West Chester, one of the most popular destinations in the Philadelphia region today, had to work hard to transform its once-sleepy downtown into a bustling borough perpetually filled with visitors, writes Joe Sugarman for Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
At the end of the 1990s, things were not so lively in West Chester. There were few retailers left downtown after the opening of nearby malls, and there was no restaurant scene.
However, thanks to a combination of the dual economic engines of a university and a courthouse, the renewed appeal of small-town life, and the efforts of the Business Improvement District, the downtown slowly transformed.
The BID’s efforts were key in the recovery process. A group of local business and property owners — along with city planners, residents, university representatives, and government officials — joined forces to attract businesses and restaurants to downtown and advertise it as a unit.
“One store doing one thing at a time isn’t effective, but if you do a (downtown-wide) Christmas promotion or summertime promotion or sidewalk sale, that’s something else,” said Sandra Riper, owner of Sunset Hill Jewelers.
Read more about West Chester in Preservation magazine.