September 4th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer about East Whiteland. Written by a reporter who actually interviewed me about growing roses in 1997, Alan J. Heavens. I respect him a great deal and would love to know the impetus for this article.
The cynic in me thinks maybe it was placed as PR for the Great Valley Corporate Center or someone similar.
Now this article is well written, and the Inquirer sent one of their best photographers to capture some key shots of East Whiteland, including a very old farmhouse in a bucolic setting, ironically.
But the article neglects to mention the non-corporate residents of the township watching their way of life disappear one development at a time. We live in Chester County because we choose not to live in a city or on the Main Line. Yet development by development, what makes Chester County unique, even what makes East Whiteland special, is quickly disappearing.
Just the other day I wrote about the new fake General Warren Village over near the behemoth of ugliness called Atwater. In my post I mentioned a comment I had received on another blog post about East Whiteland:
The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.” East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.
Now this article. This article had to have been placed by someone because people in regional newspapers don’t just arrive at the topic of East Whiteland just because. East Whiteland is a place most people just drive through without even thinking about the non-corporate residents in the township. East Whiteland barely has it’s own identity and doesn’t have a town center so most people know nothing of East Whiteland. They have heard of Malvern, they have heard of Frazer, they have heard of Great Valley High School. But mention “East Whiteland” to most and you get a blank stare.
So this article paints this great picture of all those corporations everyone has to thank for our way of life in Chester County, apparently. Something along the lines of on the 8th day God created Corporate America perhaps? Ok that’s great, these places are employing folks from all over. Some of whom live in East Whiteland, but a great deal more live elsewhere.
East Whiteland is not just a place people drive through or go to work. It’s home to real people year ’round. East Whiteland is also home to Immaculata University and Villa Maria which also deserves credit for employing so many folks. And truthfully, they are better neighbors than corporate America and they respect the local history, heritage, and keep open space.
The article quotes a Narberth realtor, John Duffy of Duffy Realty. Why quote a veritable Auslander? They also have a St. David’s office. But they aren’t Chester County realtors, they are based in Narberth and may have branched out to St. David’s, but if you look at their listings, the ones for Chester County with the exception of some rental unit at Raintree in Malvern Borough are all listings that mention SUB-DIVISION, So they are moving west like the developers but are they really the voice of Chester County Realtors now?.
Snippets from their listings on their website include:
- 1 listing on Flowing Springs Rd in Chester Springs – it’s lovely but oh yes, possibility of sub-division.
- 2 Juicy sized properties on Willann Road in Phoenixville – 15 and 17 acre parcels and yes, sub-division is possible.
- 1 10+ acre property on Hickory Grove Road in Owen J Roberts School District “Possibility of four prime building lots on 10.2 gently sloping and wooded acres. Take advantage of sweeping southeasterly views across the Kimberton Golf Club”
The article mentioned East Whiteland Historic assets Gunkle Spring Mill and Lapp Log House. It doesn’t mention some of my favorite places like Duffy’s Cut (site of the massacre of Irish rail workers in the early 19th century), Linden Hall which is still rotting while the townhouses rise, Loch Aerie, and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill road which is nearly as old at 184 years as the AME Church itself which just turned 200. The article wouldn’t know how to find local landmarks like the Women’s Lib Barn. It certainly doesn’t mention the trailer parks and the itinerant worker housing seen on and off Route 30 near the Wawa and so on.
The article touts the businesses as being responsible for a real estate boom, but neglects to add up all the living units currently in progress and being planned in East Whiteland and any potential/probable impact. When all is said and done, East Whiteland will be compeletely overwhelmed by not hundreds, but thousands of additional living units. The article states East Whiteland is 11 square miles, so think about it – a couple thousand new living units is a VERY big deal. And no one wants to talk about how that will affect schools, municipal services, traffic, infrastructure, open space. It’s not all happening in a vacuum and who is to say this zeal to build one cram plan after the other won’t affect residents detrimentally down the road? And who is to say economically East Whiteland can actually sustain so much development long term?
Oy vey. And it mentions two historic assets that I am sorry are darn lucky to be left standing in a township that doesn’t really do much with historic preservation even though the historical commission is headed now by a very knowledgeable and caring gentleman (and they posted minutes for August 2016!! ), legislatively the commission has no teeth because there is nothing in East Whiteland to give them teeth (much like Tredyffrin Township as well, yes?)
The realtor Duffy says he doesn’t recognize the names of the developers in East Whiteland.
“Newly constructed homes are available, of course, but most of the builders are younger and their companies and developments smaller than the big names, Duffy says.
“In fact, when I’m asked by agents if I know anything about these builders, I have to call them,” he says.”
Funny, I find quite a lot of them familiar names as I first heard about them on the Main Line. The ones that actually develop, and others who get things approved but then sell their approved sites to other developers and even one or two who got approvals but thus far have done nothing and the names don’t ring a bell? And here I thought savvy realtors were always out and about?
You know O’Neill, Kahn, Pulte, Ryan Homes, Benson, Liberty Property? And if you don’t recognize their names there are others like Toll, JP Orleans, Bentley and more within spitting distance of East Whiteland because why? Oh yeah you can’t swing the proverbial dead cat in Chester County these days without hitting a developer, can you?
I realize you can’t fight city hall on everything, but this sundae with a cherry on top bubble view of East Whiteland doesn’t reflect the people who have lived here in some cases for decades who are terrified by the sheer volume of development and other things like gas pipelines which are coming at so many Chester County residents at a fast and furious pace.
So are there a lot of positives to this article? Yes but it still doesn’t mean East Whiteland needs to drown in development so it turns into Bensalem or King of Prussia, etc. Open space is a real thing, and Chester County is losing it daily along with historic resources and equine and agricultural heritage.
The development which is occurring shows little architectural design aesthetic, aren’t exactly being built to withstand the test of time, and there is just too much of it. Every square inch available is getting gobbled up. It’s insane, quite literally.
The Inquirer article neglects to mention all of this or the feelings of the existing residents and those in neighboring communities affected by all this development.
So while the folks at places like the Great Valley Corporate Center are running around patting themselves on the back and realtors who aren’t truly representative of Chester County spout facts anyone with a computer can research on the Internet, there are the quiet voices of everyday people living in Chester County communities like in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are grateful for the commerce but don’t want to lose a way of life, open space, history, and so on.
What is this game we play? Bully for business and real estate developers and damn the existing residents, open space, agricultural heritage, and history? Doesn’t seem like a very fun or fair game to me. Is moderation in growth really so goddamn difficult?
Here is the article:
Companies congregate here, drawing buyers
Updated: SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT
by Alan J. Heavens, Real Estate Writer @alheavens
It’s high time we headed over to East Whiteland for a visit.
After all, without this 11-square-mile Chester County community, a good many folks in this region would be unemployed.
There are so many corporate headquarters in East Whiteland that every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the township’s population of 10,650 increases by more than 23,000.
Those companies include Cerner Corp. (formally Siemens Health Services), Vishay, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Ellucian Higher Education, Janssen Biotech (formerly Centocor), and Acme Markets.
Think Great Valley Corporate Center, five million square feet of office and research-and-development space on 700 acres – Liberty Property Trust’s largest domestic suburban project….
“It is a well-run township that cooperates with those around it, is convenient to everything, has a top school district and low taxes,” he says.
“Who can ask for more?”
The “more” folks could ask for include slowing down the pace of development, open space and true historic preservation. There are more than businesses living in East Whiteland Township.
The race for open space used to be just a tag line about saving it in Chester County. Now it describes every developer who gets their paws on a few acres.
Happy Labor Day from the land of development, err Chester County. I really hope my feelings about this development are in the end proven wrong, but the reality is I have this sinking suspicion that when I am a very old lady I will be able to say I told you so and I won’t be happy doing it.