Economic Vitality: Developing the Exton Crossroads
Forecast: Continued Growth
Over time, population and job growth in Chester County and in West Whiteland Township is expected to continue. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission forecasts that West Whiteland will add approximately 4,200 people and 6,300 jobs by 2045, growing at a slightly slower rate than Chester County overall.
Over the next 30 years, Chester County is expected to grow by almost 150,000 people and add 90,000 jobs. As an already developed area with an important commercial center (the Exton Crossroads) to nurture, West Whiteland is going to get our share of that growth.
Focusing Growth on the Exton Crossroads
The commercial district around the Exton Crossroads has been the largest shopping district in Chester County for decades. However, as the economy recovered from the Great Recession (2007-2009), the commercial district was facing challenges with brick and mortar retail going through seismic changes.
Township officials realized that an improving economy in a low interest rate environment was going to renew development pressure in Chester County. It made sense for some of that development to be built around Exton Crossroads to add vitality to the commercial district.
If, instead, all of that development happened around, but not in, West Whiteland, the likelihood of decline around Exton Crossroads would increase as investment went elsewhere and shopping centers aged. The effects of such decline could have made Exton a less desirable area to live and work and impacted property values throughout the Township.
To avoid that decline and plan proactively for growth, West Whiteland Township’s plans and ordinances direct mixed-use residential and commercial development, along with corresponding transportation improvements, to the commercial corridors around Exton Crossroads, with the long-term goal of making it a more vibrant and walkable area, while keeping our existing neighborhoods the way they are. This is the heart of the Development by Design philosophy.
How will we take advantage of this growth?The mix of residential and commercial properties is key. Apartments around the Crossroads mean there will be more people around the Crossroads, patronizing stores and restaurants, potentially luring more employers. As the Township’s Bike and Pedestrian Circulation Plan gets built out, more of these new residents will walk and bike to nearby destinations.Just as adding residential components into downtowns helped revitalize urban areas like West Chester and Phoenixville, our new residents will add economic vitality to the suburban center of Exton Crossroads.
What About our Schools?
The new apartments are not going to be an “affordable living” option. New construction means high rent for complexes loaded with amenities. As a result, the West Chester Area School District will see increased real estate taxes and earned income taxes but not many new students from the apartments being built near Exton Mall, Main Street, Festival Shopping Center and Kohl’s.
What specifically have we done to plan?
The Township has been paving the way for the recent development burst over the past several years:
- Modernized zoning district regulations - In 2015, regulations for zoning districts around the Crossroads were updated to allow for a greater mix of uses and to encourage a wider variety of transportation options around the Exton Crossroads.
- Approved a transportation impact fee to support planned improvements to the road network
- Secured funding to build a path in 2020 connecting the Chester Valley Trail to Exton train station
- Completed the Pottstown Pike Congestion Mitigation Study. Currently identifying funding strategies and prioritizing the improvements it recommended.
Leveraging Our Assets
In accordance with our “Development by Design” philosophy, West Whiteland Township continues to seek opportunities to gather insight which will promote responsible economic development of the Exton Crossroads and surrounding town center.
In the third quarter of 2020, the Township engaged the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to identify strategies for managing growth and creating a sense of community at Exton Crossroads while leveraging the area’s existing assets. ULI Philadelphia organized a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) comprised of local and regional professionals, stakeholders and other interested parties. The TAP gathered October 21-23 to tour the area, objectively evaluate specific needs and assist in the development of a final, comprehensive report.
The ULI TAP Exton Crossroads report includes both short-term and long-term recommendations which build upon our community’s existing assets and planning efforts:
- safe and enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access and connectors
- using open space and historic buildings to create a unique identity
- coordination among property owners to enhance a mix of uses
View a 1-page summary or the full ULI TAP Exton Crossroads report.