West Chester Weekly News Roundup

W Union st_summer
It’s summer in the Borough.

With so much going on around town. Catch up on what you may have missed.  

It’s Friday, June 26. It’s officially summer. We’re officially in the green and this is officially one loaded issue. The latest updates on the Gay Street closure, Borough budget crisis leads to project cuts and are we going to be saying goodbye to the Mayor? Plus, where to get a summer slushie and get those library books back, fines resume Monday!

“Our doors open this Friday and we are so excited.”

-Charlie and Co. Barbershop

Charlie and co
The little barber shop that started West Chester and the world on hearts is ready to reopen.

Let’s go Green! So it’s official, today’s the day we go to green and things start to reopen quite a bit more. While yellow felt like a baby step, this feels like a leap. One I’m not sure I’m entirely ready for, but if we remain safe and smart hopefully, we can have our hair cut and our health too. 

Here’s what you can now look forward to in the green:

  • Dining inside, restaurants can reopen at 50 percent capacity.
  • Drinking inside, bars can also open at a limited capacity.
  • Getting your haircut, your nails done or your eyebrows tattooed. Hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors are permitted to reopen by appointment only, no walk-ins. West Chester locations are ready. Most have clearly posted their new ways of working on their doors and social accounts. Follow your favorite stylist for their specific requirements. 
  • Going to the gym or spa. Now open at limited capacity and with increased cleaning measures. Here’s a video from La Difference showing what they are doing to keep their clientele safe. 
  • Having or attending a proper wedding. Allowed gatherings jumped from 25 to 250 people in the green phase. A big increase but not big enough to allow for festivals, fairs, concerts or large sporting events.  
  • Also, visitations to prisons and hospitals can now resume, under the discretion of the facility.

Remember these are just guidelines. If a place looks crowded or feels a little too close for comfort, choose another. We are lucky West Chester has plenty of options available including, grabbing that drink to go.  

Welcome back old friend. Another thing you can do in the green? Go to the library! The Chester County Library System is slowly reopening and West Chester Public Library is first up. Beginning Monday you can visit the library to pick up a hold, browse the shelves or use the computer, with some restrictions, of course.

  • Masks must be worn except by the very young and those with valid medical conditions
  • Library access is limited to 30 minutes per person.
  • Only 15 people are allowed in at a time.
  • All returns are being put under 72 hour quarantine.  

This also means it’s time to bring those long borrowed books back. Fines will also resume on June 29. Just note that because of the book quarantine your account won’t reflect the return until the book is officially checked in. However, any fines accrued during that 72 hour period will be removed, so give it a couple days before you call in to complain. 

“Read on for the True Story!”

-Dianne Herrin’s Borough Briefs

gay street construction
It’s a busy street this summer: PECO will be replacing underground transformers on Gay Street and several other streets soon. Construction will take place overnight Monday through Thursday as to not to disrupt businesses. Not sure if the current construction on Darlington Street is related.

Did I miss anything? So it sounds like the plan to close Gay Street ran into a minor dustup while I was away that narrowly cost downtown the entire Main Street Strong project. Not a week after being passed unanimously by Borough Council, several members started to get cold feet (and perhaps, community pushback over the decision?). Issues raised included safety (COVID-19 related), traffic, and not having enough time to work out all the details. Despite the drama, we are essentially, right back where we started with a few minor tweaks and slightly less support from Council (Denise Polk, Bernie Flynn and Don Braceland stepped away from their previous approval), and this time it’s in writing

It’s funny while, while some Borough Council members looked to walk back their decision, others in the county are following their lead.

Here’s what’s been clarified since we last chatted: 

  • This party will not go all night. Outdoor food service must end by 11 p.m. and tables cleared by 12 p.m. 
  • And it will end. At the Main Street Strong special meeting Borough Council President Michael Galey suggested the closure, if a success, could go on indefinitely. This, I am guessing, was too great a commitment for some, now Gay Street will definitely reopen by Nov 15, 2020.
  • We are not paying for it.  Taxpayer dollars will not be used, according to Mayor Dianne Herrin, and Main Street Strong task force lead. Instead the Borough will use community development grant funds to cover most of the expense and they’ll fundraise, such as the new Main Street Strong t-shirts, to raise the rest. 

The plan has been submitted to PennDot and as soon as it is approved Gay Street will close. According to an email from Mayor Dianne Herrin the marketplace will begin with a,  “’soft opening’ and follow up with a ‘grand opening’ once everything is in place.” No real definition as to what the difference between the soft and grand opening will be, except that the grand opening will be accompanied by some “cool new public art.” Color me intrigued. 

limoncello3
Busy outdoor lunch crowd at Limoncellos on Thursday.

What about me? So, where does that leave businesses not on Gay Street? Square Bar, on E, Chestnut Street, came up with their own solution. They have petitioned Borough Council to close part of their parking lot to create their own outdoor dining area. They would use the space to set up 20, four-person tables, six feet apart – no standing, milling or congregating allowed. To accommodate their neighbors, the outdoor patio area will close everything up by 10 p.m. and there will be no music played. The measure was approved last week. So, if Square Bar was your secret parking spot, better find another. 

For those businesses that don’t have parking lots they can convert into open air markets, they will receive marketing support from the Business Improvement District. Sure it’s not 15 feet of additional retail space, but it’s something. The task force behind the plan is also in talks with PennDot around converting other parking areas to retail locations. So stay tuned, and stay active, you are going to need those biking legs.

Swan Song. After not quite a full term as West Chester Mayor, Dianne Herrin has been tapped by the Democratic Committee to fill State Representative Caroyln Comitta’s spot on the November ballot. (Refresher: Carolyn won both her primary campaign for re-election to the PA House of Representatives and the PA Senate seat vacated by the retiring Andy Dinniman. She chose to pursue the latter in the general election.) Dianne took her oath of office as West Chester’s Mayor on January 2, 2018, and has championed some key legislation since being in office. These include the single-use plastic ban and the Main Street Strong, Gay Street closure project, even though officially, her only responsibility is the police force. 

IMG-0681
John O. Green Park, aka the splash park. No official word yet, on when playgrounds, restrooms and basketball courts will reopen.

Something’s got to give. As you may remember, West Chester is facing a bit of fiscal crisis and when revenues dry up and budgets get tight, nice-to-have projects with long-term payouts are often the first to get cut. As is the case with an improvement project planned for John O. Green park. The park was scheduled to have Silva Cell modular suspended pavement system installed. Silva Cell provides a paved, level space for walking, parking, etc., while also allowing nearby trees to grow strong thus improving stormwater management. However, the system is pricey, especially when compared to a traditional poured-concrete sidewalk – and last week it was cut for a savings of $27,500 dollars

Expect to see more nice-to-haves not make the cut in coming weeks. Borough Council has officially appointed its temporary ten-member Financial Advisory Committee, which got underway this week with a rousing review of the 2020 revised budget. (Full disclosure, I’m just assuming it was rousing, I didn’t actually listen.)

The warnings. I see you. A video camera is being installed on the old Farmers and Mechanics building; in case you were wondering if there was an area of downtown not surveillanced. Watch where you park your car. Parking violations are back. Full enforcement began this week. Stick to your diet or you might regret it

Cara Corridoni_Social Distancing
Gryphon Cafe. Grabbing a coffee while practice social distancing. It’s good to be back.

Accolades. Kudos to the West Chester Area School District English department on getting their work recognized on the national stage. The six-member team, representing all three area high schools, authored an article on student choice in standardized testing which was published in English Journal, the flagship publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. You can read the article here

Also, jazz hands to West Chester’s own Cristina Rosano on making the Philadelphia Eagles’ cheer squad. Cristina was one of only eight new members selected to the 2020 squad. Just wondering what cheering in 2020 will look like? 

Also, touting their football connections, West Chester East offensive tackle, Max Bowman. Max can now add Pitt to his growing list of college offers. The incoming junior, big man (6’ 6”, 290 lbs) also has offers from Michigan State, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, and Massachusetts and two years left of his high school career.  

Finally cheers to Yori’s Bakery on eight and Gryphon Cafe on surviving their first year in the Borough. Reserve me a cold brew and a cookie. I’ll be down to celebrate. 

Hello. To an outdoor movie experience in West Chester. Last week Borough Council agreed to let Uptown! Theatre use the top floor of the Bicentennial Garage to provide movies through October 1, 2020. Sounds fun!

Also, say hello to ChalkTalk – a new Q&A program with the WCU football, basketball and baseball coaches among others. Dying to talk sports? Now’s your chance. Submit your questions by July 1. 

Goodbye. To the July 4 and August 16 Midtown Markets. Despite the county officially going to “green” today, the market just doesn’t feel it has the necessary precautions in place to protect vendors and the community. That said they are planning for two new dates August 15 and  August 29 at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center.

Give back. Get cool shirt. All proceeds go to organizations such as the West Chester Senior Center, St. Agnes Day Room, Safe Harbor and others. (FYI not to be confused with the Main Street Strong shirt which they will be selling to support the Gay St. closure. See above.)

flying kite
Weekend time killer: Dollar Store kite. Best $1 spent so far this summer!

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We will be tackling our long-procrastinated 2019 taxes. Then maybe we’ll reward ourselves with an adult slushie? I hear it’s the summer of the slush. Plus, Hunger Gram has created this handy guide for helping you decide where to go. 

Also, the Melton Center is hosting a Drive-In Movie Night tonight. They are showing Aladdin (Will Smith version). Open to the first 75 vehicles, $30/car. Preregistration required at parksandrecreation@west-chester.com.

And anyone see this Driveway Concert being held on Nobb Hill Drive? The Yesterday’s News Band will be playing from 3 – 4 pm tomorrow. Bring a chair and a mask, apparently the first one was a blast! 

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

Plus, looking for a way to entertain the kids outdoors for a couple hours a week? Check out the Green Team’s organic gardening camp

New to the blog? Follow along, I’d love to have you join us.

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