West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Soak up all the November sunshine you can.

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

It’s Friday, November 13. It’s Friday the 13th and the virus rages on. West Chester schools talk of a return to virtual, the Borough plans for a final vote on the property tax increase and downtown gets ready to welcome another four (!) new restaurants. Can we handle it? Who’s ready? Let’s get catch up.

“None of this is easy or simple.”

James Scanlon, Superintendent West Chester Area School District
Just weeks after bringing kids into schools officials are discussing the what if’s of sending them back home.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this. Three weeks into the return to the classroom, and one week after West Chester Area School District was hit with its first in class cases of COVID-19, the district is once again contemplating cancelling in-person classes. In a letter sent to parents and community members this week, Superintendent James Scanlon addressed the rumors that the district was returning to all virtual learning, with a not yet but maybe soon.

This latest letter came a week after the District shared it had its first classroom closures after five students at Starkweather elementary were reported symptomatic and presumed positive for the virus. The students as well as anyone they were in close contact with (defined as: 15 cumulative minutes in a 24 hour period at 6 feet or less) are now under a two week (14-day) self isolation period and will be learning remotely during this period. However, under the guidance of the Chester County Department of Health the significance of these incidents did not rise to the level of needing to close the school at this time. However, should Starkweather experience another “outbreak” in the next two weeks this status will likely be revisited.

Since August 30 the West Chester Area School District has reported 53 presumed positive cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff. The vast majority of those cases, 38 out of 53 have come in the last three weeks. Even before the latest letter from Dr. Scanlon there were already reports of Unionville school district discussing a return to all virtual learning so it will be interesting to see how the district responds.

Pushing the limits. West Chester is looking at four new restaurants on its horizon. Sedona Taphouse, the signature restaurant in the base of 44 West, is currently finalizing their outdoor signage. Justin Weathers, owner of Stove and Tap, shared on Facebook they are planning to open in early December and Wrong Crowd Brewing just announced they had opened their Hannum Avenue doors two weeks ago. And that does not include the beautifully renovated Greystone Oyster Bar on Church and a mysterious new restaurant coming to 110 E. Gay Street, of both which recently petitioned the West Chester Historic Architecture Review Board (HARB) for renovation approvals. While this is all very exciting, makes you wonder, is it sustainable?

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story about West Chester’s downtown efforts. According to John O’Brien, executive director of the Business Development District, since the coronavirus descended in March only one downtown business has closed – Starbucks and that closure had been in the works. While, I am not sure what definition of closed he is using (cough Level 13 couch Lulu’s Casita cough), I don’t think there is any denying West Chester has been fortunate. Not only have closures been limited, West Chester has managed to open three new restaurants downtown.

However, even with that extra space survival hasn’t been easy, – “I haven’t gotten a paycheck since [he opened Mae’s in May],” owner Josh Taggert told the Inquirer and now, as they say, winter is coming.

Mayor needed. Earlier this month, West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin secured her foray into state politics beating Len Iacono for the 156th District seat in the PA State house. The win however, leaves the Borough, and more precisely the Borough Police Department, without a leader come January 5. In the Borough of West Chester’s governmental structure, the mayor serves as the public appointed head of the police department. 

Those with political aspirations keep an eye on the borough website, if 2017 (when then Mayor Carolyn Comitta left in similar fashion) is any indication, an interim mayor will be selected by Borough Council in an interview process similar to the Councilwoman Lisa Dorsey saw this summer. 

Also winning locally: 

In the 19th District State Senate race, West Chester resident and former mayor Carolyn Committa cruised to victory over Kevin Runey cinching the seat vacated by longtime state senator Andy Dinniman earlier this year.

In the Borough, Lisa Dorsey is now the official elected representative of Ward 7. She has been serving in the role after being appointed by Borough Council this summer. 

Improvements planned for the High Street corridor to improve walkability and safety.

Riding High. Everyone has opinions on how to improve the High Street corridor – or that stretch of High Street from Rosedale Avenue to Chestnut Street. So last winter the High Street task force held a public meeting complete with blown up pictures of streetscapes and colored sticky notes to methodically track this feedback. Then over the next six months, a study of the corridor was performed by Traffic Planning and Design and recommendations made. 

Improvements include changes to the traffic flow and extending curbs along the corridor to shorten crosswalk lengths and add green infrastructure. 

Planned High Street improvements: 

Sampling of improvements presented by the High Street task force.
  • Add a signal light and northbound turn lane at Sharpless Street. 
  • Add a signal at University Avenue. 
  • Add a southbound turn lane at Nields Street.
  • Remove the crosswalk at Lacey Street and redirect foot traffic to crosswalk areas where signals are located.

If you are worried the addition of all these traffic lights will slow your evening commute, no need. Borough head of municipal services Randy Waltermyer told the Daily Local, the two added signals will be “coordinated and optimized” so that most motorists will actually cut travel time by 20 seconds in the corridor.

Sounds great. Who’s paying? 

A popular question during these cash strapped times. Assuming the plan is approved the improvements will be funded by several separate sources. 

  • PennDOT is contributing $1.8 million (to cover the traffic signals and curb bump outs)
  • Chester County Department of Community Development added $400,000 (to cover sidewalk additions and stormwater infrastructure)
  • The Borough of West Chester will contribute $100,000 to cover what’s left.

Next steps: The County Planning Commission is set to finish its review of the plans this week. Then next week Borough Council will review and vote on the final plan. (Tuesday 7 p.m.) And speaking of Tuesday, 7 p.m..

West Chester Borough’s Public Works building.

Questions or concerns about the 2021 Borough budget? Block your calendar for Tuesday. West Chester Borough Council has scheduled its public hearing on the 2021 Budget for November 17 at 7 p.m. As it stands now, Borough residents will see a 6 percent tax increase next year. TBD if we’ll also see a sewer rate increase. 

Know of anyone hoping to get in the last fiscal word? Make sure they know they need to be on Zoom on Tuesday. This meeting has traditionally occurred in December (or at least it did last year). 

Get yourself ready: Latest budget revisions; watch this week’s Finance meeting.

And if you’re financial future isn’t enough reason to tune in, this should make for an interesting discussion.

The warnings. Watch where you’re aiming that thing. West Chester University Police are seeking help identifying the person or persons behind the intentional damage of one of its police vehicles. The suspect is caught on tape walking away from the scene of the incident. If you have any information about this event please contact WCU PD at 610-436-3311.

Don’t impede the investigation. The West Chester Borough Police is also working on a couple of open investigations this week including:

  • An incident of indecent exposure in the 500 block of E. Gay Street. The incident reportedly occurred on Tuesday at 11 a.m. when a male wearing camo pants reportedly locked eyes with the victim in the parking lot then proceeded to expose himself.
  • A report of an attempted burglary on the 400 block of S. Walnut Street. Saturday night at approximately 2:20 a.m. two men were spotted entering an unlocked vestibule on the property. Nothing was reported stolen but residents are still curious as to what was going on. 
  • An assault in the parking lot on S. Walnut Street at approximately 3:15 a.m. on Sunday morning. The police are seeking five male suspects in the case. Have they been watching Cobra Kai too? Five on one hardly seems a fair fight.

If you have information on any of these incidents contact the West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700.

Wear your mask. Just ask Robert Reed. Having it on could keep you out of jail

Accolades. High fives to Henderson seniors Lauren Franco, Gianna Cugino, Olivia Ingram and Molly Mannion on making it to the next level in their sporting careers. Lauren, Gianna, and Olivia who signed with the University of Scranton, Fairfield University and Catholic University respectively will be playing field hockey for their future alma maters. While Molly will head to Merrimack College on a basketball scholarship. You go girls.

Also, congratulations to Champions Barber Shop on 10 years of keeping us looking sharp.

Goodbye. To West Chester East boys’ soccer team’s state championship hopes. The top seeded Vikings were knocked out of the state tourney this week by Spring Ford. 

To the Gay Street barriers. When West Chester’s Open Air Market comes to a close at the end of the month so goes all those carefully and lovingly painted temporary barriers that have kept traffic off the town’s main thoroughfare. Well, no need to worry, Borough officials have a plan. The barriers will soon be relocated and put to work at the area’s parks, marking parking spaces, shoring up decaying bollards, and adding a little personality to the Borough’s green spaces.  

To a piano legend. Jacobs Music Co. Steinway & Sons’ store on Wilmington Pike. The satellite location of the iconic Philadelphia piano dealership has announced it is shutting its doors.

HaidyO paper floral creations coming soon to downtown.

Hello. to HaidyO Flowers and Balloons, who is taking up residence with Verzuka clothing on High Street. HaidyO is a high-end party designer focusing on the art of balloon and paper floral design. Both Vezuka and HaidyO are promising to be coming soon. 

Pay it forward. Ready to assume your civic duty? West Chester is looking for a few good men and women to fill vacancies on several of its public run voluntary committees. Have an interest in – the library, rail, history, HR, redevelopment or zoning? Borough Council wants to talk to you. Applications are being accepted now. Deadline is November 27.

Looking for something a little more short-term and love decorating for Christmas? The West Chester Chamber of Commerce needs your help. Get into the holiday spirit and perhaps find some gift ideas by hanging garland and bows along downtown shops. More information and sign up here.

Fall is in full splendor and sunshine is expected on Saturday.

The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? After countless days staring at the interior of our home, we like many decided to undertake a home improvement project. So this is the weekend we begin putting it all back together again in the hopes of having it completed in time for the holidays.

Also, H. Rose boutique on Gay Street has some cute items at deep discount, I am hoping to swing by on Saturday to take another look at.

Here’s what else is going on:

In an effort to think outside the theater, at least for now, Uptown is coordinating a live stream speaker series. The first entry is a discussion with Dr. Mark Zandi, Chief Analyst of Moody Analytics on appropriately enough the pandemic and the future of live events. The full video was released last week and is now available on YouTube.  

On Monday, the West Chester Area School district is hosting a talk by social media expert Josh Ochs in which parents and students can learn how to use social media for good – like impressing colleges and future employers. Talk starts at 6:30 p.m. and you’ll need to register to get the Zoom link to attend.

Also, lace up and get ready to race again. Chester County Racing Services is planning for three signature, in person West Chester runs during the month of November and early December.  

  • The Boundary Battle, November 21 at the Henderson High School track. Lap the track for a 3200 or 5K and if you’re a traditional road runner, prepare for a personal best on this fast track.
  • All you early birds – the Turkey Trot is back downtown on Thanksgiving day. First corral starts a 6:45 a.m.
  • Then back to Henderson for Brian’s Run on December 6.

Visit CCSR for race details and registration information.

Need a weekend pick-up me up? Cozy up with a quality cappuccio. (Sorry, I’m a coffee snob.)

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

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