The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, February 11. A decision is eminent on the future of the Gay Street closure. Added challenges this year, including planned closures on Market Street, have Borough Council members being asked – how badly do you want it? Plus, two (count ’em two) new music festivals planned for the spring, Valentine’s Day ideas if you need them, and oh, I have a quiz for you – what was the Borough’s most searched term? Think you know it. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
“This is going to take a little innovative thinking to try and pull off, but we need in West Chester to find a way to say yes to things.”John O’Brien, Executive Director, West Chester Business Improvement District
How bad do you want it?
Next week Borough Council has a decision to make – how badly do you want to continue with the Gay Street closure? This week both the Police and Fire department and the BID presented their cases to the Borough Council Public Safety Committee on whether they believe the popular road closure should continue for 2022 and with them they brought a whole litany of new challenges that will need to be overcome.
Among the concerns heading into 2022
Challenge: Closure of Market Street due to PennDot work.
Potential impacts: These include increased traffic on side roads, slowed emergency response times, and increased challenges with Gay Street deliveries which could further impact traffic patterns already disrupted by the closure of Gay Street.
Challenge: Returned or pre-pandemic traffic volumes
Potential impacts: West Chester Police Chief James Morehead noted this week increases were seen in 2021 over the 2020 closures and traffic volume is expected to be even greater in 2022. The result of which could be longer travel times through the borough especially during peak volume.
Challenge: Pedestrian safety
Potential impacts: A new barrier system will have to be identified to make the closure safer and more accessible to emergency crews and police officers should an emergency situation unfold. “If we do move toward this decision, I want to make sure we have a serious security discussion,” said Chief Morehead.
New challenge: Road aesthetics
Potential impacts: One of the most common feedback on surveys about the closure which remains overwhelmingly positive both among business owners and residents is the ambiance of the street which often looked like a road detour with tables set up rather than the open air market that was desired. If aesthetics don’t improve, interest in visiting could fall off.
Challenge: Obtaining PennDot approvals
Potential impacts: Since Gay Street is a state road PennDot has needed to sign off on the closure each year. Getting these approvals has been time consuming and often delayed the start of the market. West Chester is in talks with PennDot to take control of Gay Street and in doing so would potentially eliminate the need to get these approvals.
So, is this the end of the Gay Street Closure? It’s hard to say. Yes, that list does look daunting but there was a strong argument made not to give up – yet.
“This is going to take a little innovative thinking to try and pull off, but we need in West Chester to find a way to say yes to things,” said John O’Brien, Executive Director of the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) whose own members expressed concerns with delivery access and PennDot approvals.
“I think West Chester is the premier destination,” he continued later, “but we have to be cognizant of the fact that places like Kennett Square, Media, Downingtown, Pheonixville, and Pottstown, are all trying to innovate to attract new residents, to attract new businesses and West Chester has to be part of that. If not this, then at least trying something new to create buzz.”
The full Borough Council will review options next week at the Working Session, Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Borough Hall if you’d like to weigh in – you’ll notice the resident voice has been notably absent in these discussions. For now there seems to be support among Council Members to find a solution, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them where you stand.
A tale of two music festivals
Last year, we lamented the end of the borough event. For years West Chester has been gradually pulling out of the events business peaking in 2017 with 10 events then slowly canceling them one by one. Only four events are planned for this year. While this exodus went largely unnoticed during the ups and downs of the pandemic, the void was growing larger as we look to finally put this thing behind us and return to some normalcy.
Well, we weren’t the only ones to feel the loss. The Downtown Business District has been actively looking for ways to draw more visitors to town. In addition to a series of events planned around the Christmas holidays and a new Restaurant Week starting February 27, they are looking to bring a busking festival to town this summer. Inspired by the French “Fete de la Musique,” musicians would be invited to come and play in the streets, setting up on a corner and performing for passing crowds. In a memorandum he shared with Borough Council this week John O’Brien described the event as a “celebration of music throughout the town.”
While it still needs Borough Council approval (a temporary waiving of the town’s “no busking” law is required), the event is tentatively planned for June 21 with a rain date of June 23.
But if this idea is sounding a wee bit familiar (and you are not from France), perhaps you have caught word of Porchfest, another daylong music event with a similar mission. Planned for May 21 (rain date May 22), this event hosted by West Chester’s Green Team and Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste aims to turn the borough’s porches into stages (this year will focus on the Southwest quadrant from Church to Bradford, Miner to Dean) and invites musicians and other performers (drama, comedy, dance) to showcase their talents while residents walk from house to house, pausing in lawns to enjoy the show or a bite to eat (there will be food trucks.)
“As we emerge from a long winter of COVID and divisiveness, it is time to come out to celebrate and enjoy the springtime and the music,” said Margaret Hudgings, co-President of the West Chester Green Team. “Jazz to Appalachian mountain folk music from rock bands to Spanish guitar, we are hoping to have something for everyone.”
So far 20-entertainers have signed up to participate but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few more. The Green Team is still actively recruiting performers, porches, volunteers and sponsors. If you are interested in any, reach out to the team for more information on how to get involved.
Yes, they are similar in theme, but they both sound like very fun events and the boost this community needs coming out an isolated couple of years.
No. You can’t park there. This week West Chester CIO William Mann shared his department’s annual report with Borough Council. Included in this report was a look at website traffic – up 15 percent over 2020 – and top search terms.
Top WestChester.com search terms
- Parking ticket
- Pay ticket
- Pay parking ticket
Anyone else sensing a trend here? You can find the full CIO Annual report here.
Lock it up and throw away the key. Crime numbers are out for January and the Borough continues to see a significant increase in thefts up 69 percent from this time last year. Also, up significantly over last year vandalism (+62%), DUIs (+100%), and public drunkenness (+100%) and narcotics offenses (+225). While this could just be a normalization after a couple of off years – “Last year was an anomaly,” Chief James Morehead reiterated to Borough Council – still it’s not great.
Speaking of thefts, West Chester police are looking for assistance in identifying a well-masked assailant wanted in relation to the theft of $1000 from a Market Street establishment. According to the police statement the robber entered, demanded money then got into a wrestling match with the victim before fleeing with the money. The suspect is described as a 5’7” black male, medium build – which must have come from the victim because it’s hard to settle on any conclusive descriptors from the video. Aside from maybe, Timberland fan.
Careful who you invite home. Residents of the West Chester University’s Village Apartments were asked to shelter in place last Friday afternoon after an individual wanted on an outstanding warrant was found in one of the apartments. The individual was not a West Chester University student and submitted to arrest without incident.
Cheers to the Baldwin’s Book Barn on Lenape road on celebrating 200 years as a barn and three-quarters of a century as one of the world’s most beloved independent bookstores. We are lucky to have you!
Also congratulations to Chester County Hospital which ranks among the top country’s top 50 hospitals according to Healthgrades, an online health care information company. Chester County has maintained this impressive ranking for the last three years or every year the rankings have been issued. (Shhh, don’t tell but they are also the only Chester county hospital to make the country’s top 250.)
Aand, a round of applause to West Chester University which announced this week it was 70 percent, or $46 million, of the way toward its goal of $65 million. The Golden Rams launched the capital plan, the largest in its history, in coordination with its 150 year anniversary celebration and with the goal of making university education more accessible.
Sticking with WCU for a minute, a golf-clap and curved queen wave to Miss Julie Stinson, 2022’s Miss WCU. Julie, a freshman, will spend the next year waving on parade floats and spreading the word about her arts platform, Inspire Through the Arts: Music and Arts Education.
And, finally, a lot of love this week before V-Day, but high fives to Rustin’s Laine McGurk on reaching 1,000 career points this week. Girl’s only a junior! Looking for more basketball to cheer about this weekend? The East Boys Basketball team has advanced to the final four of the Chest-Mont championship. See them play Saturday 6:35 p.m. at West Chester University.
Waiting for that one restaurant that’s going to cement West Chester as a suburban foodie destination? Well, you are going to have to wait a bit longer on that but we may have just been introduced to its location. This week Pillar Real Estate Advisors started marketing its latest West Chester property, the former home of the First National Bank of West Chester. Featuring 14,000 sq ft of space, abundant natural light and amazing historic details it has all the markings of an unforgettable signature space. “Reminds me of Union Trust of Del Frisco’s,” one reader commented on Facebook. Now let’s just find a restaurant that’s worthy.
Also, say hello to 3,000 square feet in modular emergency room space. Officials at Chester County Hospital went to West Goshen supervisors last week to seek expedited approval to add the modular units, the Daily Local reported. The hospital has been dealing with a surge of new emergency patients resulting from the closure of Jennersville and Brandywine hospitals. Already emergency room wait times have reportedly exceeded nine to 10 hours because of the increased volumes.
This week we say goodbye to Corporal Christopher Craig. A 25-year veteran of the West Chester police department, Cpl. Craig celebrated the start of his retirement last month. Also, leaving the Police Department records administrator Cindy Hill after 23-years of service. Thank you, both for your years of service.
Pay it forward.
I’m sure you’ve seen videos of princesses and superheroes meeting with medically vulnerable children and thought, “wow, that’s nice!” but it happened somewhere across the country. Well, a local West Chester University club called “A Moment of Magic” (AMOM) is changing lives right here in the southeastern PA area.
AMOM, which is celebrating its second year on campus, is part of a national nonprofit organization aimed at bringing a little “magic” into the lives of medically vulnerable children. Students dress in the costumes of popular superheroes and princesses and visit hospitals and other facilities to lead sing-a-longs, read books, do arts and crafts, and so much more.
West Chester University’s AMOM Chapter was started on February 7, 2020 by Sara Smiley and has been thriving ever since. West Chester AMOM members have accumulated over 300 hours of service since they started, 30 of those hours being in-person visits! The organization currently has 42 members. While all are female, they are looking for males to fill more male roles since they visit both boys and girls. Sara, an Education major with minors in Special Education and Early Intervention, says A Moment of Magic offers students a creative, unique way to volunteer. Her favorite part however, is the members. “Our members are the magic within our organization,” she says.
Sara, who graduates in May, hopes that the organization will continue to grow after she leaves. “My goal for AMOM is to continue growing in members and in connections within our community… I hope the organization is able to provide services to as many deserving children in our area as possible.” Feeling inspired? You can donate directly to WCU’s chapter of A Moment of Magic here.
[Congratulations to AMoM on celebrating their second anniversary on campus and special thanks to West Chester University student Hally Everett for contributing the above story. What an amazing organization!]
With all the child tax credits and stimulus payments handed out last year, tax season could be a little more complicated this year. If you don’t have the extra cash to bring in a professional to help, it could also be quite daunting. Well, good news. Chester County has announced it is expanding its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program – which means more free tax preparation for low- and moderate- income residents. Last year the program helped 2300 families.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a big weekend. We have basketball games- we are heading to WCU to see the women battle Bloomsburg, a rare evening out – still don’t know how we’ll use it and a little Superbowl celebration planned for Sunday – which is just a thinly veiled excuse to get wings. We have been trying to cut back on our meat consumption, so I am really looking forward to the game this year. Have a go-to place for wings? Leave it in the comments. We only got one shot – we do not want to miss this chance…
Also, checking out the Levante/Dia Doce, beer/cupcake pairing on Monday. Super excited about that.
Still looking for ways to celebrate your love? Aside from the many downtown restaurants featuring special menus and desserts, Uptown has an “Evening of Love Songs” planned. Tickets are still available – at least they were at the time of this writing.
Mark your calendars:
- February 11 – An Evening of Love Songs, Uptown Theater, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $35 in advance; $40 at the door and include desserts and a glass of Prosecco.
- 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.
- February 14 – Cupcake & Beer Pairing, Levante West Chester Taproom, 8 – 9:30 p.m. 4 Dia Doce cupcakes, 4 (5 oz) Levante beers, $35/ticket
- February 15 – Strengthening Community: A Public Symposium; 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. This virtual symposium is free and open to the public and will culminate with a moderated conversation with Dr. Bernice King of the King Center. Registration is required.
- February 17 – How to Draw Birds, 7 p.m. Virtual program presented by the West Chester Public Library. Registration required.
- February 22 – Mental Health Discussion: Anxiety/Depression, 7:00 p.m. this is a free virtual event being presented by the West Chester Area School District. You must have a student in the district to attend. Registration required.
- February 24-26 – The Little Mermaid, the Musical, shows each night at 7 p.m. with a 1:30 matinee on Saturday. Tickets $15/general admission; $12/students/seniors.
- February 24 – Chats from the Stacks – A Strange Border in Chester County, Chester County History Center, 7-8 p.m. This event is virtual. Tickets: $10; Free to members
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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