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West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Dec. 9, 2022

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – everywhere you go.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, Dec. 9: Where’s the money going? A street-by-street look at PennDOT’s $2 million High Street investment. Spoiler alert: It’s going to affect parking. Plus, the new owners of the Burger King property make a poor first impression, two business closures, one new opening and restaurant inspection reports. Not to mention a ton of fun things to do this weekend. Anyone up for a drink at the Jingle bar? Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

Play-by-play of the proposed High Street improvements

This week PennDOT held a public meeting and outlined their plans for a 2-million dollar pedestrian improvement project along the High Street corridor, but not the entire High Street corridor. The project focuses on S. High Street from Miner St. to Rosedale Ave. Below is a list of key takeaways as well as a look at the changes planned for each intersection.

Key takeaways and changes – 

Miner and BArnard Streets

PennDOT will add bump-outs to all four corners at Miner shortening the crossing distance from curb to curb. At Barnard they will add bump-outs to two corners as well as in front of the 7-11 parking area. According to the plan representatives, they are looking to better “channelize” cars coming and going into the 7-11 parking lot.

One of the meeting attendees asked if there would be a crosswalk added at Barnard Street. While the project doesn’t currently include it, they are looking at it. “We are hesitant to add a striped crosswalk without a signal. We want to speak with the property owner [new owner of the Burger King property] about what to do about the apron,” PennDOT Project Manager Vince Cerbone said.

Union and Dean Streets

Parking exclusion areas (black angular stripes) will be added to High Street northbound just before E. Union and southbound before Dean Street. In addition, bump-outs will push parked cars down and improve sightlines. “You do lose some parking here but that is not uncommon in these improvements,” said Mr. Cerbone. Bump-outs are also being added at Union Street, Dean and Magnolia.

PennDOT will add a curb extension at Lacy Street and eliminate the Lacy to High Street crosswalk. Pedestrians will be encouraged to cross at Price Street where there is a light.

Sharpless and E. Nields Street

Sharpless will get a new light and a new left turn lane. As with all the new stop lights, change signals will be slightly delayed (3 seconds) to give pedestrians a head start and make them more visible in the intersection. They will eliminate parking heading north toward Sharpless. 

University Ave. to Rosedale Ave.

University Ave will also be getting a new signal and curb extensions which will be synchronized with Linden Street to help reduce congestion in this area. They’ll add curb extensions on the north side of Linden Street as well as a second pedestrian crossing there (indicated by the striped lines).

The Project stops at the northern edge of Rosedale Avenue where PennDOT will add a tapered, curved extension.

Expect project planning and prepping to continue through 2023 with road work beginning in the spring of 2024. So you have some time to come to terms with the changes – and find new places to park. 

Watch the full presentation for yourself here.

Eyesore to example

When we first moved to the Borough, we lived on the northwest end of town and I would walk frequently to town past this property on the corner of E. Washington and N. High Street. It always stood out to me for its neglect (probably not helped by its visible and well-kept neighbors First Church-Christ Scientist and Chester County History Center). The yard was so completely overgrown as to render the property nearly unrecognizable. This, as I have learned, was not always the case. 

The property, which was one of this year’s West Chester Preservation Awards recipients, was once home to one of West Chester’s earliest leaders, Chief Burgess (aka mayor) Uriah V. Pennypacker who led the Borough during the construction of the old courthouse. However, by 1914 the home had been sold and converted into apartments, and not long after it began to fall into disrepair. Fortunately, after years of neglect, 229 N. High Street is ready to show its face again. The building has been cleaned up and the exterior rehabilitated, new egress stairs were added and the distinctive wrap-around porch carefully restored.  

The goal of the West Chester Preservation Awards is to bring the architecture of West Chester to life by encouraging the preservation of the Borough’s historic character. “It’s our belief,” said committee chairman Allen Burke, “people love West Chester but can’t always put their finger on why.” Perhaps, he’s right but I can tell you this – that property looks so much better now!

Fun fact: The building was formerly so nondescript no one thought to take a picture of it – thus, no before and after. 

Restaurant inspection reports

Shwarma Kebab House on E. Market Street

November restaurant inspection reports are out and the big offender was Shawarma Kebab House on E. Market Street. The family-owned kabab shop had a rough month with 17 violations leading the inspector to offer this final conclusion, “Person in charge and food employees did not demonstrate adequate knowledge to prevent foodborne illness in the facility as evidenced by the observations noted on this inspection.” Not exactly a comforting review. 

Also, in trouble with the Health Inspector our Friday-night sushi spot, Wasabi. (Sometimes commitment to the truth hurts.) Wasabi was written up with 10 violations including moldy dish racks and a broken refrigerator that was not cooling food to safe temperatures. (We did brave it last weekend and had no complaints.)

And finally, Brother’s Pizza was also found to be out of compliance with five violations including a tuna salad not being stored at adequately cool temps and an ice machine “observed having black mold on it and was not clean to sight and touch.”

You can find all reports here. Search by location for more detail. 

**Sponsored**

Lulu’s Casita hosts first-ever Christmas at the Park celebration

Next Saturday Lulu’s Casita would like you to meet them and Santa in Marshall Square Park for a magical, kid-centric holiday extravaganza. The indoor playground on  N. High Street, which has been perfecting little kid play for almost five years now, is moving the fun outdoors with its first-ever Christmas at the Park event! 

“Outdoor events have always been a dream of mine and we’re super lucky to have such beautiful Parks here in the borough,” said Lulu Casita owner Lisa Elliott about the new event. 

Kids will revel in a morning of music, dancing and ornament-making! There will be pictures with Santa Claus, a story time session with Anna & Elsa, and special guest appearances by Elmo, Elf on the Shelf, and more. This fun event will surely bring a smile to your child’s chocolate-smeared face – did I mention there’s a hot chocolate station? There’s a hot chocolate station. 

Christmas in the Park will be held on Dec. 17 from 9:30 am to noon. Tickets are $30 per child; $5 per adult. For more information and to reserve your spot email luluswestchester@gmail.com

Thank you to Lulu’s Casita for their support of Hello, West Chester.

***

The warnings.

Time to rethink those life choices. Zahkee Austin, 22 of Philadelphia, was arrested by the Philadelphia police on Tuesday morning after what can only be described as an evening of bad choices. Mr. Austin began his Sunday night with a carjacking in (not so) Nicetown. Then he fired shots at an elderly couple in Delaware County before ending his night in the early morning hours of Dec. 5 with the armed robbery of the Exxon station on S. High Street. His gains, however, were short-lived. He was arrested a little over 24 hours later and is now being held on $1 million bail. 

Don’t let those trees go dry. Yes, fires caused by Christmas trees are a tiny piece (less than 0.1 percent) of the U.S. fire problem but they can sure put a damper on your holiday. This has been a friendly reminder from your neighborhood Fire Department.  

Check your email Promo tab. If you use Gmail, you may want to check your promo tab for last week’s Roundup newsletter (or you can click here). To keep them from being filtered out in the future drag the email back to Primary. After you’ve done this you should see a temporary popup asking if you want future emails from Hello, West Chester to go directly to Primary. Click yes, because of course you do. 

See something, say something. In a bit of good warning news, West Goshen couple Don and Joan were applauded this week by the West Goshen police for finding and returning a lost wallet. The wallet was eventually reunited with its very grateful owner.

Accolades. 

Congratulations to the WCU women’s soccer team on an excellent run. Only once this year did the Lady Golden Ram’s defense give up more than one goal in a game. Unfortunately it came with less than eight minutes to play in the National Championship. West Chester University would not recover that second score eventually losing the match 2-1 to Western Washington. While it may not seem like it right now, this was an amazing season marking the first time in school history the women’s soccer team has played in the national championship game. And to top it off, WCU had three players make the all-tournament team: Kaitlynn Haughey, Alyson Cutter and Deanna Lebotesis.

While we were caught up in soccer fever last week, we overlooked an impressive post-season run by the Rustin Football team. After losing much of their offense with last year’s graduating class, they could have hidden behind the cover of a “rebuilding year” but they didn’t. Instead, led by a small but dedicated group of seniors, the Golden Knights kept fighting, advancing to the District 1 5A finals for the third year in a row. They gave a tough Upper Dublin team their greatest challenge yet but in the end, it wasn’t enough. At Rustin, they have a saying, “Tradition Never Graduates.” So perhaps next year will the rebuilding year, or maybe not. 

Also, this week congratulations to the Rustin Marching Band which is in Hawaii this week to represent Pennsylvania’s Veterans that served on the USS Pennsylvania in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Day parade and a shout-out to the Little Lincolns. It can’t be easy as a middle-schoooler to get up in front of a crowd dressed as the 16th president and recite the Gettyburg Address.

On the healthcare front, kudos to Chester County Hospital for once again achieving an “A” safety rating from the independent healthcare watchdog group Leapfrog. These ratings look at a hospital’s “ability to protect patients from preventable errors.” Chester County Hospital was one of 39 PA hospitals to receive the top score. 

Also, a round of applause to Barclay Friends which made US News & World Report’s list of Best Nursing Homes. The 96-bed facility received a “high performing” rating in both the short-term rehabilitation and the long-term care categories. Not fairing so well, Brandywine Hall at 800 W. Miner Street. This large 180-bed facility received a below-average ranking in short-term rehabilitation care. Just under 40 percent of patients were able to return home after being discharged. This is below the state and national average of 51.4 and 53.8 percent respectively.

Finally some individual shout-outs: 

Hello. 

Back but different: Henderson is no longer the home of Brian’s Run.

Grab those base layers and gloves. Lace-up those shoes and get ready to run. Brian’s Run returns this Sunday for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020, but don’t worry if your running hasn’t quite kept up over the years. It seems that like much else, Brian’s Run is the victim of shrinkflation. 

Now one of West Chester’s most recognizable races, Brian’s Run began with modest aspirations in 1978: help raise $500 in funds to help Brian Bratcher, a West Chester Henderson High School football player who had just suffered a paralyzing spinal injury. The inaugural race started at Henderson and wound its way through the Borough before returning to the high school. It raised 40 times its goal and went on to become a December tradition. 

When the race began it was a 10K. In 2009 it was shortened to a 5-mile loop through the Borough. Now it is being shrunk again to a 5K and will be run at Rustin (not Henderson). In years past, the race has been called one of the “100 Great Races” (Runner’s World) and a “Top 10 Philly Races To Do” (Philadelphia Magazine). I am not sure this new format will live up to that reputation, but the cause is still a worthy one. All profits will be donated to the West Chester Food Cupboard to help fight hunger in the local community.

And just as I was beginning to wrap my brain around 2023, it’s hello to 2024. Last month the West Chester Area School Board approved the first reading of the 2023-2024 school calendar

Under the proposed calendar school there will be:

School will start the week before Labor Day with a four-day week (rather than five days as there was this year). The last day will be June 13. The calendar will be open for public comment until the next Education Committee Meeting on January 9, 2023. If you have suggestions send them to Director of Elementary Education and keeper of the calendar, Dr. Sara Missett

Finally, a warm welcome to the Juice Pod – West Chester which opened last week on N. Church Street. The Juice Pod is a regional franchise (locations in Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, Malvern, Lionville, Downingtown, etc.) that specializes in raw juices and clean eating  – think bowls, Acai Bowls, Green Bowls, Grain Bowls, Poke Bowls – and for dessert, Chia Pudding Bowls. Want to check them out? They are offering discounts for college students, high school students, active military and courthouse employees. 

Goodbye.

Al Boyd of Al’s Automotive is turning in his wrenches. We found him on a Car Talk recommendation.

This week we say goodbye to Al Boyd and Al’s Automotive. Al, who has served as our family mechanic for at least a decade and the Borough for more than three, has announced his retirement and has closed his S. Wayne Street auto shop. The garage equipment will be sold off in a liquidation sale next week, the phone number and customer records will go with Michael, the shop’s lead mechanic for the last 24 years. Michael will be opening his own shop somewhere outside the Borough in January – not sure exactly where yet, but not nearly as convenient for us as Al’s. Thanks, Al, it was nice having a mechanic you could trust not to upsell you. 

Also this week, we are saying goodbye to Meatball U on S. High Street.  In a message to fans left on social, the owners confirmed they would be closing permanently on Dec. 18. 

“We want to thank you all so much for your support and patronage. It has been a pleasure serving you. Keep grabbing life by the balls,” they wrote.

Also, all you Christmas tree procrastinators (us included), Wiggins tree farm is out of trees. “Our West Chester Farm is SOLD OUT for the season,” they shared Monday on Facebook. They still have pre-cut trees available or you can drive to their Cochranville Farm

Other nearish options include Rasbach Tree Farm on Telegraph Road, Bernard’s Tree Farm in Honey Brook, and Arader Farm in Collegeville.  

Finally this week, we say goodbye to the Sycamore trees at the property of the former Burger King on High Street. The trees were cut down after several centuries of life presumably to make way for a new development project. The borough arborist spoke with the owners and asked that they preserve the historic and healthy tree, they however refused. When the Burger King was built in the 1980s it was reportedly done so with assurances the trees would be saved, I guess no such agreement was reached this time. What is truly unfortunate is the trees appeared to be at the edge of the property, so it’s hard to say who’s way they would have been in.

Pay it forward.

Most Toys for Tots collections ended this week but there are still plenty of ways to pay it forward this season.

Today is the last day to grab yourself an angel off the Oscar Lasko YMCA Angel tree. This year the tree has been stuffed with the names of 200 local kids in need of some holiday cheer. This is 55 more names than last year and, while usually by this time of the month the names are all gone, as of Wednesday roughly 20 still remained. 

If you would like to participate, just walk up to the main desk and let them know. Each angel comes with an about-sheet including age, size, and interests, a large plastic Santa bag with a name tag, and a zip tie to bundle and seal your collection of wrapped gifts. The process has been streamlined this year with a new online input system which will hopefully make delivery to onsite Santa’s helpers (cough) guardians (cough) easier. 

Also, in desperate need of more toys, the Andrew L. Hicks Jr. Foundation which is hoping to provide a Christmas experience for more than 500 Chester children ages 5 to 12. 

The donated toys will be displayed toy-store style at Widener University’s Schwartz Athletic Center where families can “shop” for gifts and even have them wrapped by volunteers. If you would like to help, drop your new, unwrapped toy off at one of the below locations by Dec. 12. Monkey Fish Toys is a partner so if you get your toy there you will also get 10% off your purchase – just let them know. 

Rather take out than pick up? West Chester University’s SigEp fraternity will gladly take those new or gently used hats, scarfs, gloves and coats off your hands, all part of their annual coat drive. Donations are being accepted through today just add them to the collection box outside 614 S. Walnut Street.  

Speaking of coat collections, a little love this week to Keystone Volvo which delivered 300 coats to the West Chester Area School district last month. The coats, which marked the largest donation in the 15-year collaboration, will be distributed to economically disadvantaged students within the district.

And while I am sure we’d all rather give, it is certainly ok to receive. This year has lots of people stressed, so to help take some of that away the Oscar Lasko YMCA on Chestnut Street has opened a resource pantry stocked with food and personal care items. If you need something, just stop by the front desk and a team member will help you out.  

The freakin’ weekend. 

Should be a good weekend for a self-guided holiday tour.

What are you up to this weekend? We are going to get that Christmas tree (squeezed between a half-dozen weekend basketball games and a couple dozen kindness cookies.) 

If you are hanging out this weekend, the Chester County Art Association is bringing back its $300 and Under gallery show. The show which features reasonably priced pieces of original art from local artists opened last night and will continue through December 23. If you are looking for art, go sooner rather than later. When it’s gone, it’s gone. On Sunday is the return of the Melton’s Center Hot Chocolate Market, 11am to 3pm. I did not go last year but I heard it was really well done.

Want something a little more low-key but no less festive? Sterling Pig has introduced Jingle at Sterling Pig Public House or what they are calling a “Christmas pop-up to bring you joy during the holiday season.” I have to say it does look fun. 

For a complete list of holiday events – I made you an event guide! You can find it here.

And this week a very special thank you to Andrea Napoli Real Estate for joining Hello, West Chester as our latest Community Sponsor. A board member of the West Chester Senior Center and active in numerous local organizations, Andrea understands the role communities play in making a home feel special. With more than 20 years living in and serving the West Chester area, Andrea is what is known as a local real estate expert!

Representing West Chester buyers and sellers, Andrea has built a loyal client base by paying attention to the details and putting their needs first. She brings exceptional knowledge of the industry, the market and the West Chester community and is committed to putting the person back in the process. Learn more at Andrea Napoli Real Estate.

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That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

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