The Chester County Commissioners met with residents Wednesday night to discuss the potential sale of county buildings located in downtown West Chester.
Many residents have said they are concerned about the sale to local real estate developers because the buildings are in West Chester’s historic district.
As one resident at the meeting put it, “Selling our public property is like selling our brand—the brand of West Chester. People don’t come to West Chester to look at our office buildings.”
The commissioners stated that historical preservation would be left up to the borough of West Chester.
“It’s up to borough council,” County Commissioner Ryan Costello said. “We have no jurisdiction over redevelopment or renovation, and we will not superimpose our will on a borough council.”
Several residents also spoke out against a proposal by one of the developers to construct a 90-foot tall structure in place of the structure currently at the corner of Church and Gay Streets.
“Our main concern is to get as high a price as possible on the sale. These are public assets,” Costello said. “We have no idea what kind of plans they will bring to borough council.”
“Preservation should be a goal of the planning process,” said Will McLaughlin, a member of West Chester Borough’s Historic Architectural Review Board, who spoke at the meeting as a resident. “If getting the highest bid you can is your highest priority, then you put pressure on the bidder to build a building that gets the highest return on his investment.”
“The bid will be so high that the developer will be forced to do something inappropriate,” McLaughlin added.
McLaughlin also said that the commissioners could make things easier on the borough by making historic preservation a priority.
Currently, the county is considering two bids from local developers Stan Zukin and his partners Penguin Industries, and Eli Kahn and his associate Jack Lowe.
Both bids for properties located at 2 N. High St., 17 N. Church St., and 32 and 34 W. Gay St. are in the neighborhood of $4.5 million.
The properties in question have a total square footage of 159,000 square feet.