West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Sun is shining. Shops are open. It is a great time to be downtown.

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

It’s Friday, March 5.  Say goodbye to the old Daily Local headquarters, construction begins on the new West Chester Crossing. The West Chester Area School District shares their plan to vaccinate teachers, a new small business grant opportunity and the Levante Taproom is open for pours. Plus, has anyone heard of this game store? Apparently they have over 3000 titles. Take that Game Stop. Who’s ready? Let’s begin.

Oh, happy day!

“Each district is being allotted a certain number of vaccines for first round vaccinations. West Chester will receive 584.”

James Scanlon, Superintendent West Chester Area School District
Fern Hill elementary. Elementary students could be returning four days a week as soon as March 15.

Last week marked the first week the Chester County COVID-19 incidence rate dipped below 100 for 100,000 residents since who knows when. (Editor’s note: Just in – we’ve now hit two weeks in a row. This week’s incidence rate was down to 85 out of 100,000.) This marks an over month-long decline and brings Chester County out of the ‘very high’ risk category to the merely ‘high’ risk level for COVID-19 exposure, but the decline is significant for another reason as well… 

Not long before hitting this milestone Chester County Health Department changed its guidance around social distancing at schools. Agreeing the distance between students could be lessened to three feet, if the transmission rate in the county drops below 100 out of 100,000 residents and stays there for three weeks and teachers continue to maintain six feet of distance.  This triggered a well prepared administration into action, notifying parents of the plan to return to students to fulltime in person instruction. The plan was then presented to the West Chester Area School Board, who voted 7 to 2 to reopen the schools to full-time instruction starting at the earliest March 15.

Still to do:

Survey the students – surveys went out to parents and students asking for the last time –  cyber, remote or in person – all or nothing this time. Surveys were due back to administrators this week.  

Get the teachers vaccinated – the main point of contention at the School Board meeting was around when to vaccinate the teachers. Some members of the board preferred to wait until teachers were fully vaccinated before requiring them to return to the classroom. While this position remained in the minority, they Board took (and completed) an action to petition the state to raise the priority level of teachers. While we don’t know the specific effect of this effort, the result is the same, Pennsylvania announced this week its plan to get teachers vaccinated. Starting as early as next week, 124,000 PA-allocated doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be administered to the states teachers and school personnel, of those, West Chester Area School District will receive 584.

While this effort won’t be completed in time for the March reopening, the district is hoping to have all educators vaccinated by early to mid-April.

Ready the schools – with the wheels of motion for the big return teachers and administrators are busy readying schools and addressing tricky group situations like lunch time and busing.

Take it to the ballot box

Agree or disagree with last week’s vote, you can make your voice heard at the ballot box. West Chester Area School District School Board has four seats up for election 2021 including one in Region 1 which includes West Chester Borough and parts of West Goshen Township.

Incumbent:  

Joyce Chester will be running as the incumbent in the race after just completing her first four year term on the School Board. Ms. Chester is President and CEO of Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), Inc., a local non-profit entity that provides adult literacy and employment training to disadvantaged Chester County residents. She voted against returning kids to school at this time voicing concern over the risk to teachers should the 6 foot guidelines be relaxed. 

Challenger:

Also declaring her candidacy Ada Nester. I couldn’t find much on her background but Ms. Nester is firmly in favor of getting students back in the classroom and easing COVID-19 restrictions, including mask and distancing requirements. She is also in favor of higher pay for teachers. 

Hopefully we’ll learn more about both candidates in the coming weeks.   

Shovel ready projects

Architect rendering of the new West Chester Crossing.

Work has begun at 250 North Bradford Avenue, perhap better known as the 6.1-acre former home of the Daily Local. Demolition of the newspaper’s old headquarters is now complete and the developers are in the process of obtaining permits to begin construction on what they are calling, West Chester Crossing, a 56-unit townhouse development. Last fall East Bradford Board of Supervisors approved the plans. The townhouse development will include a central community space and a dog park. Sidewalks will be added around the development connecting the corner of Bradford Avenue and 162 to the neighboring Ace Hardware. 

The Daily Local abandoned their West Chester mailing address in 2017, relocating operations to Uwchlan.

Gay Street closing 

Well, here we are again. Starting on Monday Gay Street will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The closure is part of a PECO project to replace 1.3 miles of underground cable and conduit to improve the local electric distribution in the area. Wonder if this will help with the Borough’s frequent power outages? 

The work on Gay Street begins on March 8 and is expected to last for three weeks. Just in time for it to be shut down for the summer. Better get your alternate routes down now. 

The warnings. 

Keep your distance. While this advice is particularly salient in a time of a pandemic, it may also keep you from getting your ass kicked. West Chester Police are seeking your help in identifying three suspects wanted for questioning in an assault investigation that occurred early last Thursday morning outside the 7-11. 

Don’t leave your unattended car running. Sadly this is not the first time in the last two months I have had to include this warning, yet here we are again. This week West Chester Police responded to the report of a theft of a white 2016 Jeep Wrangler. The vehicle apparently went missing from the rear of the victim’s property where it had been left running while the victim returned to the house. 

Accolades.

Throw back to the post that began the season of hearts.

Last year was not an easy year for West Chester University President Chris Fiorentino. Making the tough decision to cancel in person classes well before his peers Mr. Fiorentino has put his name front and center among COVID-19 discussions. This year his tough decisions are getting him recognition. Mr. Fiorentino has been named to Philadelphia Business Journal’s Power 100 list for 2021. The annual list represents the 100 most inspiring people in the region. According to Philadelphia Business Journal Editor Ryan Sharrow, “The 2021 group of leaders spans a variety of industries — from health care and higher education to tourism and hospitality — who are playing vital roles in helping to push the region forward.”  

Congratulations to The Games Keep which was recently recognized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the best gaming shops in the region. Full disclosure, I had never heard of them before this article but now I can’t wait to check them out. According to the article, “their selection is absolutely massive, consisting of 3,000 titles.” How did I miss this place? In case, like me, you’ve been oblivious, they are located at 561 E. Gay Street. 

Also, cheers to Charlie & Co. who celebrated one year in the Borough yesterday. I can only imagine what that must have been like, forced to close your doors days after opening. Well, we are glad they stuck it out. And fun fact, Amy Trough, owner of Charlie & Co., started the hearts across the Borough trend that took over last year.  

Finally, high fives to the East boys basketball team on outlasting crosstown rivals Rustin for the third time this year to bring home the unofficial Ches-Mont title. After leading by seven at half time the Vikings held off a strong second half comeback by the Golden Knights to secure the title 62-57.  Not sure if all teams would be able to complete their seasons due to COVID-19, the League decided early in the season there would be no official champion, but official or not, the best is the best.

“Our primary focus right now is providing our student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the safest environment possible.” 

Terry Beattie, West Chester University Director of Athletics

Goodbye. 

Say goodbye to any chance of catching a game at Maple Zone Sports Complex, cheering on the girls at Vonnie Gros Field or catching a personal best at John A. Farrell Stadium. West Chester University Athletics has announced it will be continuing its no spectator policy through the Spring season.  

Adios to styrofoam takeout containers at Kildare’s. That is right, Kildare’s is the latest downtown restaurant to join West Chester Sustainable Storefronts. The designation, courtesy of West Chester’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, recognizes retailers and restaurants doing their part to limit the Borough single-use plastic waste. Kildare’s is also using recyclable paper bags for takeout and has switched to biodegradable straws. 

Finally say farewell to StanAb. The real estate development team behind Chestnut Street Lofts and a new West Chester University off campus housing project planned at 17 E. Market Street is calling it quits after 25 years rebuilding the Borough. 

“It was a good partnership and still a great friendship. The hard part for a lot of folks is to know when to say when,” Developer Tony Stancato told the Philadelphia Business Journal of his partnership with Victor Abdala.

Hello.

To pours at Levante’s West Chester Taproom. After being open for pickup only throughout the pandemic, they are now ready to serve Fridays through Sundays – with a few changes for safety. 

New normal at the Levante Taproom

  • Guests will be seated on a first come, first serve basis 
  • Maximum parties of four
  • There’s a 90 minute time limit per seating 
  • And sorry, no dogs for the time being 

Also, say hello to Shannon Royer, the new president of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce. Former Chief of Staff to State Senator Tom Killion, Mr. Royer is replacing long-time chamber president Mark Yoder. His goal is to help local businesses rebound from the pandemic. A mission that requires all hands on deck, welcome Mr. Royer. 

Finally, all you bargain hunters say good day, to Downtown Thrift and new thrift, gift and consignment shop that opened this week at 432 W. Gay Street.

Pay it forward. 

While we haven’t had much good news in way of vaccination rates in Chester County, Watermark at Bellingham nursing home in West Chester reached a major milestone last week. Cheered on by the encouraging words of Pat Bentar ( “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”) and Diana Ross (“I’m Coming Out”) all Watermark residents got at least one dose of the vaccine and 90 percent received their second dose. Baby steps. 

Also, know a hospitality or food service business that is still struggling due to the pandemic? Well, Chester County is ready to roll out an additional $5.9 million in recovery funds. Chester County restaurants, bars, hotels and other hospitality businesses can apply for individual grants valued between $5,000 and $50,000 through the program. A free informational webinar has been scheduled for March 12 at 11:30. You can register here.  

The freakin’ weekend. 

Last week might have been a little early for ice cream, but this week looks perfect. Ice cream from Scoops ‘n’ Smiles.

What are you up to this weekend? 

Saturday’s are pizza night in our house. For the last year or so, I have committed to making our own which is fun, but this weekend I think we are going to mix it up. I found this “Not-a-Pizza” box at Slow Hand that appears to be stuffed with a whole bunch of hand held apps. I am not entirely sure what exactly is in it, but that’s half the fun. 

Also, it’s my birthday this weekend and while I’m not one to make a big deal, I think I am going to have to treat myself to one of these (or maybe both).

Mark your calendars:

Hey batter, batter, ssshwinnng batter. This month’s History Matters Speaker Series from the Chester County History Center will explore the life of Chester County resident William “Bill” Killefer. Mr. Bill spent 13 years as a MLB catcher playing from 1909 through 1921 helping to define the role of the modern catcher.  Talk is scheduled for Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m. Register here.

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

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

3 thoughts on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup

  1. Loved that Kildare’s voluntarily joined the West Chester Sustainable Storefronts effort. It kind of counterbalanced the news about our state lawmakers blocking anti-plastics legislation. Could you give a shout out to the other 6 businesses that joined as well. I’d like to encourage others to patronize their shops, as I plan to do. Thanks. Really enjoy your blog, and Happy Birthday! Anne

    Like

  2. Philly Business Journal gave a guy who shut down his school for over a year a spot on the Power 100 list. Why wouldn’t you give it to someone that successfully kept their school open during this pandemic. Villanova open, University of Delaware open.

    Lest us not forget this gem.

    Dear WCU Community,
    I write to let you know that the National Guard vacated our campus last evening. There are no plans for their return to the University. As I stated, the West Chester University community continues to stand united behind all those peaceful protesters in Philadelphia and throughout the world who are actively working to advance equality and social justice for those in our Black and Brown communities. Please know that advancing this cause and educating others about its critical importance remains a priority for this University. Let us all commit to doing better.
    Sincerely,
    Christopher Fiorentino
    President

    This guy was elated that the National Guard vacated campus, wait until an emergency happens and this guy will be crying for the National Guard. For a President of a state funded school to essentially celebrate the departure of the National Guard is an absolute disgrace.
    1. Guy shuts down school in person for over a year, while other schools stay open safely.

    2. Guy is elated when the National Guard vacates his campus. Disgraceful.
    This guy won’t open in person classes until 2024.

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