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It’s Friday, Aug. 12. Can you believe we are nearly halfway through August? Summer is dwindling. 17 days until school starts. 42 days until summer ends. This week we see signs of (planned) destruction at the Davis Oil property and a new tenant presents preliminary land development plans for the former Wyeth property. A look at what these changes will mean for the neighborhood and West Chester as a whole. Plus, the latest West Chester restaurant inspection reports and I am just going to go ahead and declare it, we are the unofficial bubble tea capital of Chester County. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
West Chester’s Industrial (District) Revolution
For years now the borough has seemingly grown and evolved at breakneck speed. New developments and carriage houses squeezed into any open lot. Empty storefronts welcoming new tenants. Properties bought and sold at huge profits (examples: here, here, here). That is except for West Chester’s eastside industrial and mixed-use districts where development has stalled under the weight of contamination left by West Chester’s previous “Industrial” partners think – Wyeth and Davis Oil. Times, however, my friends, they are a-changin’. Over the last two weeks, we received pretty significant updates on two particularly troublesome parcels.
Davis Oil Gas Station and Repair shop, 614 E. Barnard Street
Background: Once a distribution center for the West Chester-based oil delivery company Davis Oil the 1.3- acre property housed 19 tanks of various gas and oils. The land was finally sold earlier this year.
Latest: For the latest, I touched base with West Chester resident Meghann Harden, who along with her family, has had a first-hand view of this disaster and a better understanding than most of the impact this blighted property has had on the community.
“Twelve years ago, our family moved into our development, built on what used to be a storage lot for the Davis Oil company. The gas station and repair shop across the street had been closed for a couple of years by then and those buildings immediately aged like milk.
Red sheet metal strips began to hang off of the sides of the building like tetanus tendrils. Random trespassers of all ages helped themselves through the gauntlet of half-collapsed doors and broken windows to whatever remained inside. From my bedroom window, I watched the roof transform into a post-apocalyptic landscape of jagged holes, broken beams, and collapsed air conditioning units. Soon a collection of feral cats, chattering raccoons, a groundhog, and eventually some buzzards moved in. The smells and noises did little to deter my toddler from becoming convinced that this was where the world’s zombies lived and partied.
Through what has been a mercilessly slow and grueling process, the property has been sold and the new buyer has, as of two weeks ago, moved an actual piece of heavy equipment meant to tear the buildings down. This is not the “oopsie” impact of a wayward vehicle tearing off a panel or two of the building (true story), but the chomping capabilities of a Volvo high reach-demolition excavator. It is the promise of a less dangerous and disgusting era for our humble corner of the borough, and the neighborhood could not be happier to see it go. I don’t even care what is coming into the spot. It won’t be the Davis Oil building.”
Demolition (fingers-crossed) is planned for later this month.
Wyeth Penicillin Plant, 611 E. Nields St.
Background: It was just about a year ago we learned that Amazon was stepping away from plans to build a 142,000 sq. ft. warehouse and distribution center on the 30-acre site once home to a Wyeth penicillin plant. It was the first serious development proposal the borough had received since buildings were razed from the site more than a decade ago. Note: this is also a brownfield site so developers are limited in what they can do.
Latest: Last month the borough received a new preliminary land development plan for the property. Again it will involve warehouse facilities but this time larger and, as currently understood, unmanned. The two warehouse facilities would total roughly 523,000 square ft. Neither the exact use of the property nor the potential tenant has not been identified but we know the Amazon project had the potential to generate roughly $700,000 in tax revenue for the area. Hopefully, this project would do something similar. Look for preliminary plans to be presented to Borough Council in October.
Once again, thank you to West Goshen Sunshine for bringing these things to light.
Welcome to the bubble tea capital of Chester County
On Friday, KungFu Tea opened its Gay Street doors. America’s Bubble Tea since 2010 – according to the top of one of their shaken then sealed specialty teas – KungFu is hoping to become the borough’s bubble, or boba, tea as well. To do this they have set up shop on the corner of Gay and High Streets in the highly-visible former home of Starbucks but the location may not be enough if they want to come out on top of what is turning into a very competitive tea market.
Also opening since I left on vacation, One Zo in the Gay Street Plaza. “So far all the feedback is very positive,” One Zo’s Eddie Tong shared via Messenger about the shops opening and 39 five-star reviews. These two along with Tsaocaa Bubble Tea which opened last summer easily make West Chester the Chester County bubble tea leader. Perhaps even the greater Philadelphia area – if you remove the King of Prussia Mall food court.
In a previous Roundup, I questioned the need for three bubble tea locations in such as small radius and some suggested – we have multiple coffee shops, why not tea? So, I decided to open my mind and took some younger reviewers with me.
I have had bubble tea before but back during its original run in the early aughts when it showed up on menus alongside Pad Thai and Noodle Soup bowls not as stand-alone tea shops. Now there are so many options – milk, slushes, milk caps, bubble types – it’s hard to know where to start. I went with a basic Coffee Milk Tea with “bubbles” aka the tapioca pearls that sit along the bottom. The boys went more fruit-driven. One loved it. Leaving his cup empty of drink, bubbles, ice, everything. The other liked his sugary juice but not the “popping” bubbles that were added to the bottom. I will stick with my coffee shop.
Are we ready to rule over a land of bubble tea? I remain unconvinced but as it turns out, this flashy, chewy drink is not looking for me. It’s got its sights set on someone much (much) younger. And if that holds up maybe there’s a chance – of the seven of us sitting at the large wooden tables, I was the only one old enough to drive.
Ready to join the bubble tea bandwagon? Here’s an overview for you.
Let me double-check those dates. Chester County Health Inspection reports are out for July and thankfully it’s been as quiet as the month itself. In the nearly 50 reports initiated by the department during the month only two institutions were found to be out of compliance. One was WAWA – the one on the West Chester side of East Goshen Park. If shopping in that area, make sure you check those labels, especially on the milk. The convenience mart was found to have a dozen bottles of milk for sale past their sell-by dates. Also, out of compliance was the Starbucks on Wilmington Pike, which was chided for some unsanitary conditions in the beverage prep area. “Clean all countertops… Maintain clean,” the report read. However, these incidents were nothing compared to last month’s report. Speaking of which, I am happy to say Michi Sushi is back in the good graces of the department. They did not receive a single infraction on their latest report.
You can review the reports for yourself on the PA Food Safety website.
Know when to fold ‘em. Brandywine Picnic Park has been sold but the Capps family, the long-time owner of the park, may have held on a little too long. It was reported last month by the Daily Local the three parcels of land that made up the once popular summer-time destination have sold but at a price well below the original asking price. The property, which is prone to flooding, was originally listed in 2019 at $1.49 million. Then came the pandemic and Hurricane Ida. Which I am guessing washed away not only several onsite instructions but any budding offers the property may have had. The new owner Muhly Schorn will pay less than half that ($570,000) for the 22-acre parcel. TBD what Mr. Schorn will do with the property but, according to the paper, it is unlikely he will be able to add any new buildings.
Leave the cash to the banks. West Chester police are seeking assistance in identifying an individual wanted in regards to a burglary that took place sometime between July 30 and July 31 on the 500 block of High Street. It is believed the suspect, in what had to be a stroke of good luck – I rarely have enough cash on hand to grab eggs at the Grower’s Market, left with over $2000 in cash. If you have any information about this incident, you are asked to contact Officer Hill at 610-696-2700.
Speaking of taking cash, come January 8, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is going to be asking for more of it.
Congratulations to the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce which announced with excitement this week it was able to hold onto parade emcee ABC 6 weatherman (or should I say, meteorologist?) Adam Joseph for at least another year.
“When I think of the Christmas holiday, the West Chester Christmas Parade is where it all begins! From a single guy, to a married guy, to a family guy, this has been a tradition of mine for well over a decade,” he shared in a press release provided by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.
Also kudos to three West Chester grads: Chinonye Moneme of East, Taylor Krafchick of Rustin, and Reagan Weldon Peri of Rustin. The soon-to-be college freshmen were each awarded a $2000 scholarship from three West Chester Rotary Clubs for their community service and volunteer efforts. “I hope that, through my efforts to serve the West Chester area, I have made under-served members of the community feel seen and cared for,” Reagan said of what drives her.
Finally, another round of applause to Chester County Hospital which was once again recognized as one of the area’s best. This time by U.S. News and World Report which included the West Chester-based institution among the 164 best hospitals in the U.S. Chester County joined 33 other PA hospitals on the list. According to these latest ratings, Chester County is considered the 18th best hospital in the state. Good but, down from 2019-2020 when it tied Doylestown Hospital for 13th.
Say, hello (and goodbye) to some extra spending cash. Last month the West Chester Area School District learned with the passing of the state budget, it would be eligible to receive a nearly $2.1 million boost in funding for the 2022-23 school year. So the question became – what would they do with that extra money?
I reached out to WCASD Manager of District Communications Mary Schwemier who graciously tracked down the answers for us. The majority of the money – just over $1.3 million of it – will go toward basic education funding; $131,000 will be used to support special education needs particularly those of older students granted an additional year of instruction through the newly passed Act 55, and the final $576,000 will be used to bolster safety and mental health programs. That final half a million plus is guaranteed. It is administered through a separate grant process that requires Pennsylvania Department of Education approval.
Perhaps not surprising a lot of the funding will go to cover growing expenses rather than expanding programs.
“We plan to use these funds to address the increased costs associated with existing programs, costs for new or enhanced curriculum areas, and costs associated with increased enrollments,” said Mary.
Speaking of the 2022-2023 school year, fall sports returned this week with the start of football season. All other sports resume on Monday.
- Henderson welcomed Coach Bob Brice to the field for his first practice as head coach. Coach Brice served as offensive coordinator for the Warriors last season. Coach Brice replaces John Lunardi who stepped down at the end of last season.
- West Chester University football players and other fall athletes are also back on their respective fields, courts, and courses. Golden Ram fans get your single-game football tickets now. The football team finished third in preseason polling and is hoping to build on last year’s 6-5 record.
I have to say this one hits home. Parents say goodbye to free school lunches and breakfasts. In an email last week from the Director of Pupil Services Melissa Kleiman, the district broke the news. The free lunches are done. Over the past two years, the West Chester Area School District has provided school meals to all students under the Federal waivers to the School Nutrition Program but that program has expired. Wah wah. Free and reduced lunches will continue for those that qualify. For everyone else, it’s time to load those lunch accounts.
While we are saying goodbye to school district things, let’s take a moment to waive farewell to the lawsuit that sought to remove five members of the West Chester Area School Board over their support of masking policies during the height of the pandemic. The judge dismissed the case brought by Libertarian Party candidate Beth Ann Rosica last month after finding she failed to follow complete due diligence as required by the court. A similar case brought against Downingtown School Board members was also dismissed.
Finally, bid farewell to the Chesco 5K Color Run. The run, which raises money to help fight opioid addiction, is leaving Everhart Park, its home since its 2106 inception. This year’s race will take place at Exton Park. Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. – for those of you up for the drive.
Pay it forward.
Ollie still needs a kidney.
Earlier this year, I shared the story of Oliver Mayer, a 21-year-old Henderson grad born with a rare condition that affected the development of his kidneys and left them unable to function properly. “His kidney function is now about 11% now,” his mom Tammy Mayer said. This is down another 5% since we first met him in March. Normal function is 100%, so 11% is not good.
To fix this Ollie needs a kidney transplant and sadly six months after trying to do the social outreach thing he is still no closer to finding that kidney.
“We know that it takes a very special person to willingly donate a kidney,” said Tammy in an email, “but everyone can help by sharing Ollie’s story.”
“We know that Ollie’s donor is out there and just needs to see his story,” said Tammy.
Here’s another easy one – why not double-up on some of that back-to-school shopping and donate your duplicates to the Friends Association? They are running a back-to-school drive but making it simple this year asking you to provide a lunch box, water bottle, umbrella (I’m not sure why), and a Target or Visa gift card so that the family can complete the rest. Learn more about the drive here.
P.S. Have you seen the start of the new mural on the side of their Chestnut Street building? The painting will take approximately three weeks to complete.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a birthday party and a babysitter (although not necessarily in that order.) We are taking advantage of no kids and going to check out Greystone Oyster Bar. I have heard mixed things but I hear the cocktails are good and I am excited for a nice meal sans kids.
Also, this weekend Theater in the Park is tonight at Marshall Square Park. It was originally planned for July but had to be rescheduled due to the weather. They will be performing “The Artist.” The event is free so a great way to squeeze in a little culture on a tight budget. The Chester County History Center is having a stuffed animal sleepover – which sounds absolutely adorable – and Thursday marks the end of West Chester’s concerts in parks series. If you haven’t been to one yet this year (us), this is the one. They are going out strong with Sin Brothers at Marshall Square Park. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Heading downtown? Shine Nutrition is now open on Church Street, neighboring LeBerger has a selection of award-winning art prints to peruse and I’ve never been a fan of my birthstone but these Sunset Hill earrings are making me reconsider.
Freakin’ Weekend photos submitted by Steve Sereditch. Pictured above: Ellie, 9, Adeline, 7, and Ford, 5, enjoying the Gay Street closure and relaxing on the Brandywine. How are you spending your weekends in the borough? I’d love to see (and share). Send me your pics (email@example.com) for a chance to take us into the weekend. Thank you Steve for sharing these great pics!
Mark your calendars:
- Aug. 12 – Stuffed Animal Sleepover: a Museum Adventure for your toy, Chester County History Center, Cost is $10 and includes a Zoom story time on Friday and an in-person scrapbooking activity on Saturday. Registration is required.
- Aug. 13 – Yoga in the Streets, Gay Street in front of the Post Office, 9 a.m., there is a $5 entry fee and you will need to bring your own yoga mat.
- Aug. 13 – Hollywood Nights – the Bob Seger Experience, Uptown Theater, 8:00 p.m. Tickets – $40. (If you are interested, get your tickets now. Not many seats remain.)
- Aug. 17 – Underground Railroad in West Chester walking tour, Chester County History Center, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and are nonrefundable.
- Aug. 18 – One Alternative, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. One Alternative is a local music quintet consisting of violin, oboe, guitar, bass and drums. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door.
- Aug. 18 – Music at Marshall presents the Sin Brothers, Marshall Square Park, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 20 – Sarah Diamond and the Soul Miners, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. West Chester University alum Sarah Diamond uses her powerful, country/rock-styled vocals for her original songs and to cover top hits from across the decades.
- Aug. 21 – The Malarkey Brothers Irish Rock Concert, West Goshen Park, 6:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Aug. 22 – $5 Movie: Homeward Bound The Incredible Journey, Uptown Theater, 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, including free popcorn.
- Aug. 24 – 28 West Chester University Move-in week, West Chester campus, move-in starts Aug. 24-26 for new students; 27-28 for returning students.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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