Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Revitalize Chester’s Business District

Chester’s downtown business district will never become a bustling shopping area like it once was.


  1. The buildings are too old.
  2. The streets are too small.
  3. No parking.
  4. Little consumer attraction to the area.

There is no way a national chain or franchise operation is going to open a business in any of those old, abandoned, neglected buildings. In order to have a thriving business district, we’ll need more than a few businesses willing to come to the Avenue of the States in a group and that is not likely to happen due to the poor conditions of the remaining buildings, most of which can’t even be renovated to meet today’s standards.

Businesses locate where people are likely to assemble to shop. Until Chester gets more residents and people from outside Chester who prefer to shop in Chester over Brookhaven, Media, Darby, and Delaware for the same stores, chances are major companies will not be bringing their retail business to Chester anytime soon. 

No group of businesses will assemble on a one lane street that dead ends at City Hall with no parking nearby. 

But this doesn’t mean the downtown area cannot become a thriving district again. Here’s what I think will have to happen.

Start over.

  1. Get rid of all the existing buildings.
  2. Build an upscale townhouse community.
  3. Create a community of professional offices (doctor, lawyer, accountants, etc)
  4. Create a cluster of retail stores that cater to the townhouse community.

Anything short of starting over to attract a higher income resident in a safe and upscale neighborhood within walking distance to the train station, and moments from the riverfront attractions to come, with immediate access to Rt 291 and its fingers to I-95, the airport, and New Jersey, is worthless.


  1. Sounds like a good idea.... But, where will the children of these higher income residents attend school? Chester Upland? And the violence problem.... unless you build a big fence with 24/7 police security around this upscale community no one is going to spend the money for the property. And how will the Chester residents feel about this .... I can only imagine the animosity the Chester residents will feel toward the residents of this new community (us vs. them, the good Chester vs. the bad Chester)!

  2. Never will happen, until things change. It would be great for the city it would add jobs! But the voilence is out of controll. The police are under man, and they take alot of heat for doing there job.... Just is not a safe place to go. Maybe something good could happen, rebuild the center of the city using city workers, hire more police, get rid of section eight, and start making citzens take responiable for there actions. it is a shame 4.8 square miles of prime realeaste going to waste. Get rid of the cancer (COMMUNITY) and build a great neighbor, till then good luck to the police and may GOD keep you all safe.....

  3. Funny to hear people say it can't happen. Obviously, they're too young to remember South Street!

  4. The culture does need to be changed, poverty is not just economic in Chester, but moral and social also. You do need to bring in a strong middle class base with middle class values. Justison Landing in Wilmington is a prime example of what can be done. Our main problem is that the Chester-Upland School District is one of the worst in the state. You can not attract professionals and para professionals because of that. You would not place your child or children in a situation to fail. But the premise of the idea is excellent. The comment was made the good Chester vs. the bad Chester, well maybe the bad Chester which is full of violence, murder, robbery, and no respect to a persons rights, or property be held accountable for actions by the enforcement of community action and legal means until they are removed from Chester, their behavior ruins the environment for the other law abiding citizens.

  5. Uh ho, any other bright ideas genius!

  6. Here's my suggestion. Tear down all the buildings between 6th and 7th street on the Avenue of the States and convince a major retailer like Target to build there and you would attract people from Chester, Eddystone,Marcus Hook, Linwood, Parkside,Brookhaven, Upland, and Woodlyn.

  7. To Anonymous #1. Chester will attract empty nesters or those who can afford private school. Yes, it could involve some big fences, but they make them pretty these days. And, I don't think current Chester folks would welcome their new neighbors as long as they don't encroach on each other's space.

    To Anonymous #2
    Never will happen until things change. Exactly. That's what we're taking about...change. Isn't that what everyone voted for?

    To Joe Kane
    LOL. Ain't no 'Big Hearted Jim' or 'Krass Brothers' on South Street now. That once seedly street lined with Jewish merchants and abandoned row homes now commands over a million dollars to buy into. Good example.

    To Anonymous #3
    There are examples of urban renewal all over the world. Chester has been devalued so much that it can hardly get any cheaper. As soon as the banks let go of the money, this place will change. The change will be so fast that it will make heads spin. When I moved to NYC in 1999 a shell in Harlem cost $50k. In 2003 that same shell cost $500,000.

    Anonymous #4
    If you are addressing me, yes. I'm full of bright ideas.

    Anonymous #5
    You don't convince a big retailer to do anything. If that were the case, there would be a Pathmark on Highland Ave.
    Why do you want a Target to take up your entire downtown area when you have a Walmart 2 miles away, and two other Targets less than 10 miles away?
    And look closely, those Targets and Walmarts do not sit by themselves. They are surrounded by many other stores.

  8. oops. To Anonymous #1. I think Chester WILL welcome their new neighbors.

  9. I'm glad that I'll be welcomed as a new neighbor! I've always been treated kindly when visiting.
    As you mentioned, the schools can make or break a community, so I look forward to seeing you after my teenager graduates high school (I speak as a graduate of Penn Wood). And since schools affect property values, I hope I can volunteer when I get there.

  10. I have to agree with which ever Anonymous said in order to attract professionals and para professionals, we need better schools, it would not make sense to bring businesses and employees to the city and fence off the area, and I also agree with Anony #1 the residents of this city would not be very welcoming to a rich or middle class section of Chester that gets fenced off and has actual poice attention to the city during soccer season...even "if" the this new class could afford private schools, why would they pay morgage and PS tuition, when they could just live in an area where there are good public schools and a lot less crime and NO fence pretty or not, Chester could and I think will rise up again, when jobs come back and the schools get back to the business of providing a quality education to the residents and their is the main way to fight has nothing to do with section eight or any other low income housing, it has to do teaching and showing the people how to get out of poverty, through higher education, trades, jobs, becoming business owners...until more residents and their children in MY CITY are better educated, this ride will continue to be debated.

  11. Joe Kane South street has been over come by flas mobs people dont go there anymore, thats people with money. Its all freaks.

  12. Joe Kane the next police commisiner is going to be Joe Bail, please Joe you know what he is all about, please let them know the mistake there are about to make.... Joe Kane for police chief...

  13. Danyel. There are gated communities everywhere. Even nice areas have gated communities. It creates a sense of security and exclusiveness, something people with money thrive on.
    They would come to Chester because the taxes are far cheaper compared to surrounding communities. The money they save in taxes is used to pay for private schools. You don't really believe that these people care what the current Chester people think about them moving into to town? Hell, they would only be making Chester better. Why wouldn't current Chester folks welcome an influx of new homes, more tax payers, better stores, and a higher quality of life. And, there are some existing Chester folks who would love to move into a nice new home in Chester. Wouldn't it be great to see everyone in Chester rise out of poverty, ignorance, miseducation, drug addiction, incarceration, and malnutrition in the next 10 years. The person who comes up with that formula will be an instant billionaire.

  14. Oh boy, the Joe Bail haters are back.

    I wish someone with a name other than Anonymous would submit an article on Joe Bail so we can all learn about this guy. I'd be happy to post it on the blog.

  15. Mr. Roots, I love your optimism and agree with you for the most part. I also, like you, feel that this is all possible but ONLY if todays Children are taken back by thier Parents. It is my opinion that if the PARENTS put thier foot down with the CHILDREN the you would see the school get better, violence go down and a general rise in the level of respect for other people.
    Step 2 would have to be a revitalization of the "system". This machine is and has been broken for far too long.... Not only Chester Residents but "out of towners" come into the city to commit criminal activities because there is a general attitude of "I'll only get a slap on the wrist".
    To summarize my opinion:
    Its Possible IF Parents take a stand and the System make needed improvements.
    If more people like yourself took an interest or took a stand against the "bad people" it would become a very obtainable goal.
    Thank you for your time.

  16. stefan roots said "oh boy, the joe bail haters are back"

    i believe that they never left!!

    it was suggested that joe kane should be police chief!!

    how aboput just keeping darren alston
    is that politically correct???

  17. CHANGE. That's what Chester voted for. That's what they're getting. What's the problem?

  18. They need to close Columbus School. No heat leaking roofs ? What parent in his/her right mind would send their child there?

  19. Stefan I can agree with some of your response to my post, yes there are Gated communities everywhere but they are normally in better areas with better schools, Yes there are people in Chester that would like to live in nice new homes and yes Chester most definately needs more Tax paying citizens, but No I don't believe that people with those wants of exclusivity and well off financally would come to a gated comm in Chester...cheaper taxes or not for most the higher the taxes the better the area...but like I said I agree with some of it not all, Chester has a very negative mentality, and until the SCHOOLS BECOME COMPETATIVE IN THE CUNTY AND STATE, IT WILL ALWAYS BE THIS WAY...dang shame because Chester is Prime Realistate...

  20. So you think the developers who are planning to build condos/townhomes next to PPL Park are stupid? No one is going to move in to those $200k+ homes when they're built? You think the people who do move in care about Chester schools? Hummmm.

  21. chester needs to turn the district back over to the white folks,or at least educated black folks,check peoples credentials before you vote for them,they may mean well but that does not mean they know what they are doing,even though we have a change in city goverment and school district,we will be marred by MISMANAGEMENT