Square). When I started, I was a relative stranger to Kennett Square, and this community welcomed me in.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to lead the organization through a realigned vision and the challenges of COVID, and to introduce a few new programs to Kennett Square. I’m grateful for the Kennett Collaborative Board for trusting me as a young and unproven leader. I’m grateful to the Kennett Collaborative staff I have worked with—Tara Smith, Kelli Prater, Ros Fenton, Claire Murray, and Nate Echeverria. I’ve learned so much from them and am thankful for their hard work and patience with me. I’m also grateful for the graciousness of my predecessor, Mary Hutchins, who offered kindness and support throughout my time as Executive Director. Finally, I’m grateful for the partner organizations—Kennett Square Borough, Kennett Township, Longwood Gardens, Square Roots Collective, the Kennett Square merchants, and many more—that have a shared passion to create a special community where all can belong and prosper.
I shared my intent to resign several months ago in order to pursue real estate development opportunities in Kennett Square and Chester County. I am passionate about building great places and helping communities understand that we can still build places and buildings imbued with the same magic that we often nostalgize. I am also passionate about ensuring equitable access to beauty—creating places that are able to be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, regardless of income. I submitted a RFP response, along with local partners, to create a new mixed-use community on the site of 600 S. Broad Street. Taking inspiration from some of the best walkable communities across the country, we proposed to build 49 residential units, ranging in size from roughly 500 square feet to 2,700 square feet. Our hope was to provide attainable housing opportunities for a broad range of Kennett residents. We also proposed to build ten new commercial spaces, both smaller footprint “micro-retail” spaces and larger spaces for new restaurants looking for opportunities.
Ultimately, this proposed vision was not accepted and Kennett community leaders have accepted a different vision for the site. I share this not out of spite—I respect the decision of Kennett Square’s leadership, trying to balance lots of competing objectives and serve the community—but because I think it represents a microcosm of the future I hope Kennett accepts. My hope is that Kennett continues to be a community where people from different backgrounds, generations, and walks of life are welcome and can afford to live and contribute to the community, where new architecture complements old, where creativity flourishes, and where everyone can belong and prosper. I believe that closing the doors on new housing opportunities and new development will have the opposite effect, ensuring that younger generations and most newcomers are priced out of this incredible community.
I am so immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve the Kennett community for the past three years. I’ve met so many amazing people and have come to appreciate the fact that successful communities don’t happen by accident. What makes Kennett special today are the intentional acts of people who love Kennett Square and the people here—not for what they are or what they can do for them, but just because they are neighbors.
Finally, I’d like to say that I’m excited for the future of Kennett Collaborative. We have a wonderful staff, a strong vision, and an exciting new Executive Director. I look forward to seeing what they do to make Kennett thrive.