West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Sept. 3, 2021

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, September 3. As West Chester recovers from the remnants of Ida, we get a look at how Amazon plans to manage the energy usage at its new West Chester warehouse. Plus, what’s happening on the corner of High and Rosedale, Ms. Malena got her Instagram account back and could West Chester finally get its own skate park? The kids are all back in school. It is a lovely day. Life is good. Who’s ready? Let’s get started.

“The project will have some serious green credentials we can objectively applaud.”  

Will Williams, West Chester Sustainability Director

Sunny Days Ahead: Amazon Plans for the Largest Solar Installation in the Borough

The future site of a new Amazon warehouse facility.

Last month, the new Amazon warehouse planned for 611 E. Nields Street went through its first round of reviews by the Borough of West Chester. These included borough engineers, a traffic study, the Planning Commission, Tree Commission and the Sustainability Advisory Committee, which compared the project plans against its established checklist for sustainable development.

“The project scored very well on our checklist and the developer has since committed to installing what will be West Chester’s largest solar array, which could make the building net zero,” West Chester Sustainability Director Will Williams said about the project. “Between that, the LED lighting, environmental remediation, new trees and rain gardens, electric vehicle infrastructure and the eventual tenant’s practice of procuring clean energy through a corporate Power Purchase Agreement, the project will have some serious green credentials we can objectively applaud.”

It’s a good start and made even more promising when you consider the alternatives for the site.

“As long as the borough council stays focused and does not make concessions by granting variances around our legislation, then the project should be a net success with plentiful jobs within walking distance or a SEPTA bus line for many,” Sustainability Advisory Committee Chair Alicia Gillian said in an email.

If you have thoughts or concerns about the proposal or its impact on the borough, now is the time to reach out to your council person and make your concerns heard.

“I have spent a lot of volunteer time fighting national developers and the one thing I’ve learned is that waiting until an application is submitted means you’re already playing catch up,” Alicia said.  

West Chester’s New Skate Park (Fingers-crossed)

Currently there is no place in the borough for kids to safely skate.

Ask any resident if West Chester has a skate park and they’ll point you to Pottstown Pike and the highly visible ramps located at Robert E. Lambert park just behind the Wawa. Ask any skater and they’ll point out the problems: it’s old, the features outdated, it needs upkeep and most importantly – it’s not in the borough. 

“As of now the only spots around the Borough of West Chester require access to a car,” said Brian Baade, founder of the Skateboard Improvement Coalition of Chester County (SICCC). And he seeks to change that. 

Brian is leading a group of about a dozen residents who are committed to bringing West Chester its first ever official skate spot. The group has identified what it believes to be the perfect location for a new 6000 square foot skateable concrete structure: Rustin Park on Rosedale and Walnut. The park which is primarily known, and used, for it’s basketball courts has a number of features that make it promising for a potential skate spot. 1) it has the space, 2) it is currently not attracting a lot of organic traffic and 3) perhaps most importantly, according to Brian, “It’s a six minute skate from Fairman’s.” 

While design details are still being finalized there are a few knowns – the skate spot will feature a combination of street obstacles (for example, rails, ledges, the group is even playing with the idea of creating replicas of the highly-skateable, yet off-limit marble benches at the Courthouse (see above)) and transition/ramp terrain (the current thinking is a quarterpipe featuring a mural of park namesake Bayard Rustin). 

Skateboarding, which made its Olympic debut this summer, offers a lot of benefits when supported by the community (it provides kids a safe place to skate, helps promote an active lifestyle and champions inclusivity among skaters) yet it still suffers from lingering negative perceptions.

“It’s probably the only Olympic sport you still have to defend,” Brian said. That’s why the group is doing its best to walk a line. “We want to find the happy medium between the skaters and the borough.”

The skate spot proposal is just now beginning to make its way through the Borough review process. It will need to make stops at the Park & Rec Commission and Public Works Committee before it can be presented to Borough Council but the team is optimistic. “Support so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” Brian said.  

If you would like to follow the project or contribute, SICCC, aka, Skate Chesco, has started a GoFundMe and an Instagram page. A website and 501-C3 status will hopefully be coming soon. 

***

Not saying you’re going to wrap up for the weekend early, but just in case you don’t make it to the end of this uber-informative post, I am pausing now to remind you to follow the blog for all the latest updates from West Chester (and only West Chester.) That’s it. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

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Updates!!!

Things happen when you go away for a week so, here are your updates!!!

Ground is broken on the Everhart Park playground. While I was away, West Chester Park & Rec Department broke ground on the new Everhart Park playground. For those of us who have been following this saga from the kid-inspired plan through the will they- won’t they raise enough to get the zip-line (they did!) this is an exciting moment. The next phase, which includes site-prep, stormwater infrastructure upgrades, equipment removal (only the swings will remain) and then installation of the new equipment, should take roughly two-and-a-half months. 

“If Mother Nature’s on our side we might be fully done right around Halloween,” Park and Rec Director Keith Kurowski told council members last month.  

How Ms. Malena got her Instagram back. Last month Malena’s Vintage Boutique on Gay Street had its Instagram account @MsMalena deleted from the platform and all her posts, followers, and contacts were lost. The boutique received an email at 4:30 a.m. on an early August morning notifying the shop it had violated the social platform’s terms of use and two hours later the account was deleted.

“I’ve lost my portfolio of work, customer contacts, events for my business and life. I can’t even access my messages to reach out to people,” owner Malena Martinez said in an email. Well good news, the Account has been reinstated. Although the mystery of what “terms” were broken or why the account was deleted in the first place remains unsolved.

“We have not found anything out,” Malena said “We have still not been directly contacted by a real person at Instagram. They didn’t even tell us it was reactivated.”

The handle @msmalenasvintage, which the store started after the original was removed, will also remain active for now. “We will probably keep it as a back up if this ever happens again,” Malena said. With no answers, that is probably not a bad idea.  

The new Greystone Elementary on 1195 Aram Avenue celebrated its first ever day of school this week. Picture from the Greystone Facebook page.

Greystone Elementary is open and students have a playground. West Chester Area School District successfully opened its tenth elementary school this week with only minor first day hiccups and moderately late buses. This is the first school to open in the district since Rustin opened its doors in 2006. And, for those of you following the playground drama – and especially all of you who offered your support – you will be glad to know that the kids will not only have a beautiful new building but a playground as well.  

“Our campaign has been a tremendous success. We have raised over $25,000!” said Selene Abou-Maarouf, member of the newly formed Greystone elementary PTO’s community outreach committee. The money along with a starter donation from the school district allowed the PTO to place an order for several pieces of playground equipment.

“Our fundraising efforts continue as we would like to add more equipment and picnic tables but we feel happy that GES’s students will have an all abilities playground to play at.” – Eventually. No thanks to COVID delays, equipment is expected by the end of Fall. 

West Chester University is getting a new plaza with a fountain.  This week the Daily Local shared an update on the construction work going on at the corner of Rosedale and High Street. West Chester University is constructing a new President’s Walk which will start at that intersection, run through the Quad and in back of Philips Memorial Building. The pinnacle of the walk will be a fountain described as “two large concentric spray rings” each featuring multiple arching jets of water. Plus, the fountain will be lit at night for added wow-factor.

The warnings

Please keep your drama at your house. Last Friday morning several individuals were arrested outside of the Planned Parenthood as part of a staged sit-in demonstration. However, none of the arrested individuals hails from the borough or even the state of Pennsylvania with one individual driving nearly three hours for the event. As I tell the kids, if you have nothing nice to stay, just stay home.

Let’s break it up. West Chester Police are looking for several people involved in a brawl at the 7-11 last weekend that left at least two people requiring medical attention. One victim left with a broken jaw and another in need of stiches. If you were on a Slurpee run at 2 a.m. Sunday morning and saw any of this go down, West Chester PD would like to talk to you. Reach out to Corporal O’Neill at 610-457-5874.

Know where you are not wanted. Also last week West Chester Police responded to a domestic disturbance in the 100 block of E. Gay Street that led to a shelter in place order for those in the neighborhood. The order was issued after police were unable to make contact with an armed suspect on the property. The order was lifted after police determined the suspect was no longer on the property and the incident was eventually, peacefully resolved with the suspect safely in custody.

Hello.

Masked up and ready for the first day of school.

Say hello to school buses on your morning commute. That is right, this Monday all students K-WCU went back to school.

Here’s what you need to know:

Masks will be required in the buildings. At last month’s school board meeting West Chester Area School Board voted (7-1) to update the Health and Safety Plan to reinstate a mask mandate for all returning students and staff regardless of vaccination status while the county COVID transmission rates are “moderate” or higher. West Chester University made a similar update to their policy earlier last month.

According to the revised Health and Safety Plan, “Mask exemptions may be granted due to medical or a disability condition with a doctor’s note or because of a religious reason with a letter from a faith-based leader.” However, those without a valid exception will be required to mask up. “If a student refuses to wear a mask, we will address the matter compassionately but firmly,” Superintendent Dr. Bob Sokolowski wrote in a letter to WCASD families. 

Also welcome back to Barstool West Chester. After a year of making the best of it, they were back this week with what they do best: drunk college students behaving badly. There were bouncer takedowns outside Barnaby’s, 7-11 arrests, and what appears to be a SWAT team charging a local apartment (for the record, I don’t think the last one had anything to do with students.) Oh, Barstool, we’ve missed you. 

Say hello to the Dot Laume pet water fountain at Marshall Square Park. Dot, the fountain’s namesake, was known to neighbors as a beloved part of the Marshall Square community and along with her dogs a regular at the park. The fountain is located near the human ones over by the restrooms. This marks the second doggie fountain in the borough, so plenty of options to keep those canine friends hydrated. 

Finally, for all you lovers of a good bourbon, Bar Avalon would like to invite you to swing by its new Bourbon room. Not exactly sure what a Bourbon room is but the decor looks pretty snazzy.  

Goodbye.

Come out this weekend and enjoy. Unless something changes, the Gay Street Open Air Market is in its last weeks.

Get ready to say goodbye to the Gay Street Open Air Market. The Gay Street Open Air Market, aka the Gay Street closure, will continue until Friday, September 24 when the current state permit expires. At this time Borough Council has not asked for an extension of the permit.

Also sad news coming last week from the West Chester University community. WCU Security Officer Cecilia Escobar-Duplan was killed after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to aid the victim of an early morning car crash on I95 in Delaware. According to those that knew her, Cecilia, as witnessed by her final act, would always go out of her way to help anyone and everyone in need. A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with funeral, memorial and medical expenses. 

Pay it forward: Ida edition

This week Ida moved through Chester County with vengeance. As I am sure you’ve seen from the pictures by now, there are a lot in the area in need of support. The Facebook group WCASD Parents Chat is coordinating the collection and donation of supplies to local families in need. As of now they are looking for help collecting:

  • Water and drinks
  • Masks
  • Paper products
  • Snacks
  • Toiletries 

They have a drop off up locations set up at: 

  • 1224 Foxglove Lane, West Chester
  • 1659 Waterglen Drive, West Chester

Leave supplies in the bins located on the front porch or side of the garage.

If you did sustain storm-related damage please contact the borough and ask for the emergency management coordinator. This will help the county access total damage. Below are the numbers for West Chester. 

West Chester: (610) 692-7574 

West Chester University: (610) 436-3311

Who could say no to those faces? 

And humans are the only ones in need. Hurricane Ida also left a lot of desperate cats and dogs in its wake. Last week the Brandywine SPCA went down to Louisiana and scooped up more than 100 adoptable pets. Now they are looking for homes (forever or temporary) for a good number of these precious bundles of fur. There are several ways you can help, if you are so inclined. Learn more about all your options here

The freakin’ weekend. 

What are you up to? We’ll be celebrating this little scene stealer, who turned four while we were away.

What are you up to this weekend? We are meeting our neighbors for a little “they are back-in-school celebration” on their porch. I am looking forward to it. I think this week deserves a “cheers.” Also I think we are going to try and squeeze in a trip downtown. There are a couple of restaurants we’ve been dying to try.

If you’re heading out as well, here’s few things to keep an eye out for. Sweater season has started. I’m particularly digging this one from Jane Chalfant; Yori’s has the cutest back-to-school cookies and who’s tried the Bourbon Peach Smash from Opa? It looks like the perfect Labor Day weekend sipper to me.

Also, if you are hoping to get ahead of the flu shot rush, Melton Center is hosting a flu shot clinic today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Mark your calendars:

Sept. 3 – First Friday, Downtown, Free metered parking after 5 p.m. 

Sept. 9 – WCASD Community Conversations – Part 1: Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?, Rustin High School, 6:30 p.m. Registration required.

Sept. 10 – Uptown’s Grand Reopening with the Urban Guerilla Orchestra, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $42-$49 (plus $3 service fee)

Sept. 12 – Free Barre Class, Outside Tish on Gay Street, 10 -10:45. Call 484-473-8144 to reserve your spot. Free outdoor workout plus, all attendees get 20% off Tish after the class. 

Sept 13 – West Chester Green Team, along with West Chester University’s Sustainability office, have invited Doug Tallamy, New York Times bestselling author and foremost authority of the lawn to native species movement, to speak at WCU on Monday, Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. 

Sept. 16- Book Discussion – A Woman of No Importance, Chester County History Center, 10 a.m. 

Sept. 16 – West Chester Co-op Wine Tasting and Art Auction, Galer Estate Winery, 6 – 9 p.m. Tickets are $75/non-member; $65/members and all proceeds go to a fabulous cause.

Sept. 18 Fame Housing and Dedication Ceremony, Fame Fire Co., 3 p.m. open to the public

Sept 19 – Turks Head Music Festival, Everhart Park

Sept. 25 – Up On the Roof, Chestnut Street Garage, Tickets $75, proceeds go toward the beautification of downtown West Chester. 

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

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