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It’s Friday, Jan. 6: Happy 2023! I hope everyone had a nice holiday and is excited to see what the New Year will bring. I know I am! This week we take a moment to think deeply about the Borough’s proposal to add eight wrought iron gates to Gay Street. The initial rendering didn’t look so bad, but is this really a good idea? Some residents think, no. Plus, four new retail and restaurant openings will make you want to leave the house. Ten(!) failed restaurant inspection reports will make you reconsider. Plus, a dubious new record was set for most violations. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up!
West Chester’s Plans to Gate the Community
No, I am not talking about some fancy new housing development, I am talking about Gay Street. As you’ll recall, early this year Borough of West Chester contractors Traffic Planning and Design (TPD) made a preliminary proposal on how best to close Gay Street for a seasonal, weekend-only closure, and their solution centered on a single idea – gates. After two additional months of noodling, they came back last month and presented their final recommendations to Borough Council. It was essentially the same as the September presentation.
- Add gates to the block ends of Matlack, High, Church and Darlington Street. Benefits: gates would make closing and opening the street easier and safer – end gates, those at Matlack and Darlington, would be strong enough to stop a garbage truck at 45 mph. A proposed wrought iron and brick design would mimic the downtown aesthetic.
- Deploy “Activation zones.” This essentially means, find something to occupy the underutilized areas of the street. Think, the front of the Gay Street Common or the post office. What to do with these areas is TBD.
- Add temporary ramping to make the street handicap accessible during closures.
If you want to watch the presentation for yourself, you can find it here. Jump to the 25-minute mark.
While not much changed in the final presentation to Borough Council, it seems the idea of large wrought iron gates capping both ends of four blocks of Gay Street is starting to make residents uneasy.
In a thread on Reddit started last month titled “The plan to add multiple Gates [sic] to block off Gay Street would be a disaster and absolutely ruin this town permanently,” Ruvibeza challenged the idea. “It is an absolutely horrid idea… It calls for massive gates to be added so that when open, a huge metal rail would box you in from the street. Imagine something so ridiculous at the brand-new Church Street Plaza. The openness we just achieved is being ruined.”
This poster is not alone. I have heard from others who feel the Borough is completely missing the point of what residents had hoped to achieve with the closure. “I am worried about what West Chester is doing,” one reader shared. “They are hyper-focused on temporarily closing the street, but I don’t believe they understand why people want the street closed, or how they want it closed.”
Not everyone in the post’s 28 comments agreed, although most did. “I think it could look worse t[o] b[e] h[onest]. Just needs some visual design improvements,” Mustangs-and-Macs wrote.
Clearing up a couple of misconceptions
If you are concerned the Borough is heading in the wrong direction on this project and I can see why you may be worried (so far it does not seem resident feedback is being prioritized), there is no reason to panic yet. Several of the items generating the most concern are not as black and white as being presented.
Bollards are an option. While bollards wouldn’t be as easy to install as the proposed gates, it could be done if you used the most shallow foundations possible. “Bollards could be feasible. You could thread the needle between all those utilities but it’s not to say it would be easy,” Randy Waltermyer, Planning and Municipal Services Lead for Traffic Planning and Design, told Council.
They are also less expensive than gates – according to the Sept. presentation, end bollards would cost $75,000 compared to $115,000 for end gates with columns; interior bollards $50,000 compared to $92,500 for interior gates.
The Borough will not be paying for this project. The project, according to TPD, would cost an estimated $1.268 million to complete. Most of this money will need to come from grants, not the Borough, which is good because the Borough has no money to fund such a project in its already tight operating budget. It certainly doesn’t have anything allocated to this in 2023.
This project is not imminent. Infrastructure for a permanent closure will not happen anytime soon (see above). The first grant proposed by Traffic Planning and Design opens in July and would not likely be issued before the end of the year. Even at its max, it’s modest for the project ($125,000) and would require the Borough to chip in $37,500. This means actual construction wouldn’t begin until 2024 at the earliest when more grant funding becomes available. (A “phased” option was floated which could mean starting with a single pilot gate. I don’t think the Borough has the funding to do even this within the next year but we’ll have to wait and see.)
“This does come at the trade-off of time,” said Randy about the proposal to pursue grants to fund the project. “There are ways to get to the finish line more aggressively but would likely come with more Borough expenditures,” he said.
Next steps: None were outlined at the meeting. The 2023 closure is set to begin May 5, and will likely follow a similar set-up as last year. Before any components of a long-term project could begin, Borough Council would have to authorize funds. Stay tuned here for updates. Want to get it off your chest now? You can always reach out to your Borough Council rep directly.
Restaurant Health Inspection Reports
I am not sure what happened at the end of the year, but our kitchens were a miss. This month nine restaurants, one snack bar and one senior living facility failed their health inspections, and Gram’s Kitchen set a special record – most violations seen on a single report. January is a slow month for most restaurants so hopefully, these offenders will have plenty of time to clean up their acts.
ACAC, out, 6 violations including “Clean and sanitize the following surfaces/equipment: interior and exterior of all ice machines, smoothie blenders and pitchers, panini press.” Also the floors, walls, and all walk-in units. So, everything. Just clean it all.
Dunkin’ Donuts, 607 E. Market St, out, 7 violations including mineral-like build-up in the women’s sink, floors that need cleaning and leaky plumbing.
Playa Bowl, 22 S. High St, out, 8 violations including ready-to-eat foods not being date marked, food being stored on the floor, and milk and fruit being held in a broken cooler. Both items were discarded onsite and employees were instructed not to use the cooler until it is fixed.
Pizza Peddler, Westtown Shopping Center, out, 11 violations including “Clean the following immediately and maintain in clean condition: knives on holder and knife holder, inside flap of ice machine, deli slicer, shelving in walk-in refrigerator, and egg slicer.” Also, shelves, cooking equipment, floors, walls and ceiling of walk-in refrigerator, and inside of the microwave.
Westtown Amish Market, 6 market stands were found out-of-compliance with a total of 40 violations. Among those out-of-compliance Fisher’s Salad, H&L Grill, J&R’s Bakery, Jarlan’s Poultry, Old Barn Candy & Bulk Foods, and Pretzel & Log House. The most serious violations seem to belong to Jarlan’s Poultry which was issued violations for not properly reheating its chicken and an overall dirty kitchen environment.
Sunrise Senior Living of Westtown, out, 13 violations including Advion cockroach bait found in the kitchen, salmon in the refrigerator date-marked 11/16 (the inspection took place 12/6) and a dishwasher not reaching “proper wash temperatures.”
No. 1 China Xiong’s Restaurant, Five Points Rd, out, 7 violations including dumplings not being properly heated, unpackage food stored in cardboard rather than commercial grade food-storage containers and a series of dirty can-openers.
Lukoil/Kwik Farms, Hannum Ave, out, 13 violations including unlabeled bags of tea and dry food for sale (who is buying unlabeled food items from a gas station?), restrooms found to be “extremely dirty, dusty, and in need of cleaning” and “rodent droppings” observed on the sales floor.
Gramm’s Kitchen, E. Gay St., out, 29 (!) violations including well, it’s too hard to list them all just note in this one visit the cheese, three trays of eggs, ham, a half-used bottle of Thousand Island dressing, chicken breading, liquid eggs (date marked June 2022), sausage, an open beverage container, a plate of prepared food, and some single-use containers all had to be disposed of onsite. Makes you wonder what happens when no one’s watching. Also, “Raid, a restricted use pesticide, is being applied in the food facility by a non-certified applicator.” So maybe that.
Wings to Go, E. Gay St. out, 7 violations, including coleslaw stored without a date, fryer baskets broken and in disrepair, and Raid, once again, “being applied in the food facility by a non-certified applicator.”
On the other hand, I am happy to report, Slow Hand and Shawarma Kebab house, both of which were previously out of compliance, aced their follow-up inspections. Just a single violation between the two.
You can find all reports here. Search by location for more detail.
America’s Pie Fire
Just before the New Year misfortune hit America’s Pie. The E. Gay St pizzeria suffered substantial damage in a Dec. 27 fire and the subsequent dumping of 60,000 gallons of water by the onsite sprinkler system. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the family-owned eatery is vowing to come back better than ever.
“The store was destroyed in the kitchen and some of dining room, but we are all planning and brainstorming to get back up and running asap!!! Who’s on board to help Matt Reed our founder whose whole motto in everything he does is to pay it forward! Let’s give back to him and come back stronger than ever!!” they shared via Facebook.
A gas leak seems to have caused the fire. America’s Pie is closed for now but they are planning a two-day reopening celebration for later in the month. Follow them on social, if you would like updates on that.
Watch out for the weather. Since we last spoke it’s been a mix of unseasonably cold and unseasonably warm temps leading to numerous trees down and a variety of dangerous driving conditions. I give you exhibit A and B.
Have you seen this man. West Chester police are seeking community assistance in identifying a man wanted in conjunction with a theft at the Gay Street Rite Aid in the Borough. Take a good look here and then contact Officer Graham at 610-696-2700 if the pic rings any bells.
Send Santa home. A vintage Santa was reported stolen from a Union Street yard early Sunday morning. Mr. Claus was believed to have been nabbed by a crew of partying college students. To make matters worse they dinged the owner’s car as they attempted their escape. Police put in some stellar work to track the perpetrators down and get them to return the plastic statue with an apology. No word on who will fix the car.
Check those smoke detector batteries. This week the West Chester fire department responded to an active fire alarm at a Hagerty Blvd. building. Upon arriving they found and extinguished a small fire that would have been a lot worse if not for the alarm.
A big round of applause this week to Rustin Head Football Coach Mike St. Clair who was recognized at Sunday’s game against New Orleans as the Philadelphia Eagles High School Coach of the Year! Watch the award presentation here.
On the winter sports front, a shout-out to the Rustin Boys Basketball team who come up with a clutch win over Henderson this week. Check out #14’s last-second reverse layup for the win. Rustin will face East tomorrow night. A win will effectively secure West Chester bragging rights for the year as East beat Henderson earlier in December.
On the girls basketball front, Rustin will take on East on Saturday. East will play Henderson later in the month (1/19) but Henderson and Rustin do not meet this year so there will be no outright West Chester champ.
Also, congratulations to Westtown’s Crebilly Farm Preservation project which secured $6 million in state grants in the last couple of months of the year to help preserve the 208-acre property. The township needs roughly $15 million in raised funds plus resident tax support to complete the deal as designed.
And speaking of local grant winners, high fives to Community Volunteers in Medicine, which received $1.5 million to expand its vaccination and pandemic support initiatives, and the Chester County Food Bank, which received $450,000 to purchase more food for the community. Both were recipients of second-round grants from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“CVIM received 5,521 calls from people seeking our services in Fiscal Year 2022, which is a 41% increase over the previous year,” shared CVIM communications specialist Laura Pataricity. “Because 100% of our funding comes from philanthropy–and 67% of that is from individual donors–we work tirelessly as stewards of that funding to work toward meeting the needs of our local community,” she said.
This money will go a long way to helping CVIM meet its community goals including hiring a new Public Health Coordinator role.
Exciting news! Hannum Seafood & Produce opened last week across the street from the Beer Mill. This corner market features a selection of fresh fish, seafood, and produce – many of which you can’t find a nearby Giant. Think whole sea bass, fresh oysters, and wild rock fillet – all at a fair price.
Nostalgic for the community markets of her childhood in Africa, Aisha Toure, who owns the store with her husband Al Lenenta, had long wanted to bring a similar shopping experience to the Borough. The West Chester couple found their opportunity after noting there was no good option to buy fresh fish locally (previously you had to head to Hill’s in Exton or Gadaleto’s in Westtown. Nothing you could hit up on your afternoon run like I did.). So they stocked their unassuming new location, it’s on the end next to the Lukoil Mart, with a wide selection of fresh fish, seafood, and pre-made crab cakes as well as many locally-sourced vegetables, fruits, and garlic, and flipped the open sign last weekend.
I’ve already run into a few neighbors that have been and I plan on checking them out this weekend (to shop this time.) Senior citizens get a 25 percent discount on Wednesdays.
Also opening this week, Manje Caribbean Cuisine at 237 E. Gay Street. I couldn’t find much about the new location except it’s “fresh, flavorful food” and not Italian food.
And more good news for you vegetable-forward eaters, Ground Provisions, a vegetable restaurant and country store from the couple behind Philly’s Vedge is now open. Well, at least the market portion is. According to their new and already well-followed Instagram, dining will be following soon. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it will be a 24-seat vegan restaurant at the former home of the Innkeeper’s Kitchen in Dilworthtown. Housing just eight tables the restaurant is promising a “modern fine-dining menu that will be approachable in both cost and atmosphere.”
Also, a reminder, new legislative districts are now in effect. The 19th District, which is represented by Senator Carolyn Comitta, now includes West Goshen and East Goshen. Want to chat with your new (or old) Senator her 2023 office hours can be found here.
The West Chester Area School District has a new 2023-2024 school calendar it is shopping around. Under the proposed calendar, 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.
And finally, hello, to a new event space option downtown. Turks Head Cafe recently announced it will be opening the upstairs area for events, business meetings, bridal showers, graduation parties, workshops – you get the idea.
Goodbye, Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths and greenery. Borough Christmas Tree collection will happen during the first two weeks of January. So if you missed it this week, you still have one more week. Place your tree next to your trash for pickup.
Westtown will pick up their trees on Jan. 7, East Bradford on January 14 and 21.
Have the trees out early to make sure they are picked up (before 6 a.m.). All trees should be bare of decorations, lights, and tree bags. If the trees are larger than 6’, Westtown is asking that they be cut in half.
Also, goodbye, Buy Nothing West Chester. Fortunately, in name only and not for good. The West Chester community group dedicated to limiting waste by finding new homes for old or unappreciated items has been renamed “Gifting in West Chester Borough, PA.”
According to a post by site admins, the group name was changed after the founders of the original Buy Nothing Project trademarked the name. “So it can no longer be used by anyone else,” the site said. “Nothing else will change. All the generous gifting and grateful receiving will continue as before.”
Buy Nothing is a neighborhood-based project so there are several in this area, if you live outside the Borough you may want to check in with your local group to see if their name has changed as well.
Last month also marked the end of Tommy’s Original Pizza. The Parkway Shopping Center pizzeria closed last month after more than a decade of pepperoni-packed pies.
“After serving the West Chester community for over a decade Tommy’s Original Pizza is officially no more. We are in the process of remodeling & rebranding into a fun new exciting concept called Let’s Roll: Pizza – Egg Rolls – Steaks,” they shared on their Facebook page.
Well, that new concept is now open. There are still pizza and wings, but they have also added gourmet egg rolls, “boli” rolls and a selection of dessert rolls.
Want to see a list of all the closures in 2022? You can find that here.
Pay it forward.
This week West Chester’s female firefighters were profiled by NBC 10. Their reporting found that while the number of overall volunteer firefighters is down. The number of female fighters is growing. Watch the piece here. Want to volunteer? Woman or man, sign up here.
Note: fire fighting is not all running into burning buildings sometimes it’s dressing as Santa and delivering toys and huge smiles to neighborhood kids.
Ready to give back this year? West Chester East Lacrosse is hosting a clothing and shoe drive this Sunday. They are asking that all new or gently used items be tied in bags and brought to the West Chester East parking lot. The drive is also a fundraiser that is being used to support the lacrosse program. You can find more details here.
Ready to give back in a completely unique way? East Goshen is currently accepting applications for its Poet Laureate position. Applications are due by Jan. 15 if you’re interested in this two-year appointment.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? I don’t know about you but now that all the holiday decorations are put away and the downstairs is no longer bathed in the soft glow of Christmas lights, things are beginning to feel a little dingy. Maybe this new year needs to start with a decorating refresh. Some new pillows? New fabric for the kitchen chairs? Or maybe I’ll just snuggle up with some design magazines?
If you are around this weekend, it’s the first First Friday of the year. The West Chester Grower’s Market returns on Saturday with limited winter hours (10-12), Gemelli has a buy-one-pint-get-one-free special running (so much for New Year’s resolutions), and Uptown is hosting a Rainbow Fish musical for West Chester’s littlest theater lovers (best for kids K-4). Not ready to venture out yet either? Mae’s is introducing two new chef’s tasting menus – that don’t start until next week.
Need more dining ideas? County Line Magazine is out with its “Best of” issue – including a feature on the evolution of West Chester’s restaurant scene.
And this week a very special thank you to Lulu’s Casita for joining Hello, West Chester as our latest Community Sponsor. Lulu’s Casita is an indoor playroom for the pre-K set. If you have a little one and have not visited their vibrant playroom, you need to make a plan to head over. The kids absolutely love it and it’s specially designed to entertain little minds, so you will actually get a moment to yourself!
Lulu’s Casita is an Indoor Playroom for children ages 0-6 years. It’s located in the heart of the Borough off the cross of High and Gay Streets. Join them for daily open play, award-winning birthday parties, character events, and more! Stay tuned for a full lineup of Spring/Summer Outdoor Family Events. Find them on Facebook or Instagram!
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to join this community? You can find out how here.
Mark your calendars:
- Jan. 6 – First Friday, downtown West Chester, enjoy free street parking during the event.
- Jan. 6 – Trivia Night, West Chester Public Library, 7 – 8 p.m. This is a virtual event. Registration is required.
- Jan. 7, 8 – The Rainbow Fish Musical, Uptown Theater, 1 p.m. showing both days, a second 7 p.m. showing on Saturday. Musical adaptation of the award-winning book,The Rainbow Fish, with its wonderful message of friendship and belonging. Recommended for K-4. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for those 11 and under
- Jan. 8 – Faunbrook Open House, Faunbrook Bed & Breakfast, 1 – 3 p.m. Planning a 2023 wedding or just curious about the historic home? Stop by for a tour and samples from Brandywine Catering.
- Jan. 10 – Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne, 7-8 p.m. This is a virtual “pay as you wish” event from by the Chester County History Center.
- Jan. 10 – Off the Rail Karaoke! Split Rail Tavern, 10:00 p.m. – 1 a.m. Warning this event may include drag queens. This fun, no-cover event takes place every Tuesday night at Split Rail Tavern.
- Jan. 13 – Yoga Storytime, West Chester Public Library, 10:30 – 11 a.m. Designed for children 2 -6 years old. Registration required.
- Jan. 13 – Mary Kane’s Triumphant Abstractions, Church Street Gallery, Opening reception, 5 – 8 p.m.
- Jan. 13 – The Rainbow Fish Musical, Uptown Theater, 7 p.m. Musical adaptation of the award-winning book, The Rainbow Fish, with its wonderful message of friendship and belonging. Recommended for K-4. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for those 11 and under. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for those 11 and under.
- Jan. 15 – The Rainbow Fish Musical, Uptown Theater, 1 p.m. Musical adaptation of the award-winning book, The Rainbow Fish, with its wonderful message of friendship and belonging. Recommended for K-4. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for those 11 and under.
- Jan. 18 – 3rd Wednesday Book Discussion, West Chester Public Library, 1 – 2 p.m. January’s book is Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. No registration required. Bring a brown bag lunch.
- Jan. 19 – Hybrid Book Discussion – A History of Ukraine, 10 – 11 a.m. This is a virtual “pay as you wish” event from by the Chester County History Center.
- Jan. 19 – The Sweet and Savory Sides of Chocolate, 7 – 8 p.m. This is a virtual event presented by the West Chester Public Library and Vanessa Yound of the Thirsty Radish. Registration is required.
- Jan. 20 – Better Than Bacon, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Chester County’s wonderful improv group. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at the door.
- Jan. 21 – Drone Workshop, American Helicopter Museum, 1 – 4 p.m. In this 3-hour workshop, you will learn about the different parts of a drone. You will learn the science behind drone flight, and even get to fly a drone on several missions. Tickets: $80, includes a micro drone.
- That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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