The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, Dec. 2 – The West Chester Christmas Parade returns tonight whether you like it or not. What you need to know including parking, bathrooms and whether pets are welcome. Plus, bye-bye ticket office- high school sports tickets go virtual, a new Italian restaurant opens in the Borough and are Airbnbs allowed in the Borough? I think the answer might surprise you. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
High Street help
In a win for the Borough, next year PennDOT will be spending nearly $2 million to begin executing on a long-discussed S. High Street improvement plan. The work will focus on the area between Barnard Street and Rosedale Avenue with the goal of reducing the occurrence of crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians.
The proposed improvements align with recommendations made in the 2020 South High Street Corridor study and include such things as:
- New curb extensions (bumpouts) with new ADA curb ramps
- Updated pavement markings and street signage
- Upgrades at existing signals including new LED lighting, pedestrian push buttons and countdown timers.
- New traffic signals at the Sharpless Street and University Avenue intersections.
All very good things. The only downside? Living through the construction will require High Street to be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction with traffic being shifted as needed throughout the project. Construction is slated to begin late next year.
Want to learn more? PennDOT is holding a Virtual Public Meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Airbnbs, or not, in West Chester
According to the West Chester Borough Code, Chapter 102-304, Section 201, “Permitted uses” for a “dwelling” are, well, limited. “Exclusively for residential purposes,” the code states which goes onto explain it excludes transient uses such as “hotel, rooming house, club or lodge.” In other words, no Airbnbs in the Borough. Except that there are. Plenty.
A quick search on the Airbnb website turned up nearly a dozen options, including six Superhosts, and one currently running a holiday special. So where exactly does the Borough stand on short-term rentals, described as any rental or transactional stay under 30 days, and why did it decide to bring a case against one resident and not any of the others?
Shortly after moving into her new home on W. Union Street earlier this year, Dr. Krupa Daniel, a doctor of internal medicine and infectious disease (Fun fact: she took care of the second confirmed COVID-19 case in Pennsylvania), was delivered a cease and desist letter from the Borough asking her to stop renting units of her Union Street home on Airbnb. The historic home which Krupa purchased earlier this year, sits a block off of High Street and is divided into four units. The first two units are long-term rentals, the third, previously long-term, is now being rented as an Airbnb as is the inlaw suite of the fourth unit where Krupa lives. It is with the short-term rentals that the Borough has a problem.
According to Krupa, the previous owners also used the space as an Airbnb and that allowance was even included in the real estate discussion prior to her purchase of the home — although perhaps it shouldn’t have been. At a Borough Council Working Session earlier this year, the case was discussed and the Borough solicitor sent defend the Borough’s right to put a stop the practice.
“Right now our ordinance does not allow [Airbnbs] under several different sections,” Building and Housing Director Kevin Gore told Council. “Since this a use variance we typically like to oppose those,” he said. The argument being, if one use variance is approved it would open the gates to all use variances being approved.
“Are we defending the ordinance of no Airbnbs?” Borough Councilman Bernie Flynn asked Mr. Gore. When Mr. Flynn got a yes, he replied. “Very good.”
Except it is still not clear why the Borough, if seemingly adamant against the operation of Airbnbs, has only pursued four such cases since 2019 and only Krupa’s this year when several of her neighbors operate similar setups.
I reached out to Mr. Gore for clarification on the exact criteria his team was using to determine which cases to pursue but he refused to discuss any aspect of the case. I also asked why the Borough is against Airbnbs in the first place. While I did not get a response from the Borough, research has found that the widespread presence of such rentals can be detrimental to the local housing and rental markets. So much so, it has its own term the “Airbnb effect.”
From her perspective, and other residents who use their homes to earn extra cash, the rooms provide a valuable service. Krupa said her rooms have been used by wedding guests in for the weekend, family members visiting university students, even a couple in town as they waited for an adoption to be finalized. There have been no police calls or noise violations reported against the property, but there were complaints filed regarding parking. Although even in this, Krupa feels singled out.
“I’ve been told that some people were complaining about parking, but they denied me parking permits for my long-term tenants. Not sure why this special rule for me when other multi-unit properties get parking for long-term tenants,” she said. To Krupa, who was born in India, the complaint feels personal.
“Being a woman of color, this is very typical of many acts of systemic racism I have gone through in my life. It is disappointing and I hope people in the community will speak up against this and ask for more transparency in the government,” she said via email.
The dispute is scheduled to go before the Zoning Board in January.
Street closures, restrooms, and other things you need to know about tonight’s Christmas parade
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past six months, you already know that the beloved Christmas parade is set to return tonight but did you know Fido is not welcome? Or where to take your four-year-old when he suddenly decides he has to go to the bathroom three minutes after snaking in to get a curbside seat where he can actually see? No? Well, you will now.
First, what streets are closing – and when? High, Gay, Market, New, Darlington, Church, Walnut, and Matlack.
Road closures begin at 2 p.m. with the closure of High Street between Gay and Market. Gay and Market Streets will follow starting at 4:30 p.m. Note: W. Market Street will be closed before the parade route from Bradford Avenue to New Street. This is the “staging area.” There will also be NO PARKING allowed in this area. Residents are being asked to move their cars by 3 p.m.
It’s been three years. So, you may be new or you may have blocked out how bad traffic gets on parade days. Best to leave (really) early if you have un-parade-related business in or around the Borough today. Roads will all reopen by 10 p.m.
Where is the best place to park?
At your house and walk. If you don’t have that luxury, all three parking garages will be open as will the lots at Chestnut and Church Streets, and Chestnut and Darlington Streets. Saint Agnes will also have their lots open for a $10 donation per car. Enter via New Street if you would like to use this option.
Also, all street parking is fair game. According to a message put out by the Borough, “The West Chester Police Department and West Chester Parking Authority will be lifting residential permitting enforcement during the Christmas Parade and will recommence Monday morning.”
What time does the parade start? The parade will begin at 7 p.m. on W. Market Street and is expected to run between 60 and 90 minutes.
I know the parade is supposed to be smaller this year. Will there still be floats? Bands? Performances? Yes, yes, and yes. Despite word that the event is smaller than in years past, which it is, there will still be plenty to see. There are at least 55 parade elements including floats, marching bands, cheer squads, and dance teams. Also, look for a few “professional” elements to be sprinkled through like a BMX-bike performance and some extreme jump-ropers. (Yes, that is a thing.)
Where is the best place to view it? “The first sighting of Santa is at Market and New Streets, so that’s always a great spot,” said Katie Walker, President of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the West Chester Christmas Parade. “The main stage area is outside the historic courthouse where the tree lighting will take place and where our emcees will be. This is a popular area, so come early to get a spot there.”
Sounds like a long night. Can I bring chairs, blankets, food, etc.? Yes, to the aforementioned but leave Fido at home. “The police usually frown upon dogs. Please leave your furry friends at home in the warmth for this event,” said Katie. “Chairs and blankets are welcome. Food is fine, we just ask that people try to keep our town nice and clean and take with them what they brought.”
If I go down early, is there anything else going on to help me kill the time? You know there is. To keep you busy while you wait, the official West Chester Christmas tree lighting is planned for 6:30 p.m. on the lawn of the historic courthouse. S&T Bank will be handing out free hot chocolate and cookies and a small gift for the kiddos at their N. Church Street location. Downtown West Chester’s holiday window competition is going on as is the Professional Gingerbread House Competition. You’ll find entries outside Sunset Hill Jewelers, Carlino’s, Kilwins, Yori’s, Bryn Mawr Running Company and Iron Hill.
Also, don’t forget West Chester has a lot of great restaurants, many with a good (and warm) view of the parade.
Will there be public restrooms available? Yes, there will be four sets of public restrooms. They will be located on S. Church Street, S. Walnut Street, S. Darlington Street and N. High Street.
What time is Santa expected? Expect Santa by 8:30 p.m. at the latest. Want that on the earlier side? Set up on Market between S. New and S. Darlington Streets. It also makes for a fairly easy exit if you live on the south side of town.
I hate the parade and have no intention of leaving my apartment for the next twelve hours. Anything I need to know? If you do decide to leave, watch those parking spots. As previously mentioned, West Chester does not plan to enforce permit parking before, during, or after the parade.
Whether this is your thing or not, events are what make West Chester what it is. So, let’s make sure we get to keep enjoying them. “We love our town, and we will be accommodating a lot of visitors for the parade. Let’s show them a warm welcome to West Chester!” said Katie. Agreed.
Street closures tonight. And no parking on W. Market Street. Just a reminder in case you skipped the Christmas parade article above.
Beware of package theft. It is that time of year again when packages begin arriving fast and furiously to every and any entrance of your home. The West Chester Police Department would like to help ensure they all make it inside. According to WCPD Chief Communications Officer Dave March, 30 packages were reported stolen in the Borough last year so be alert. Best practice is to bring in the boxes as soon as they arrive. If that is not possible, see if a neighbor can grab them for you or have the packages delivered to a work address or an at-home family member. Should a package go missing, report the theft to the police.
All that drinking will kill you – unless your son gets there first. In a disturbing Thanksgiving day story, West Chester man Michael Donroe Giffing was arrested last Thursday on charges of attempted first-degree murder after assaulting his mother over her drinking. The altercation began after he tried to take away a bottle of wine from his mom, Dorothy Giffing. He then proceeded to push her down and kick her twice in the abdomen. Ms. Giffing was taken to Chester County Hospital with brain trauma, broken ribs and internal bleeding. She was last reported to be at Paoli Hospital in serious condition.
Do you know this man? West Chester police are looking for help identifying a silver-haired gentleman with dark eyebrows and a jaunty walk. He is wanted in connection with fraudulent activity at the M&T Bank downtown. The incident in question took place on Oct. 24. If you have any information please contact Officer Carabello at 610-696-2700.
What about this Grinch? They are also seeking assistance locating a green-haired gentleman with no eyebrows and a similar jaunty walk.
High fives to the West Chester University Women’s Soccer team. They are heading to the NCAA Division II National Championship! Entering the tournament as a number one seed the women have proven their ranking taking down opponent after opponent – including ending a Cinderella run by Ferris State. Ferris State came into the tournament as a sixth seed and proceeded to beat their bracket’s first, second and third seeds to advance to the semifinal. Tied 1-1 at halftime, WCU’s Maggie Lena scored in the 65th minute officially putting an end to that. The Golden Rams are back in action tomorrow at 6 p.m. when they will take on Western Washington for the championship. Word is there is a viewing party brewing at Barnaby’s if you would like to cheer them on.
A round of applause this week for your Archdiocese of Philadelphia Region 17 champions — the Saint Agnes Parish Varsity Soccer team. After going undefeated in the regular season, the Stags eked out a win in the title match on penalty kicks. The game remained scoreless after regulation and two overtimes but the STAGS stayed calm and kicked it where it counted. According to Denise Welte who shared the news, “This was the first time in over 30 years that someone from our region won the AOP championship. It was such a fun and amazing season for everyone involved.” See a team member this weekend be sure to give them a high five.
Congratulations to West Chester’s former Mayor DeBaptiste. Last month Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste was awarded the first-ever Honorable Dr. Clifford E. DeBaptiste Visionary Award. The award was created by the Chester County Community Foundation as a way to honor those committed to creating a strong, more prosperous community. Dr. DeBaptiste who served as mayor during the early years of West Chester’s turn-of-the-century revitalization was critical in seeing this vision of West Chester realized – and now, everyone’s doing it.
“What you are doing here is spreading to other communities,” Dr. Clifford E. DeBaptiste told the crowd gathered at Uptown for the event. “Kennett Square is trying to be a West Chester, Pennsylvania. So is Phoenixville. So is Coatesville. I love it.”
And finally, kudos to the Henderson Tri-M – not for the musical abilities which I am sure are amazing but – for their support of the West Chester community as a whole. The high school music group recently coordinated the donation of more than 364 pounds of food to the West Chester Food Cupboard. Nicely done.
A welcome to the Borough to Santino’s Tap & Table which made its debut last Friday night. The Italian restaurant in the Philly – “gravy, not sauce” style is located at the corner of Market and Walnut Street in the former home of Ram’s Head Bar and Grill. This is the second Santino’s location for a family whose lineage also brought us DeMarcos in Drexel Hill. According to some promo copy you can expect “fresh Italian food with a creative twist in a fun and friendly atmosphere.”
Speaking of new openings, Razrbar is now open in the Gay Street Plaza. A joint venture between Razrbar Barbershop, locations in Wayne and Collegeville, and West Chester’s own Champions Premiere Barbershop, the new endeavor promises great staff, luxury services and complimentary beverages. Give them a try and get $10 off your first visit.
Do you use SEPTA buses? Would you like to say hello to an improved user experience? Well, .SEPTA would like to speak with you. Pennsylvania’s regional transit agency is holding an open house on Monday at Borough Hall from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. (That’s SEPTA route 104 for you riders). The open house will introduce riders to SEPTA’s plans for an on-demand bus service meant to improve the rider experience, increase demand, and rebuild rider trust. The program, which SEPTA is calling the “Bus Revolution,” is nearly two years into a three-year rollout process. After months of planning, SEPTA is now doing a show-and-tell tour sharing draft recommendations with communities. Implementation of approved changes will begin in the spring after all feedback has been received.
Also, making its debut this week West Chester University School of Music’s new degree. The Bachelor of Music in Studio Composition integrates technology and music production needed for composing for film, video games, and other recorded mediums, as well as for live performance.
Finally, a couple welcome backs – first to, Everhart Park’s zipline. The zipline, as well as several other pieces of equipment, were removed after a routine inspection found a few issues in the installation. It looks as if now all problems are repaired and the equipment fully functional again.
And second, to peppermint gelato. D’Ascenzo’s reopens for two weeks of holiday classics beginning this Friday. Yum.
Planning to head to a high school sporting event this winter? Plan to bring your phone. All three area high schools are saying goodbye to paper tickets and cash sales. All tickets will now need to be purchased online. Here are the links for Rustin, East and Henderson. You can also find links to individual events on their respective social media sites.
West Chester University is hoping to say goodbye to fossil fuels — or at least a few more gallons of them. Last week they announced the introduction of propane-fueled buses which, according to a press release provided by the university, release fewer smog-producing hydrocarbons and particulate emissions than conventional fuels while providing a comparable, albeit quieter, riding experience. The university is starting the program with three campus shuttle buses but is looking to add more in the future.
Just before Thanksgiving, we also learned of the passing of longtime West Chester philanthropist Margaret “Peg” Scholl. Peg was an active member of Meals on Wheels of Chester County for many years including serving as board president from 2015 – 2017. She was also active with the Fund for Women and Girls and the East Bradford Township Historic Commission.
“The loss of Peg will be felt by many in Chester County,” Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell told the Daily Local. Read more about Peg’s life here.
And we are saying goodbye to the Jingle Elf Run. After more than a decade (the last race run in 2019 was the 11th) of festive runners decked out in Santa hats and holiday gear, the West Chester pre-parade holiday tradition is no more. At least it won’t be happening this year.
“This is all part of our effort in working with the Borough police to manage the size and scale of the event as we bring back a local, hometown parade after the two-year hiatus,” Chamber President Katie Walker said in an email.
Pay it forward.
Each year (Dec.17 to be exact), most West Chester University students head home for a five-week winter break (that’s right, they won’t be back until Jan. 23). There are, however, 42 students who do not have homes to return to. For these students WCU is continuing its annual tradition of free room and board during this time. In addition, head football coach Bill Zwaan is leading a holiday drive. The drive is going on through Dec. 13 and items can be dropped off at Coach’s on-campus office at 850 S. New Street.
Want to help? Coach Zwaan says, “Think like a college student.” This means gift cards from Wawa, 7-11, Dunkin’, Acme, Giant, Target, CVS, Amazon, WCU Campus Store, Walmart, and local restaurants.
Also, The Shop on Market Street is back with their now annual holiday sock drive. Socks are the most requested clothing items at homeless shelters – and among the most fun to buy. Drop off new (still in the package) socks to 134 E. Market Street and make sure no one’s feet get cold this holiday season.
Have a few particularly tricky individuals on that Christmas list this year? Well, you are in luck. The West Chester Green Team is back with its annual holiday auction fundraiser and it is notoriously filled with a selection of items you won’t find elsewhere – seriously, nowhere. Last year I scored a deal on a picturesque Bulgarian guest house with a lovely host – which I would highly recommend but sadly, it is not available this year. There is, however, a week in Marbella, Spain. Or how about lunch with Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste, a class on how to grow dahlias or a once-a-month soup subscription from Kim Stack the former owner of Three Little Pigs? More than 90 items are listed but hurry, the auction closes Saturday at 7 p.m.
Finally, if you are more of a doer than a shopper, the Borough of West Chester is looking for some fresh faces to join its boards and commissions. There are open positions on the Historic Commission, Sustainability Advisory Committee, Parks & Rec Committee, Library Board, Human Relations Commission and Planning Commission. More on what each does here. To apply, send your resume or biography to Dana DiDomenico. Use subject line: Resume for Vacancy. Applications are due by Dec. 7 and all candidates will be required to interview for the position.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Don’t tell me nothing. There is so much going on. We will be bundling up and heading downtown for the Christmas parade and our chance to see Santa on a zipline. (For the record, I know there is a zipline. I do not know that Santa will be riding it, but I am hoping.)
Also, this weekend the West Chester Library’s Holiday Home Tour is back as is the Chester County Art Association’s Christkindlmarkt and the Borough’s Santa in the Square at Marshall Square Park. Last year was the first year Santa made an appearance at MSP and it was a big hit. Note: organizers will be collecting for the Andrew Hicks Foundation and are asking attendees to bring a new, unwrapped gift to donate if you can. “We won’t turn anyone away who doesn’t have a toy to donate, but it is encouraged!” they said.
Like to plan ahead? – I made you a holiday event guide! You can find it here.
Looking for some gift ideas? How about delicious, hand-crafted and ready to make hot-chocolate jars? A water bottle for the directionally challenged or a hostess gift that glows? Need more ideas? Check out my shopping special for County Line Magazine.
And finally, this week a very special thank you to Oakbourne Advisors for joining Hello, West Chester as our latest Community Sponsor. Founded in 2004 Oakbourne has been an active member of the West Chester community for more than a decade. Learn more at Oakbourne.com.
Oakbourne Advisors is an independent retirement plan consulting firm providing business owners and executive teams with the expertise necessary to design and manage a modern 401(k) plan. Based in downtown West Chester, Oakbourne Advisors is committed to being a trusted community resource. Oakbourne is proud to once again participate as a premium sponsor of this year’s events.
Want to help keep the Roundup and Hello, West Chester going? Any help is appreciated but here are 3 easy ideas –
- Tell your friends and neighbors.
- Help spread the word on social media. (Just liking the posts or leaving a comment really helps increase reach.)
- Or click the button above to make a small donation of thanks. (Or Venmo works too if that’s easier.)
Mark your calendars:
- Nov. 19 – Dec. 18 – Santa Express, West Chester Railroad, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. Tickets: $30/adults; $25/kids; $10/toddlers; 9 mo and under ride free.
- Dec. 2 – Holiday Cheer Concert, Uptown Knaur Performing Arts Center, 5 p.m.- 6 p.m. Tickets $15/adult; $10 children 12 and under.
- 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 – Holiday Home Tour, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tour seven homes in the Borough’s Northeast and Soutwest quadrants. This event is hosted by the West Chester Public Library. Tickets are $40 per person and may be purchased in the library or online through December 2. $50 at the library, day of.
- 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 – Little Lincolns Gettysburg Address Competition, Historic Courthouse, Noon – 1 p.m. Middle school students from across the county put on their best Lincoln attire and recite the Gettysburg Address.
- 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 on a fire truck, Downtown, 3 p.m.
Dec. 3 – East Goshen Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Ceremony, East Goshen Park, 6 – 7 p.m. Includes choir and dance performances.
- Dec. 3 – Santa at the Square, Marshall Square Park, 4:30-6:30 p.m. This is a free event but attendees are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate.
- Dec. 3 – Dec. 23 – The Butterfingers Angel, Uptown Knaur Performing Arts Center, 7 and 2 p.m. Tickets, $47/adult; $39/under 18. Visit Uptownwestchester.org for a complete list of performances.
- Dec. 4 – Candlelight Christmas Concert, First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, 4 – 7 p.m. This is free event but a free-will offering will be collected. Reservations requested.
- Dec. 4 – Holiday Open House: Unlocked Art, 426 W. Gay St, 12 – 4 p.m. Enjoy an afternoon of art and connection with artist Sophia A. Foutres.
- Dec. 5 – The Holiday, $5 Movie Mondays, Uptown Knaur Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m. Tickets $5, free popcorn.
- Dec. 6 – The Cartoon Christmas Trio, Uptown Knaur Performing Arts Center, 6:30 p.m. Tickets $28/advance; Students $15/advance.
- Dec. 8 – Radley Run Garden Club 47th Annual Luncheon & Fashion Show, Radley Run Country Club, 10 a.m. – 12:15 p.m Tickets $55/person proceeds go to support local horticultural students.
- Dec. 8 – WCU Statemen and Jazz Combos, Madeleine Wing Adler Theater, Performing Arts Center Lobby, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m. This is a free event. Tickets are not required.
- Dec. 9 – Alumni Speaker Series, Jillian Glace, 1 p.m. Jillian discusses her use of dance and psychology to explore the intersections of dance therapy. This is a virtual event. Registration is required.
- Dec. 10 – Handmade Holiday craft fair, alignSpace (2 Market Street), 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Join West Chester’s first Handmade Holiday featuring the art and craft of 12 local artists.Dec. 11 – Holiday Hoopla, Monkey Fish Toys, 1:30 -3:30 p.m. Stop by for pictures with santa, face painting, and holiday crafts. Plus, every kid gets a free toy!
- Dec. 11 – Hot Chocolate Holiday Market, Charles A. Melton Center, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Food, music, crafts, free hot chocolate, and lots of local vendors to help close out your Christmas list.
- Dec. 11 – WCU Colleguim Musicum Concert, Swope Music Bldg Ware Family Recital Hall, 7:30 – 9 p.m. Membership varies based on interest and ability but there is room for recorder, viol, and broken consorts, as well as singers and keyboardists. This is a free event. Tickets are not required.
- Dec. 13 – Celebrate a Green Holiday, Sykes Ballroom, WCU, 5 – 7:00 p.m. Bring the kids for a fun holiday crafting event. This is free event.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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.