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West Chester BID Business Attraction Action Plan

West Chester BID logoUpdated May 6, 2014

contact Malcolm Johnstone

Business Attraction is a regular function of a downtown revitalization program and it meant to foster a business friendly environment for the attraction, retention, and expansion of downtown businesses.

However, it must be understood that an effective program is more than simply identifying a few business types that add to the downtown retail mix. The National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, characterizes such a program as Economic Restructuring with the goal to "strengthen downtown's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base." It emphasizes that there should be a holistic approach that recognizes the understanding of how the downtown market mix effects the micro-economy and livability of the community.

For downtown West Chester, the successful approach starts with an understanding of three essential category types that, when in balance, strengthen the local economy.

Catalyst Businesses: These are businesses, organizations, or developments that expand the customer base. An example is Hotel Warner that accommodates up to 100 overnight visitors. Residential development within the downtown also acts as a catalyst.

Hometown Businesses: These are the hallmark of downtown where local entrepreneurs set up shop and provide a unique flavor to the downtown niche shopping experience. Kaly and Taylor Music Store are typical of the West Chester experience.

Attractor Businesses: Such businesses (and certain downtown features) are destinations unto themselves. They expand the marketplace experience by attracting visitors. The Chester County Historical Society, West Chester Railroad, and the structures by Thomas U. Walter, although passive, are examples.

Primary Market: This is the hyper-local market that serves the day-to-day needs of the downtown and surrounding  neighborhoods.

Secondary Market: This market serves comparison shoppers--folks who are willing to take their time to ensure that they are receiving the best value for their dollar.  Strip malls and big box retailers generally serve the secondary market.  But in West Chester, jewelers and apparel stores serve this segment.

Tertiary Market: This market serves destination shoppers and tourists. For browsing customers, shopping is a recreation sport. Gift shops, restaurants, bars, specialty apparel and art galleries will support this segment.

In a report provided by a Resource Team organized by the Urban Land Institute of Philadelphia and funded by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and West Chester BID, a recommendation was made to incorporate five strategic items for business attraction.  They are currently being utilized by the West Chester BID to "actively guide development according to a retail strategy."

  1. develop retail strategy and action plan
  2. contract with a retail recruiter
  3. court specific tenants
  4. concentrate new businesses in optimal areas
  5. business recruitment package

Further, the West Chester BID encourages businesses that serve browsers to cluster together. A successful downtown retail cluster will have:

  • no interruption in the visual line;
  • design features at the human scale (rather than automobile);
  • merchandising oriented towards value rather than price.

Preferred Downtown Businesses: While all businesses are welcome downtown, that following business types will add to the characteristics downtown West Chester is noted for:

  • Sole-proprietorships over corporate chains
  • Specialty shops over general merchandising
  • Value & service over price & selection


Each of the following potential business developments have been recognized by the Business Attraction Committee as an enhancement to the downtown business mix and are currently slated as the current goals:

Theater development
Support the adaptive reuse of the West Chester Armory into a live theater facility.

  • BID succesfully facilitated the creation of a sustainability report in partnership with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.
  • Continue to work with theater developers to secure a Pennsylvania DCED Anchor Block Grant-to-Loan.

Hotel development
Advocate for the development of a 120-room hotel at the corner of Gay & Walnut.

  • BID will provide assistance for any approval consideration.

Historic Post Office divestment
The BID is a consulting party for the 1907 Post Office divestment and will be involved throughout the sale process.

  • Pending West Chester BID Board approval.

124MarketPlace development
This project has broken ground and will include retail on the ground floor and 88 residential units. The projection for completion is 2015.

  • BID will assist the developers to identify a possible tenant mix.

F&M Building
New property owners seeking to convert first floor space into a restaurant.

  • Assisting realtors to recruit a steak house-style restaurant.

Mosteller Plaza development (Gay & Church)
Assisting the developers to create a plaza development compatible with the social and historic fabric of the downtown.

  • Pending approval by Borough Council.


WCU retail shop
The WCU Ram Shop, an apparel retail shop, has opened by High & Chestnut Streets. Support will continue to help insure success.


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Call 610.738.3350 or fax 484.843.2250