On Oct. 19 this year, the Borough Council of West Chester voted to begin the construction of two 60 foot plaza buildings on the corner of Gay and Church Street. The building, which will be used for retail purposes and office structures, will begin construction sometime this fall and is expected to be finished by Dec. 2019.
The E. Kahn Development Corporation will be joining forces with J. Loew and Associates to tackle the development of this massive project. With the E. Kahn group already familiar with the area after constructing sites on Walnut St., Market St. and King St., this should be another great showcasing of construction. The building will offer four floors and two wings which will serve as retail stores and rented office space, further expanding the ever-growing businesses of the West Chester Borough.
Though this plaza will be the next step in the expansion of the Borough, the corner of Church and Gay St. has a historical significance unknown to most WC residents. In an article written by Professor James Jones, a WCU history instructor, the intersection of Gay and Church St. was known as “Mosteller Corner.” On this corner stood a massive 12-story building, which was dubbed “Mostellers Department Store.” According to Jones, preservationists call this corner “The First Corner.”
This building was a first for its kind but it was soon changed again. Next, a man by the name of William Worthington acquired a building permit for a three-story hotel, which he named “Cross Keys.” Jones stated in his article, “Over the years, its name changed frequently, but the original building (plus several additions) stood on the site for nearly a century until 1873. The list of owners was even longer, and included William Worthington in 1792, Robert McClenaham in 1794, Isaac Webb in 1796, Ephraim Buffington in 1801, John Watson in 1812, Benjamin Jeffries in 1814, Benjamin Pearson in 1815, Davis Beaumont in 1818, Philip P. Sharpless in 1838 and finally Robert Irwin in 1839.”
Over time, the hotel soon became outdated. More new and improved hotels began popping up in West Chester, such as Hotel Warner, rendering Cross Keys and The White Hall obsolete. According to Jones, in 1873, the property was sold, demolition of the building was initiated and then three-story brick buildings from 38-42 W. Gay St. were built and sold to the highest bidder.
In 2018, the next chapter of the “Mosteller Corner” rises with its newest plaza project in effect. E. Kahn Construction, along with J. Loew and Associates, plans on making this piece of architecture a modern staple in the town. The Farmers and Mechanics Building on the corner of High and Market St. paved the way for architecture 100 years ago in West Chester, and the current workers plan on doing the same for the next century.
The grand piece of the plaza will be the courtyard fountain with a boiler that will allow water to run every day, all year-round. There are hopes that this fountain will be a landmark in the Borough, much like the courthouse, Hotel Warner and other historical sites within West Chester. There is talk of having mutual ties with the university, allowing West Chester’s art program to team up with the Chester County Art Association to put up a locally made, rotating piece of art that will be on display every six months, either outside or in the plaza lobby.
Construction is expected to begin sometime this fall. Included in the plans are lower floor walk-in retail stores, lower lobby space used for lounging, the outside plaza and two restaurants. Upstairs will contain three additional floors of potential office rental spaces. However, during the construction of this modern marvel, there are some setbacks for the residents of West Chester.
The developers plan to utilize parking lot 10, which contains 55 spots used for residential and work purposes. They also plan on making changes to zoning ordinances and regulations that have been in place for a number of years, presenting the argument of abolishing the set of outdated rules.
Christopher Sheehan is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies with minors in journalism and graphic design. CS895080@wcupa.edu