West Chester leads Pennsylvania in population growth among boroughs

PETE BANNAN DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA   A couple relaxes at a outdoor seating on Gay Street in West Chester.
PETE BANNAN DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA A couple relaxes at a outdoor seating on Gay Street in West Chester.

WEST CHESTER >> While most small towns in Pennsylvania have been losing population in the past eight years, West Chester is gaining. In fact, West Chester has experienced the largest numeric gains of any borough in the state last year, according to the most recent data by the Census Bureau.

“West Chester has been called the Perfect Town and the latest Census data confirms that people continue to flock here to live, work, play, and raise their families,” said state Sen. Andrew Dinniman who maintains an office in West Chester’s historic district. “With an in-demand university, top-notch schools, great parks, growing career opportunities, and a vibrant downtown with seemingly endless dining, shopping, art, and entertainment opportunities, it’s not hard to see why.”

West Chester ranked first of Pennsylvania’s 964 boroughs in increasing numeric population by 1,601 (8.7 percent) from an estimated 18,459 in July 2010 to 20,060 in July 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s recently released 2017 sub-county population estimates.

Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of boroughs in Pennsylvania have lost population since 2010.

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Last year, West Chester scored the prestigious Great American Main Street Award, which honors municipalities dedicated to commercial district revitalization.

“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.”

Dianne Herrin, West Chester mayor, is not surprised by West Chester’s popularity.

“I think a lot of people are looking for what West Chester has to offer in terms of walkability,” Herrin said. “We have wonderful restaurants and a great retail district. And we have an incredible community of people. That’s what makes West Chester really special. You can go out any night of the week and there are always things to do in West Chester.”

And then there’s the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center, which contributes to the quality of life by providing a wide range of educational programs to young and old.

Sidewalk dining is a hallmark of West Chester’s thriving 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.

The median household income in West Chester is just over $51,000 annually. It is comprised of 71 percent white, 13.5 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 1.4 percent Asian. There are about 6,500 households in West Chester.

Despite some parking issues, Herrin said West Chester remains one of the safest boroughs in the state.

“Our crime is down significantly,” she said. “We have an excellent police force, and (Police Chief Scott) Bohn has done a very good job policing the community and ensuring safety. I am incredibly impressed with our police force.”

Said Dinniman: “I want to thank all the members of the business community, borough leaders, volunteers, and the staff of the West Chester Business Improvement District for their ongoing work and commitment to keep the historic borough growing strong. And I look forward to continuing to work together to manage this growth, so West Chester can and will continue to be ‘the Perfect Town’ for all to enjoy for decades to come.”

About the Author

Fran Maye

Fran Maye is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of Shippensburg University. He and his wife Marianne live in East Marlborough. He enjoys golf and is a 4.0 tennis player. Reach the author at kennettpaper@gmail.com or follow Fran on Twitter: @kennettpaper.