Entrepreneurs put faith in Coatesville’s revival
Chester County 2020 program presents success stories
COATESVILLE >> Kennett Square, Downingtown and Phoenixville experienced economic renewal after entrepreneurs came in and invested in the towns.
That was followed with the inception of Main Street programs, which brought an infusion of grant money to stimulate growth. And Coatesville is on the brink of that renewal if it can offer entrepreneurs economic incentive.
That was the message of a recent Chester County 2020 program at the Brandywine Center in Coatesville, featuring Bill Covaleski, co-founder of Victory Brewing Co., and Barry Cassidy, revitalization expert and former Downingtown Main Street manager. Chester County commissioners Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline attended.
When Covaleski opened Victory Brew-
ing Co. in Downingtown in the mid-1990s, the borough enjoyed great economic growth. The small brew pub brought the community together like never before. Town hall meetings helped not only to keep people informed, but to give them input.
“From our first zoning variance hearing in 1995, there were a fair number of people who didn’t want an alcohol producer in town,” said Covaleski, who has since opened up two more brewpubs, in Kennett Square and in Parkesburg. “But you have to have faith in the future. You now see employment Victory created and community pride we created.”
Cassidy said Main Street programs help to attract visitors by encouraging streetscape programs and facade programs. Kennett Square officials recently announced it was close to securing a $50,000 facade program, money businesses or property owners can obtain freely (up to $5,000) to improve buildings located just off the main street.
Convenient transportation, Covaleski said, is essential to town revival. Coatesville has a train station that can help to drive that renewal.
“Transportation infrastructure is huge,” Covaleski said. “We are getting to a point where millenials aren’t going to want the burden of driving. Transportation hubs that allow people to get to point to point will continue to be key.”
Coatesville officials are fighting hard to get their share of grant money to begin the revitalization. Just last month, the Chester County Economic Development Foundation and the Coatesville Area Partners for Progress announced the receipt of a grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation for Coatesville Growing Greater, a neighborhood revitalization initiative.
The grant will fund a resident driven planning process that will seek to prepare targeted Coatesville neighborhoods for positive change, representatives from the organizations said. The process will be guided by a steering committee composed of neighborhood residents, area business owners and nonprofit organizations active in the neighborhood.
William J. Stevens III, executive director of Chester County 2020, said entrepreneurs really can make a difference in the well-being of small municipalities.
“Government and institutions can do a lot for town centers,” said Stevens. “But if you rely on them alone to populate communities, you’ll get something like a college campus, or an office park. These things can be very nice, but without the “real-life” attractions - the local businesses that draw people in everyday ways the activity in our towns would lack the flavor that makes a place “real.” The entrepreneurs are the ones who provide this vital ingredient. And let’s not forget the entrepreneurs are the ones who take the risk at the front end of the process, that makes success possible. We owe them our respect and thanks.”
Chester County 2020 is a nonprofit organization that helps to promote thoughtful land use consistent with Chester County’s comprehensive plan,“Landscapes,” and to forestall contention around land use and quality of life issues.
Barry Cassidy, left, former Main Street manager in Downingtown, and Bill Covaleski, co-owner of Victory Brewing Co., discuss ways entrepreneurs can help to kickstart town renewal during a recent Chester County 2020 meeting in Coatesville.