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It’s Friday, Mar. 31: Developers speak for the first time about their plans for 410 S. High Street, the former home of Burger King. Parking, traffic, and a bizarre duel sidewalk have residents worried. Plus, charges for the Westtown-East Goshen officer involved in the death of a biker, and Spring events start with a vengeance this weekend – and no, they are not just for kids. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
This week lawyers, developers, engineers, architects, and traffic planners, most in sleek suits from well-connected firms, stood before West Chester’s Planning Commission on Tuesday evening with seemingly two goals – one, to introduce their new mixed-use project planned for 410 S. High, current home of the abandoned Burger King, and two, calm the fears of the three dozen or more residents that had crowded into Borough Chambers ready to voice concerns. Here’s what you missed:
Details of the project:
- Project overview: Plans call for a mixed-use building with first-floor retail, 125 1BR and 2BR apartments (700 sq. ft and 1150 sq. ft respectively) above, and parking below.
- Parking: 114 residential spaces, 31 retail spaces, and 25 “bonus” residential spaces
- Traffic flow: Traffic to the property will enter and exit on Dean and Price Streets. The entrance ramp on High Street will be removed.
- Design: There are no architectural renderings available at this time but the architect has indicated he will pull his design cues from the town center rather than the neighboring residential areas.
- Developer: Pete Staz, Principal owner, Core Development
- Architect: Timothy Cassidy, Bernardon
- West Chester Planning Commission: Members
- Borough: Kevin Gore, West Chester Building and Housing Director
- Residents of West Chester’s 3rd Ward – others were there, of course, but these represented the majority of voices.
What the developers want you to know:
They are from this area – and even if they don’t live here, per se, they often work and/or dine here.
They have done this before – Developer Pete Staz of Core Development touted his company’s work on the award-winning Cricket Flats and Shops in Ardmore that combined “77 luxury apartments with 12,000 sq ft of retail space and a 105 space parking garage.” The same architecture firm, although, not the same architect, designed the 44 West Plaza at the corner of High and Gay Streets. The engineer (I think. It was hard to keep track of all the name-dropping) worked on the Chestnut Square Apartments. Anyway, you get their point.
They care about this community. “I believe our values match those of the community,” Mr. Staz said early in his presentation, shortly after mentioning his daughter’s affinity for Insomnia Cookies. “We are passionate about vibrant town centers and we’ve developed a handful of them,” he said.
They can do this by right, or at least they believe they can. This essentially means the plans they are presenting – the building height, location on the lot, provided parking, and stormwater requirements – fall squarely within West Chester’s Zoning Code requirements for building in the town center. It is their belief they will not need to request any variances from the Borough. They are looking for a couple of waivers regarding the proximity of the stormwater mitigation system to the exterior wall of the underground parking garage.
Top concerns from everyone else:
Parking. While parking for the site is said to be self-contained, residents raised concerns about the potential for Borough guest passes for residents as well as spaces lost to a Dean Street entrance.
Traffic. This was a concern raised by many. “I think it might be a little understated,” Planning Commission member Matthew Clap said of the traffic impact to spontaneous applause from the audience. Resident Ann Carrol suggested the traffic engineers were not out at the correct times. “Peak travel is when classes change,” she said of the neighborhood’s many university students. An increased number of delivery trucks and large vehicles was also raised as a concern.
Walking experience. The current site plan has a double sidewalk going down High Street. There is to be a street-level sidewalk that would pass by the concrete wall of the underground parking garage and an elevated, upward-sloping sidewalk that would bring you past the shop windows and then down a flight of stairs (or presumably an ADA ramp) to return to the existing street level sidewalk. A lot of questions were raised about this design. “What is the High Street experience going to be?” Planning Commission member Thomas Dougherty asked. This was echoed by residents. “This is supposed to be a walking Borough,” one stated.
Size. With plans that reach just about the edge of the property line, the sheer bulk of the building had many worried. “Is there a shadow study being done?” asked resident Richard Eagles.“Think through the details of the facade and the impact on that corner,” advised Planning Commission Chair Jason Birl. “I would like to see it more open.” Member Dougherty agreed. He referenced neighboring “Burger View,” a Clinton Alley development project affectionately named for its proximity to the Burger King. In that development, architects meticulously set out to recreate the homes on Darlington Street down to the detail of the window placement. “I would like to see something more like that, that represents the character of the Borough,” said Dougherty.
In all, it was a lot of feedback for the developers to consider. However, with potentially little they need from the Borough (there are questions about height and setbacks that suggest they may not technically meet Zoning requirements), we’ll have to wait and see how much they take to heart and how much leverage the Borough has to encourage them to do more.
Was there anything on which everyone agreed? Actually, yes, nearly everyone agreed it is nice something is being done with the lot.
Next steps – The saga continues at next month’s Planning Commission meeting. Expect to see architectural renderings for the project and perhaps get a vote on the preliminary plans.
Want to see the drama for yourself? It’s now available on YouTube.
Spring Events Are Everywhere
While last week marked the official start of spring, it wasn’t until this week that I started getting those spring day vibes and that desire to blow off all responsibilities in exchange for a beverage and a book outside. If you too are actively seeking excuses to be outside, West Chester has you covered with more than a dozen, mostly bunny-themed, adventures to keep you occupied. Here are some of the highlights.
West Chester Borough Easter Egg Hunt
The Annual West Chester Easter Egg Hunt returns tomorrow with more than 5,000 eggs scattered around the fields and playgrounds of Everhart Park. Hunting – or rather the frenzied collecting of eggs not so much hidden as dropped in droves on the ground – begins precisely at 10 a.m. and ends roughly 5 minutes later. That is to say, don’t be late or you’ll miss it.
In addition to plenty of colorful plastic eggs, you look for Turks Head Sauce food truck with breakfast items and coffee, a face painter, and representatives from the Borough summer camp options for those of you still procrastinating that decision. No rain contingency plans have been announced yet. I was told to check social or the Borough website for updates.
East Goshen Easter Egg Hunt is also on Saturday at 10 a.m. So no double-dipping this year. Registration for that hunt is required, but when I checked earlier this week spots were still available. Want to make a whole morning of it? Brandywine Ace is hosting pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny from 9 – 11 a.m.
Downtown West Chester’s Adult Easter Egg Hunt
New this year, Downtown West Chester is introducing an adult Easter Egg Hunt. Why an adult Easter egg hunt, you ask? Well, why not?
“We decided to do an Adult Easter Egg hunt since a lot of our events are more family or kid themed,” said John O’Brien, Executive Director of the West Chester Business Improvement District. “The borough is doing an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, so we figured why not give the grown-ups some fun!”
The main difference between this and a traditional Easter Egg Hunt is the prizes. Instead of pieces of candy and gold coins, these eggs will be stuffed with coupons, gift cards, and wine vouchers.
Intrigued? The hunt, which will feature 120 oversized eggs hidden all over downtown, will take place on April 7 as part of First Friday events.
“They are six-inch eggs, so they are big and easily seen. We are hiding them on the main streets and in stores. We aren’t saying which stores they will be in, so people will need to explore a bit. And most importantly, we hope they shop and support the local businesses while they hunt for eggs!” said John.
Beers, bunnies, and other things – but always Bunnies
Now for an event, the whole family can enjoy. On Saturday, April 8, Thornbury Farm CSA is bringing back its Beers and Bunnies event for a second year. The Easter Bunny will be on the farm from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to take pictures with the kiddos. There will also be Southbound BBQ for lunch, Locust Lane Brewery for the adults, games for the kids, and a variety of local vendors to peruse.
Also, Highland Orchard is back with its Hayrides to the Easter Bunny. Hayrides start tomorrow at 10 a.m. and continue through next Saturday. The approximately 30-minute ride to the “Easter Bunny’s Burrow” is $8/person. Once at the burrow, the Easter Bunny will emerge to deliver a special egg to each child. A couple of notes on this one. Reservations are encouraged, but rides are weather permitting, and refunds are not given. So, if your scheduled ride is rained out, you’ll have to find another date or eat the cost of your ticket.
And, of course, who can forget the West Chester Railroad’s Easter Bunny Express? This seasonal favorite also begins tomorrow and continues through next weekend. Enjoy a 90-minute train ride in a decorated car with special guest appearances by Mr. Bunny himself. The trip includes a brief stop at the Glen Mills train station where you will have an opportunity for pictures. Check the website for price details.
New Seafood Market Opens in West Chester!
Earlier this year Hannum Seafood & Produce opened at 443 Hannum Avenue bringing the West Chester community an easy and convenient place to shop for its fresh fish and seafood needs. Why should you add a stop at Hannum Seafood and Produce into your grocery rotation? Here are 4 things to consider:
- It’s fresh. Several times a week buyers for Hannum Seafood & Produce head to the wholesale fish markets of Philadelphia to select the freshest product they can find.
- Hannum Seafood & Produce is locally owned and operated. Have a special request or a question about a fish? Just ask. The employees at Hannum Seafood are knowledgeable and ready to help.
- It’s convenient. Hannum Seafood & Produce is located just blocks from downtown West Chester. There is also ample parking – making a quick trip easy!
- It has the best local selection. Hannum Seafood & Produce carries a variety of seasonally available fresh fish and seafood as well as a wide selection of produce. Think of it as a one-stop shop for a fresh and healthy meal.
Why settle for boring when you can make dinner special tonight with a quick trip to Hannum Seafood & Produce? Stop in today and choose from wild-caught salmon, whole Chilean Sea Bass, Bronzino, red snapper, fresh oysters, shrimp, scallops, and more!
Hannum Seafood & Produce is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Westtown Officer charged. This week Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Officer Officer Jason Listmeier was charged with “careless driving-unintentional death.” Officer Listmeier struck and killed 75-year-olf Michael Thomas Ghione with his police cruiser as Mr. Ghione was riding his bicycle north down S. High Street near the Route 202 overpass.
See something, say something. After a two-year investigation, West Chester Police detained a serial child predator and removed him from the streets. Domingo Avalois-Pantoja of Coatesville was arrested on more than a dozen counts of sexual and indecent assault of minors across at least five towns in Pennsylvania (including West Chester, Westtown, and East Goshen) and California. If you know of a child in potential danger, contact Childline at 1-800-932-0313. The toll-free nationwide hotline will quickly transmit information to the appropriate agencies. A special shout-out to the WCPD for their perseverance on this.
It’s closing time. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t park here. Normanullah Syed of King of Prussia was arrested this week after threatening people at the Bicentennial parking garage shortly after the bars let out on the morning of Mar. 19. Mr. Syed, who left at the time, was eventually tracked down by West Chester police and charged with making terroristic threats. He is currently awaiting a preliminary hearing.
Keep your hands and your fruit to yourself. Earlier this week West Chester police arrested Jarek Rodriguez of West Chester on the propulsion of missile charges. The arrest stemmed, not from firearms, but from a November 12 incident in which Mr. Rodriguez allegedly threw an apple at the driver of another vehicle in an unusual fit of road rage.
That’s going to leave a mark. In the very early hours of Saturday morning, West Chester police responded to a fight in the 100 block of E. Nields Street. Upon arrival they found a victim suffering from severe face and head injuries after being struck with a beer bottle. James Anthony Jones of West Grove was arrested on aggravated assault charges.
No FOMO here. On Wednesday, Westtown East Goshen police responded to an active shooter call allegedly involving the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School on Paoli Pike. The call appears to be a part of a spree of computer-generated “swatting” calls made around the state. After investigating, police determined there was no threat to the school.
How many titles does it take to make a dynasty? Would back to back to back Pennsylvania Cup titles do it? What if you add in three straight Flyers Cups and four consecutive Ches-Mont championships? I’ll leave the terminology to the experts, but either way, there is no denying West Chester East is a dominating force in high school hockey. Proving it once again on Saturday when the Vikings won its third Pennsylvania Cup championship in as many years. For a little while, it appeared as if this might be a match, with East leading Kiski Area by just one goal at the end of the first period, but that illusion soon dissipated. East proceeded to score four more times in the second period and three more in the third to leave the ice with an 8-1 victory.
Also, a special shout to Flyers Cup MVP Joey Cardarelli and the seven other seniors who have played their last matches in red and gold – it is quite the bar you have set.
Speaking of high bars, get the Gatorade ready. Rustin Track and Field Coach Jim Collins was named the Pennsylvania Track & Field Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year! Probably not totally surprising after the girls took home the state crown but impressive nonetheless.
Also, high fives this week to Champions Barbershop founder and owner Miguel Nieves. Mr. Nieves has been nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year by the CT Barber Expo. I don’t know much about the world of barbering, but apparently, this is a big deal. Mr. Nieves is one of only 12 nominees in the world. This is a voting competition, so if you are a Champions regular, you can show some love for your founder here.
And finally, congratulations this week to Market Street Grill, which according to Yelp reviewers, has the best eggs Benedict in the state. Don’t believe them? I highly recommend doing your own research on this one.
Hello, beautiful. This week the remaining scaffolding was removed from the front of the Green Tree building. (Yay.) Supports out in front of Rite Aid and the rest of the building were removed last week. Hopefully, this project is now complete.
Also, this week, hello, to orange wine. You are probably familiar with red and white and the craze started a couple of years ago over rosé, but what do you know about orange wine? Teca is hoping you’ll want to know more soon. The Gay Street eatery has recently shared it is now stocking wine from the Italian winery Gravner, a pioneer of the orange wine movement.
Not up on this trend yet? Orange wine actually has nothing to do with oranges, rather it’s a white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice which gives the wine a deep orange hue and a sometimes sour taste. According to Winefolly.com, “Orange wines are often so intense that you might want to make sure you’re sitting down when you first taste them.” Sounds like summer to me.
While you’re out, stop by and say hello to:
- D’Ascenzo’s Gelato. The Gay Street gelateria opens for the season tonight. “We are returning with all our favorite classics!” They shared via social. Think – Butter Cookie, Pistachio, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chip, and Peanut Butter. In all 24 daily rotating flavors of deliciousness. I can’t wait.
- Jitters and compliment them on their new digs. Downtown West Chester’s – shall we debate – only dive bar, has gotten a makeover thanks to local designer Cira James. Don’t worry it’s nothing too dramatic, just a fresh coat of paint and a splattering of vintage finds.
- West Chester Public Library and while you’re there grab some passes to the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation. Day passes are now available to check out from the library for free. Just visit the library website to reserve your passes.
- Dollar Tree, ok not yet, but it is coming. MediaNews Group is reporting the discount chain is coming to a nearly 9000 sq ft space in the Marketplace at Westtown – just down from Giant.
And finally, say hello to a new future at the joint Chester County, West Chester University Job Fair. More than 70 companies representing a variety of industries are said to be attending the April 4 event. Get your resume ready. The job fair runs from 3 – 6 p.m. at WCU’s Hollinger Field House. Registration is encouraged.
This week we say goodbye to connections in high places after Henderson graduate Jason Wingard announced he will resign his position as president of Temple University. Mr. Wingard served as the University’s first black president and its shortest tenured. His service – less than two years – began with promise but was ultimately overshadowed by a number of complaints including falling admissions, labor disputes, and a surge in crime. Last month a Temple University police officer was shot and killed just off campus. Today marks his official last day in the position.
Also, this week West Chester residents are remembering local civil rights leader and antique shop owner Alice Thomas. Mrs. Thomas passed away last week at the age of 92.
Mrs. Thomas, who served 35 years as a caseworker for Henderson, is credited many times over with helping to ensure all voices were represented at the high school. In 1978, she helped launch a Black Student Union at Henderson, ensuring greater minority representation in student government. Later she would fight for representation in theatrical productions on the fields. In 1987, when there were no black cheerleaders at Henderson, Mrs. Thomas spoke up and earned change, and in 1998, she got her own scholarship, the Alice M. Thomas Scholarship fund. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student who exemplifies her “awareness for social justice, academic achievement, and community involvement.”
“Her unwavering faith, belief in the power of a community when it comes together, her compassion and hope, is a light that shines on the path for all of us,” the West Chester NAACP said of Mrs. Thomas.
If you would like to show your respects, a viewing is scheduled for tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., at St. Paul’s Baptist Church followed by a funeral service at 11:15 a.m.
Pay it forward.
Fun news for all you junior entrepreneurs out there – the West Chester Children’s Business Fair is returning for its second year.
“We’re excited to announce that we are in the thick of organizing our 2nd Annual West Chester Children’s Business Fair,” said event organizers and West Chester residents John and Tori McDonald via email.
Last year the event took place at Marshall Square Park. This year it will be moving to 44 West but the intent is very much the same.
“Kids see the world in such a unique, unfiltered way,” said Tori. “We want to give them an opportunity to showcase their talents and passions and build their confidence along the way. We hope the young people participating, as well as those who come out to support these young entrepreneurs, walk away with a sense of how capable and amazing they are.”
The fair is scheduled for May 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. with a rain date of May 21. Participation encourages kids to work through all the pieces of starting a small business, from inception to design, production, pricing, and promotion. Applications will open tomorrow to kids ages 5 to 14. In addition to having the opportunity to sell their wares there will also be prizes awarded to the top businesses in each age group. Note vendor space will be capped at 30 and spaces are expected to go fast. To reserve a space applicants will need to complete an online application form and pay a $10 booth fee.
Also, want to help your favorite local newsletter writer out with a little constructive feedback? I have created a short readership survey and I would love your input and a chance to get to know you a little better. You can take it here.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are going to try and make it over the Borough Easter Egg Hunt but with basketball at 9 a.m., it’s a precarious timing situation fraught with the potential for huge meltdowns if we miss the start and arrive home to hoards of brightly colored kids gobbling up all the eggs. Other than that, taxes. So actually, the Saturday morning drama is likely going to be the highlight of my weekend.
If you have your sights on a more fun weekend, Jawn Supply, the new vintage apparel shop on High Street, will have you ready for the 76ers surge (I feel it coming), Sunset Hill Jewelers is hosting a one-day 50 percent (!!) off in-stock diamond jewelry sale and Love Again Local has gluten-free Love Chunk Chocolate Chip Cookies (I get the impression they have a gluten-filled variety as well). And for all you bargain hunters, there is an Outgrown Sports Equipment Sale (I think this is a great idea.) and a Community Yard Sale both happening at Rustin on Saturday from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. A one-stop shop for spring finds!
And, a reminder: if you don’t yet have pool plans for the summer, the West Chester YMCA is, for the first time ever, including outdoor pool access as part of their regular membership fees. Only catch? You have to sign up by today.
Finally, special thanks to this week’s Community Sponsor Hazley Builders. Hazley Builders is a Design + Build firm with over sixty years of combined experience in the West Chester area! Check out their website to learn more about what they do.
Hazley Builders is a multi-generational West Chester family business servicing Chester County and beyond and a leader in innovation and quality of custom homes, renovations, and additions. They have earned a trusted reputation over the past 20+ years based on a steadfast pursuit and unwavering commitment to exceed their client’s expectations, create rewarding career opportunities for their employees, and support the community. Learn more
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but there still some limited ad space available. Send me an email if you are interested – but hurry, spaces are filling up fast.
If you enjoy getting these updates each week – and not having to click through a dozen annoying pop-up ads? Me too. I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited!
And, thanks to all of you who have already contributed. I truly couldn’t do it without you!
Mark your calendars:
- Mar. 31 – West Chester Public Library’s Trivia Night, Zoom, 7 -8 p.m. Registration required.
- Mar. 31 – Mather Planetarium Show, 750 S. Church Street, 7-8 p.m.
- Mar. 31 – Apr. 1 – Suessical Jr., Stetson Middle School, 7 p.m. (There is also a 1 p.m. showing on Saturday). Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children/students
- Mar. 31 – House of Hope Concert, East High School, 7 p.m. The West Chester East student body will showcase their musical talents to raise money for Home of the Sparrow, a local nonprofit that partners with single women and their children facing homelessness. Last year’s concert raised $7300. Tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door.
- Mar. 31 – Apr. 9 – West Chester Easter Light Display, 6 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. This is a free, drive-by event brought to you by the same folks that do the West Chester Christmas Light Display.
- Apr. 1 – Outgrown Sports Equipment Sale, Rustin High School, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. New and used items across various sports including – cleats, baseball and softball pants, bats, helmets, belts, shin gaurds, protective equipment.
- Apr. 1 – Community Yard Sale, Rustin High School, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Combo with the above for a one-stop-shop for some spring upgrades!
- Apr. 1 – Zumba Fitness, Marshall Square Park, 9 a.m. Class cost is $6 – 100% of the proceeds are being donated to the West Chester Play School.
- Apr. 1 – Annual Easter Egg Hunt, Everhart Park, 10 a.m.
- Apr.1 – Discovery in the Dark: A Children’s event, Chester County History Center, 5 – 7 p.m. This family event will show children what life was like before electricity. This BYOFL (bring your own flashlight event) is geared toward children 6-12 without a fear of the dark. Tickets $7/children; $9/adults.
- Apr. 1 – Echoes, American Pink Floyd, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Join as these 10 musicians faithfully recreate this iconic album, note for note, sound for sound, and effect for effect. Tickets: $40/advance; $45/door; Limited tickets remain.
- Apr. 1 -2: Hayrides to the Easter Bunny, Highland Orchards, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Reseverations recommended.
- Apr. 1, 2, 8 & 9 – Easter Bunny Express, West Chester Railroad, 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets: $30/adults; $20/children (2-12); $8/children under 2
- Apr. 2 – Spring at the Park with Lulu’s, Marshall Square Park, 9:30 – 12 a.m. Easter Bunny visit, Easter egg hunt, Elmo and Princesses meet and greet, crafts, games and more. Tickets: $30/kids; $5 adult. Email email@example.com for tickets.
- Apr. 2 – West Chester’s Best Easter Egg Hunt, Kirk’s Martial Arts & Krav Maga (1548 Paoli Pike), 10 a.m. , 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Over 5000 eggs and pictures with the Easter Bunny. Registration is required.
- Apr. 3 – Mastering Your Baby’s Sleep, West Chester Public Library, 6 – 7 p.m. Learn tools and methods to help your infant sleep easier and longer. Recommended for parents of babies 0 – 7 months. Attend virtually or in person. Registration required.
- Apr. 4 – Storytime Registration opens, West Chester Public Library, 10 a.m.
- Apr. 4 – Chester County/WCU Job Fair, Hollinger Field House, 3 – 6 p.m. More than 70 employers from a variety of industries are expected. Registration is encouraged.
- Apr. 5 – What’s in a Name? The Politics of Commemoration, 255 A/B or Zoom, 12 – 12:50 p.m. Presented by WCU faculty and at 50 minutes each, these seminars introduce an array of sustainability topics in easily digestible segments. Presentations are free and open to the public. For Zoom use the link above and passcode: 878376
- Apr. 5 – Ukulele Group, West Chester Public Library, 5 – 7 p.m. Looking for a friendly group to play/practice with? Here you go. Meets Wednesdays.
- Apr. 6 -8: Hayrides to the Easter Bunny, Highland Orchards, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Reseverations recommended.
- Apr. 6 – Jimmy & the Parrots, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Grab your beach chair, your suntan oil, and a tequila shot and get ready for this Jimmy Buffett Tribute. Tickets: $40/advance; $45/door
- Apr. 6 – Storytime, Tish Kids (135 E. Gay St.), 10 a.m. Free storytime event the first and third Thursday of each month.
- Apr. 8 – Beer & Bunnies, Thornbury Farm CSA, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Psst. Like to plan ahead? Visit the new Calendar page. I have events through July!
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. Just keep your eye out for the email I am going to try (try) to get it out earlier due to the holiday.
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