From the Ashes
Developer Carl Chetty cares about Coatesville—and he’d like you to care, too.
Photo by Jared Castaldi
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The Lone Ranger was the ultimate hero—the shining star that galloped in on his stately steed and saved the day in the Wild West. It’s a nice image. But Carl Chetty wants none of it.
Even so, he wouldn’t mind making good on his promise for revitalization in Coatesville. But the founder and president of Chetty Builders knows he’s staring at “a 20-year plan that’s five years behind.”
Given the city’s bouts with arson, violence, vandalism, fright, friction and flight, Chetty doesn’t want to be the lone voice of hope in the western suburb’s winds. And yet, with offices in Kennett Square, his seasoned residential and commercial firm is the only immediately local developer with any interest in Coatesville.
Between 2007 and 2009, this old steel city was the public stage for 50-plus fires. Well before the blazes, Coatesville was known for its lackluster economy, high taxes and troubled government. Its drugs, crime and collapsing property values made it a breeding ground for everything that’s wrong in society. It seemed too far gone for a remarkable municipal makeover like those in Kennett Square and Phoenixville.
The fires took time away from focusing on redevelopment. The daily reality made the future hard to ponder. “It’s always status quo rather than anything visionary,” Chetty says.
Regardless, Chetty is Coatesville’s No. 1 cheerleader, and he maintains that the city is far from dead. In fact, it’s perched for a rebirth, he says, insisting that Coatesville is the next Manayunk.
The past eight years, though, have been fiercely frustrating. Coatesville still needs a city council that’s “professional, and not one voted in by demographics and personal agendas,” says Chetty. And it can’t be opposed to the redevelopment of its own city.
Chetty’s interest in Coatesville began in the mid-1990s, when his company bought 100-plus acres at the northwest corner of the city limits. The controversial Paul G. Janssen Jr. had been hired to manage the city, well before his more recent and similarly explosive stops in Norristown, Yeadon and—almost—Radnor.
By the late ’90s, Chetty was, more or less, partners with the city. He was given the power of eminent domain, which “became an ugly word.” His 190 single-family homes at the Highlands at Millview sold out in three years. That attracted others to fill the 350 luxury units in his Millview Apartments, beginning in 2005. Chetty invested $55 million in both.