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It’s Friday, Nov. 18. It’s November, and we already have a decision on the 2023 Gay Street closure. That’s progress, people. What was decided and what issues still need to be resolved before we can make this thing permanent. Plus, speaking of downtown drama, Chester County History Center is in an agreement to sell its iconic High Street property, our favorite Bruschetta guy is leaving town and Barstool Sports Dave Portnoy caused quite a stir with local pizza owners. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Dates set for the 2023 Gay Street closure
Once again the West Chester Borough Council agenda included a line item on the Gay Street Closure, and this week a decision was made. For the 2023 season the street will be closed on weekends, or Friday through Sunday, from May 5 through October 29.
Now that Gay Street is officially under Borough control officials will not have to seek approval from PennDOT regarding the duration of the closure. This gives officials the flexibility to start earlier and end later – which they will take advantage of for 2023. Borough Council, however, rejected the idea of a 24-7 closure – for now.
“It feels a little premature to me,” said Councilwoman Lisa Dorsey. “There has to be a compromise until we have a better-baked plan.” It was an argument that seemed to win over members. The limited closure passed 7-0.
For those fine-tuning your arguments for or against, here’s what we learned last night.
What we learned:
- Loss of street parking is not a huge concern – in terms of revenue and capacity. The closure removes 65 spaces out of a total of 1700 (street and garages) or 4 percent. “It’s our feeling that’s not an impactful number. It’s an impactful location for sure but it makes up a pretty small amount of the table,” Borough Manager Sean Metrick told the council on Tuesday.
- Regarding revenues, the Borough loses $18,000 a month in street parking revenue during the closure but sees an increase of $17,000 in the garages during this same period. Not a conclusive study but evidence that people are not avoiding the Borough, just parking elsewhere.
- The costs of tearing down and setting up the street each weekend are $1600/week or $27,000 in in-kind labor for 2022. Expect that number to go up next year with the additional weekends.
- Borough Council is going to explore fee options for restaurants and retailers opting to use the additional space to help offset some of the costs of the closure to the Borough. (A good idea since all those labor costs would be saved by leaving it closed for the season, just saying.)
- Product delivery and parking proximity are two business concerns without good solutions. While parking is available during the closure, parking spots steps from your desired Gay Street location are not. Product delivery also remains a challenge. Back alleys can only accommodate one-way traffic and often have low-hanging wires, limiting their usefulness as an alternative.
- A playground in the middle of Gay Street could be a possibility under a 24-7 closure.
Preserving West Chester’s charm
“We feel like we are really getting traction now,” said Allen Burke, Chair of the West Chester Preservation Awards Committee about their 11th annual ceremony. Each year the Downtown Foundation, which hosts the awards, seeks to raise awareness and appreciation for West Chester Borough’s rich character by recognizing the people and places committed to resolving that nagging feeling – this doesn’t seem right.
This year’s recipients included a Borough Council member devoted to covertly removing graffiti, a former Mayor who has spent his life promoting community development while gaining recognition for those that came before, and a series of preservation projects aimed at making things historically right.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will look at some of this year’s award-winning projects and their impact on the Borough’s landscape. Up first, West Lafayette Street where, spoiler alert, the project recognized is not old at all, in fact, it’s brand new construction. With infinite styles and eras for an owner to choose from, new properties can often be a bane to preservation priorities – and this project started no differently.
According to Borough Zoning regulations to properly fit the desired twin structure on the lot, the homes would need to orient toward Weaver Alley – essentially turning their backs to their Lafayette Street neighbors. To land owner Michael O’Rourke this just didn’t seem right so he took his proposal to the Borough’s Planning Commission and got a waiver to make the change. It was a shift in direction that would shift the feel of the street from a land grab into a cohesive neighborhood.
“It was simply an empty lot,” said Allen about the project. “Borough code dictated the only thing that could be done was a twin facing the alley, but you just knew it needed to face Lafayette Street to complete the neighborhood. It took a lot of consideration from the Borough but it was clearly the right thing to do.”
The twin was finished with a series of historically accurate details and elements borrowed from neighbors on Lafayette, Marshall, and Church Streets leading to a project that not only met the needs of its future owners but also improved the neighborhood and the Borough.
Attention Brides and Grooms: West Chester Wedding Showcase is Sunday!
The West Chester Wedding Guide Fall Showcase is returning to the beautiful Chester County History Center this Sunday. A must-attend event for the area’s newly engaged, relax with a drink while you browse more than twenty local vendors and locations. Talk to DJs, Wedding Coordinators, invitation designers, caterers, and florists as you eat, drink and celebrate your wedding planning! Plus, register for giveaways like a pair of Flyers tickets!
The event runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 per couple and include two complimentary drinks. Get your tickets now!
Show your work – a helpful reminder for fourth-grade math students as well as local government officials. This week the Borough of West Chester learned it would be required to cover a $404,521 paving expense out of its general fund after an audit of its Liquid Fuels Tax Fund expenditures by the state showed it had failed to submit a Final Completion Report for the project. The Municipal Liquid Fuels Program is a state program that supplies municipalities with an annual budget to cover road maintenance and repair. It is not known yet whether the funds will be reimbursed upon receipt of proper paperwork. According to April Hutcheson, Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Auditor General, “Ultimately, it is PennDOT’s decision.”
Fortunately, the Borough was able to find an accounting loophole to balance both budgets.
Fire in the yard. Last Thursday West Chester Fire Department responded to a brush fire at the corner of Westtown Road and Weatherhill Dr. in West Goshen. The 10’ x 20’ area was ignited by a car that had run off the road, reportedly caught fire, then was driven from the scene leaving a burning field in its wake. The car was eventually located and both fires were extinguished.
Have you seen my pig? This week West Goshen Police put out a call for assistance locating the home of a wayward pig. The black swine with white front hooves was found in the 1000 block of Wiggins Way and after nearly 70 shares on social, the little feller was reunited with his family.
You can live here, but it’s going to cost you. This week Stacker, a news and data gathering organization, used Zillow data to create a list of Pennsylvania cities with the most expensive homes – and guess who’s on the list? Ding. Ding. Ding. You got it. West Chester ranked as having the 15th most expensive homes in the state with a typical home value of $564,518.
This week we offer our congratulations to Pizza West Chester who was surprised with a visit from David Portnoy of Barstool Sports fame. The off-the-grid pizza shop generating a lot of buzz for its unconventional methods and tasty pies survived Portnoy’s one-bite challenge with a respectable 8.4 score.
“If you know my scale, you know that is a ridiculously high score,” he said during his review.
Can’t stop. Won’t stop. While he was in town, he also stopped by the West Chester Pizza Cafe. After first impressions left him a little unsure, he found himself pleasantly surprised scarfing down two slices and dropping the Cafe a very respectable score of 8.1. Word is Benny’s was also rated, I haven’t seen anything on that yet.
If you are not familiar with these one-bite reviews (I wasn’t either,) we are among the few. Portnoy’s YouTube pizza review channel has 788,000 subscribers; his Instagram has 4.4 million followers, and his three-minute review of Pizza West Chester is already up to 232,000 views.
This week also a shout out to Rustin’s football team which continues its postseason run tonight after soundly defeating cross-county rival Kennett last Friday. The win was all the sweeter since Kennett, who finished the year as Chest-Mont League American Division champions, handed the Golden Knights their only loss this season. Rustin will face Strath Haven tonight in the semi-finals.
And, happy Sweet Sixteen to West Chester University Women’s Soccer team which has advanced to the Atlantic Regional final in the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer tournament. The Golden Rams will be facing Kutztown at noon today for a chance to advance to the Elite Eight.
And a round of applause to the 23 Rustin high school students who participated in this year’s Model UN Conference at the University of Virginia. The Golden Knights were joined by students from across the mid-Atlantic region and represented countries from China to Venezuela on issues from crime prevention to coffee. Special recognition went to students Emma Bowers and Rachel Ariadne Stetter who received a “Best Delegate Award” for their work representing the People’s Republic of China on the Special Political and Decolonization Committee.
Fun fact: More than 75 percent of the Rustin participants were female. Could this be a sign of a changing political landscape (or just friends looking to snag a trip together)?
Also, a belated happy Myrtle Nash Day to you. This week West Chester resident Myrtle Nash had her birthday turned into a West Chester day of honor after reaching the lofty age of 100. West Chester’s newest centenarian is an acquaintance of Rosa Parks, an accomplished bowler, and a proud grandmother. Congratulations, and a happy birthday to Mrs. Nash!
And last but not least, high fives to the West Chester winners of “Best of Chester County 2022.” In total 39 downtown businesses were recognized, you can find them all here.
Say hello to a new, more efficient Borough. This week Borough Council approved the purchase of two pricey multi-year software solutions aimed at making operating with and within the Borough easier.
“I’m very excited about this investment. These two add-ons are going to help us organize and analyze information in ways we struggle to do so today.” Sean Mettrick. Of course, if you are going to come to Borough Council with a software request of nearly $318,000 over 5 years, the least you can do is show some excitement.
So, what exactly are we purchasing? According to Borough Finance Manager Barbara Lionti, the Borough is requesting the use of the funds to purchase two software solutions.
- First-year implementation and subscription costs for Cartegraph. Cost: $67,725. This system will be used primarily by the Department of Public Works to replace their current fleet software as well as to manage infrastructure (sewer/storm lines, roads, meters, equipment). This system will also serve as a work order system for the Department of Public Works.
- First-year implementation and subscription costs for Brightly Smart Gov. Cost: $69,302.31. This system will replace the current permitting system used primarily by the Department of Building and Housing. This property information system will streamline processes in Building and Housing, Admin, and Parking. The system will allow users to self-service through the creation of an online portal, create a single point of reference for property research and reduce right-to-know requests by allowing permit searches by property.
Each agreement is for a 5-year license. While the first year, which includes implementation costs, will be paid with Federal relief funds, subsequent year licensing fees will not. These will amount to $38,000-42,000 annually. A portion of this expense will be covered by sunsetting current systems. However, the Borough is still looking at a net budget increase of $18,000-22,000/a year for years two through five.
With the approval of this expense the Borough has approximately $334,000 left in ARPA funding.
This week also marked the dedication of the new Friends Association mural. The artwork, which was commissioned as part of their 200 year celebration, features an African American with outstretched hands surrounded by symbols for shelter and family. The design was the work of Noah Burns, a sophomore art student at West Chester University. Bill Rettew covered the mural and dedication this week for the Daily Local.
Also, the West Chester Area School District and the Education Support Professional union said hello to a new five-year contract agreement. Under the terms of the new contract, support professionals will receive an annual salary increase of 3.5 percent over the next five years. Medical, dental, and prescription plans as well as tuition reimbursement programs will remain pretty much the same.
Finally, in the mood for something sweet and cool? Helllllo, milkshake. This week only, Lorenzo’s Steaks is offering $3 milkshakes with any order. Choose from vanilla, chocolate, Oreo or B&W.
This week we learned the Chester County History Center may be ready to say goodbye to its iconic buildings on High Street. Chester County, in a move first reported by the Daily Local, has come to a preliminary agreement with the History Center to purchase the properties at 205 and 225 N. High Street.
Under the proposed agreement, which is still in the early stages, the County would rent a portion of the space back to the History Center (formerly the Historical Society, for those of you who left the Borough before 2020) keeping the remaining space for its own office and/or archival needs. The agreement is also likely a financial lifeline to the organization which, according to tax records, has been operating at a loss since before the pandemic.
Also, could this be the end of the West Chester Rail Service Restoration Committee? In an unusual move, Borough Council voted this week to postpone the renewal of three volunteer appointments to the committee as they take a closer look at the workings of the group. Recently concerns were raised about the ability to host both a commuter line and a heritage railroad on the existing tracks. This conflict of priorities has reportedly caused a deterioration in the working relationship between the Rail Restoration Committee and the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association.
This week the West Chester University Police Department announced the passing of Police Dispatcher Carol Rennard on Oct. 30 from Metastatic Breast Cancer. Carol was an East High School graduate and a lifelong West Chester resident. She also served as an EMT and active member of the Goshen Fire Company. She was 58.
“A Police Dispatcher is the true backbone on the shift for keeping everyone safe, and Carol exemplified that day in and day out. She will truly be missed by all of us!” WCU police shared via Facebook.
West Chester University also shared the passing of former women’s lacrosse player Julia Ross. She was 22 years old.
Also, we are saying goodbye to former Ice Capade star Gertrude (Gerry) Mahoney Tilghman, 88. A celebrated ice skater of the early 1950s Gerry graced many local and national publication covers and once even had a Phoenix lake frozen for her so she could skate in the desert. She moved to West Chester after her divorce in 1970 and has been an active supporter of the Brandywine Valley SPCA since. Services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. Donations in her name may be made to the Brandywine Valley SPCA.
And a couple of moving notices.
This week we learned we are saying goodbye to our favorite Bruschetta guy. (Tear). After spending most of his life in West Chester, Chef TJ Mchugh and his family are relocating to Phoenixville. So, technically the bruschetta is not going away, it’s just going to be a little harder to get.
Also, sharing plans for a departure, Chester County Bar Association Executive Director Matt Holliday. Mr. Holliday has accepted a position with the state’s bar association in Harrisburg. While I don’t typically share job changes, the former Chester County Prothonotary has chaired or served on more than 18 community groups since he moved here in 2005 as a West Chester University freshman. This includes being named “Citizen of the Year” in 2018. He currently has no plans to leave the Borough but with a new commute to Harrisburg, he may need to cut back on his posts.
Finally, say goodbye to Levenate’s I Heart the Holidays – 24 Days of Beer Advent Case. Didn’t know that was a thing? Not surprising. Less than 24 hours after posting the new holiday offering to social, all 100 cases were gone.
Pay it forward.
It’s that time of year when giving back comes into vogue and opportunities abound – so, whether you are looking to give time and money or grow facial hair, I have something for you.
This past month and throughout November you may notice West Chester’s police officers look a little shaggy – that’s because the boys (and girls, in their own way) are back supporting Blue Beards for Charity. Officers, who are not typically allowed to grow facial hair, can donate $100 to stop shaving for the month of November. Proceeds raised go to support a number of local charities including Unite for Her, A Child’s Light, and the Chester County Crime Victims Center.
Want to get in on the action? You can donate directly through your local police department (they are all participating) or you can grow your own Blue Beard then have it shaved off for $20 by The Shop on Market Street. Just let them know you are participating and 100% of the proceeds for the shave will be donated to the cause.
How about showing a little thanks before the holiday? Hillsdale Elementary and Stetson Middle School are holding food drives this week, Westtown-East Goshen Police department has a coat drive, Safe Harbor is celebrating Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the Friends Association is collecting gift cards for Thanksgiving meals.
|Stetson Middle School||Can goods, tea/ground coffee, baby formula, cake mixes, hot/cold cereal and peanut butter||Stetson Middle School, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon.|
|Hillsdale Elementary||Canned veggies, fruits beans, or protein, broth, flour, rice, pasta, hot cocoa mix, instant coffee, PB&J, hot/cold cereal, soap, toothpaste, diapers, wipes, TP and feminine products||Hillsdale Elementary School entry way before Nov. 23|
|Safe Harbor||HE Laundry detergent (no pods please), Multi-purpose cleaner, Gallon size ziploc/generic zip-up bags, Napkins||Safe Harbor, 20 N. Matlack Street – M-F 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.|
|Friends Association||$50 gift cards to Giant, Shoprite, Acme, and ALDI||Friends Association, 113 W. Chestnut Street. Cards are being collect through 11/20|
|Westtown-East Goshen Police||New or gently used coats, hat, gloves or scarves||Westtown Police Department on Wilmington Pike or the East Goshen Police Department on Paoli PIke, 4:30 p.m. today!|
Prefer a service project? Pine Street Carpenters are back with their 15th annual 100-bike build. The bikes will be assembled on December 3 and then distributed to families with kids in need. This year’s bike build will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pine Street Carpenters, 901 S. Bolmar St., Suite N. Volunteer slots are limited, and registration is required. Donations of bike locks and helmets are welcome and can be dropped off at Pine Street’s kitchen showroom on Bolmar Street.
Since the project launched in 2008, the carpenters have donated more than 1300 bikes to local families. To learn more about Pine Street’s 100 Wheels Project and to register, visit www.bikebuild.org.
Also, Community Volunteers in Medicine is back with more free dental care – this time for the kiddos! Last month, CVIM staff and volunteers provide 31 Veterans with free dental services in honor of Veterans Day. They are hoping to follow on that success with their Give Kids a Smile event planned for Dec. 2 this year. If you know a kid that could use a good dental cleaning (I think that might be all of them), have them give CVIM a call at 610-836-5990 x 125 to schedule an appointment.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are going over the river and through woods (and down nearly 700 miles of highway) to grandma and grandpa’s house. I’m excited to see the family and dig into some pretzel salad but, boy, is it a long drive.
If you are around town this weekend, West Chester University is staging a production of Cinderella which sounds like a perfect way to see an opera – something that has been on my bucket list.
Also, Pine + Quill is celebrating its second year in the Borough on Black Friday with champagne, cookies, and free gifts. If you have never been to Pine + Quill, it is an absolutely delightful little spot perfectly suited to champagne, cookies, and some early Christmas shopping. Look for many other local goodies as shops announce their Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday plans over the coming week. And for all you audiophiles and audiophiles-to-be, it’s also Record Store Day!
Finally, if you haven’t already got your tickets for Uptown’s “Butterfingers Angel.” Do it now. Discount code for you below! And speaking of…
A very special thank you to Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center for joining Hello, West Chester as our latest Community Sponsor (and giving readers a discount!). Established in 2017 Uptown is a world-class performing arts center right in the center of historic downtown! Check out their website for a constantly changing line-up of events.
Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center
Uptown is back this year with live theater performances starting with the very funny “Butterfingers Angel” on Nov. 30 and running through Dec. 23. To celebrate Hello, West Chester and all things local, use Promo Code HELLOWC, and save $5 off any full-priced ticket to the holiday show, “The Butterfingers Angel!” Get your tickets here!
If you too, would like to see Hello, West Chester going here are 3 easy ideas –
- Tell your friends and neighbors.
- Help spread the word on social media. (Just leaving a comment really helps increase reach.)
- Make a small donation of thanks. (Venmo works too if that’s easier.)
Mark your calendars:
- Nov. 18 – Whiskey Logic, Kildare’s Irish Pub, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Local cover band playing hits from the 60s to the 90s. This is a free show.
- Nov. 18, 19 – West Chester University Opera presents Cinderella, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday. General admission tickets are $7, students, faculty and kids under 12 are free.
- Nov. 18 – 20 – Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, E.O. Bull Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday. General admission tickets are $12 at www.wcupatix.com.
- Nov. 20 – 2022 Fall Wedding Showcase, Chester County History Center, 1-3 p.m., Admission $5 for the wedding couple includes 2 free drinks.
- Nov. 25, 26 – Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday, Downtown West Chester, enjoy free street parking all weekend as well as carolers, street lights and free reusable shopping bags with any in-store purchase.
- Nov. 25, 26 – West Chester Christmas Light Display opening weekend. 895 S. Concord Road, Underdog Hotdogs will be onsite on Friday from 5pm – 8pm and Dia Doce Cupcakes on Saturday from 6pm – 7pm. Also a Santa letter writing station for the kids. Admission $5/10 a family. Money raised will be donated to the Brandywine SPCA.
- Nov. 29 – Brews and Blues, Slow Hand, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. Enjoy a blues performance by Bluesberry Hill Band and get a chance to witness Voice! Contestant Hillary up close and personal (she’s the lead singer of the band) all while supporting the West Chester Co-op. Tickets are $20/each
- Dec. 2 – West Chester Tree Lighting, Downtown West Chester, 6:30 p.m. Street closure details here.
- Dec. 2 – West Chester Christmas Parade, Downtown West Chester, 7 p.m. Details about street closures and best viewing spots here.
- Dec. 2 – Christkindlmarkt, Chester County Art Association, 4 – 8 p.m. 45 stalls featuring locally crafted products, food trucks, live music and on Friday and Smore’s roasting station. Admission is free.
- Dec. 3 – Dec. 24 – 2022 Holiday Door Tour, tour at your leisure. This event is hosted by the West Chester Public Library. Those that make a donation of at $10 will receive a map of doors, scavenger hunt item list and a complimentary raffle ticket.
- Dec. 3 – Christkindlmarkt, Chester County Art Association, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 45 stalls featuring locally crafted products, food trucks, live music. Admission is free. Dec. 3 – Santa at the Square, Marshall Square Park, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
- Dec. 3 – Santa at the Square, Marshall Square Park, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy, and have an amazing Thanksgiving. I’m taking next week off from the Roundup but I am working on a holiday events list of the many, many things planned for the season. So stay tuned.
Oh, one more thing, if you think one or more of your friends would like Hello, West Chester, too, please forward this newsletter and tell them to come and join us.
And hey, if you’re that friend? So nice to see you! You can subscribe here.