With so much going on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, June 12. West Chester University students have a return by date, organized sports practices get the okay to resume and the latest details on the Gay Street closing including, where you’ll go to the bathroom. We are heading out on vacation tomorrow but before we leave we have some catching up to do!
“We have to understand this is going to be a work in progress and we are going to keep discussing this.”
-Michael Galey, Borough Council President
Stop. Road closed. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last week you’ve probably heard the news, Gay Street is (likely) closing to traffic to create a new Gay Street Marketplace. Borough Council held a special meeting on the topic on Wednesday and passed the measure by a vote of 7-0. The closure is to help downtown businesses recover faster from pandemic losses by allowing them to spread out across Gay Street. The only problem, okay one of a few only problems, with the “Main Street Strong” plan is it only benefits businesses on Gay Street, leaving those not on Gay Street feeling a little left out.
What we know:
- The four blocks of Gay Street from Darlington to Matlack Street will be closing.
- Gay Street will be closed. Through streets will be open.
- Parking spaces will be removed from Chestnut and Matlack to allow two lanes of traffic to help with additional vehicles using the street.
- Restaurant bathrooms will be open for use and owners will be responsible for making sure they are cleaned after each use.
- Handicap parking will not be affected. The rest of us will park in garages (or walk or bike – but not on the new promenade. No bikes allowed.)
- This will be a 24/7 commitment. In defending the decision to make this a full-time closure, Mayor Dianne Herrin cited the costs associated with moving and setting up the barriers and the fear that a weekend only set-up would create an event environment not desired in midst of an ongoing pandemic.
What we don’t know: When or how long. Before the street can close approval is needed from PennDOT and while the task force is hopeful that there will be a quick turnaround, there is no established timeline. Regarding how long it will be in place, that is contingent on how well it goes. If it is a roaring success, this could be a permanent solution. If it is less successful, don’t expect it to outlast the pandemic. There are also countless details to be worked out.
What else are they doing: Trying to accommodate as many businesses as possible there were a couple creative additions proposed. In addition to closing Gay Street, there were some additional parking bump-outs proposed to Market Street.
These include extending the area in front of Mercato and removing parking to add seating space in front of Pietro’s Prime. Also proposed, turning Walnut into a one-way between Miner and Market to allow Rams Head and Mas additional seating, but that change didn’t have a lot of support at Wednesday’s meeting.
Gelato wars. Another idea proposed was to allow some of the downtown businesses not benefiting from the Main Street Strong plan to set up food trucks on Gay Street. Not all businesses (cough) D’Ascenzo’s (cough) were thrilled with this idea, especially those with direct competitors on Market Street with food trucks (cough) Gemelli (cough).
Next steps: In order to move forward with the plan, the Borough must first obtain approval from PennDOT. PennDOT will review the plan for safety measures including following established pandemic protocols such as sufficient social distancing. The Borough hopes to have their plan submitted to PennDOT today and they are hoping for a quick turn around so the street can close as soon as possible.
At the same time, participating restaurants must each submit cafe extension requests to the liquor control board.
Discussions will continue. There are follow up discussions planned for some of the side-projects presented including the potential inclusion of food trucks.
“The move to permitting organized sport practices is reliant on the diligence of organized sports leaders to protect the safety of coaches, players and families.”
-Jeanne Casner, Director of the Chester County Health Department.
Give it 110 percent and don’t forget your mask. While coronavirus cases in Chester County continue to rise putting in jeopardy the county’s ability to meet the state benchmarks for entering the “green” phase of reopening, “Yellow” continues to grow more inclusive. We’ve already seen the additions of summer camps and pools, Chester County Commissioners and Chester County Health Department are now allowing the return of organized sports practices. They are asking that parents and coaches remain diligent in assessing personal risk of players and that some basic guidelines are followed, including keeping practices under 25 players, prioritizing outdoor practices, keeping parents and spectators away from the practice field and not sharing equipment. See all the requirements here.
Borough Parks on the other hand, are not quite ready to reopen. While the Parks Department did announce it is reopening Borough tennis courts as long as players observe United States Tennis Association COVID-19 guidelines and pavilions for groups of 25 or less most other facilities, including fields for organized athletics (we’ll see if that is affected by the above), basketball courts, playgrounds and bathrooms remain closed for now.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. After being out half a semester and the summer, West Chester University has announced on-campus classes will resume on August 24. WCU will be using a combination of in-person and remote delivery in order to comply with social distancing guidelines and they will require all students and faculty to wear masks. However, they are planning for full capacity of student housing, so get ready to share the town again come fall.
The warnings. Watch where you park your car. Parking violations are returning. Beginning on Monday expect to see warnings for expired parking meters and permit violations. Safety violations such as parking in a handicap space or in front of a hydrant, will get you a ticket. Then starting on June 22 no more Mr. Nice Guy, expect West Chester parking enforcement back in full force.
Accolades. Congratulations to former Rustin star pitcher, Chris McMahon who was drafted this week by the Colorado Rockies with the 46th pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft. Unfortunately for local McMahon fans, there may not be many opportunities to see him play until he makes it to the big league.
Also, high five to Henderson Senior Anna Stribrny. Her wood block protography assembly, seen above, won her a congressional award. Her work will be on view for the next year at the 6th Congressional District’s PA office. Check it out next time you visit the congresswoman.
Finally, cheers to non-traditional WCU student Mykia Bridgett for not giving up on her dreams.
Hello. Say hello, to the new Chester County History Center, formerly known as the Chester County Historical Society. The place for all things Chester County and historic is reinventing itself to be more accessible to the community. As part of the reimaging, they are completely redoing all exhibits and offering a new membership option. Members will receive 15-month access to the center and invitations to special exhibits, like the new “Becoming Chester County.”
Also say hola, to the Mas rooftop deck which is now open and awaiting your business. Someone order me a sangria, please?
“We will not associate with any organization that does not stand for equality, justice, and human dignity.”
– YMCA of Greater Brandywine
Goodbye. to CrossFit at the YMCA. Less than two years after opening it’s completely redesigned CrossFit gym at the Oscar Lasko location (1 E. Chestnut Street), the YMCA of Greater has terminated its relationship with the fitness program. The end came after CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman’s controversial tweets regarding the death of George Floyd. While it won’t be CrossFit by name, the Y will still continue to offer small group training at their downtown location (when it opens, of course.)
Give back. After 65 years of offering a variety of classes such as Up Close with Birds of Prey and Tribute to Tuna, Chester County Night School may have to close its doors thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. CCNS is a 501c3 non-profit organization that does not receive any assistance from the school districts, nor is it subsidized by the state or federal government. Funds come primarily from course fees that have been suspended due to COVID-19, to help them survive the year they have launched a Go-Fund-Me campaign. If you would like to show you support, you can donate here or why not take a class? Basics of cheesemaking, anyone?
Also, don’t forget the West Chester Borough Public Arts Commission is looking for submissions to its latest art initiative, a 11’ x 27’ mural to commemorate the women’s suffrage movement. The winning submission will be painted prominently on the side of a downtown building. Interested in submitting? You have until July 3 to get your artwork in.
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are heading down to Rehobeth for our annual retreat to the beach. I am not sure what to expect. I have packed extra disinfectant this year and enough supplies to stock a kitchen, but I am hoping a new backdrop will help put these same four faces in another light.
Also, the West Chester Green Team is launching its kids’ summer organic gardening series, Roots & Shoots, led by West Chester University Nutrition major and gardening guru, Courtney Bodle. The program is open to kids 6-12 and meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-5:30. Contact Courtney at email@example.com you have a budding botanist you’d like to register.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you in two weeks.
Ready for the pool? Here’s what you can COVID-19 precautions you can expect to see.
New to the blog, follow along for the latest from West Chester.