Home Rule Municipality
Location in Delaware County and the state of Pennsylvania.
|o Mayor||Thaddeus Kirkland|
|o Total||6.00 sq mi (15.55 km2)|
|o Land||4.83 sq mi (12.52 km2)|
|o Water||1.17 sq mi (3.04 km2)|
|Elevation||69 ft (21 m)|
|o Estimate (2016)||33,988|
|o Density||7,032.48/sq mi (2,715.05/km2)|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|o Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|Area code(s)||484, 610|
|GNIS feature ID||1171694|
|Designated||October 13, 1947|
Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States, with a population of 33,972 at the 2010 census. Incorporated in 1682, Chester sits on the western bank of the Delaware River between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.
The Indian tribe that owned the land where Chester now stands were the Okehockings, removed by order of Willian Penn in 1702 to other lands in Chester County. The original Indian name of Chester was Mecoponaca.
The first European settlers in the area were Swedes. They called the settlement that became Chester first "Finlandia" (the Latin name for Finland), then "Upland" (see the Swedish province of Uppland and the borough of Upland). They built Fort Mecoponacka in 1641 to defend the settlement.
By 1682, Upland was the most populous town of the new Province of Pennsylvania. On October 27, the ship Welcome arrived at the town, bearing William Penn on his first visit to the province. Penn renamed the settlement for the English city of Chester.
Chester served as the county seat for Chester County, which then stretched from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. In 1789, the city became the county seat for the newly created Delaware County (whereupon Chester County became landlocked, with West Chester as the county seat). On March 5, 1795, the borough of Chester, which had been governed under the charter granted by Penn in 1701 was incorporated by the Pennsylvania Assembly. The county seat was moved to the borough of Media in 1851. On February 14, 1866, Chester was incorporated as a city.
Chester's naval shipyard supplied the Union during the Civil War, and the United States in subsequent wars until the shipyard at Philadelphia became dominant after World War II. America's largest postbellum shipyard, John Roach's Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works as well as the Chester Rolling Mill which supplied the metal hull plates and beams were located in Chester. The location was repurposed by the Ford Motor Company with the Chester Assembly factory until 1961. The Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., later Pennsylvania Shipyard & Dry Dock Company, was located in Chester until it closed in 1990. Two ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Chester in honor of the city.
Chester is one of numerous places that claim to be the birthplace of the hoagie sandwich. It is also known as the "Cradle of Rock 'n Roll", as Bill Haley & His Comets first performed and maintained their headquarters in the Chester area.[better source needed]
The following are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Delaware County National Bank, 1724 Chester Courthouse, Chester Waterside Station of the Philadelphia Electric Company, Old Main and Chemistry Building, William Penn Landing Site, and the former Second Street Bridge.
Chester began losing its mainstay shipyard and automobile manufacturing jobs as early as the 1960s, causing the population to be halved in fifty years from over 66,000 in 1950 to under 34,000 in 2010. Poverty and crime rose as the city declined. In 1995, the state designated Chester as a financially distressed municipality. Soon thereafter, the city's schools ranked last among the state's 501 districts, leading Pennsylvania education officials in 2001 to hire the for-profit Edison Schools to run the local school district for three years.
When Chester became eligible for Pennsylvania's Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program, firms began to accept state and local tax breaks to invest in KOZ-designated areas. The Wharf at Rivertown, a $60 million renovation of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO)'s 396,000 sq ft (36,800 m2) generating plant, which was originally built in Chester in 1918, has returned the waterfront to the local residents, providing both recreational and office space for new local endeavors. One of its tenants is AdminServer, which makes software for the insurance industry. It moved from Malvern, Pennsylvania in 2003 and was acquired by Oracle in 2007. Another one of the Wharf's tenants is Power Home Remodeling Group, the nation's 2nd largest exterior home remodeling company. Sun Shipbuilding converted part of the shipyard to a smaller shipping concern and sold its interest, then sold off portions of the rest to new users, such as the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution - Chester. Harrah's Casino and Racetrack built its facilities beginning in 2005, launching harness racing along the Delaware River in September 2006, and its racino in January 2007. The employment status for workers sixteen and older, and not in the labor force is at 41 percent.
The current mayor of the City of Chester is State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, who won the Democratic nomination in May 2015 over incumbent Mayor John Linder, was elected on November 3, 2015, and took office on January 4, 2016.
The Chester City Council is made up of four members: council members Elizabeth Williams, Portia West, William A. Jacobs, and Edith Blackwell plus the presiding officer, Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland. The City Controller is currently Ms. Edith Blackwell. Council members are elected at large to serve the entire city. Council meetings are generally held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. Under the Administrative Code of the city, each council member serves as a department head for one of the five municipal departments. Those municipal departments are:
Chester is a Third Class City, and was approved by the citizens on April 20, 1980, as a Home Rule Charter Community. Under the home rule form of government, the city council has been given all the legislative power to create ordinances, rules and regulations so the city can provide for the health, safety and well-being of its citizens.
The city has a police department of about one hundred officers.
The city government has been in financial distress for many years. It has operated under the state's Act 47 provisions for twenty-one years. The act provides for municipalities that are near bankruptcy. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections operates the State Correctional Institution - Chester, a drug treatment facility, in Chester. The city is scheduled to exit the program in May 2018, which may force it into bankruptcy. Additionally, the city is expected to face an operating deficit of $9.2 million for 2016 which has led the new administration to address cutting government spending.
There has recently been a new initiative to provide more public housing in the city, with three different projects at Wellington Heights, Union Square, and Pentecostal Square.
The current Police Commissioner, is Ottis Blair, serving his second term in that role. He has been working for the department since 1993, and has served various other roles such as captain, major, and deputy chief. The department responds to about 4,900 calls to action each month, but they are a more proactive crime fighting organization. For example, in 2013, the city expanded its police force as summer was approaching because crime generally rises during that time and the addition was done in anticipation of more calls to action. The United States Department of Justice gave them a Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) grant in 2012 that allowed the department to create five new positions that were implemented in this plan. The department prefers to keep its "rank and file" at more than one hundred officers and this grant has allowed them to surpass that goal. However, retirements and injuries continue to make it difficult to fully staff the department's many divisions.
Despite its efforts, the Chester Police Department still has a strained relationship with its citizens which led to a probe in May 2016 and the hope was that it would change the relationship between the department and the community. The probe follows a March 2016 shootout that saw the department claiming the suspects fired first, but the residents of the area where the incident took place believed the police fired first. In June, the United States Department of Justice came to Chester to hear the concerns of the citizens and it heavily criticized the department, pointing out deficiencies within the department. The community gathered in the Widener University auditorium where incidents of illegal stop and frisk encounters, the lack of Spanish speaking members of the department, and police brutality were discussed. This was the first step in a 6-month program organized by the Department of Justice's Office of Community Policing. Recommendations will be made early in 2017 and a task force will be in Chester for two years to oversee any department changes.
Crime is a heavy part of the daily life in Chester along with all the violence and economic hardships. The city of Chester has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country. People in the city of Chester have a 1 in 37 chance of being the victim of a violent crime. Recently, a source stated that there were 73 registered sex offenders living in the area. Other sources say that the crime in Chester, PA is roughly about 114% higher than crime in the rest of Pennsylvania, and close to 330% greater than the rest of the nation.
To combat these crimes, the city of Chester has a police force of 112 police officers. This is about 80% greater than the average in Pennsylvania.
Chester borders on (clockwise from southwest to northeast) Trainer Borough, Upper Chichester Township, Chester Township, Upland Borough, Parkside Borough, Brookhaven Borough, Nether Providence Township, Ridley Township, and Eddystone Borough in Pennsylvania. Chester is bordered to the south by the Delaware River. The city has a total area of 6.0 square miles (15.6 km2), 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2) of which is land and 1.2 square miles (3.0 km2) of which (19.42%) is water, according to the United States Census Bureau.
As of Census 2010, the racial makeup of the city was 17.2% White, 74.7% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.0% of the population .
There were 11,662 households, out of which 37.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 19.5% were headed by married couples living together, 35.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64, and the average family size was 3.34.
For the period 2010-2014, the estimated median annual income for a household in the city was $28,607, and the median income for a family was $34,840. Male full-time workers had a median income of $34,354 versus $30,634 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,516. About 27.3% of families and 33.1% of the total population were below the poverty line, including 47.7% of those under age 18 and 18.4% of those age 65 or over.
In Chester, east-west streets are numbered, while north-south streets carry names. The main bisecting street, known as The Avenue of the States south of 9th Street and Edgmont Avenue north of it, is signed as both Pennsylvania Route 320 (southbound only; northbound PA Rt. 320 uses adjacent Madison Street to Interstate 95) and Pennsylvania Route 352. North of I-95, State Route 320 follows Providence Avenue. Between 1993 and 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) widened and realigned Pennsylvania Route 291 from Trainer to Eddystone from a two-lane roadway to a five-lane roadway. This widening and realignment project, spearheaded by the late State Senator Clarence D. Bell of Upland, allows PA Route 291 to maintain at least two travel lanes in each direct between the refinery towns of Marcus Hook and Trainer and the Philadelphia International Airport, as well as promote the riverfront development in the city. Prior to the realignment, which was done first, the roadway followed 2nd Street to Crosby Street, then bore right onto E. 4th Street, widening to four lanes and becoming the "Industrial Highway" in Eddystone. Post-realignment, the road now follows W. 2nd Street to Concord Avenue, becoming the "Industrial Highway" past Concord Avenue and bypassing the Kimberly-Clark (formerly Scott Paper) processing facility.
Chester is served by two interstate highways: Interstate 95 and Interstate 476, which meet in nearby Eddystone. I-95 was built in the 1960s and originally terminated just north of the Chester/Eddystone line at the present-day I-95/I-476 junction. It was extended north in the 1970s, with the section around Philadelphia International Airport being completed in 1985. Three exits on I-95 allow access to Highland Avenue, Kerlin Street, and Edgmont Avenue/Avenue of the States (Rts. 320 & 352), with access to Widener University, via State Rt. 320. Of the three, only Kerlin Street is a partial exit, although the Avenue of the States exit was also a partial exit until the completion of a southbound on-ramp, spearheaded by the late State Sen. Bell, was completed in 2002. I-476, planned as an alternative route to State Rt. 320 since the 1920s and an original planned extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1950s (as part of the 1,000-mile (1,600 km) Turnpike network), was finally opened to traffic in 1992. An exit in Ridley Township at MacDade Boulevard (which becomes 22nd Street in Chester) allows access to I-476 without having to use I-95.
Two federal highway routes, U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 322, also run through Chester. US 13 enters Chester from Trainer on W. 4th Street, becomes part of Highland Avenue between W. 4th Street and W. 9th Street, and then continues on 9th Street to Morton Avenue. US 13 follows Morton Avenue in the city's Sun Village section until it crosses Ridley Creek and becomes Chester Pike in Eddystone.
US 322 enters Chester as a part of I-95 (merging on at Highland Avenue) and then departs I-95 at the Commodore Barry Bridge exit. Prior to the bridge's opening in 1974, US 322 would cross the Delaware River on the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry, via Flower Street, causing major backups because of limited space on the ferries. With the expansion of State Rt. 291 and the redevelopment of the Chester Waterfront, both the Delaware River Port Authority and PennDOT built a pair of entrance (westbound) and exit (eastbound) ramps to PA Rt. 291, providing direct access to the waterfront without using local streets. The ramps were built between 2007 and 2010 and were opened in 2011.
Talks have taken place for the reconstruction of US 322 from a two-lane road to a four-lane road between Chester and U.S. 1 in Concordville, and the Highland Avenue exit. The road currently requires traffic to merge onto I-95 in the left lane and requires changing lanes three times to the Commodore Barry Bridge exit ramp in less than a mile. Such a major undertaking would result in the demolition of numerous homes in the city's crime-plagued Highland Gardens section, along with condemning properties in nearby Chester Township, as I-95 passes through both municipalities between US 322 and the Commodore Barry Bridge.
A $16.6 million project to fix up eight I-95 bridges will begin March 2017 and is expected to be finished in November 2018. Improvements to Chestnut Street and Morton Avenue are also included in the project.
Public transportation in Chester is provided by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which acquired the former Suburban Philadelphia Transit Authority (aka "Red Arrow" Lines) in 1968. Seven bus routes (Routes 37, 109, 113, 114, 117, 118, and 119) serve the city, with the Chester Transportation Center in the city's business district, serving as the hub. Route 37 connects Chester with Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport, while Route 113 from 69th Street Terminal connects Chester with the state of Delaware. Both Routes 37 and 113 provide direct service to the Harrah's Philadelphia Racetrack and Casino located within the city, with Route 113 also providing service to the Philadelphia Union's Talen Energy Stadium soccer-specific stadium on the city's waterfront.
The city is also served by SEPTA's Wilmington/Newark Line commuter rail service, via Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. The Chester Transportation Center, serves as the main bus hub and the main train station in the city, while the Highland Avenue station, located approximately 4 miles (6 km) southwest of Chester T.C. station, is also served by Wilmington/Newark trains. A third station, at Lamokin Street, located approximately a mile east of the Commodore Barry Bridge at the junction of the NEC and the abandoned Penn Central Chester Creek Secondary Branch, was operated by SEPTA as a flagstop station until it was closed and demolished in 2003 due to low usage.
Historically, the Chester Transportation Center was, like the Paoli station on the Paoli/Thorndale Line, both a commuter and intercity stop on the former Pennsylvania Railroad's New York-Washington route. But when Amtrak took over intercity rail passenger services in 1971, the Chester Transportation Center was bypassed, except from April 30, 1978, to October 29, 1983, when the Chesapeake stopped once daily in each direction between Philadelphia and Washington.
The Chester-Upland School District serves the city, along with nearby Chester Township and Upland. Chester High School is currently the district's sole high school, but a recent approval by the district's empowerment board will see the development of two magnet schools; one dedicated to the arts and another for science and technology.
The St. Katharine Drexel Parish, established in 1993 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the consolidation of all Roman Catholic parishes in the city, maintains the city's only parochial school. St. James High School for Boys, the city's "other high school" and for many years, the main football rival for Chester High School, closed its doors in 1993 due to decreased enrollment. The nearest Catholic high school to Chester is Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield or, to parts of Chester, Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware.
Chester Community Charter School is a charter school established in 1998 that serves over 2,000 students in grades K-8. It is currently run by Steven Lee. New school Chester Charter School for the Arts was established in 2012 and currently house 460 children K-9 (adding on until 12). In 2017, New building will be established on Highland Ave. Widener Partnership Charter School was first launched in 2006, and is currently located across from the main campus university of Widener. It has been operating for eight years, and now has four hundred enrolled students from kindergartener to eighth grade. The university of Widener provides numerous support options to the charter school including educating staff, providing work to there graduate students, and use of the university facilities to help further the education of the charter school. The school also has a number of outside partners that include 21st Century Learning Communities, Andrew Hicks Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Big Friends, Chester Education Foundation, Earth Force, Exelon Foundation, Incredible Years, PECO, and Soccer for Success. Widener Partnership Charter School also has been proven to be efficient in helping children gain scholarships, and academic awards. Twenty Five eighth graders that graduated from the first class received scholarships to Philadelphia Catholic high schools, and where also given 100,000 dollars to attend Widener as undergraduate students if the students meet the requirements through high school. This marked the first graduating class of a university partnered charter school. Other news involving the charter school includes the new principle April Thomas who replaced Dr. Darlene Davis. She was the former assistant principle, and has a positive relationship with the students parents, and school community. Thomas currently holds master's degrees in reading and educational leadership from Arcadia University and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Millersville University. She has been in this position since February 27 of 2014. The Widener Partnership Charter School also has a number of after school programs. the Widener Cares Tutoring Project is a program dedicated to connecting Widener students, faculty, and staff volunteers with the elementary school students. They connect through the Freedom Baptist Church, The Nia Center, and the Unity Center. Widener Partnership Charter School also offers the Widener Reads and Widener Counts. This program is dedicated to students in Chester Community Charter School, Chester Upland School of the Arts, Drexel Neumann Academy, Stetser Elementary School and the Widener Partnership Charter School, and helps improve students reading skills through tutoring. The Widener Partnership Charter School also has recently added a new $4.6 million wing of the school at 1450 Edgmont Ave. This new edition includes a Science Learning Center, an extension of the library, a gymnasium, eight classrooms and eight offices. The New wing was funded by the university, and the university charges the school rent on an annual basis, but no university tuition dollars or district reimbursement funds were put into the new wing of the school.
Widener University is currently in an active project that is called the Chester revitalization project. The project costs $50 million and was started in 2007. The benefits the project can be seen in Chester, PA with building such as coffee shops, hotels, a bookstore, restaurants, and some apartments. Widener also serves the community in other ways. Widener works to educate the youth of Chester to inform them about the legal system, and avoiding juvenile detention by having students from criminal justice, and law talk to the youth.
Widener was named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll as a Presidential Award Finalist.
The University has a United States Postal Service post office located in the University Center making it easy for college students to send and receive mail.
The civic engagement at Widener University is elaborate. The fraternities and sororoties on campus are heavily involved in community service. One source claimed that the fraternities and sororities complete more than 2500 hours of service per academic year. Three-quarters of the students in the school participate in community service while ranking 19th nationally on Newsweek's list of service-minded colleges. Widener Offers eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate's, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Widener also offers a number of athletics that compete at the NCAA Division III intercollegiate level. Due to the division three restriction Widener does not offer athletic based scholarships. The University sponsors 20 varsity sports - 10 for men and 10 for women. Widener also offers a number of educational facilities such as the Wolfgram memorial library, Wideners art gallery, and the university also partners with the PMC Museum. The PMC Museum, and brings to life the history of the Pennsylvania Military College. This shows the Universities heavy focus on its Military roots, and its achievements of there accomplished alumni. The University also offers the Widener University Observatory, that includes the 12-and-16-inch computerized reflecting telescopes. This being used by the students, and public for the star-gazing programs. Widener also offers eighty different clubs, and organizations. These range from intermural sports, radio shows, and community service. Widener University is a smaller private school that feels there class size is an advantage to the students overall quality of education. 75% of Widener students participate in service or volunteer activities. This level of commitment to the surrounding community has allowed Widener to rank in the Newsweek's top 20 service-minded colleges. Wideners co-op program also offers a chance for students to gain a year of full paid work while still completing their degree in four years.
|Philadelphia Union||Soccer||MLS||Talen Energy Stadium||2010|
With the construction of Harrah's Philadelphia, the city received a series of horse races that were once held at the Brandywine Raceway and the now-defunct Liberty Bell Park Racetrack. The racino opened on January 22, 2008, and features a specially-constructed bridge that enables the midpoint of races, contested at one mile, to take place over the Delaware River.
Chester is the home of the Philadelphia Union, which plays its home games at Talen Energy Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium at the base of the Commodore Barry Bridge. Located on the Delaware River, the stadium is part of a larger development called Rivertown. Financing for the Rivertown development was announced in early 2008 by Governor Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, with $25 million going to the construction of Talen Energy Stadium, and an additional $7 million towards a two-phase project composing of 186 townhouses, 25 apartments, 335,000 square feet (31,100 m2) of office space, a 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2) convention center, more than 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of retail space, and a parking structure to house 1,350 cars. In phase two, another 200 apartments will be built, along with 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of office space and 22,000 square feet (2,000 m2) of retail space.