One of Chester’s best assets is that it’s located on the banks of the mighty Delaware River. One of Chester’s worse liabilities is that it’s on the banks of bankruptcy.

As featured in the front page of today’s Delaware County Daily Times, a bunch of politicians from across the state of Pennsylvania met with developers down at the soccer stadium to chat and chew over the prospects of building some new stuff on the riverfront.

From a bird’s eye view, Chester seems to be the perfect location to benefit from new state money…

A new revenue plan for the 2016-17 fiscal year includes a tax credit for waterfront developments

“Programs like the Waterfront Development Authority tax credit provide a powerful tool to help communities like the city of Chester complete important economic development projects that help attract business, new investments and make the community a more desirable place to live,”

“(It) will make it possible for towns and cities all over Pennsylvania to replicate the type of job creation, improved quality of life and increased economic development we have seen in Pittsburgh over the past decade and a half…

As sexy as all this sounds, the Chester economic development guy spoke up to remind the room that we don’t have a decade and a half. Chester needs money now. I hope someone whispered in his ear that unless someone is putting a shovel in the ground tomorrow, Chester may have to make due with trying to survive financially as this new State process works itself out.

Drake Nakaishi, executive director of the Chester Economic Development Authority, said more suggestions need to be heard in order to allow more flexibility for cities like Chester. A main concern is that the federal tax credit isn’t set to begin funding until the 2017-18 fiscal year, and Chester has just until May of 2018 to exit its distressed status.

And the State sort of agrees with Nakaishi. They realize that it takes money to make money and communities with money have a much better shot at moving quickly on opportunities like this. Here’s the language they use to explain it…

“Since tax credit programs require an upfront commitment of private capital, it is generally going to benefit those communities with higher concentrations of larger institutions that have the capacity to ‘write the check’ to make these projects work,” McGee said. “We would encourage flexibility and reasonable apportionment of available tax credits so that when smaller communities and organizations are able to raise capital, their projects have a reasonable chance for success.”

Amusingly, Chester was given credit for the waterfront development investments they have made, but they may have to think a little bigger if they want a piece of this new State money.

McGee said that while Chester and Marcus Hook already have made significant investments in waterfront amenities like walking trails, piers and boat launches, “these community assets alone will not drive and economic resurgence.”

If there is going to be any development on Chester’s waterfront, the battle will be between whether it will be developed for industrial or commercial use. Obviously, with the multi-million dollar investment down the road at Sun Logistics and the continued success of Monroe Energy, it’s more likely that the riverfront tax incentives becomes very attractive to businesses that support that type of industry. And, they usually have the big bucks needed to get the ball rolling right away.

Calling the Delaware County waterfront in Marcus Hook and Trainer as being poised “to serve as the centerpiece for the region’s energy hub,” he stressed that continued investment of resources is crucial to maximize the potential as an international energy marked.

It’s nice to try to bring developers who see a future in residential/commercial use of the Chester waterfront to the table. The last thing Chester needs is another industrial polluter on the river. But ‘dollars made cents’ in these situations and the commercial developers don’t sound too confident that Chester can make them the money they need to justify new development.

“We developed plans several years ago that envisioned a mixed use project along the waterfront, some of those elements have been realized and there is ample space for additional recreational entertainment or even residential uses in the future,” Kaplan said. “But, those uses would have to be market driven to the extent where there’s viable development improvements that need to be realized.”

It doesn’t appear that condos and paddle boats are the type of market drivers that this state incentive will attract.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of the ‘Haves and Have Nots.’

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