West Chester Weekly News Roundup: July 23, 2021

Meow. 100 block of S. Walnut Street.

The easiest way to stay in the know.

It’s Friday, July 23. If last summer was all about the art, this summer it’s the outdoor concert. This week Borough Council voted to allow live outdoor music downtown – what will and won’t be accepted. Plus, what’s behind the scaffolding on Gay Street and the future of West Chester’s finances as told by the parking revenue. Parking is heating up. So is summer. Enjoy it while you can – but first, let’s catch up.

Parking Futures

What happens when student return in the fall is still missing from the parking picture.

Last year one thing became abundantly clear, besides we are not too advanced a nation to be crippled by a virus, the fortunes of the Borough rise (and fall) with its parking capacity. The harder it is to find a spot, the better we are doing financially. Pre-pandemic, the Borough of West Chester could be expected to pull in roughly between 5 and 6 million in parking revenue.

Now nearly halfway through 2021, and two months into the lessening of pandemic restrictions, I was curious, had parking rebounded and what did futures look like for 2022? So I listened to the Borough Council Parking Committee Meeting and summarized if for you (you’re welcome.)  

Here are the takeaways: 

Transient parking is up. 

According to the monthly Parking Garage Performance report, the lifting of COVID restrictions is being seen in the return of visitors parking downtown. Both the Chestnut Street and the Bicentennial Garages saw significant uptick in transient traffic in the month of June. Chestnut was up nearly 100 percent over budget while Bicentennial was up 85 percent. 

Monthly parking is flat.

While single parkers are up, monthly parking remains flat. This could be tied to labor issues in the retail and hospitality industries or some other unknown variable but either way an increase is not expected until fall at the earliest.

Metered revenue still missing students.

Meter parking revenue is also up, but not yet near levels hit in 2019. Parking Services Director Sean Metrick, says he will be watching to see what happens when West Chester University students return at the end of August. 

While we are not where we were, Borough officials are cautiously optimistic we are getting there. Early indication is revenue forecasts for 2022 will not hit 2019 levels but they will be close(r). 

Fun fact: The Borough issues between 5000 and 6000 tickets a month. 

“It seems like we have a lot of favor and I think it will be a good thing.”

Michael Stefano, Borough Council member and part-time musician. 

Summer of Music

You will soon be able to include live music among the attractions of West Chester’s Gay Street Open Air Market.

If last year was the summer of street art – this is shaping up to be the summer of live music. Live music events have already been planned for each of West Chester’s major parks and now it appears the Gay Street Open Air Market will soon be in on the action.

This week West Chester Borough Council approved allowing live music downtown with the following provisions: 

  • All live music should conclude no later than 10:00 P.M. and begin no earlier than 5 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. on weekends 
  • Musicians must contain their music within the area of the business 
  • Business owners coordinate with surrounding businesses to avoid multiple performances

Already quite popular, with the allure of live music, people now have one more reason to come to – and stay on – Gay Street.

Here we grow again

Workers restoring the Spence building on Gay Street to the original sandstone façade. The project is expected to be completed later this year.

If you’ve been downtown lately you’ve probably seen the scaffolding blocking the sidewalk on E. Gay Street, and you may have wondered what exactly is going on there? I know I did. Well, folks, we have some answers. 

According to a recent update in the Daily Local, the property known as the Spence Building, is being returned to its former glory. Property owner Zukin Reality is in the process of peeling off the faux brick and stucco facade and restoring the original sandstone blocks. They also want to preserve the original mansard roof line. 

“We’ve always been committed to preserving history and this is one the most important buildings in town,” Scott Zukin, of Zukin Realty told the paper. 

When complete, likely sometime this fall, the building will be home to 11 apartments and a high end restaurant.

***

Interrupting briefly now, in case you don’t make it to the end of the post, I know they are long, to remind you to submit your email to get these updates sent directly to your inbox. It’s much easier than trying to find a link on social each week. Ok, that’s it. Now back to it.

The warnings

Don’t wear an ankle length skirt when attempting a robbery. This is personal advice. In the case of a robbery that occurred at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the 50 block of N. Church Street, it appeared not to be an issue as the suspect was still able to flee despite the binding attire. If you have any information concerning this brazen incident involving two men downtown on Saturday afternoon, one who may or may not work at the Exton Walmart, contact the West Chester Police at 610-696-2700.   

Do wear something at all times. An indecent exposure incident was reported on the 300 block of S. Walnut Street on Saturday morning. By the time police arrived the assailant could not be located but is described as a 5’6”-5’7” white male, approximately 40 years of age weighing between 170 and 180 lbs. Again if you have any information, the WCPD would like to know. Reach them at 610-696-2700.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The West Chester Police would like to remind residents to be mindful of the paperwork they are filling out and with whom they are sharing their personal information. Unemployment fraud has been on the rise in all areas of Pennsylvania including Chester County. The WCPD has reported responding to numerous calls regarding fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits being filed with the PA Department of Labor over the last two months. 

Signs of fraudulent activity include:

  • Receiving unrequested unemployment paperwork
  • Receiving unemployment benefits you did not apply for
  • Receiving 1009G tax form indicating you were paid unemployment benefits, when you were not. 

If you believe your information has been used to file fraudulently, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry for more information and what to do next.

Accolades.

Courtney on the court. Image: Manhattan College.

High fives to West Chester native Courtney Warlay, who was recently named a candidate for the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. Courtney graduated in May from Manhattan College where she was a star player on the basketball team. During her tenure on the team she was named All-MAAC three times and the conference’s defensive player of the year once. The Bishop Shanahan alumni was not only killing it on the court she also held her own off – graduating with a 3.84 GPA and holding an executive board member position on the Manhattan College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee with a special interest in social justice. Congrats to Courtney and best of luck as voting gets under way!

Also, keep those hands up for – West Chester University offensive tackle Brendan Ruskowski on being named to the College Football Network’s list of top 20 Division II OTs in the country. The Golden Rams’ big man came in at lucky #11. 

Hello. 

Guess who’s back? Say “hola” to Lulu’s Casita. Happy day for the Borough’s toddlers – Lulu’s Casita, the indoor playground and grownup coffeehouse, is back. 

“It has been a long road through Covid but we are very happy to finally re-open! We appreciate the support of the community in WC!” Lulu’s owner Lisa Elliot wrote in an email. Opened in late 2018 the casual coffee house has given parents of little ones a place to play while they catch up on some email or just enjoy a cup of joe. 

If you want to get a sense of what all the hype is about, check out their Christmas in July party. It’s tomorrow from 9:30 to noon. There will be Santa and mimosas and a photo booth – where all you super-organized parents can knock your holiday photos out now. Reservations are required so I’d reach out now, if you are interested.  

Speaking of things that make both kids and grownups happy, it looks like West Chester is getting a new candy store. Kilwin’s Chocolates, Fudge and Ice Cream is slated to move in on the corner of N. Church and Market Streets, or the former office of State Senator Andy Dinniman. The chocolate franchise makes their products in store for what they call “an authentic sensory and taste experience.” Opening is scheduled for late 2021. 

Goodbye.

Say goodbye to Pep Boys. The Philadelphia-based auto parts retailer has been quietly closing locations across the country to focus on its tires and repairs business. The service center at the West Chester location will remain open, but there will be no retail and several staff members are expected to lose their jobs. 

“I know Pep Boys was going to be closing about 150 stores and unfortunately, ours is one of them,” Borough Councilman Don Braceland wrote on Facebook. 

Pep Boys has been operating at the E. Gay Street location since 1960.

And for all you early morning HIIT workout fans, say goodbye to using the stairwells in the Chestnut Street Garage – at least for the next three weeks. The Borough is having all the handrails painted and has asked the stairwells be avoided during this time. 

Pay it forward. 

Last week three members of the Fame fire company returned after a 17-day deployment to Maimi-Dade County, FL where they assisted with the search and rescue mission after the Surfside Tower collapse. They are all members of FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue teams. Special round of applause to specialists Bill Cummings, Brad Cosgrove and Dave Daniels. 

If this is the kind of altruism you would like to be involved in, reach out to any of West Chester’s three fire companies for details. All are in desperate need of volunteers.  

Speaking of jobs is cool vehicles, have one? Then why not make a little kid’s day? West Chester Park and Rec is seeking local businesses with cool, unusual vehicles for its Touch A Truck Day on August 8. If you can help out or would like more information, email the Parks Department at parksandrecreation@west-chester.com or call 610-436-9010.

The freakin’ weekend. 

Toddlers playing music in Everhart Park.

What are you up to this weekend? After a few weekends away, I think we are going to keep it low-key. Definitely the pool, and maybe a trip downtown to catch some music on Gay Street? I am almost embarrassed to say, we have not yet been to the Gay Street Open Air Market this summer, not properly anyway, but I’ve seen some of the set ups and boy, are establishments getting the hang of it this year!

Also, how good does this strawberry and rhubarb salad look from Two Birds? And all you daters out there, I don’t necessarily think of Slow Hand as a dessert place but, these root beer float concoctions would be a perfect to cap a lovely an evening.

Finally – and I know I am breaking my West Chester-rule here, but it just sounds too cool. I had to share. Marsh Creek Satellite Rental in Downingtown is hosting Full Moon Night Tours of Marsh Creek lake – they are taking place tonight and August 20 – 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. You will be provided a kayak and life jacket – bring your own flash light and a good camera.

Mark your calendars:

July 29 – Music Under the Stars, Hoopes Park, 6:30 p.m. 

July 31 – Live at the Fillmore – Allman Brothers Tribute, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $43 (with service fee)

Aug. 3 – National Night Out Against Crime, Henderson High School, 6:30 p.m.

Aug 5-7: WCStudio presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, Family- friendly performance, Tickets $10 adults, $8 kids; see website for times

Aug. 8 – Touch a Truck Day, Chester County Government Services Complex

Aug. 11 – National Hip Hop Day, Melton Center, 6:30-8 p.m. Instruction provided by Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts.

Aug. 12 – Music at Marshall Square Park, 6:30 p.m. Free. Food trucks onsite if you want to make it dinner and a concert. 

Aug. 12 – Hotel Warner West Chester Mile, Henderson High School, 6:30 p.m., after post-race after party is planned at the Hotel Warner featuring complimentary burgers and hot dogs and drink specials. Race fee $25; registration required. 

Aug. 15 – Community Day, Melton Center, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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

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