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Brian McCullough, Staff Writer 08/02/2004

Six businesses have signed agreements to locate in the Meetinghouse Business Park, part of a mixed-use property located in western Chester County that developers say bodes well for Coatesville Area School District taxpayers.

The property is located primarily in Sadsbury, with portions skirting into West Caln and Valley.

Meetinghouse’s developer, John H. Newton of Newton Real Estate Advisers, said 30 acres in Valley have been subdivided and will be developed into 185 townhouses. That leaves 75 acres for the six businesses and four or five more to come in Phase II, Newton said.

One of the businesses, wood pallet maker John Rock Inc., is already constructing its new building in the West Caln portion of the property and plans to move its operation from Downingtown in the fall.

Other companies under agreement, according to Newton, are:

•     Cumberland Insurance Group, currently in Downingtown, is going to build a two-story office building.

•     ALP Industries, located nearby, is going to construct a light manufacturing/warehouse building.

•     Vietri Electric, a commercial electrical contractor currently in Valley, is moving to the site.

•     Aerzen USA, a German company that makes industrial air compressors, is moving from Highlands Corporate Center.

•     The Fire Store, which sells and distributes equipment to fire and rescue organizations, is moving from Downingtown.

Bill MacCauley, owner of John Rock, said the company needed room to expand. The company, which MacCauley said is one of the three largest pallet makers in the U.S., is increasing its operation from 32,000 square feet to 115,000 square feet.

"That’s the direction we were looking in when we met up with (Newton)," MacCauley said in explaining the company’s westerly move.

Steep tax increases -- the school district has increased property taxes almost 30 percent in the last three years -- have become a "huge concern" for MacCauley, who said he is taking "a wait-and-see" attitude toward the situation.

Recent developments such as Meetinghouse should help district residents paying the highest property taxes in Chester County, developers said. In performing some unofficial calculations, Newton said new business developments along Route 30 near Airport Road, will contribute about $1 million a year to school coffers by next summer.

He included projects like Electronics Boutique’s new distribution center, Keystone Helicopter’s expansion, Rampmaster, Sadsbury Self Storage and others in the area, as well as Coatesville’s ambitious revitalization plans as reasons for hope that the school district will soon see help with its budget.

"I’m a big proponent (of commercial development)," said Newton, who is chairman of the Business Development Committee of the City of Coatesville and of the Brandywine YMCA. "Residential development cannot generate the revenue that’s required ... to support the school district."

John H. Lymberis’ family has been in the area for 30 years, most prominently as owners of Harry’s Hot Dogs in Sadsburyville. Lymberis is now a developer, working on Sadsbury Self Storage, an 84,000-square-foot state of the art storage facility in the Bellaire Business Center and Lafayette Square, a residential development of 125 condominium apartments.

He acknowledged residents have mixed feelings about the new development.

"All of us hate to see the deterioration of the rural lifestyle," Lymberis said. "However, on the Business Route 30 corridor, there should be no surprise this area is experiencing growth," he argued, noting that in every county planning document, the area had been slated as a business development spot.

"Projects like Electronics Boutique and Keystone, that’s extraordinary," Lymberis said. "It’s a huge step for our area having those large companies creating new jobs out here and assisting in the long-term tax base of our school district," Lymberis said.

Stephen Leibert, regional manager at High Associates, developer of Highlands Corporate Center in Valley, said the area around Coatesville is beginning to develop the way places like King of Prussia Park and the Great Valley Corporate Center grew decades ago.

The move west of Philadelphia began with manufacturers looking for cheaper land. Now, Leibert said, that land is in western Chester County.

Highlands has 11 buildings with 460,000 square feet on its property and another deal close to being finished, Leibert said. School taxes are on the minds of all Highlands’ tenants since the increases are passed on to them.

"People do question it," Leibert said. "The last one I did, they’re really looking hard at it. But no one’s pulled out because of it. Let’s put it this way, it doesn’t help bring in new businesses."

One reason businesses have been willing to take on the increases up to this point could be simple logistics, Newton observed.

"Industry’s reaction time is longer than residential," Newton said. "It’s not like selling a house. The bureaucracy and cost of getting a facility built is much more difficult than putting a sign up in front of your house and moving."

"The next time it might come up is the next time a lease comes up or, if you own, the next time a major facilities decision is made."

Daily Local News 2004


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