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It’s Friday, May 19: Boxed in by mid-rises, Borough residents get a first look at another multi-unit apartment complex. And like the rest, there is likely little that can be done to stop it. Plus, West Chester Public Library celebrates 150 with an exciting new reno project, a master plan for the parks, and events galore this weekend! It’s no wonder demand to live here is so high. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Your West Chester Library of the Future
Major Revamp Aims to Get the West Chester Public Library Another 150 Years
Chartered in 1873, the West Chester Public Library has served the community dutifully for the last 150 years. In 1888 with donated land in hand, volunteers and community members began their first capital campaign raising the money needed to erect the turreted T. Roney Williamson Church Street building, a second one started in 2005 would get them to today. Over the years the library has weathered many storms and ushered in just as many changes (you can find an interesting account of those first years here) but the library and staff aren’t interested in reflecting on the past. They are instead launching an ambitious $1.5 million fundraising campaign designed to get them through the next 150.
So, what will libraries of the future look like? Will whole books be seamlessly transferred to our phones or tablets with a flutter of a device? Will the circulation desk be mannedstaffed by a self-learning robot while workshops in teleporting and deep fakes are conducted in the background? Of course, no one knows, but if we have learned anything from the past 150 years, the changes may not be as much as we expect.
“The need or desire to sit in a library and read, or study, or work for a while has not changed – there’s just more of the study and work and more meeting with others,” says Clare Quinn, West Chester Library’s Development Manager. “Libraries have become community centers, and places to meet with others, to attend a class, or meet an ESL tutor. It’s those changes we need to keep up with.”
To do that the Library’s plan for the next 150 does not include robots or self-stacking shelves or glassfront additions, but it does have money to better utilize the space within its historic home.
“Does the layout and seating work for the people using the library? How can we improve this within the historic building that has served as West Chester’s public library for 135 years? Our answer is a thorough redesign and update of the library’s interior,” says Clare.
Curved shelving will make accessing onsite materials easier while allowing for new makerspaces, or collaborative work areas. In the redesign, shelving, and circulation desks get much less space, while collections of tables and chairs, moveable ottomans, and book pods get more. There is also a new young adult area that will finally give teens an area all their own.
The three-floor redesign is just one part of a three-part plan designed to “direct more resources to the things our library users are looking for,” shared Library Director Victoria Dow. In addition to modernizing its interior, the library wants to retire its mortgage and create a financial cushion to address current problems, particularly around staffing. As salaries rise in other industries, it has grown increasingly hard to recruit and retain for open positions.
“To do this, we are seeking funds for the redesign and to pay off our $412,000 mortgage, and to raise an additional $500,000-$600,000 library stewardship fund so we can address personnel and other operating needs and pay for equipment, materials, and programs in years to come without accumulating debt,” says Victoria.
If you would like to help, the library is actively recruiting donations. “Community members can help both by committing to give to the best of their ability for each of the five years of the campaign and to encourage their families and friends to give as well,” said Victoria.
You can learn about how to support the Next 150 here.
What’s Next for Mitch’s Gym? Spoiler: It’s More Apartments
This week, Developer Eli Kahn and partner Gary Toll held a community meeting in a vacant workout studio at the now-defunct Mitch’s Gym. The purpose? To share their proposal for a 181-unit, upscale apartment complex planned for the property and that of its vacated neighbors, in total a 1.75-acre lot.
Eli started the meeting by reminding the crowd of about 35 of his West Chester bona fides. A West Chester University graduate, he started his real estate career right here in the Borough and years ago resided right around the corner at 308 W. Miner Street. Newly married at the time, he and his wife started a family there. Of course, the family no longer resides in the Borough, but Eli continues to leave his mark. The developer and team are responsible for many of the town’s largest buildings including Chestnut Square, 44 West, the county building across the street, and the soon-to-be-moving forward Rubenstein apartment complex.
This building, which will open onto Market Street, is modeled after the very successful Chestnut Square, which has a 100 percent occupancy rate and is what Eli called “the most successful apartment building in the western suburbs.” The design, however, is contemporary, and not all in attendance were impressed. One neighbor called the look “frightening.”
The developers demurred. “We have spent a lot of time on this elevation,” Eli told the crowd of the building inspired by the Loutrel Hotel in Charleston, SC.
- 181 apartments; 10% studios, 60% 1 bedroom, 30% 2 bedrooms
- 5-story building, 2 floors of underground parking; 209 spaces
- Lots of high-end amenities like a pool, gym, yoga studio, and grill stations. No retail.
- The main entrance is at W. Market Street and Potter Alley, a secondary entrance at W. Market and Wayne.
This is the third sizeable high-end apartment complex to be presented in the past two years. In total, these developments will add approximately 525 new residences to the Borough (these numbers may shift slightly as plans are finalized). They all provide sufficient parking but will add more traffic. They will increase density while also adding revenue both to the Borough and the school district.
- Burger King – 125 apartments
- Rubensteins – 219 apartments
- Mitch’s – 181 apartments
The developers have submitted their plans and studies to the Borough and expect to present them at the next Planning Commission Meeting. That meeting is scheduled for May 30; no agenda has been released yet. This proposal is “by right,” or in compliance with the Zoning Code. This means there is little to keep the construction from going forward.
Even so, the approval process is expected to take about a year. “End of next year at the earliest we would start,” Eli told the crowd. Construction is expected to take another 20 months after that.
It’s Striped Bass Season – And There’s Nothing Better!
April through June is Striped Bass, or Rock Fish, season, and there is no better time to enjoy the white, flakey goodness of this popular saltwater fish. Native to the East Coast, Striped Bass is extremely versatile.
It is delicious sauteed, broiled, or oven roasted, but this time of year, why not pop it on the grill? Ask for a thicker filet which will hold up better on the grill, or if you think you are up to the task, try grilling the fish whole. This is said to provide a superior flavor and texture.
To prepare the fish, all you need is a little lemon to highlight its naturally buttery flavor and provide a healthy alternative to traditional grill-season favorites.
Hannum Seafood & Produce Market at 443 Hannum Avenue is well-stocked with both Striped Bass filets and whole fish options. Shop the area’s freshest fish Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays until 7 p.m.
I smell gas. A diesel fuel spill in the basement of the Chester County Justice Center forced it to close on Tuesday. The spill was cleaned rather quickly but the smell continued to permeate the building forcing County officials to close it around mid-morning. Employees evacuated the building but continued their work from home. Ahhh, the benefits of technology.
Mosquito season will soon be here. Mosquito dunks, a non-toxic Bti larvicide, are now available free to Borough residents. However, unlike years past when you could just show up at Borough Hall and request your complimentary dunk, this year the Borough is asking that you precede your visit with a formal request. You can make that request here – and don’t let the extra step deter you from action. If you have standing water on your property, using a larvicide to kill the mosquito larvae now is much better than dealing with the flying, biting adults later.
Don’t let a little sibling rivalry ruin it for everyone. Crebilly owner James “Rob” Robinson asked a judge to halt the sale of the farm last week after accusing his brother and property co-owner David Robinson of going outside the agreement and misappropriating funds. To which David said, Rob just didn’t want his family to get their fair share. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the brothers agreed to allow the sale to go through as they worked through their issues. Read all the drama here.
Turks Head Music Festival is NOT accepting vendors. Last week it was brought to the attention of the West Chester Parks & Rec Department that fake accounts were attempting to lure new vendors to the 40th Anniversary Turks Head Music Festival. This is a scam. Vendor spaces for the June 4 festival are sold out and even if they were not the requests would not come from a Gmail account.
Lost but found. Last week West Chester police sought assistance in locating a 12-year-old who reportedly ran away from her Borough home. Fortunately, she was found safe and returned to her family. “The missing juvenile has been located after a resident called reporting her walking on a roadway. She is being returned home. We thank everyone for their assistance!” WCPD wrote in a social post.
The one with ick factor. The trial of a former Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School’s Center for Performing and Fine Arts drama teacher continues this week as lawyers on both sides try to solidify when exactly sexual relations between the teacher and his student(s) began.
West Chester pandemic babies turn 3. In late February 2020, I announced the expected opening of seven new Borough restaurants. A mere three weeks later, the world would shut down but that didn’t stop these ambitious restaurants from moving forward. Not all would keep their original opening timelines but those that did are celebrating their third year in the Borough.
“Opening a restaurant has always been Josh’s dream and we are beyond grateful for everyone who has been along this ride with us through the highs and lows all of you have pushed us through. We couldn’t have done one day of this without all of our customers and staff,” Mae’s West Chester shared on Facebook.
Also, celebrating year three this spring La Tartine and Scoops and Smiles. Perhaps, reward their grit with a surprise visit this weekend? I’ve been to all three and all are wonderful.
This week also, big high fives to the West Chester University Women’s Lacrosse team which held on to beat East Stroudsburg 10-8 to secure their first NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Championship since 2019. The still-unbeaten Golden Rams will now have a chance at the national title – but first, they must get past Grand Valley State University. They play the Sawyers this afternoon at 4 p.m. in Indianapolis. The championship game, should they make it, will be played on Saturday.
Want to support the girls without roadtripping to Indy (done this several times and don’t blame you)? A watch party is being held this afternoon at Barnabys.
Also, hoping to make their own tournament run, Rustin’s boy’s lacrosse team. The Golden Knights won their first-round match-up in the PIAA District One tournament but will need one more if they want to advance to the state tournament. Round two is Wednesday against Bishop Shanahan. Henderson and Rustin girls lacrosse teams also qualified for the regional tournament, however, both were eliminated in the first round.
Speaking of eliminations, the West Chester Park & Rec Department has decided on a firm to design and build its multi-year Park Master Plan. The Borough chose the engineering and architectural firm Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson. JM&T has helped both East Goshen and Westtown with their park plans. The goal of the master plan is to help the Borough better maximize the use of its 13 parks and give it a clearly defined path forward. Parks and Rec Director Keith Kurowski called it a “road map for the next decade.”
While Borough Council approved proceeding with awarding the proposal, don’t expect to see results anytime soon. It is estimated that the plan will take a year to build – and with good reason.
“One of the key aspects is going to be the public input,” Keith told Borough Council this week. “This isn’t a Park and Rec plan for the Borough, this is for the Borough residents as a whole. It’s for everyone. It’s not for one park. It’s not for one area of town,” he said.
Now, let’s just hope he means that. We’ve been promised resident input before (cough) Gay Street (cough) only to have it never materialize.
Curious what a park master plan could look like? Here is the master plan proposal the firm presented in 2020 for Oakbourne Park.
And finally, best wishes to East Bradford Administrative Assistant Tenley Adams on her retirement. “Tenley’s retirement truly marks the end of an era for East Bradford,” Township Manager Mandie Catlin told Daily Local reporter Bill Rettew. When she started in 1990 as a township services coordinator she was one of only two full-time employees at the township building. Good luck, Tenley!
Get ready to say hello, to your neighbor’s weekend guests, as the Borough considers amending the Borough Code to allow short-term rentals. Contrary to what was shared last month in the Daily Local, the Borough is not looking to limit AirBnbs, but rather permit them. Currently, the code does not allow any short-term rentals. To which, you may say, wait a minute, a quick search on Airbnb will turn up around a dozen listings. And you’d be right.
The current Borough policy is to officially prohibit but quietly ignore the existence of short-term rentals until such time as the Borough receives complaints and then it investigates and issues a cease and desist order. It’s a practice fraught with opportunities for discrimination. So now the Borough is looking to change its ordinance to be more definitive as to what it will allow and what it won’t. Under the current draft, short-term rentals must get Borough Council approval before opening and will only be allowed in the Town Center.
There are other criteria being roughed out including how many parking spaces must be provided and how often the units will need to be inspected. However, even in this rough state, not all are in favor of the idea including Councilman Nick Allen. “I think the houses should be used for living in, not another investment vehicle,” he told his fellow members this week.
Fortunately, we still have time to take a deep dive into this proposal which won’t officially be presented to Borough Council until next month. If Council approves the ordinance as written in June, they will then need to schedule a public hearing which will not occur before July.
Also, it’s a hello, and about time, to a safe walkway to a grocery store in the Borough. After several delays, it appears that the Downingtown Pike pedestrian improvement project is finally wrapping up. The project had West Chester Borough and East Bradford working together to provide a suitable walking path – think paved sidewalks, ADA-accessible entry, and pedestrian crossing signals – from Marshall Street and the Audubon Pointe Apartments to the Bradford Plaza Shopping Center. For some West Chester residents, this may be the first time they can realistically walk to a supermarket.
In other grocery news, ALDI’s on Paoli Pike is expected to open this week. A grand opening is planned for Thursday but doors will officially open on Wednesday for a “sneak peak” event. As far as accessibility goes there is a sidewalk being installed along Paoli Pike and there is an existing SEPTA bus stop at the Paoli Pike/Prospect Avenue intersection.
Finally, let’s say hello to Pride Month this year. After skipping events last June in favor of an OUTfest event in October that went all kinds of sideways – we won’t rehash the various overactions (but I will link to them here and here in case we want to center ourselves) – West Chester is ready to try again. This week the Chester County History Center got permission from Borough Council to hold an LGBTQIA Reminder-Tea Dance Celebration on June 24 on Evans Street between the two history center buildings. The event is to mirror “tea dances” or alcohol-free events held mid-last century in New York City on Sunday afternoons. At the time it was illegal to sell alcohol to gay people so the “tea parties” allowed the LGBTQIA community to celebrate together without fear of police intervention. I don’t know if this particular event will have tea but I do know they have the West Chester Police’s full support and music, street food, and other entertainment are promised.
With Tuesday’s election in the books, it is time to take a moment to review the winners and losers, say our goodbyes, and ready ourselves for November.
Let’s start with the Borough of West Chester races where all three Borough Council candidates will run again in November. This is not surprising as all three candidates ran unopposed. There were a handful of write-in ballots cast on the Republican side. I am not sure if any will amount to a November challenge. I guess we will have to wait and see.
In Westtown, Township Supervisor candidate Phillip A. Garabedian overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary. In the same race, Ed Yost won the Republican primary.
In West Goshen, Nate Wolman and Shaun Walsh were selected by Democrats for the two open Township Supervisor seats. They will face off in November against Jeff Rice and Katie Thoms, the candidates selected by Republicans.
And in the West Chester School Board races it looks like all ten candidates will advance. Come November, Alex Christie, Katy Frey, Darrel Durnell, Karen Herrmann, and Gary Bevilacqua will run as Democrats, and Nick Spangler, Robert Rafetto, Amanda Greenberg, Peggy Schmitt, and Alain Oliver as Republicans.
At the local level, the only goodbyes came in the race for Chester County Common Pleas Court judge. Rep. Kristine Howard of East Whiteland and Magisterial District Judge Paige Simmons of Uwchlan are out after failing to make the top five in either primary.
Pay it forward.
How about exercising with little retail therapy this weekend? Emphasis on little as the West Chester Children’s Business Fair returns to the Borough for its second year this weekend. This year’s event is being held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the 44 West Plaza (corner of Church and Gay Streets) and features 30 entrepreneurs aged 5 to 14 as they display, market, and sell their wares.
If you have a chance I would highly recommend stopping by. I took my kids last year and they had a blast jetting between stands trying to select the perfect items and the junior entrepreneurs with their companies were inspiring to all.
Also inspiring are West Chester’s emergency response teams. For them West Chester is exploring a new program that would pass along real estate and earned income tax benefits to qualifying firefighters and EMTs who live in the Borough. The details of the program still need to be worked out but West Chester Fire Chief Steve Pelna is hoping the new incentives will help with recruiting and retention.
“We are on a constant quest for volunteers for our program,” Chief Pelna told Borough Council this week. West Goshen already offers something similar.
If a real estate tax rebate sounds enticing to you (and you’re willing to donate your time, and potentially risk your life to help your fellow residents), you can learn more about joining West Chester’s all-volunteer team here.
Not ready for such a commitment? Then how about a run in support of less violence? The Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County is hosting its 28th annual Race Against Violence. This year’s race is virtual and can be run any time during the month of May but if you register before tomorrow you can stop by the CVC offices on W. Market Street from 8 to 10 a.m. and pick up some swag. A $10 donation will score you a water bottle, $30, a blanket.
Also, this weekend is Step for a Cure at East High School. The walk in support of TSC, a rare genetic disorder, begins at 11:45 a.m. More information can be found here – just not how long you will be walking for.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a couple of jam-packed days this weekend with soccer playoffs, school events, and a central location in the middle of Porchfest. Unfortunately, the band scheduled for our porch had to cancel so we are no longer hosting but we definitely plan to be out supporting.
Pro tip: keep any alcoholic beverages on private property or expertly disguised. Open containers are not allowed in the Borough and West Chester police will be monitoring.
Also, this weekend is the Children’s Business Fair and the Chester County Studio Art Tour. On Saturday the Chester County Astronomical Society will be at Hoopes Park for a Star Party starting at 6 p.m. and tonight West Chester is hosting its first Movie in the Park event at Marshall Square Park. They will be showing Sing. Turks Head Sauce will be onsite if you need a bite.
Plus, looking for fresh flowers to brighten your surroundings? Well, we’ve got options popping up all over the Borough. Aside from your traditional florists, you can get mixed bouquets and hanging baskets at West Chester Grower’s Market, cut flower bouquets at the new flower cart at Wink Lab on Hannum Avenue, and with coffee at Mayday. Want more of a commitment? Pine and Quill is a pickup site for a three-week flower share. This week’s peonies are gorgeous.
And a big thank you to Miller’s Insurance this week’s Community Sponsor. Miller’s is an independent agency offering a wide range of personalized insurance options. They are also committed to making a positive impact in the community and have been a sponsor of over 20 different local organizations! Check out their website to learn more about what they do.
Locally owned and run for over 45 years, Miller’s Insurance offers a wide range of home, auto, business and personal insurance solutions that are tailored based on your needs. As an independent agency, Miller’s works with multiple insurance providers, giving you the power of choice. Let them help you find the right coverage. Get started today!
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 limited ad space remains in May and June. Send me an email if you are interested and I’ll get you details.
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Mark your calendars:
- May 19 – East Senior Prom
- May 19 – Movie in the Park, Marshall Square Park, dusk. This is a free Borough event
- May 20 – Step Forward for a Cure, East High School Football field, registration opens at 11 a.m. walk begins at 11:45 a.m. No mention on how long you will be walking but there will be music and a magician after. Proceeds go to support the TSC Alliance.
- May 20 – Yoga in the Park, Everhart Park, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Join Deanna Stissi of Triple-Threat Fitness in a special outdoor yoga event. Open to all ages and fitness levels. Classes are $10/person. Pre-registration is required! Click here to register.
- May 20 – 2nd Annual Porchfest, West Chester Borough, Southwest quadrant, 1 – 7 p.m. This is a free community event. Rain date: May 21
- May 20 – Chester County Studio Art Tour, Explore local art, while meeting a variety of outstanding artists during this two-day event. This is a free community event.
- May 20 – Roberta Faceplant, Brickette Lounge, 9 p.m. Roberta Faceplant is a local comedian who has been featured on Comedy Central and has performed at comedy clubs across the country.
- May 23 – Saloon 151 Quizzo, 151 W. Gay St., 8 – 10:30 p.m. Every Tuesday night join DJ Romeo at Saloon 151 for quizzo! The top 3 teams win prizes in each round!
- May 23 – Off the Rail Karaoke, Split Rail Tavern, 15 N. Walnut St., 9:30 – 11 p.m. Join Roxanne Rohls and Ophelia Hotass for a night of singing, drinking, and drag every Tuesday night.
- May 24 – Saloon 151 Music Bingo, 151 W. Gay St., 9 – 11:00 p.m. There are 5 rounds, which means 5 chances to win a gift card!
- May 24 – Ryan’s Pub Karaoke Night, 124 W. Gay Street, Includes: wings and drink specials.
- May 25 – Good Fellowship Ambulance Open House, 600 Montgomery Ave., 7:30 p.m. The event is being held in celebration of National Emergency Services Week. Meet and greet local first responders, view emergency vehicles and tour the operations and training facilities.
- May 25 – Concert in the Park, Fugett Park, 6:30 p.m. This is a free Borough event.
Psst. Like to plan ahead? Check out the new Summer Event Guide full of photos and videos from West Chester’s favorite summer events or visit the Calendar page for events through September!
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.
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One thought on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup: May 19, 2023”
The shelf life of developer Kahn’s building concepts expired a while ago, years ago. Ask the residents of the town of Devon, PA. The quality of legal and municipal advice can make a difference for a town’s long-term interests.
The reason these types of building concepts are embraced or allowed in WC is because of the way the local municipal government has been structured and managed for years.
It could be reasonably argued that the residents of West Chester have been voting against their own self-interest for years, decades. If the number of constructed parking spaces are allowed to become some type of economic bellwether for a community I think it’s safe to say that that community is seriously misguided.
Don’t worry. The plans will look better after they are revised. The peddling of bullshit continues.