Out With the Old, in With the Wawa

A drawn-out process involving the demolition of a historic store in East Brandywine, Pa., to make way for a Wawa c-store has reached a critical point, The Daily (Pa.) Localin Chester County reported.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and preservationist groups reached an agreement with Wawa recently that would allow Wawa to tear down the historic Guthriesville General Store so it can construct a c-store in its place. The agreement was reached last month between the Corps, Wawa, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

However, the agreement awaits official approval from the Chester County Board of Supervisors and the Chester County Historic Preservation officer. Wawa has given the township until May 6 to sign the agreement, the newspaper reported.

In an e-mail sent last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and copied to the township and others involved in the project’s approval, Wawa attorney Joseph E. Brion said if the agreement is not signed by May 6, “Wawa will assume that the (agreement) will not be signed within a reasonable time and thus must consider all options available.”

Wawa could potentially withdraw its application for the permit and terminate its equitable interest in the property.

“At this point, there is no more negotiation or discussion warranted. Wawa cannot continue to invest funds into what has the potential to be an unending process,” Brion said.

Wawa has an agreement of sale with the landowner to purchase the corner parcel – which includes the general store – and build a six-pump c-store on the site. Because there is a stream on the property, Wawa needs a permit from the Corps to alter the land.

The East Brandywine Historical Commission and local, county and grassroots preservationist groups across the state and nation have been trying to save the historic Guthriesville building. The agreement on the table allows for an eight-week period whereby the general store can be marketed. Wawa will sell the building to a buyer for $10 if the purchaser agrees to a host of conditions.

Initially, Wawa wanted the prospective buyer to remove the back half of the building, maintaining that it was an addition and not part of the original building. But an investigation of historical records by residents determined that the back section was part of the original structure.

While Wawa dropped that condition, it added another condition that the prospective buyer add fill and build a retaining wall five feet high against the back of the building. But the most burdensome condition, according to the East Brandywine Historical Commission, is the requirement that a prospective buyer get a $1.3 million letter of credit.

If the developer backed out of the project before completing the renovation of the general store, the letter of credit would allow Wawa to have funds available to complete the renovation.

The argument makes no sense to John Black, chairman of the East Brandywine Historical Commission, the newspaper reported.

“Since Wawa’s stated purpose is to demolish the general store, they only need about $200,000 in escrow,” Black said. “Because if the developer quits the project without finishing the renovation, then Wawa can demolish the general store and that will only cost about $200,000.”

One new requirement that makes it unlikely anyone will even look at the property: Before a prospective buyer can enter the building they must provide the owner with proof they have $3 million in liability insurance.


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