West Chester Among Best Places
Text from Main Line Today article:
As a lawyer and writer in Chester County, I've spent a lot of time in West Chester over the past 20 years. And I've never less than amazed by what has happened -- and is happening -- to the county seat. As recently as a decade ago, downtown West Chester was going the way of many other small has-been towns. Old-line retail stores -- many of them in business for generations -- were closing their doors due to intense competition from malls and discounters.
Added to their woes was the county's decision to build its big, modern Government Services Center outside of town, thereby sucking hundreds of employees (along with their lunch and shopping money) out of the downtown in one fell swoop. Despite the steady stream of students from West Chester University and the lunch crowds from the county courthouse and surrounding offices, things were beginning to look bleak. I remember when all four corner properties at the town's main intersection at High and Gay Streets sat vacant.
Then, along came the Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. Thse forward-looking food-and-microbrew purveyors took the shuttered Woolworth's and transformed it from a shopworn five-and-dime to a trendy, wood-paneled pub and eatery complete with pool tables. By the time Iron Hill opened for business, the wait at the door on weekends was over an hour. The spillover from the long lines created instant traffic for existing restaurants along Gay Street, and pretty soon brand-new eateries were popping up all along the four-block main drag. The boutiques and art galleries followed soon thereafter.
Today, West Chester is a destination town. Even as the rest of the area continues to sprout more strip malls and big-box stores, it offers one the opportunity to hoof it between its cafes, restaurants, stores and galleries -- all without having to schlep back to some enormous parking lot and drive to your nex stop.
If there's one sad thing about West Chester, it's that it lost it's downtown movie house a number of years ago. The old Warner Theatre, a striking of '30s-era, art deco movie-house design, was surgically altered into offices and shops in the early 1980s, despite the valliant efforts of a small band of locals to preserve it. Ironically, had the Warner been able to hang in there, it would've made a great art-house theater for the town's new upscale crowd.
These days, West Chester has much to recommend it: excellent public schools, proximity to major highways, the beauty of the surrounding countryside and, of countryside and, of course, a downtown that's well on its way to becoming the Manayunk of Chester County. --Barry Rabin
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West Chester Receives National Recognition.
2006 Leaders of Distinction Award.
Best New Shopping District.
BID Receives State Recognition.
West Chester Makes Top 100.