The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, February 4. Last month the Chester County Health Inspector found seven West Chester establishments in serious violation of health codes including a Ratatouille reenactment being staged in a high school cafeteria. The borough prepares for the spring home buying season with two new developments – one on each end of town and each end of the pricing spectrum. Plus, live ice sculpting and a Henderson student makes us wonder, what have we done with our lives? Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Borough living, western PA prices
West Chester is a great little area, but let’s be honest, moving in isn’t easy. Housing options are limited and because of it prices are often, well, high. According to Reatlor.com, the median listing home price in West Chester in December was $475K. That’s a 1.6% year over year increase on already inflated housing prices. There are currently 188 homes for sale with a West Chester mailing address ranging from $180K to $34 million and roughly 200 rentals — significantly less, if you are limiting your search to the Borough.
But there’s at least one new development hoping to change the balance (a little.)
Pickney Hill Commons aka the Melton Center Housing Project
Location: 501 E. Miner Street
Options: 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments; 3 and 4 bedroom townhomes
Target market: Working class families and individuals that want to live in West Chester but can no longer afford the rent.
Status: Under construction, completion March/April 2022
Pickney Hills Commons, currently taking shape on the grounds of the Melton Center, came together with a purpose – supplement affordable housing options in the borough. For if housing in general is a problem, affordable housing is near non-existent. The $180K option mentioned above, pending. So, is another borough property listed at $199K. Actually every option under $250K with a West Chester mailing address, with the exception of one, was either pending or contingent. But there may be hope yet for West Chester’s preschool teachers, service workers, healthcare aids, and cashiers, (did you know Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is still $7.25/hour??). In April, Pickney Hills is set to open with 51 affordable housing options (41 apartments, 10 townhomes). Now these are rentals, not for sale, but they will rent under market value.
“Pinckney Hill Commons is a tax credit development that focuses on people that want to live in West Chester but can no longer afford the market rate rent,” Tracy Patches, Church Housing Corp. Director of Development explained in an email. Which means, you will need to provide income verification to qualify.
As you can imagine, these are popular. Pre-applications opened in December and already, Church Housing Corp, is urging patience. “We are in the process of reviewing all pre-applications that we have received to date,” they have posted to their site. “Please do not expect to hear from us until February 2022.”
If you are interested in being considered, I’d get my pre-application in now.
The house of cards is starting to fall
For the last several months I have been monitoring the Chester County Health Food Inspection reports, believing people have a right to know whether the establishments they are dining at are at risk of making them sick. Every month, there is an establishment or two that gets their wrists slapped by the health inspector and must pause and clean up but generally the list is short. Well, this month there were seven establishments (including two in the borough and a disturbing discovery at one West Chester high school) all out of compliance with significant or severe health safety violations. There’s no report to say what has led to these increases. Perhaps its the loss of experienced workers, a shortage of workers in general, or the health department digging out of a backlog caused by the pandemic? Whatever the cause, the effect seems to be a slip in cleanliness of the environment in which food is prepared.
- Playa Bowls, S. High Street – out of compliance, 5 violations including an ice maker observed having “black mold-like residue” and no toilet paper on the premises. Apparently an employee ran to the store to get some.
- Dunkin’ Donuts, E. Market Street – out of compliance, 5 violations, mostly a long list of cleaning tasks – including the men’s restroom.
- Amish Market, Wilmington Pike – 5 vendors were found out of compliance. Complaints vary but not covering beards was a common thread.
- Two Birds Café, Downingtown Pike – out of compliance. 11 violations, including trays of meat being stored uncovered, ready-to-eat and prepared foods stored without a date marker and/or stored at unsafe temperatures.
- Kooma, Church Street – in again – earlier in the month Kooma was cited with 17 violations including “flying insect spray pesticide” observed in the sushi bar area and a variety of labeling issues. Fortunately, they were given a do-over by the inspector and at a follow up visit eleven days later only a single violation was found to still be in the process of being resolved.
- Henderson cafeteria, Montgomery Avenue – out of compliance, 2 violations. Only two but when one is “mouse activity is present in the kitchen,” one is really all you need. Kitchen staff has been directed to bring in a certified pest control operator and have the area serviced weekly until the mice problem is resolved. The inspection was completed on 1/19 so at least one treatment should have been completed by now, but if I’m a Henderson student, I might be bringing my lunch for the next couple of weeks.
- Salty Cow (formerly Goose Creek Grill), W. Street Road – out of compliance, 13 violations, including using the same pan of bread crumbs to prepare a day’s worth of fried chicken entrees, several stored items well past their sell-by dates and onsite sauces prepared more than seven days prior.
Like Kooma, most of these restaurants will likely have cleaned up before their next inspection but relying on the Food Inspector to serve as your food safety reminder is dangerous business. Hopefully, this is just a start of the year fluke brought on a particularly difficult month for COVID cases, we’ll have to see what happens next month.
Curious, what health inspectors look for? I found this overview helpful.
Packages don’t just get stolen around the holidays. Another friendly reminder to get those packages inside a trustworthy home as soon as they arrive. Lest you want to find yourself going through hours of Ring footage.
We all just have a job to do. Last Thursday Benjamin Brown of West Chester was arrested after getting into a dispute with a parking enforcement officer during which he threatened to kill the attendant. Sure, the parking situation in West Chester can be annoying at times but, death-threat worthy? I think not.
Plastic bags are not curbside recyclable. The Borough of West Chester sent out its own reminder this week, those single use plastic bags cannot go in your curbside recycle bins – even if you’ve used one to bundle together your very much recyclable beverage cans.
Plastic bags in the world of single-stream recycling are “contamination”. Too much “contamination” and the Borough gets fined or the load gets rejected completely and must be taken to a landfill at great expense to the borough. These bags can be recycled, but you most take them to an appropriate outlet – most supermarkets, Walmart and Target provide this service.
Congratulations to Henderson student, Pranitha Anoor who recently had an article accepted for publication in the National High School Journal of Science. The article discusses the algorithm she created to detect brain tumors from MRI scans much earlier than was previously possible. She completed the research as part of the Chester County Technical College High School (TCHS) Brandywine Campus Allied Health program (that’s a mouthful). She was inspired to improve the diagnostic process after her mother received a tumor misdiagnosis.
“It amazed me that the technology that was used in her diagnosis wasn’t advanced and so I decided that I wanted to use AI to help detect abnormal findings from scans,” Pranitha shared with TCHS. She came about the idea after helping a poultry scientist at the University of Arkansas build a Python code to help visualize the mutation frequencies of a salmonella circle. After seeing what AI could do in that situation she decided to try and use it to speed up the process of finding glioma tumors like the one affecting her mother’s gallbladder – and then remember she is a senior, in high school.
Also, high fives to West Chester University for holding rank (and tuition) on its online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Last week U.S. News shared its list of Best Online Programs and on it once again, ranking 56th nationally out of 328 qualified institutions, was WCU’s online MBA. The accolades come despite the Rams not raising tuition since 2019. “We’ve generally maintained our status in a fiercely competitive environment,” MBA Coordinator and WCU Business Law professor Brian J. Halsey said. Impressive, not as impressive as Pranitha, but still pretty good.
Get your best baked goods ready to welcome a slew of new neighbors to the west. The model home at West Chester Crossing, the new 56-townhome development at the former home of the Daily Local, opens this weekend. The new Toll Brothers development will feature a contemporary design, nature trail, fire pit and a dog park and will start at $599,995.
While this is on the higher side of West Chester prices (see above), in a sellers’ market dominated by older homes, “luxury,” “low maintenance” and available seem to be all the marketing you need. While technically not even open yet, 20 of the available condos have already been sold or are pending – but don’t worry, 15 more are ready for “quick move in” and scheduled to be available this summer.
Wave hello to author Erik Larson. The author of such classics as the Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts will be making a virtual stop at the Chester County library as part of a book tour promoting his latest nonfiction, The Splendid and the Vile. The event is scheduled for March 9, 7-8 p.m. Tickets are $35 each and if you mark West Chester as your library of choice when registering the proceeds will stay close to home. Tickets are on sale now.
Sticking with a literary theme, also, say hello to a new book about West Chester native William H. “Holly” Whyte. A jack of many trades, Mr. Whyte is credited with influencing then (1956) modern corporate culture, coining the term “groupthink” before moving his talents to urban planning where he used cameras to record people’s use of public space. He turned the observations into the metrics and the metrics into recommendations that were used to inform future land use projects including, perhaps most notably, the renovation of Bryant Park. Unfortunately, for West Chester it seems the bulk of his talents were used to improve NYC, he did however, return home for final resting. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery.
Finally, wave hello to your favorite Golden Rams, in person classes begin again on Monday.
This week we say goodbye to Jane Antley, a local CPA, WCU grad, active member of Saint Agnes, and a lovely person. I met her once at a party and her personality was infectious. There aren’t many people you meet once and they leave an impression but she was one, at least she was for me. She also chided me for including too many pictures of the west end of town – and she was right. So for, Jane. A lovely yellow and blue home on E. Marshall Street. If you knew Jane and would like to pay your respects, there is a visitation planned for this Saturday at St. Agnes Church.
Pay it forward.
Looking for an easy way to make a difference? Round up next time you head out to Giant. Now through February 28 those extra proceeds will go to support families in the West Chester Area School District. From backpacks with weekend food, to clearing delinquent lunch accounts, to building a community pantry in our schools, the funds will help address food insecurity in our school communities. Can’t think of a better way to spend those 64 cents.
And for our younger readers, the student-run House of Hope Charity is looking for talent to wow at its annual fundraising concert. So if you are a WCASD student with musical talent of any kind (singer, dancer, musician – band or soloist), House of Hope needs your help. Auditions are this Wednesday and Thursday at East. If you know someone who may be interested in auditioning, tell them to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We got out there last weekend but this weekend, we will likely be cozying up on the couch to watch others play in the snow and ice. I also have my eye on a pretty little teapot at the Women’s Exchange, I think I might walk down and see if it’s still available.
Got plans for tonight? Downtown West Chester is (really) hoping (this weather will move out by 5) you’ll head down for some First Friday fun including witnessing a life-sized sculpture of an Eskimo being carved live on the Old County Courthouse steps. Carving begins at 5 p.m. and as always on First Friday, street level parking is free.
While you’re down there, warm up with the new pork belly bites from Bar Avalon. It’s pork belly with avocado and pico served over spicy queso. Weird but also strangely alluring. Someone try it and let me know how it is.
Also, looking for a way to get the kids off of the screen for a couple of hours and/or a new birthday idea for older kids? Slethound, the West Chester tour group, now has an “Escape the iPad” outdoor escape room for kids 6 to 14. According to their website, it’s “2 Hours of fun thought provoking mind benders developed and supervised by a West Chester School District Teacher.” Sounds promising.
And those planning to host a big get together for next week’s big game, Iron Hill wants to help you out.
Mark your calendars:
- February 4 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, enjoy free street level parking and live ice sculpting in front of the Old Courthouse.
- February 4 – Delta Cosmonauts, Artillery Brewing, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
- February 4 – Hollywood Nights: the music of Bob Seger, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $40 + $3 service fee.
- February 4 – Countdown to Ecstasy: Music of Steely Dan, Uptown! Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30 + $3 service fee.
- February 5 – The Flying Komorowski Brothers, Slow Hand, 9 p.m.
- February 5 – Sin Brothers, West Chester VFW, 8 p.m. No cover and open to the public.
- February 6 – Riverstone United Christian Academy open house, 430 Hannum Ave, 2:30 p.m.
- February 7 – First day of in person classes for WCU
- February 7 – WCU Faculty recital, Kimberly Reighley, Flute, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:00 p.m.
- Feb 7 – Feb 25 – Network Connection: the sculpture of Erica Loustau, Knauer Gallery (817 High Street), Viewings Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Exhibits free and open to the public. Masks required.
- Feb 7 – Feb 25 – We the Women: Poster exhibit exploring women’s rights, John H. Baker Gallery (2 E. Rosedale Avenue), Viewings Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Exhibits free and open to the public. Masks required.
- February 8 – The Story of Chester County Hospital, Chester County History Center, 7-8 p.m. The event is virtual, the admission is pay as you wish.
- February 10 – Managing Change with Grace. Virtual program presented by the West Chester Public Library. Registration required.
- February 13 – Kegs ‘n’ Eggs, Levante West Chester Taproom, 10 a.m., Free pour with a donation to the Main Line Animal Rescue. Live music from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After which you can head home for a nap.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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