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It’s Friday, Sept. 9. This week a look at homelessness in the borough. Is it getting worse? Some say, yes. Plus, the West Chester Co-op gets ready to close its Market Street doors. What’s next for the push to get the Borough a grocery store? And West Chester’s first ever doggie ice-cream parlor opens this weekend. Oh, that’s only half of it – grab something sparkling, a cider perhaps? And let’s catch up.
Homeless in West Chester
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but over the spring and summer, it seemed like more people were struggling with housing issues. My early morning runs turned up concerning evidence, an abandoned campsite outside the train station on Market street, a pile of blankets on the stoop of the old Starbucks (now Kung Fu Tea), belongings stored under the Everhart Park gazebo, an individual dozing on a bench outside the YMCA.
Each January Chester County’s Department of Community Development’s Point in Time Count completes an annual count meant to capture the homeless situation, as the name applies, at a moment in time. This January 26, 402 individuals were found to be homeless in the county. In West Chester, three individuals and three households were counted sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation – think car, park, or bus station. According to the count, there was actually a drop in homeless individuals over the last two years. In 2020, the previous year the count was conducted, 522 people were found to be experiencing homelessness – eight in West Chester.
But that is not the whole story. I recently spoke with David James, former Director of Development and Marketing for Safe Harbor and he confirmed the increase.
“If you drive through the borough in the past year, you do see an increase,” he said. “There are a lot of people experiencing homelessness.”
There are many reasons for this. One is simply seasonality. Summer and its warmer weather bring more people out. Then there is inflation and rising rents. The end of the pandemic and with it the end of rental assistance and perhaps the biggest problem of all, the lack of affordable housing throughout the county. The average rent for an 880 sq. ft. apartment in West Chester is now $1858/mo (that’s more than a 16% increase since 2019).
According to rent calculators you would need to earn $75,000 a year with no additional expenses to afford a 2-bedroom rental in West Chester and unfortunately, this is not just a West Chester problem. Exton, King of Prussia, and Malvern all have higher average rents than the borough. Combined it’s led to the perfect storm (speaking of which, the housing loss caused by Hurricane Ida is also seen as a contributor.)
“It is almost like someone opened the floodgates,” said David.
If you know someone that is struggling with a housing situation, encourage them to call 211. The free county helpline will help them find assistance.
And in some good housing news, Pinckney Hills Commons, located on the grounds of the Melton Center, held a ribbon cutting on its 51-unit housing complex this week. The units, which rent below market rate, have been in extremely high demand.
Food inspection reports
It is that time again when we take a look at the winners and losers in the food health game. First up, is Chris’s Pizza on S. Walnut Street, which appears to be returning (or at least hoping to) for the fall semester. However, that opening will not be as soon as they had hoped after the southeast side pizza shop failed their restaurant opening inspection. The inspector noted 12 violations including unclean walls and floors throughout the kitchen – not a good sign for when they actually open. Also, and this one is interesting, the report states: “You must install a hand sink either inside the toilet room or directly outside the toilet room-install soap and paper towel dispensers and fill.” Did they really put in a bathroom with a toilet with no sink? The mystery will have to wait as they have not yet been cleared for opening.
Speaking of pizza, Benny’s Pizza on N. Church Street was also out of compliance last month but with only four violations. Two for refrigerators that were not cold enough and one for a spill in a basement, hopefully, cleaned by now.
Also, struggling this month Square Bar which was hit with 10 violations on a recent visit. Personally, I think the state and their requirement that all bars serve food is partially responsible for this. Sometimes a bar is just a bar. Anyway, among the violations was a large pile of chicken wings and fingers that were being pre-cooked but without room to properly cool and store them as they waited to be ordered. What did find space in the refrigerator was a package of uncovered mozzarella sticks. Also, noted in the report – a bar sink with no cold water, a hand sink with no soap, and a men’s room with a “strong urine odor.”
And lastly, proceed with caution at the Farm Store on West Chester Pike. The drive-thru grocery was cited with seven violations including visibly dirty food apparatuses, floors, and toilet room fixtures.
You can read all the Restaurant Inspection reports on the Pennsylvania Food Safety website.
Friendly reminder to double-check those caretakers. Several disturbing stories circulating this week involving those we trust our children to. First, after disappearing to Shickskinny in Luzerne County to play pastor for a few years, former West Chester Christian School teacher and now convicted pedophile Randy Lee Brown got his day and judgment in court. Last week a jury found Mr. Brown guilty of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a child, indecent assault of a person under 13, and related, equally disturbing charges. A jury rendered its decision about three hours after the court heard testimony from the 6-year-old victim. Mr. Brown, now 64, awaits sentencing.
Also last week, Susan Miller Wright, a caregiver in the infant room of the United Methodist Children’s Center on S. High Street, was charged with aggravated assault for purposely dropping a 10-month-old child on the floor. Also quite concerning, despite the incident being witnessed, according to reports Ms. Wright continued to care for the child until the boy was later inspected by the witness and the center’s director and taken to the hospital.
And finally, Jessica Gadebusch, a frequent advertiser of babysitting services in Chester County Child Care, Babysitters of the Main Line, and the West Chester Community Facebook groups, was picked up last week on charges of credit card fraud. Word is she was using copied credit card info to steal from families she was babysitting for. If you know anything or think you may have been a victim, contact Officer Stewart with West Whiteland PD at 610-363-0200.
Avoid these areas of Virginia and Mayfield Avenues. Aqua began replacing an aging pipeline this week in the areas of Mayfield Avenue from N. Brandywine Street to West Virginia Avenue and West Virginia Ave from N. Brandywine to N. New Street. Construction is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily so plan accordingly.
Beware of the bees. Especially if you are hiking in the Harmony Hill Nature Area.
Congratulations to six West Chester students who committed to and succeeded in taking college prep to the next level.
In 2018, the West Chester Area School District began participating in a new graduation program, AP Capstone. Think of it as the next generation of AP classes. In addition to completing your standard run-of-the-mill AP courses, students added to their course loads two yearlong AP courses – one a seminar course and the other research. These courses are designed to develop a student’s skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, writing, and presenting. To get this fancy AP Capstone Diploma students must complete and pass the research and seminar programs as well as four additional AP exams. Just 14,000 students in the nation carry this distinction and six of them are ours! High fives to the program’s inaugural graduates Nora Jiang, Sehaj Kaur, Rustin, and John Lyons from Rustin and Priyanka Natanasabapathy, Abigail Criscuolo, and Elizabeth Prieto from East.
And while, we are here, congratulations to the district as a whole. According to new school rankings compiled by the Pittsburgh Business Times and based on standardized test results (think PSSA and Keystone Exam scores), West Chester Area School District is among the state’s 50 highest ranking districts – number 43 to be exact. For those who like your numbers in context – this is out of roughly 500 districts whose scores were analyzed. WCASD did not, however, fair so well against its neighbors. Of the six Chester County districts to make the top 50 – West Chester only ranked above one of them.
Finally a very happy birthday to Alice Thomas. Miss Alice celebrated her 92nd birthday last week. If the face looks familiar, Alice ran the Antique Shop on N. Church Street until it was forced to close last year.
Say hello, to coffee in the park. For the next four weeks, Friends of Everhart Park will be selling coffee in the park from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Instant coffee will be available from a table on the blacktop for a $4 donation. The money raised will be used to support ongoing park projects.
Wait, did you say instant?
You caught that, huh? Well, this promises to be different. The coffee project is actually the brainchild of friends’ member Danielle Perna-Amari who was a barista in a previous life. This coffee starts with Coava Coffee Roasters beans. The beans are then ground, brewed, rapidly cooled (which according to Danielle helps preserve the flavor) and dehydrated.
“There are no chemicals involved in their process, so it’s literally JUST the coffee,” she tells me. “These small differences make a HUGE difference in the taste of the coffee. As someone who has judged barista competitors in national competitions, I am here to say, it’s pretty dang good for instant.”
If you would like to give it a try, the coffee station will be set up near the children’s area. Cash or credit cards will be accepted.
Also, say hello, to embracing your middle-schoolers vegan phase. After two years of worry-free mornings (at least in our house) the decision to bring or buy lunch is back. The universal free lunch program launched during COVID to ensure all students ate something ended earlier this summer. Free lunches and breakfasts are still available on an as-needed basis (paperwork required) – for everyone else lunch will cost you ($2.75 in elementary, $3.00 in middle school, and $3.25 for high school). I am not sure if they are related but the return of paying customers is bringing with it some new menu options.
“Our most significant change is our expanded vegetarian and vegan options at all school levels,” lunch service provider Aramark shared in a message to parents. The additions are in response to parent and student requests for more hot vegetarian options. Also new, “Try it Tuesdays” featuring a global menu item. Never changing? Rectangular pizza and “breakfast for lunch.”
Mark your calendars. A date has been set for the presentation of the design proposals for a more permanent Gay Street closure. The public meeting is planned for October 5 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Borough Hall. I am curious to see what the plans look like and how well they represent the views of the residents. An earlier public input session that was supposed to take place earlier this summer was never held. Meetings with the business community were, however, kept. There is a survey. You can take that here if you have not already.
Also, for you sci-fi fans, get up close and personal with the many worlds of Star Trek at a new American Helicopter Museum exhibit that opened this week and will run through Nov. 27. The museum is now displaying a variety of onscreen props from the many iterations of the show including costumes, weapons, even pieces of the starship Enterprise.
And finally, say hello to Salty Paws. The dog ice cream parlor, and bakery opens this Saturday on Gay Street. Stop by for some extra doggie treats or to watch your pup eat ice cream from a doggie parlor table.
This week we learned we will be saying goodbye to in-store shopping at the West Chester Co-op. After reading the article on the closure in the Daily Local, I was sad. After talking with Co-op board member Judy Carrino, I felt better.
“We are going to march on,” she told me. The storefront which began as a contactless delivery option and a way to help local producers distribute their products during COVID was always meant to be temporary. “Our vision the whole time has been a permanent 7-days a week location,” said Judy.
Currently entirely volunteer-run, the store kept limited hours just twice a week (Tuesday 1 – 7 p.m., Thursday 2 – 6 p.m.) and one Sunday a month which may have hindered it from building a larger in-person audience. A permanent store would allow for hired staff and expanded hours. To get to that the Co-op is going to redouble its membership-building efforts.
“You can’t build a community-owned grocery store without the membership,” said Judy.
The Co-op is roughly half to a third of where it needs to be membership-wise to open a full-time operation. (They are at 486 members, the magic number to open permanently is 800-1200 members but 600, the next target for the group, would allow the Co-op to secure external funding and secure a permanent location. Judy is confident they can hit that target by June.)
The last day of the lease is September 30 but since that is a Friday – mark it as September 29 so you have time for a final grocery run. Once the doors are shut you will find the Co-op out and about. They are scheduled to be at several events in and around the borough this fall starting with Restaurant Fest next week and, of course, if you would like to see West Chester get its own grocery store sooner, become a member. (Total lifetime commitment is $400, which is less than most pool memberships. Learn more about the benefits here.)
And don’t worry about the location, the property, which is owned by Zukin, already has a new tenant lined up.
Also this week, we learned of another attempt to get rid of the Quality Inn on S. High Street. Previous attempts looked at replacing the aging hotel with a 167-unit apartment complex and a climatized storage facility. Well, the apartments are out and in its place developers are proposing a 250-bed assisted living facility – oddly the storage would remain. Either option would require a zoning change. Apartments were shot down over traffic concerns but it appears West Goshen supervisors are feeling better about seniors with four of the five members signaling their willingness to amend the code to allow for an assisted living center. According to a report of the meeting in the Daily Local no plans have been submitted to the township and no operator of said “Living Center” has been identified. This, so it seems, is mostly about testing the waters.
Finally this week we say goodbye to West Chester Detective John O’Hare. Officer O’Hare is retiring after 28 years on the force. Thank you Officer O’Hare for your service.
Pay it forward.
Pay it forward and declutter – a double win in my books. If you have some gently used titles you are ready to part with Second Reading Book Store on N. Church Street will happily take them off your hands. They are particularly interested in culture/ethnic, recent fiction, history, new age, philosophy, plays, poetry and travel books, and vintage books published before 1950.
And here is a feel-good story for your weekend. It’s about a West Chester veterinarian who is giving elderly dogs a second lease on life.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Fall sports have returned with a vengeance and we have somehow become those people who spend their weekends running kids from field to field. Fortunately, that’s only Saturday. Sunday we are planning to head to Kennett Square to check out the Mushroom Festival, back in all its glory for the first time since COVID.
Don’t forget our own Restaurant Fest is back this year as well. That’s Sunday, Sept. 18, if you don’t already have it on the calendar – and circled.
This week is also the last week of the Gay Street Closure so make plans to head downtown and dine under the stars. The street reopens to traffic next week.
Also, some exciting football on the docket this weekend. Rustin is taking on East in a crosstown rivalry game that could shore up district bragging rights just two games into the season. The Golden Knights soundly beat Henderson in last week’s season opener while East is looking to make adjustments after losing to Great Valley. It is also Military Appreciation Night so expect some extra festivities and a lot of thank yous.
Or how about a little bocce? Interesting story in this week’s Daily Local about West Chester’s Bocce Club. They play at the VFW Post 106 – come rain or shine. (Here’s an oddly addictive commentated video of the play.)
And next week the year of Humphry Marshall continues with the second session in the Horticultural Heritage Speaker Series at the Chester County History Center. Joel Fry, the longtime curator at Bartram’s Gardens will present “Horticultural Cousins- Bartram and Marshall.”
Ok, I’m trying this. I am launching a support button. If you read regularly and would like to see the updates continue, please consider contributing to the cause. You know, like maybe, buy me a coffee? If you can’t, I completely understand but if you find the Weekly Roundup helpful and would like to send in a testimonial I could share – that would be amazing too. Or just tell a friend (or three). I really want to keep doing this but to do so, I am going to need some help! Any other ideas, leads, or connections are welcome too!
Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 9 – West Chester Public Library Trivia Night, 7-8 p.m. This is a virtual event and registration is required.
- Sept. 10 – KADAVU Annual Onam Celebration, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Stetson Middle School, Tickets required
- Sept. 10-11: Battle of the Brandywine reenactment festival, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Chadds Ford Historical Society, 1736 N. Creek Road
- Sept. 10 – VFW – Crime Victim Center’s BBQ 911, VFW Post 106, 837 Lincoln Ave., Tickets are $25 for all-you-can-eat barbecue.
- Sept. 11 – WCU Faculty Recital: Baritones, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 3 – 4:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 9 – Gay Street Closure ends for the season.
- Sept. 12 – WCU Faculty Recital: Trumpet, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, 8 – 9:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 14 – Horticultural Cousins: Bartram and Marshall, This is a virtual event presented by the Chester County History Center and is part of events celebrating the 300th anniversary of Humphry Marshall’s birth
- Sept. 19 – Hickman Friends Rock-a-thon, 444 N. Walnut St. 9 a.m. The senior community fundraiser will be held on the porch of the Anna T. Jeanes building. Sponsor a rocker at a rate of $1 a minute.
- Sept. 15 – The Hailey Brinnel Quartet, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35 in advance; $40 at the door
- Sept. 16 – Classic Stones Live, Uptown Theater, 8:00 p.m. Tickets $45 in advance; $50 at the door
- Sept. 17 – Alex Moreno – Latin Romance, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door
- Sept. 17 – Inaugural Josh Micun Cornhole Tournament, Goshen Fire Company (1320 Park Ave), 1 – 7 p.m. Entry – $150 per team; $25 general admission. Event includes food trucks, raffles, music and kids’ activities. All proceeds go to the family of officer Micun who died last year at the age of 37 from COVID.
- Sept. 17 – You, Your Newborn and Sleep, West Chester Public Library, 1 – 2:30 p.m. You may attend in person or virtually. Registration required.
- Sept. 17 – Up on the Roof, Chestnut Street Garage, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Tickets $100 in advance, $125 at the door. Proceeds go to support the Downtown West Chester Foundation.
- Sept. 18 – 41st Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival, downtown West Chester, 12 – 5:30 p.m.
- Sept. 19 – WCU Faculty Recital: Harp, Swope Music Bldg. 8 – 9:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 22 – Dueling Pianos, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door
- Sept. 23 – Comedy Sportz Philadelphia, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Improvisational comedy competition Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door. This is an all-ages event
- Sept. 23: Willkinson Lecture Series: Dr. Noriko Manabe, “The Persistence of Culture Wars”, Swope Music Bldg. 3:30 – 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 23: Criterions Jazz Ensemble Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7:30 – 9 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 24 – Unite for Her 5K Run/2K Walk, downtown West Chester, 8:30 a.m. $35
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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