The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, March 18. As temps are expected to soar past 70 degrees today we look at where things stand with the Gay Street closure – but warn you, it’s not going to make you happy. Plus, demolition is underway where Rubenstiens once stood. The new apartment complex is being marketed as “affordable” but what exactly does that mean? And a couple of tough goodbyes this week. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up (preferably outside.)
Kicking the can
This week West Chester Borough Council met for their monthly meeting and once again, they were asked, will we be closing Gay Street this year? And once again they decided to push the decision another month.
To be fair there are mounting obstacles to closing this year:
- PECO will be working on Market Street at some point this year, meaning both main thoroughfares through town could be closed at the same time (even though PECO will likely be working at night, the roads serve opposite directions and it is not clear PECO will even begin before the closure ends.)
- PECO also has to finish up work on some cross streets including High Street which could mean Gay and High Street are closed at the same time (again PECO will likely be working at night and the road services perpidicular directions.)
- When PECO is finally done with thier work on Gay Street they will need to repave it curb to curb. They will need 3 days to do this and they are now saying that will happen sometime in June – or for those following, right in the middle of the proposed Gay Street closure.
- And just to keep things interesting, Zukin Realty is expected to finally break ground this spring on the new hotel planned for the corner of Gay and Walnut Streets.
So there are challenges for sure but to be fair there are always going to be some challenges and there are also benefits. Without traffic blaring past, dining outside is more enjoyable. There is more room to spread out. Those of us with kids or dogs can leisurely stroll through town window shopping or sipping a drink without having to worry about a potential vehicular accident – all of which has made the shutdown quite popular with residents. “The town feels far more connected when Gay Street is closed,” one resident said.
This winter I ran a survey – the same as the oft-cited Business Improvement District survey, but mine went to residents – and residents it turns out are overwhelmingly in favor of closing Gay Street – 90% to be exact.
To be precise residents would like to see a 24-7 (63%), spring through fall (57.6%) closure. Although, not a permanent closure (only 27% supported that). Unfortunately, the resident community does not have a dedicated representative to come to each of these meetings and reiterate their concerns and preferences – wait, they do. Although, some may be forgetting this. If you would like to see Gay Street closed, and if you wouldn’t, reach out to your Borough Council member and let them know how you feel. Right now the conversation is being dominated by the business community, and while important, theirs should not be the only views represented.
Action at Rubenstein’s
This week West Chester Borough Council voted to approve the preliminary land development application for 250 E. Market Street. The approved site plan calls for a four-story, s-shaped apartment building where once was Rubenstein’s and the Salvation Army, and before that the Darlington Wagon Wheel factory. The development, a block from downtown and steps to a train station (should that ever get functioning again), will feature 219 mostly one-bedroom apartments with ground level parking and all the amenities of a millennial (or boomer) complex (bocce ball court, pool, picnic tables, putting green).
Developer Eli Kahn, whose firm also owns Chestnut Square apartments, chose the design to meet a growing need for lower-price point rental opportunities in the borough. “The goal of this is to create a more affordable product,” he said. However to do that they needed to shrink the footprint of the units. The development will offer smaller units (over 80% will be studios or one bedroom) with high end amenities and a rental price point of between $1300-1500. Which will be nice to a lot of people, the average apartment in West Chester rents at $1758.
It all sounds very nice and there would probably be no concerns whatsoever if it weren’t for one little thing – 75 percent of the property sits in a floodplain thanks to Goose Creek which runs through a culvert below the property. Because of this parking will be situated on the ground level with apartments above. The first floor residences will be approximately 12’ from the ground but flooding could still be an issue in the parking lots.
This week Borough Council signed off on two waivers related to stormwater management requirements but according to site engineers this had more to do with how rather than how much stormwater was managed. In fact site plans show numerous stormwater management tools will be utilized to try and slow the impact particularly in heavy rainstorms. However the applicant’s own civil engineer admitted that there “may be some flooding in the parking area.”
Last spring after nearly a year of remote or hybrid learning, students got to see one yearly tradition return – the standardized test. PSSAs and Keystone exams were distributed to all PA students in 3rd – 11th grade. Now those test results are back and we have some of our first insights into the academic impact of all that remote learning.
But before digging too deeply in the results themselves, it is important to include a couple of disclaimers.
- The tests were not required last year and as such fewer students participated than in previous years – nearly 30 percent fewer across the state. In its results summary, the state includes the following statement: “2021 results may not be reflective representative samples of the schools’ students. Cross-year comparisons of proficiency are likely to be inaccurate for this reason.”
- There are plenty of well-known and well-documented complaints about standardized tests, including that they are more a measure of a test taker’s ability to take a test than of their knowledge. “While standardized testing is one way to measure student progress, it is not the only means by which we evaluate the growth, achievements, and the overall well-being of our students,” West Chester Area School District Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kalia M. Reynolds told the Daily Local.
So, standardized tests are not perfect, and especially not last year, and should not be used in isolation. Got it, but in absence of any other data to go on how about a little looksee?
(Percent of students scoring either proficient or advanced.)
- Algebra – PA average 62.4; West Chester average: 83 percent
- Science – PA average: 67.6; West Chester average: 77.9 percent
- Literature – PA average: 49.6 percent; West Chester average: NA
Compared to 2019 state averages dropped most notably in Literature where the state average went from 71.5 percent scoring either proficient or advanced in 2019 to 49.6 percent last year. As WCASD did not participate in the literature tests last year we do not have comparable data. Statewide math scores saw a slight drop and science test scores were actually higher in 2021.
(percent of students scoring either proficient or advanced)
- 6th grade English – PA average: 57.3; West Chester average: 76.9
- 6th grade Math – PA average: 28.2; West Chester average: 39.4
- 7th grade English – PA average: 53.3; West Chester average: 68.8
- 7th grade Math – PA average: 26.9; West Chester average: 38.5
- 8th grade English – PA average: 52.6; West Chester average: 72.5
- 8th grade Math – PA average: 22.1; West Chester average: 35.3
- 8th grade Science – PA average: 50.8; West Chester average: 71.2
(percent of students scoring either proficient or advanced)
- 3rd grade English – State average: 57.3; West Chester average: 79.8
- 3rd grade Math – State average: 28.2; West Chester average: 65.3
- 4th grade English – State average: 53.3; West Chester average: 79.3
- 4th grade Math – State average: 26.9; West Chester average: 61.6
- 4th grade Science – State average: 50.8; West Chester average: 83.1
- 5th grade English – State average: 52.6; West Chester average: 72.5
- 5th grade Math – State average: 22.1; West Chester average: 54.4
Are there concerning spots in the data? Sure. For one, there are wild variances in performance among grades and among schools – for example the 7th graders at Stetson had the lowest math scores among all middle schoolers, at the same time their 6th graders had the highest math scores of any middle school class. Over 94 percent third graders in East Goshen scored proficient or above in English while only 68 percent of third graders Glenn Acres did.
All of which probably means we shouldn’t put too much stake in any one data set but after a difficult year it’s nice to know some things are not as bad as they could be.
Note: the state will not be using the results for school performance accountability or teacher evaluations. You can find complete statewide results here (Keystone) and here (PSSA), if you want to dig deeper (or check my math.)
Stop in the name of decency. West Chester Police are seeking assistance in identifying a vehicle wanted in a hit-and-run accident on March 2 at approximately 8:15 p.m. If you recognize the above vehicle (or have an excellent memory), please contact the West Chester PD at 610-696-2700.
Stay far, far away. Former East hockey standout and current member of West Chester University hockey team, Richard Millineaux V has been charged with rape after a Halloween night incident at the “Hockey House.” The rape occurred while Mr. Millineaux was out on bail ($150,000) from charges related to drug trafficking. Mr. Millineaux, who is again out on bail ($100K, this time), has a preliminary hearing scheduled for next week. Until which time, I would stay far – far away. Note: He is also awaiting trial in regards to a drunk driving charge in January.
It’s not your right to know. A West Chester resident has filed a Right to Know request with the West Chester Area School District asking for the percentage of LGBTQ students in the district and the number of LGBTQ students have been referred to the guidance counselors over the past 20 years. Both requests were denied by the district. The request is part of an evaluation of Gender Queer, a 2019 memior about what it means to be nonbinary that has come under much national scrutiny lately. She also requested the number of times the book has been checked out. Which was provided. The book is currently available at area high schools but is under review by the district. She is quoted by the Daily Local as saying the information is necessary to determine if there is “a need for that ‘type of genre’ in the schools.”
There are good people and then there are people that sucker punch the disabled. Yep, guess who’s back.
Congratulations West Chester-resident you live in the third most walkable Philadelphia suburb according to Philadelphia Magazine (assuming you stay away from Bradford Avenue, do not attempt to walk to a grocery store – and forgive the historic, but mighty uneven brick sidewalks.) Actually, it’s a technically a second place tie with Media, but will the distinction still hold up without the Gay Street Open Air Market?
Also, a shout out this week to Peirce 8th grader Claire Bushnell. Claire is the 2021 winner of the American History Essay contest sponsored by the Chester County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her essay imagining what it would be like to attend the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as the sister of a fallen soldier was deemed the best in the state by an 8th grader. Way to go Claire!
And high fives to West Chester University senior (and former Viking) Ann Carozza who broke the NCAA Division II record in the 100 butterfly last Thursday. Then one day later took the record in the 200 fly too! Ann broke the 100 fly record, set in 2019, with a personal best time of 52.06 and the 200 fly after stripping nearly 2-seconds off her personal best to come in at 1:55.98. Smokin’.
And speaking of coming fast, Henderson’s Krista Marlin took the state title in the 200 freestyle this week. Make sure you congratulate her next time you see her.
Finally congratulations to Scoops N’ Smiles, who was just named the official ice cream of the Philadelphia Union! Now you can grab a cone while downtown or when catching a game at Subaru Park.
Welcome back to the West Chester University Jazz Festival which returns next weekend for the first time since 2019. This year’s 4-day event is a tribute to the past, present and future of the West Chester University’s Wells School of Music. Most of the events are free including the Larry Marshall Trio, on Wednesday, March 23; WCU Criterions Alumni on Thursday and the John Swana Trio on Friday. See the full line up of events here.
Also, heading downtown this weekend? Stop in and say hello to the fine folks at D’Ascenzo’s Gelato. They open today at noon for their 2022 season.
Last week, West Chester said goodbye to a dear friend. Salvatore Inzone Sr., owner of Benny’s Pizza passed away suddenly last Friday. Tributes to Sal have been left by many in the community including the West Chester Police Department, St. Agnes School and a nice write up in the Daily Local.
“The West Chester Community lost a great man,” The West Chester Police Department shared on social media. “Sal was family to us here at WCPD and supported us, along with every emergency service agency in this area.”
From the Benny’s staff: “A little about Sal: He would always call his customers his family. At family dinners, he would always say ‘My family (customers) always come visit me. I love them all.’”
It seems lately there are fewer opportunities to really get to know the owners behind the downtown business. Sal was one of those owners who really knew the community. He will be missed.
Also this week we learned the Westtown Meat Market will be closing after 34 years at their Old Wilmington Pike location. According to a message to customers shared on their Facebook page, they have received a favorable offer on the property and have decided it’s time to move to Florida. “It’s time for us to slow down and enjoy life instead of working it,” owners Jerry and Penni Bogda wrote.
There were a lot of responses to the news but I thought this one summed it up pretty well: “We are so so sad for our family as you have been such wonderful friends & providing us with the best meat ever, but we are happy that you can relax a little and enjoy life.”
Their last day is March 26. So get in that stock-up trip before it’s too late.
Pay it forward.
Looking for ways to give back this weekend? Here are a couple of options ranked by how much effort you’d like to spend getting ready.
I need an excuse to dress up…
This Monday the Chester County Community Foundation is bringing back its Sweet Charity Fundraiser and dessert competition for the first time in three years. Attendees get in on the act sampling and voting on delicacies from a variety of local bakers including West Chester’s own Master Baker, Dragonfly catering, Cakes and Candies by Maryellen, and Jon Serock Catering. Tickets are available here, for those who like their fundraisers sweet.
I would prefer to put no effort into this whatsoever.
Friends Association, a local nonprofit that helps families at risk or experiencing homelessness, is looking for some help filling its pantry. Add one or two of these to your weekend shopping list then drop it off at their Chestnut Street location on your way home (or Amazon it) and feel good about yourself all weekend.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Men and women’s deodorant
- Laundry detergent
- Dryer sheets
- 11-13 gallon kitchen trash cans
- 30 quart clear storage bins with latch lids
- Queen size sheets
- Bed bug protection mattress covers (twin and queen sizes)
Is it possible to actually leave the event looking worse than I started?
Exton Little League is looking for help preparing the fields for the spring season. If you are free Saturday morning 9 a.m. they are inviting you to “come out and help.” Not exactly sure what you’ll be doing but I would suspect a rake or work gloves may be involved.
- Baseball Field Location: Roscioli Park, 1425 Ship Rd, West Chester, PA
- Softball Field Location: Catov Park , 71 West Boot Road, West Chester PA
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are taking advantage of today’s sunny temps and are having what we call an “alley happy hour” where several of the neighborhood families meet and catch up over a drink while the kids run back and forth between the yards. An hour of reprieve before the craziness of the weekend kicks in.
If you are heading out, Wrong Crowd has all the March Madness you can want (I am still mourning), Broadway’s Christopher Jackson is coming to West Chester University’s Asplundh Concert Hall and spring fashion is out in full force at downtown boutiques.
Plus, Greystone is celebrating its first anniversary on Tuesday. Specials start at 4 p.m.
Mark your calendars:
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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