Mid-summer manicure

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, July 21:  How does the Borough grow? With small additions, big complexes or not at all? A look at the options. Plus, a cute new community garden, West Chester’s baseball teams are back on the field, and how about those pictures from the new restaurant planned for the old BB&T Bank Building on High Street? Wow. Just wow. 

Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

How Does the Borough Grow? Raising the Question of Density

Historic carriage house apartments were already allowed. Now all homeowners can opt for an on-site apartment if they can meet the requirements.

After weeks of “by right” presentations by builders that all but guarantee the construction of 500 new apartment units over the next two years, West Chester Borough Council moved this week on two ordinances that, intentionally or not, return some autonomy to the homeowner. On Tuesday night Borough Council reviewed wording for a new short-term rental ordinance that would allow Airbnbs and other short-term rentals to legally operate in residential areas of the Borough. Then on Wednesday, by a vote of 6 to 1, Borough Council passed a new ADU, or accessory dwelling unit, ordinance. 

Under the newly approved ADU statute, homeowners can construct an up to 800 sq. foot apartment on their property. This can take the form of an in-law suite, basement walkout, or garage apartment. You just need to show a separate entrance for the unit, adequate on-site parking, and if you are looking to rent it, a rental agreement with the Borough.  
Neither proposal has unanimous support. Opponents of the ADU ordinance worry about adding density and vehicles to an already crowded 1.8 square miles. Those fighting the short-term rental agreement cite concerns over losing valuable rental space to short-term renters, more strangers on the street, and a further loss of parking. 

“In a short time, we will have approximately 800 new souls living in the Borough which we can not stop because of the right to build. Our density is already breathtaking,” Councilman Bernie Flynn shared in a statement. 

According to World Population Review, West Chester has a population density of 10,156 people per square mile. For context, Phoenixville has a slightly higher overall population of 19,936 but a  density of just 5,678 people per square mile. Philadelphia’s population density is 11,378 people per square mile. 

“I will be voting against the conversion of back houses and garages into living space. The Borough doesn’t have a housing crisis, we can’t fit anymore in this space. God isn’t making any more dirt and our dirt is covered,” Bernie stated.

Proponents of the ordinance tell a different story, one that focuses on the opportunity to expand and diversify homeownership in the Borough. The ADU ordinance offers a lofty set of goals including increasing the supply of attainable housing, providing homeowners with a means to earn extra income, and enhancing the local property tax base without straining existing infrastructure. 

“I don’t think because we are seeing some bad development we should close off our minds to the potential of a few very small incremental steps,” said Planning Commission member Thomas Doughtery in support of the ordinance. 

Similarly, advocates see the short-term housing ordinance, which will only apply to owner-occupied properties (rental properties are exempted from both ordinances) as a way to extend to homeowners another income source while serving a need for more short-term accommodation options.

Under a proposed ordinance short-term rentals may soon be allowed in the Borough.

In the end, change, if it comes, is likely to be small. 

“Legislation is passed and cities are proud when they have four ADUs built over the next four years,” said Thomas. The evidence seems to bear this out. Lexington, MA, which is similar in size and needs to West Chester, recently loosened restrictions on its 1983 ADU ordinance after seeing an average of 3 units built a year over the 20-year period. West Chester’s ordinance also includes requirements, particularly around parking, that will limit where these units can be built. Similar restrictions were outlined for the short-term rental ordinance.

In the meantime, a much bigger problem looms. 

“As the only renter on Council, the housing crisis is rough right now in the Borough.” said Councilman Nick Allen. “I would love to own a home here. I am actively trying and it’s just really hard.” (Nick voted in favor of the new ADU ordinance but doen not support allowing short-term rentals). 

  • You can read more about the specifics of the ordinance here
  • Details on how the short-term rental ordinance is shaping up under “Hello.” 

Transformations: Poplar Street Community Garden

Transformation: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance

Pull right to see the before, left for the big reveal

This week I am introducing a new series spotlighting the creative ways members of this community work together to make changes for the better. This series is brought to you by Cocoon Remodeling, experts in positive transformations. 

About a decade ago, Habitat for Humanity handed over the keys to the last family moving into their new Habitat-built home on Bernard Street and left the Borough for the greener pastures (and lower lot costs) of West Grove and Coatesville. Since that final wave goodbye, a small parcel of land has sat vacant on Poplar Street. It sits between two homes with the Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ to its back. 

“It was nothing but a lot with overgrown grass,” said Garden Manager Varday Jacobs, who lives across the street from the property. Fortunately, his mother-in-law Reverend Dayna Spence, president of Dayna’s iCare Foundation, a non-profit she formed to help underprivileged children,  saw it as something else. 

She reached out to Habitat for Humanity and explained her foundation’s idea. “Habitat for Humanity gifted us the property when I asked to use the lot as a garden,” Dayna said. 

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t all go so smoothly. Unaware whether such a simple project would require Borough approval, Dayna sketched out her plans and dropped them off at Borough Hall with a handwritten note letting officials know that work was planned for the property. To her surprise, she got a response. 

“We had to get a variance,” said Varday. 

Turns out a garden does need a permit. In a bizarre Zoning Code stipulation, planting on a property that doesn’t have a physical building is considered “agriculture” and not allowed. Rather than fight to rewrite the Zoning Code, Dayna hired a lawyer and submitted the paperwork required for the exemption – which she did eventually get. 

“I hope they do make it easier,” she said.  

Dozens came out to cheer the garden’s opening.

In May construction began on the Garden of Grace. (The garden was built custom by Vegetable Gardens 4U). Today, it is a thriving space with raised beds full of radishes, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, baby cabbage, eggplant, and Brussels sprouts. Off to the side is a dedication walkway, carrying the names of people who helped make this transformation possible and a bench to just sit for a minute. 

Once the vegetables are harvested they will be made available at no cost to the garden’s neighbors, excess will be brought to the West Chester Food Cupboard on nearby Bolmar St., a partner in the project. And that strange Borough zoning stipulation that deemed the project “agriculture”? It’s being fixed. (A Public Hearing is being held on August 18 to review the change.)

“I’m hoping the neighbors come out,” said Dayna. “It’s here to support the neighbors.” 


Jack McDonald helping to collect trash left on Gay Street. Photo: John McDonald

Pick up after yourself. This week I received reports of excess litter collecting on Gay Street, particularly over Friday and Saturday nights. “Often my son and I hit the street and clean up on weekend mornings,” says resident John McDonald. If there is one thing West Chester has been generous with providing, it’s plenty of trash and recycling receptacles downtown. Use them. 

See something. Say something. West Chester Police are seeking assistance identifying an individual wanted in connection with a burglary that occurred at 2 a.m. on July 15 in the 100 block of Dean Street. Burglaries were up in West Chester for the month of June and unfortunately, it looks as if the trend is continuing. Please contact Officer Dougherty at 610-696-2700 – if this veiled bandit rings any bells.  

Let’s set the record straight. This week Councilwoman Lisa Dorsey apologized for a suggestion that seemingly irked a few people. At a previous Borough Council meeting the councilwoman suggested the Borough look at replacing current Zoning Board Hearing solicitor Art Sagnor with a member from the Bellwoar and Kelly law firm. The request seemed to take other members of Council by surprise and as it turns out the Zoning Board retains the right to name its own counsel. Zoning Board members confirmed at a subsequent Smart Growth meeting that they were happy with their current representation and did not wish to make any changes. The ill-timed request led to whispers of favoritism but Councilwoman Dorsey reiterated this week she was only suggesting the change as a way to get a new firm exposure to Borough work. “I found it a bit unsettling what people speculated about what my intentions were,” she said.

Get help wherever you can. This week A Child’s Light, which provides mental health support for children and teens, shared that it has Fentanyl test strips and Narcan available for anyone who may need them. “[It] is not about promoting use of chemicals of any kind,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “It’s about saving lives not just of children but moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and friends.” Both the test strips and Narcan are available for free at the Child’s Light office at 1444 Phoenixville Pike.

“Steeped in history and sophisticated charm, this modern Italian steakhouse [is] promising an unforgettable gastronomic journey.”

Chef Fabio Viviani on 9 Prime, opening this fall on High St.


Congratulations to Chef Fabio Viviani on his 11th restaurant location, and to us on what looks like a fabulous special occasion destination. This week we got our first look at 9 Prime, the new “modern Italian steakhouse” opening in the old bank building on High Street. The inclusive concept from Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani (Top Chef fans will remember him as the season 5 fan favorite) seemingly has something for everyone (or so the marketing copy promises). 

“Steeped in history and sophisticated charm, this modern Italian steakhouse offers a dining experience that blends traditional and contemporary styles, promising an unforgettable gastronomic journey,” reads the restaurant description shared on their Instagram page

Inside will be an expansive 400-seat restaurant with multiple bars spread across several floors. Outdoor dining will be available year-round through a four-season patio and below ground they are promising a speakeasy set inside the original bank vault. A fitting tribute to the 1912 building. 

This is Chef Viviani’s 11th restaurant including, perhaps somewhat surprisingly for the native Italian, Chuck Lager’s American Tavern in Wilmington. The opening is currently scheduled for later this fall. 

Want to be in with the in-crowd? Text “9Prime” to 805-991-5126 for an invite to their exclusive grand opening event. 

Also, this week we salute Capt. Chris Schwarz on an impressive promotion. The West Chester native officially took leadership of the Naval Support Activity (NSA) in Annapolis on July 14 from Capt. Homer Denius. Capt. Schwarz will have under his command the Naval Academy’s 4,400 Midshipmen, 6,000 employees, and sprawling grounds including 120 historic buildings. Prior to reporting to Annapolis, Capt. Schwarz served as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Leadership and Ethics Command Dam Neck in Virginia.

Speaking of overachievers, high fives to West Chester University star swimmer (and West Chester native) Ann Carozza. The East High School alum was recently nominated by the PA State Athletic Conference as one of this year’s candidates for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award. During her tenure with the Golden Rams, Ann was a two-time national champion in the butterfly. She also holds the Division II record in both the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as a number of other Conference records all while carrying a 3.6 GPA. Ann was one of 128 Division II female athletes nominated across all sports. 

The NCAA will announce its 30 semifinalists in October. You can read more about Ann’s career here

And, kudos to the West Chester Police Department which will soon be at full capacity. This week Borough Council approved the hiring of a 44th officer. “For the first time in three years we may actually have a full complement of officers,” Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste told the audience during her remarks on Wednesday night.

Finally, congratulations to East Side Little League and Conor Gee on an amazing 6th inning walkoff homer! See the swing here. East Side plays for the Section 7 Little League Championship tonight at 6 p.m. on March Field.


Hoopes Park, (again) home of the West Chester Adult Baseball League

Let’s play ball. This week West Chester Borough Council and the West Chester Baseball League (WCBL) showed what is possible when grandstanding is put aside and solutions are put forward. 

Nearly a month after pulling the 59-year-long lease for the WCBL, the two parties have come to an agreement that will address current challenges and bring adult baseball games back to Hoopes Park. Under the new two-year agreement, the WCBL will be allowed to use the field for a $1/month rental fee in exchange for providing field maintenance. While on the surface this sounds awfully similar to the state of affairs before the whole drama began, the five-page contract does add in new rules and regulations that will hopefully help eliminate some of the ambiguity that led to the WCABL running afoul in the first place. 

If you’ll remember this whole thing began with parking and snowballed into a litany of complaints from residents and officials including blocked driveways, public urination, trash on the fields, unapproved capital projects, and an irrigation system that was using water paid for by the Borough without permission. Now, after weeks of negotiation, it appears most of the items have been addressed.

League manager Charlie Cooper appeared before Borough Council on Tuesday night to give some updates. 

  • New trash cans have been installed in the dugouts and a process added for putting them out for Borough collection
  • The league will be billed for water use every 30 days
  • A second Porta-Potty will be added to the field
  • All players will sign a contract acknowledging the new rules

In addition, the new contract spells out a process for making capital improvements and designates acceptable parking locations. There will also be a profit-sharing model put in place that will allow the WCBL to coordinate outside use of the field in return for a portion of the fees generated. A split of 80/20 was proposed by the league (80% them/20% Borough) but this was not finalized, and neither was a plan for a netting solution needed to make sure the parking lot next to the field can be used. Both items will need to be resolved before play begins in the spring but for now, it is game on. 

“Wink, wink, you can play tomorrow,” Michael Stefano told the Baseball league on Tuesday night moments after the final agreement was placed on the consent agenda for acceptance Wednesday night.

Also, this week West Chester moved closer to allowing short-term rentals in the Borough. (While not technically allowed, many Airbnbs operate in the Borough. Surprisingly, however, outside of a lawyer representing Krupa Daniel, the infectious disease doctor whose application blew this whole thing open, no local Airbnb operators showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to advocate on their own behalf.) 

Despite the lack of operator input, Borough Council seems poised to allow homeowners to rent out a portion of their property for periods of 30 days or less. This shift along with the approval of the ADU ordinance appears to be part of a movement to provide residents with more options to combat rising real estate prices.

Under the discussed terms, homeowners who live in the town center, NC-1 or NC-2 districts could rent out a portion of their residences on a short-term basis. However, residents who live outside the town center will need to show they can provide designated guest parking. There is no additional parking requirement for those in the town center, where parking garages and lots provide sufficient extra parking. 

Now whether Airbnb will be a viable option for out-of-town-guests visiting for this year’s Parents Weekend, is still TBD. A final version of the ordinance including these agreed-upon changes is expected in August with a Public Hearing scheduled for sometime in September. 


Underground cisterns and hearty plants work together to slow runoff at Greenfield Park.

Could it be goodbye to flooding in Greenfield Park? Not likely, but after six years of planning the Borough is hoping things will at least be better. 

“Greenfield Park is just impressing me a little by little,” said Borough Council President Michael Stefano. “What was normally an eyesore and a flood zone in that parking lot is now becoming more of a greener space and it looks really nice.” 

The Borough of West Chester with the help of some dedicated volunteers has been working hard to put the final plants in place for two new rain gardens. One was added midway through the parking lot and the other along the edge of S. Franklin Street. The native plants, which should one day bloom in a palette of purple and gold (today they are all a hearty green), are designed to work in combination with 12” below-ground drain basins to slow the flow of water into nearby Goose Creek. 

While the gardens will not eliminate flooding entirely, improvements should be seen as long as rainfall stays under 2.5 inches. The plants not only help absorb excess water but they serve as a filter to help remove salt, dirt, and other grime from the water. And it just looks better. You can see the full plan here

Also, this week a sad goodbye. Phil Donley founder of West Chester University’s athletic training program, passed away last Friday morning. He was 88 years old. According to a write-up on the WCU Athletics website, Phil started the athletic training education program shortly after his arrival at the university in 1965. “That demanding progressive program was, and is, nationally recognized as the gold standard for athletic training education,” the statement read. 

A celebration of life is being planned at the WCU Alumni & Foundation Center, 202 Carter Dr. from 6 – 8 p.m. 

Finally, goodbye to Peter Clark Kitchen. This week Chef and owner Erin Morrison shared he will be closing shop and stepping away from the industry. In a post shared on Facebook, he said he was making the move to spend more time with his wife and daughters. PCK has been in business for two and a half years. They will be closing their Market Street shop at the end of July.

Pay it forward.

Photo bombed at last year’s Chili Cook-Off.

Back by popular demand, the West Chester Chili Cook-Off returns on Sunday, October 8th from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  (People are still talking about last year’s event.) 

“This will be the 21st year, and the competition promises to be the biggest ever with more chili, more prizes, and more vendors,” said Chili Chair Jeff Cantwell.  All of the proceeds from this popular street fair go to support nonprofit organizations helping to provide food, clothing, and shelter in Chester County.

What is the Chili Cook-Off?  For attendees, it’s a $15 pass to sample chili from some of the area’s best professional and amateur chefs. For vendors, it’s the opportunity to meet with 8,000 or more people as they stroll up and down Gay Street – and for the 50 or more teams competing it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. 

“It’s teamwork, the thrill of competition, the chance to provide for the needy, earn year-long bragging rights, and a shot at increased cash prizes,” said Jeff. This year the grand prize People’s Choice Award has been raised to $2500.

Think you have an amazing chili recipe? The Chili Cook-off team is welcoming, nay, encouraging new teams. “We have about 15 teams so far this year, and we need 50,” said Jeff. 

So dust off grandma’s recipe, roll up those sleeves, and get stirring because you are going to need 20 to 30 gallons of that special sauce. But don’t worry, while that may seem like a lot, the Rotary Club can help you secure space in a certified commercial kitchen and answer any questions you may have. 

Find all the information on what you’ll need to enter your team here.  

West Chester artist and former professional runner Landon Peacock needs your help.

Finally, want to make your weekend really memorable? Stop by Align.Space between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday for a fundraiser unlike any you’re likely to see again. 

The local art and running communities have come together to create a one-of-a-kind silent auction full of original works, prints, sculptures, running gear, and more in support of one of their own. All the proceeds from the event will go to support West Chester artist and elite runner Landon Peacock who recently began his battle against acute myeloid leukemia.

“I have been feeling well. I get a little more tired than normal from the chemo, and I can’t run like I used to. Other than that, I feel pretty normal,” said Landon who was until recently a resident artist at Ginko Arts on S. High Street. 

He is 35 years old.

After chemo is complete this summer, Landon will undergo a bone marrow transplant and extended hospital stay this fall. This is likely when the real challenge will begin.  

“As a runner, you learn how to manage pain and discomfort,” Landon said. “I’m sure that’s a skill set that’s going to get me through the month-long stay.” 

The money raised from Sunday’s event and a GoFundMe established in Landon’s name will be used for medical bills and extraneous costs like cleaning (his immune system will be essentially gone after the transplant), and living (both he and his partner Julie are preparing for months of unpaid leave from work). 

“While the circumstances are tough, it’s been a really beautiful show of support from the community,” said event organizer Jacqueline Alnes.

Also donated – food and beverages from BeerMill, Baranby’s, Turks Head, Dia Doce, and Couch Tomato; music from Stephen Lyons and the Elm Grove Band.    

How you can help: 

  • Go to Sunday’s event. Bid on some new artwork, a brand-new pair of running shoes, or other fabulous items.
  • Donate to Landon’s GoFundMe
  • Complete the free, non-invasive test to see if you qualify as a bone marrow donor

Read more about the event and Landon’s journey here

The freakin’ weekend.

Everhart Park thrills

What are you up to this weekend? My little sister is visiting with her boyfriend. We’re excited to share our Friday night sushi tradition and are planning for an evening sipping beers at the Longwood Garden Fountains. I am also hoping to take the kids canoeing on Westtown Lake. It’s part of the West Chester Green Team’s Legendary Lenape program, an educational series they are making available to the community for basically free.

If you’re around this weekend, the Johnny Folsom 4, a Johnny Cash cover band, is playing at Uptown. Bar Avalon has a Dirty Pasta Water Martini for you to try. They say it’s delicious. I say I don’t know about that. Heading to the Barbie movie? Stop by May23 first for all the necessary gear then top off the evening with a Barbie cupcake (there’s some for you Kens too.) Speaking of sweets, Federal Donuts will be at the Artisan Exchange on Saturday. We had a breakfast of shared chicken sandwiches and fresh baked donuts last time we were in Philly and I still take mental trips back to that morning.

And this week a very special thank you to this week’s Community Sponsor Oakbourne Advisors.  Founded in 2004 Oakbourne has been an active member of the West Chester community for more than a decade. Learn more at Oakbourne.com.  

Oakbourne Advisors is an independent retirement plan consulting firm providing business owners and executive teams with the expertise necessary to design and manage a modern 401(k) plan. Based in downtown West Chester, Oakbourne Advisors is committed to being a trusted community resource. 

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!

Like knowing what’s happening in and around town? Same! I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year – we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited. Help keep readers first with a small donation below. (Bonus: Sign-up perks coming soon. Open to all current and new subscribers!)


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Mark your calendars:

  • July 21 – Trivia Night, West Chester Public Library, 7-8 p.m. Registration is required.
  • July 21 – Six One Five Collective, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Grammy nominated 615 Collective is steeped in the musical mix of Country, Americana, Folk and Pop. Tickets $35/advance; $40 at the door.
  • July 22 – West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
  • July 22 – The Johnny Folsom 4, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m., From A Boy Named Sue to Ring of Fire, the Johnny Folsom 4 pays tribute to the legendary Man in Black. Tickets: $35 in advance; $40 at the door
  • July 23 – Landon Peacock Fundraiser, Align.Space – 2 W. Market Streeet, 1 – 4 p.m. Help support local artist and runner Landon Peacock as he begins his battle against Acute Myeloid Leukemia. There will be live local bands, a silent auction, snacks, drinks, and a chance to be with community. If you would like to make a donation ahead of the event, you can do that here.
  • July 23 – West Goshen Summer Concert Series, Hagerty Amphitheater, West Goshen Park, 6:30 p.m. In event of rain, concerts will be moved to Fugett Middle School Auditorium. A donation for the West Chester Food Cupboard is encouraged. Music: West Chester Concert Band
  • July 24 – $5 Movie Night: The Incredibles 2, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Free popcorn included with the price of admission!
  • July 25 – The Inconvenient Dead: Exploring Chester County’s Potter’s Fields, virtual, 7 – 8 p.m. Historian Jonathan Hoppe will share his research into the area’s potter’s fields, where the county’s unclaimed found their eternal rest. This is a virtual event presented by the Chester County History Center. This is a pay-as-you-wish event. Registration required.
  • July 26 – The WC Underground Railroad Walking Tour, tour begins at the Chester County History Center, 6 – 7:30 p.m. The Underground Railroad was a network of people offering shelter and aid to enslaved men, women and children on their journeys to freedom. This small-group walking tour will visit eight locations around downtown West Chester. Tickets: $15; discount for members
  • July 27 – Music at Marshall, Marshall Square Park, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Free concert in the park presented by the Friends of Marshall Square Park. Musical guests Butterfoot. Food trucks arrive at 5 p.m. Face painting available from 6:15 – 8:15 p.m.
  • July 27 – East Bradford Summer Concert Series, East Bradford Park, 7 p.m. Music: Slingshot
  • July 29 – West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
  • July 29 – Spy Day, Chester County History Center, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Explore the secret world of historical spies with this family-friendly event. Kids: $7; Adults: $9; under 5 are free. Registration required.
  • July 31 – $5 Movie Night: HOOK, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Free popcorn included with the price of admission!
  • July 31 – Aug. 5 – Goshen Country Fair, 1320 Park Ave, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m., except on Friday the fair opens at 5 p.m. Join for week full of bingo, games, music, food, rides and livestock.

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!

New to Hello, West Chester? Sign up to get our weekly updates here.

Leave a Reply