● Published by J. Chambless
The West Chester Business Improvement District is one of the three winners of the 2017 Great American Main Street Award from the National Main Street Center Inc., the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to commercial district revitalization.
The organization was recognized for its efforts preserving the area’s historic and cultural heritage while modernizing the neighborhood into a fine-dining destination.
“West Chester’s transformation over the past 17 years has been truly remarkable,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “The town has always had great architectural heritage but under West Chester Business Improvement District’s leadership, it has grown into a haute-cuisine mecca, drawing not just locals, but visitors from surrounding areas.”
Sidewalk dining is a hallmark of the city’s food scene. West Chester has 64 restaurants and more than 75 retail stores, all within walking distance of the downtown area. In addition, the annual Chester County Restaurant festival attracts foodies from all over the country.
“It was a challenge to bring a new vitality to our downtown more than a decade ago, so it’s especially exciting to now gain recognition for our hard work,” said Malcolm Johnstone, executive director of West Chester Business Improvement District. “The completion of the historic courthouse renovation and the opening of a new hotel and theater are just some visible signs of the area’s revitalization but it truly was the partnership between local, regional and national organizations that helped West Chester flourish into a vibrant community.”
Since 2000, under the leadership of West Chester Business Improvement District, the town has improved the business vacancy rate from 22 percent to 4 percent, adding close to 250 new businesses and creating some 1,000 jobs for the area.
West Chester has 4,200 architectures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The town is proud of its collection of buildings designed by Thomas U. Walter, who later went on to design the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Several structures around West Chester feature Walter’s Greek Revival-style including the First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, Bank of Chester County and Chester County Courthouse.
"The transformation that West Chester has gone through reflects our country’s development from a simple agricultural community to an industrial community over the past two centuries,” Johnstone said. “We’re proud to maintain our historic heritage while continuously growing as a vibrant community that connects people from all walks of life.”
Each year, Main Street America, a program of the National Main Street Center, celebrates the country’s best examples of comprehensive commercial district revitalization. Winners are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants by a national jury based on successful and innovative uses of the Main Street Approach. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.