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It’s Friday, May 20. You asked. I answered. I have the scoop on a new restaurant coming to downtown. They compare themselves to Terrain in Glenn Mills. I’m excited! Plus, get ready for the return of the Gay Street closure – just not this week – there are some key changes you should be aware of, Police Cheif James Morehead warns crime is on the rise and it’s going to be a hot one. Grab something cold and meet me at Porchfest. So, who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
UPDATE: Gay Street will NOT close for Memorial Day
UPDATE: It was just announced the approvals from PennDot and the Federal Highway Administration did not come through in time and Gay Street will NOT close on Friday as originally planned.
After much hand wringing and back and forth with the powers that be it appears as if Gay Street will once again close during the summer season – making this the third consecutive year with some sort of downtown street closure. The original Gay Street Open Air Market launched in 2020 as a response to pandemic regulations. This year those precautions are gone and so are the midweek hours. Here’s what you can expect this year.
The biggest change is timing. In previous years when Gay Street closed it was closed continuously until the street reopened again in the fall. This year the street will only be closed on weekends – or weekends as they should be, Friday morning through Sunday evening. Gay Street will open to traffic (and deliveries) again on Monday morning.
Why the change? I liked the extended closure. You and most other residents but there were other considerations this year. First there is PECO’s plan to dig up Market Street which could leave both main West Chester roads closed to traffic at the same time. Sure, the roads go in different directions but borough officials thought it bad for optics and potentially safety to have both throughways closed. Second, there is a push by Borough Council to come up with a more permanent closure plan. One that takes into consideration long-term implications and perhaps, involves some sort of feasibility study. A good idea that has yet to be initiated. Third, there was some concern by members of Borough Council regarding the loss of parking revenue. I am not sure how valid those worries are at this time, seeing parking, while rebounding, is not yet near 2019 numbers.
Any other changes I should be aware of? Not really, the Market’s official Rules and Regulations, which were approved this week by Borough Council, have no mention of COVID restrictions, which of course was central in those first of couple years, but the other changes affect businesses rather than residents. Things like when and where tables, chairs, and other outdoor decor items are to be storied midweek.
When does the street closure go into effect? Update: the Borough is still waiting on approvals to close the street. For the latest updates follow: Downtown West Chester on social.
Why did this happen? It goes back to this business of who owns the street, PennDot or the borough. As of right now, it’s still PennDot but the borough hopes to have the paperwork finalized shortly. Borough Manager Sean Metrick told Borough Council Members this week that when it comes to finalizing things – they are in the red zone but not yet across the goal line. Looks like they are heading to OT.
Ok, so now not on Memorial Day, but what happens on holiday weekends? You get an extra day, yay. On Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Fourth of July, Gay Street will be closed from Friday to Tuesday morning.
Anything else I should know? Just a reminder, all Open Air Market Commerce must be concluded by 11 p.m. This includes on weekend nights. So if you are planning on a late-night, know you’ll have to bring your party inside. There will also reportedly be a greater focus on aesthetics this year which should improve the on street experience.
“PECO will be repaving the roadway in June which will greatly help the overall aesthetic. We are hoping to implement some more greenery to cover the barriers, but we will need to utilize the same concrete bin blocks,” said Business Improvement District Executive Director John O’Brian via email.
Cracks at the splash park
By now, you probably know the story of John O’ Green park on South Matlack. A polluted lot unfit for development (the soil is contaminated with hydrocarbons and cannot be excavated), the Borough of West Chester bought the land from PECO for $1, remediated the area, and reopened it a few years later as a much needed east side park. On one side of the park split through by Miner Street is the foam-covered splash park, a toddler play area, and covered picnic tables, on the other, a basketball court and play area for older kids.
It’s a popular park. During the warmer months not only will you find neighborhood children but whole classes from nearby daycare centers and, with the Melton Center downsizing their playground, from further east as well. On the day I visited, a pretty day in early May, I met an eastside mom out with her toddler, at least three preschool classes, and neighborhood liaison and park advocate Donna Richardson, or Miss Donna as she is known to the kids.
Donna lives across from the park and she has called a meeting with borough officials and the community to discuss just what is, or more accurately, what is not going on at this park. Her grievances start with the splash pad – which is split again. Last year, the damaged and sinking foam led to unexpected repairs and a delay in turning on the water. More cracks have emerged this year.
“There are plenty of splash parks out that don’t have this rubber,” Donna says. “Every year the park gets funding and every year it goes to this,” she said pointing to the cracking pad foam. She’d like to see a new material used and some upgrades to the dry land equipment as well. It is her view that this park doesn’t get as much attention as those in the more “upscale neighborhoods.”
While I am not sure that is true in dollars, depending on which numbers are accurate a minimum of $200,000* has been invested in the park over the last couple of years (more than at Hoopes or Marshall Square, if not, Everhart). Last year a big stormwater management project was finally completed at the park adding a border of trees and roughly 500 plants.
On the other hand, if we are talking about personal attention, she may have a point. Everhart, Marshall Square, Hoopes, and soon maybe, Bayard Rustin as well, all have “Friends of the Park” programs, a group of neighbors that essentially take responsibility for maintaining the park. John O’ Green which resides in a lower-income section of the borough has had trouble starting one.
“We don’t have people in this neighborhood that can commit to that,” Donna says.
Last year, those 500 plants that were installed with that grant money were weeded by Donna. Not this year, she insists and she has resumed her calls to the Borough’s Park and Rec Department although so far to no avail. I too reached out to Keith Kurowski, the Borough’s Park and Rec Director, but did not get a response. But I am certainly not as persistent as Miss Donna.
If you would like to participate in the discussion about the future of the park, it is being held on June 4, 3 p.m. at John O’ Green park.
*In addition to the grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the 2020 borough budget includes $750,000 for green stream infrastructure in the park. However, I could not find how much, if any of that, was spent. The $750K line item does not appear again in either the 2020 audit or the 2021 budget.
New restaurant alert: White Cow Cafe
So, I did a little reader survey a couple of weeks ago and I asked what you wanted more of – surprise, surprise – you want more scoop on new downtown restaurants. So I’m obliging. Just know that while these applications are in the works it may still be months before they are ready to open. Ok, done disclaiming. Here’s what I know.
There is a new cafe planned for 16 E. Gay Street or the former home of the Classic Diner. Called the White Cow Cafe it will be a tapas restaurant featuring “farm to table” menu items similar to Terrain in Glen Mills. According to a sample menu provided there will be Jamon and manchego croquetas, confit duck montadito, whipped goat cheese in truffle honey, and trout a la plancha in a salsa verde. Tres chic – to quote my daughter’s new favorite show. The plans call for three floors of seating, accommodating up to 240 guests, including 35 bar seats, and some potential acoustical entertainment.
The restaurant is currently applying for a liquor license but there is no guarantee they will receive it as it appears West Chester borough is at capacity. They are hoping to bypass PA’s liquor license cap by applying for an economic development exception. However, even if they receive the state’s ok, they will still need to get by Borough Council some members of which expressed concern with the cafe’s proximity to Side Bar.
Hey weekly subscribers, exciting news – at least for me – and a request. I will be moving the newsletter from WordPress to a proper newsletter platform. Yay. This should make registering, sharing, and viewing the Weekly Roundup on mobile devices easier. That said MailChimp only accepts email subscribers. So if you are currently registered with your WordPress account please re-register using your email. There are about 500 of you using WordPress and I would hate for you to miss out on any of the drama. This will (hopefully) be the LAST WordPress email you receive from me. Thanks, Cara
Lock, lock, lock your doors. Last month Police Chief James Morehead told us to keep an eye on Part 2, or nuisance, crimes that have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. Now he is warning against Part 1, or violent, crimes, which saw a 53 percent jump last month. While much of that increase is likely still pandemic normalization, thefts saw a particularly large (155 percent) leap leaving the chief concerned about recession-warning behavior.
“Is this a sign of the beginning of recession type behavior?” he posed to Borough Council at last week’s Safety Committee meeting. “You know, we are not quite sure yet. But we are telling people to keep their vehicles and doors locked. Get packages off of porches as quick as possible.”
Light a match, not the entire bathroom. On Tuesday West Chester Fire Department was dispatched to the 600 block of Hannum Avenue to distinguish a fire reported in the bathroom fan. The fire was out by arrival and the incident cleared. I’m not sure what happened here but for future reference, lighting a match is good enough.
Wild, wild West Chester. Westtown police arrested West Chester resident Todd Szewczk after he was found in possession of a loaded weapon (without a permit) at the scene of a three-vehicle accident. Do we never learn?
Congratulations to the Henderson Boys Baseball team. They soundly beat Coatesville last week to secure their place as the Chesmont League Champions. Then the Warriors wrapped up the regular season with two more wins this week ending with a very respectable 19-1 record. The post-season begins the first weekend in June.
And speaking of teams with visions of championships, keep an eye on Rustin’s Softball team, also Ches-Mont Champs, and Rustin Boys Lacrosse which easily advanced to the District semi-final this week. They will play Marple Newtown on May 24. Also, good luck to all the runners, jumpers, and throwers that qualified for Districts this year!
Also, shout out to Iron Hill whose Queen of the North took second place at the World Beer Cup in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer category. Sadly, you can not try the award winner at the West Chester location but if you find yourself in Exton, they do have it there.
And finally a round of applause to West Chester University’s debate team. The team of three seniors and a junior took first place at the European Union Schuman Challenge, an annual debate competition hosted by the Delegation of the European Union. The foursome bested teams from Yale, Georgetown, and American University. Go Rams!
Say hello to the answer to all your beach-day dreams. When I met e-Beach Wagon’s founder and West Chester resident Mike Mogan, he told me the inspiration for his company came to him after years of struggling to get his family and all their beach gear to the shore – with three kids, I could relate. It’s such a universal problem that I was shocked when Mike told me his competition was a sole electric wagon company based out of California.
“Only one other competitor makes an electric-powered wagon. When I tried to order one two years ago, he was out of stock of the model. That’s when I decided to develop my own prototype,” Mike said.
And make his own he did. After nearly two years of research and development, sourcing, and sampling, the all-new e-Beach Wagon will ship this June. e-Beach Wagon looks and travels like a traditional wagon, except at the end of the handle is a throttle switch that you use to drive the cart forward on its big sand-tested balloon tires. Two 12-volt, 22-amp hour batteries power the 2’ x 4’ cart. That’s enough power to transport up to 300 lbs. of gear 4.5 miles on a single charge!
The wagon even has built-in pole holders to mount umbrellas, flags, and fishing rods, and dual USB ports for easy device charging.
“e-Beach Wagon is built for the beach!” said Mike. “The aluminum frame and railings will never rust, and all the steel components are powder coated for maximum protection. It’s super simple to use, safe, and hassle-free, and it comes with a one-year warranty.”
And now it’s coming to a beach near you. Learn more about the e-Beach Wagon here.
The above is a sponsored post. Thanks to Mike and Tara for their support of Hello, West Chester!
And, yay to the return of Highland Orchards’ outdoor beer garden. This summer it will be run by Locust Lane Brewery out of Malvern. Hours are Saturdays 12 – 7 p.m. and Sundays 12 – 6 p.m. The garden officially reopened last month. So if it’s not uncomfortably hot this weekend, it’s there for your use.
And speaking of outdoor events, say hello to a new summer happy hour event from Downtown West Chester. The event, creatively titled West Chester TAPS, starts the first Wednesday after Memorial Day (spoiler, I’m not publishing a Roundup next Friday) and continues every Wednesday after that from 5 p.m. -7 p.m. Unfortunately, it does not coincide with the open-air market so there will be street traffic if you are on Gay Street, but there will also be a selection of $4 beer, $5 wine, $6 cocktails, and half-price appetizers at 14 separate locations – which helps.
And finally, that was quick. Say hello, to Jason Ritter. The former Downingtown West boys basketball Coach will take over as head coach at Henderson pending School Board approval. Coach Rob Frattura’s departure was announced earlier this month.
Say goodbye to plastic bags at Rite Aid in the borough. Almost forgot it was there didn’t you? Me too, but there they are. This week West Chester Sustainability Director Will Williams gave Borough Council an update on how the implementation of West Chester’s plastic bag ban is going. Progress according to Mr. Williams has been “slow and steady” with roughly 85 percent of establishments now participating. It took three visits from Mr. Williams but Rite Aid is now in compliance. My little investigative reporter and I went on a reconnaissance mission this week and can confirm paper bags are being given. We were not offered one for our gum purchase so unfortunately, I can’t vouch for the five-cent bag fee. Speaking of which, up next up for the program – fines.
Also, say goodbye to scraping messes off the bottom of your shoe at least when in West Chester parks. The Public Works Department has installed new pet waste bag holders in West Chester parks and stocked them with biodegradable bags. So, no excuses.
Pay it forward.
Last week West Chester Fire Department stopped what it was doing to help rescue Chloe, a two-year-old mix-breed pup, who was trapped under a large slab of concrete on Tower Lane in East Bradford. Crews from Ladder 53 and Brush 51 slowly and carefully moved the slabs freeing Chloe after about an hour and a half unharmed and ecstatic.
Better late than never. After 113 years West Chester Police Officer John Babb was recognized this week by the West Chester Borough Police Department for his service to the safety of the community. Officer Babb was killed in the line of duty on New Year’s Eve 1909 while attempting to arrest a wanted man. Sadly Officer Babb died without money for a funeral and had to rely on the charity of the West Chester fire department for a proper burial – or so the story goes. His service and heroism were honored as part of National Police Week which ends on Saturday.
Also, there is still time to catch the Human Services, Inc. comedy fundraiser. It’s happening tonight at 8 p.m. at 225 N. High Street. Tickets are only $20 – and that includes light refreshments and two complimentary drink tickets for patrons 21 and older. If you are not familiar with Human Services, they are a private fully licensed non-profit community mental health center in Chester County dedicated to hope, healing, and recovery.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a busy one planned. There is a birthday party, two gymnastics recitals, and we are joining our neighbors as a stop at the first annual Porchfest. We are house number 17 right across from Everhart Park. I’ll be manning the table from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. If you’re in the area come by and say, hi.
Also, Saturday is World Whiskey Day which is being celebrated locally by at least Saloon 151 which is offering a free $25 gift card with the purchase of a $100 one. There will also be t-shirts and of course a Whiskey drink and maybe a Vodka drink, and a Lager drink and a Cider drink…
Mark your calendars:
- May 20 – Human Services, Inc. Comedy Fundraiser, 225 N. High Street, 8 p.m. Tickets are $20/each. This includes the price of admission, two complimentary drink tickets, and light refreshments. Proceeds go to support Human Services, Inc.
- May 20 – Chesco Pops Orchestra, Fugett Middle School, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20/adults, $15/seniors, kids are free.
- May 21 – Porchfest, W. Union and Dean Streets, 1 – 7 p.m. Performers will set up on porches and lawns in the southwest quadrant of the borough from Church Street to Bradford Ave and Miner to Dean St.
- May 21 – Remake Learning Days Messy Science, West Chester Public Library, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Hands-on science project open to children in grades 1 to 5. Registration required.
- May 22 – Veteran’s Council Ceremony, Marshall Square Park, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The Veteran’s Council will be executing a 21-gun salute in honor of the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation.
- May 22 – An afternoon with West Chester author Brian Zepka, Chester County Library, 2:30 – 3:30. The “The Temperature of Me and You” author will be speaking and signing books at this event. The event is free but registration is requested.
- May 22 – Unknown Bones – A Crossmen Alumni Benefit Concert, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 3-4:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- May 22 – Community Cuts, Elevate Hair Studio. Haircuts are provided at no charge to anyone who may need one. Call 610-696-9100 to make your appointment.
- May 25 – Yoga in the Park, Everhart Park, 6-7 p.m. Cost is $5/class and all proceeds benefit WC Park & Rec.
- May 26 – Meet Your West Chester Borough First Responders, John O’ Green Park, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
- May 26 – Gallery Talk – Charles Shmidt, Church Street Gallery, 7 p.m.
- May 30 – $5 Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean, Uptown, 7 p.m. Get there early and enjoy a complimentary Painkiller tropical run cocktail. There will also be a pirate costume contest.
- June 1, West Chester Taps, participating downtown restaurants, 5-7 p.m. coordinated happy hour specials every Wednesday throughout the summer. June 5 – Turks Head Music Festival, Everhart Park, 12 – 7 p.m. (Rain date: June 12)
That’s it. Stay safe. Stay healthy. I am taking Memorial Day weekend off so we’ll catch up in June – unless I see you Saturday.
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