West Chester Offers Small-Town Charm, Easy Access to Big City

By Laura Hill on April 28, 2011 at 11:13 am EST
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Visit West Chester‚ and you might never want to go home again. In fact‚ you may decide to just stay put and make this community your own.

“People come here and they stay here‚” says Dick Yoder‚ who is now in his second term as mayor of West Chester. “It’s friendly‚ it has a vibrant and interesting town center‚ and it has a unique balance between being a small town andhaving a lot of activity.”

Yoder‚ one of 13 children‚ grew up in a West Chester he describes as a small farm town‚ in which his father ran a feed store.

Today‚ he presides over a city of 18‚000 residents‚ blessed with a bustling downtown‚ attractive residential neighborhoods and a fascinating history. And increasingly‚ West Chester is attracting newcomers drawn to its location‚ amenities and quality of life.

In fact‚ the city was listed in the 2006 edition of Sperling’s Best Places To Raise Your Family: The Top 100 Affordable Communities in the United States.

“Watching the transformation from a rural farm community into a vibrant suburban community has been a lot of fun‚” Yoder says.

Like Yoder‚ Rose Stancato grew up in the area and chose to stay. Her business‚ First Mortgage Home Loans‚ overlooks the center of town‚ a vantage point she enjoys.

“When I was a kid‚ we could walk uptown and see a movie‚ and the retail spaces were open Wednesday and Friday nights‚” she recalls. “Then‚ in the ’70s‚ the mall opened‚ and a lot of vacant storefronts came into view. Now – and it’s an accomplishment for the chamber and the BID (Business Improvement District) – it’s flourishing again. Now I see what I used to see as a kid.”

Stancato points to West Chester’s location as a major drawing card. An hour from Baltimore‚ New York or the beach‚ 30 minutes from Philadelphia and close to a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities‚ “whatever you want to do‚ it’s‚ at most‚ only two hours away – and then you get to come home. That’s what I love about the area.”

Yoder credits a mixture of small-town friendliness and large-town convenience as reasons for the city’s growth.

As the county seat‚ West Chester attracts lawyers‚ bankers and other professionals; as the home of the largest hospital in the county‚ medical professionals and services abound; and West Chester University of Pennsylvania brings diversity and a cultural richness to life in the city.

Combine that with great restaurants‚ outstanding retail stores‚ affordable housing and an abundance of community events such as an Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade‚ musical Swingin’ Summer Thursdays and twice-a-year Gallery Walks‚ and you’ve got a great place to live.

“It’s small‚ the neighborhoods are great‚ and we’ve made a lot of friends since we moved here‚” says Kevin Finn‚ who came to town in 2002‚ after opening Iron Hill Brewery here in 1998. “At the same time‚ there are a lot of things going on‚ lots of family-friendly events and a downtown core that is really vibrant and appeals to young people. We like the feel.”

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