Cheers to 35 Years: Chris Chandor’s Impact on Heritage Conservancy’s Work and Mission

From procedural improvements for the Board to his critical assistance in the saving of Aldie Mansion, Chris Chandor has contributed much to Heritage Conservancy in the last three and a half decades. He just celebrated his 35th year serving on our Board of Directors, and his skills, energy, and time have helped shape the organization and its growth.

“I am a true believer that we cannot eat up all of our land with development,” says Chris. This is an important conviction, given his success in commercial real estate and development. As the CEO of Penn’s Grant Corporation, a real estate, investment, development, and management firm based in Doylestown, Chris has overseen development across Bucks County.

Chris’s interest in land conservation took shape on his travels to Nantucket. “I was impressed at how much of the land had been preserved,” he says. “I worked with Hart Rufe at the time. I was a young lawyer, or a younger lawyer,” he laughs. Chris graduated from Villanova Law School in 1972.

Having both spent time in Nantucket, the two men discussed the policies that allowed so much of the area to remain undeveloped. Hart Rufe was the president of the Board at that time and invited Chris to a meeting. Heritage Conservancy was the Bucks County Conservancy back then.

The Board

“My first board meeting was 3 or 4 hours long,” says Chris. “Way too long.” When asked what he thought, Chris pointed out that most of the meeting was spent doing committee work. He quickly entered committee work and has worn many hats since then.

“I think we’ve got the best board right now. This board is the most diverse it’s ever been with all the different skills and backgrounds. I think we are the strongest nonprofit board around.” Chris bases this view on the various boards he has served on throughout his career and the philanthropic networks in Bucks County that he and his wife Whitney support.

“We have lots of good people who work hard. Not a weak one on there,” he quips. Chris is a straight shooter, both literally as an avid hunter, and in his approach to the pragmatics of preservation work and funding.

He says he is proud of his role in helping to change the policies of the Heritage Conservancy Board to rotate the Board Chair position. “We changed the bylaws to prevent anyone from serving too long,” he adds. “I was the Chair for a couple of years,” he says, joking that he hopes he hasn’t overstayed his welcome, as newer Board Members serve for shorter periods, with term limits.

“It takes the ability to put the right people together,” he says, proud of his role in helping to assemble the team. “I take that back to my work as a real estate developer.”

Above Chris is photographed with Robert Pritchard, a former Heritage Conservancy Board Member.

Aldie and Other Wins

Chris was part of the effort that saved Aldie Mansion in the 1980s, when the mansion had fallen into disrepair. He was on the Board at the critical time when the mansion was given (for a dollar) to Heritage Conservancy for restoration, courtesy of the generosity of Frank Palopoli (who serves on the Board), Jim Kohler, and GenVest.

Chris wanted to include “enough land around it to do something with.” He also supported efforts to add the ballroom and to contract with Jeffrey A. Miller Catering for wedding rentals.

“I knew if we used the mansion for offices and nothing else, we’d go broke,” he says. Now wedding rentals at Aldie Mansion generate almost 20% of the revenue for Heritage Conservancy’s operations.

Chris says another important part of his work was learning to say no. He recalls the organization being given historic mansions in the lower part of Bucks County, which he worked to convey to others because “they were giving them to us for a reason” — they cost a lot to maintain. He was the property committee chair and used his real estate and legal backgrounds to assess the situation and drive smart decision-making.

Among other things, Chris was instrumental in securing the Mary Ann Bowen Hess Fund for Land Preservation, a multi-million dollar estate gift designated to support land acquisition and the easement process. This fund has played a critical role in important property transactions in recent years.

“Heritage Conservancy’s land preservation work is more important than ever,” observes Heritage Conservancy President Bill Kunze, “and the Hess Fund has been transformational for us. It’s one of the main reasons we have been able to accelerate the pace and scale of our land conservation work.” From 2022 to 2023, the organization has more than doubled the number of conservation projects in its pipeline.

“In addition to being a very generous donor in his own right over the last 35 years, Chris has always understood the importance of Board Members being actively involved as fundraisers,” says Bill.

The Impact of Land Conservation

Chris’s interest focuses on open space preservation and sustainable agriculture. Chris and Whitney have lived on Hickory Hill, their farm in Upper Makefield Township, for over 34 years. The Chandors have conserved most of their land — over 80 acres — ensuring the land cannot be developed at any point in the future.

Their property is located in the Pidcock Creek watershed, which is a recognized Warm-Water Fishes Waterway, a critical habitat for fish and other indigenous flora and fauna. The farm has prime farmland soils and is adjacent to multiple agricultural easements that make up a large swath of protected farmland. They rent their tillable land to a local farmer.

“Chris is a leader in motion,” says Kris Kern, Heritage Conservancy’s Vice President. “His actions reflect his passion and dedication to Heritage Conservancy’s mission.” Kris leads land conservation efforts at Heritage Conservancy and is overseeing the program’s growth. She acknowledges the importance of the Chandors’ conserved land.

What keeps Chris motivated and drives him through his fourth decade of land conservation work?

“Clean water, clean air, open spaces,” he says. Chris treasures the rolling farmland and bucolic landscapes of Bucks County and wants to protect its landscapes for posterity, beauty, and health, with an eye on future generations.

Passing It On

Recently back from hunting trips to Spain and Louisiana, Chris enjoys time outdoors. He grew up on open land but wasn’t raised with hunting. He befriended a neighborhood kid who did hunt and fish, and so they were able to do it together on Chris’s family’s land and he learned. These early memories fostered a special connection to and respect for the land that he carried into his work.

“Chris has a deep-rooted passion for Heritage Conservancy’s mission. He is an avid sportsman who thrives on being on the land,” says Linda Cacossa, Heritage Conservancy’s recently retired COO. “Chris believes that our youth need to experience our natural environment so it will remain protected in perpetuity. He lights up when discussing new adventures with his grandsons.”

Chris is pleased with Heritage Conservancy’s more recent educational programs and outreach work, especially in Lower Bucks County. “You have to educate the kids if you want the work to continue,” he says. He is proud of his part in helping to secure Croydon Woods and excited by the nature education that Heritage Conservancy’s preserve and outreach have seeded in the Bristol Township School District.

In his contributions to Heritage Conservancy, Chris has also lent personal mentorship and support. “Eleven years ago, right out of college, I was lucky enough to initiate a career working very directly with Chris,” says Katie Paone-Kulp, who now serves as the Director of Development at Heritage Conservancy. “There’s no doubt that my work alongside Chris aided in my professional growth. I was so fortunate to have that opportunity to learn from him!”

Family farming is a compelling priority for him, and an issue that sits close to home. Renting his land to a local farmer and sharing property lines with other farms, Chris watches the turning of generations with some concern, understanding the pull of college and white-collar careers.

“How much longer is family farming going to continue in Bucks County?” he asks. “What are we going to do with that land?”

Cheers to 35 Years!

The Board of Directors at Heritage Conservancy recently celebrated Chris’s anniversary and lauded his contributions to the organization over the last 35 years, with a cake and kind words honoring his service, commitment, and practical help.

Board President Maria Reiders says, “Chris’s hands-on approach and his untiring perseverance have been paramount to converting our mission into action. Deeply connected to the region’s community, he has pushed for the protection and stewardship of open spaces and historic preservation, and brought along many a supporter and ally to help us reach our goals.”

Jim Drennan, Heritage Conservancy’s Land Conservation Manager, lauds Chris for his follow-through. “When I told him we needed a new tractor, he gave us the money to purchase a new one. When I said we needed a new truck, he made the phone call to Fred Beans who then donated the money to purchase the truck.”

When the first pollinator meadow was installed at Jackson Pond, Jim and his colleagues explained to the Board why it was important. “Chris then asked if we could advise him on the installation of a meadow at his farm — which has turned out incredibly beautifully.”

Katie Paone-Kulp shared a story from her early years working with Chris when he stopped into the office. “In typical Chris fashion, he made sure to say hello. I must have been having a tough week because I told him ‘I’m just ready for it to be the weekend!’ Chris’s whole demeanor changed and he told me ‘Don’t rush through life just to get to the weekend.’ This one little sentence has meant so much to me through the years. It was striking for someone as busy as he is to encourage me to slow down and take in those small moments each day, even if they are hard to notice in stressful times. As a working mom of two now, I can’t thank him enough for this message.”

“Several years ago I attended a convention workshop where the discussion centered around ‘Building the perfect Member of the Board’,” says Linda Cacossa. “That was easy for me as I have had the privilege of working with Chris Chandor.”

“Chris understands what it takes to care for a building and insists on doing things the right way. He is a problem solver who excels at finding the right person to help find the solution. He works harder than anyone I know and can always be counted on,” says Linda. “Chris is generous with the sharing of his knowledge and is a masterful storyteller, imparting so much of the history of our community. Not just the what and when, but the very best part — the why.”

“For 35 years Chris has been unwavering in his financial support of Heritage Conservancy and encourages his friends and colleagues to do the same. He and Whitney care deeply about our community and continue to strengthen it in ways both hidden and seen.”