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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Unread 06-26-2011, 01:34 PM
 
3 posts, read 2,552 times
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Default In Search Of...a Livable, Walkable Downtown with Schools Nearby

My family and I are preparing to relocate to the Harrisburg-Carlisle area, and we're in search of something we've experienced where we currently live:

* A pedestrian-friendly town, where walking or biking is a preferred means of transit.

* A livable urban center, where restaurants, shops, banks, cafes, grocers, and so forth exist among (or on the ground floor of) residential properties.

* A dynamic community, where festivals, cultural activities, and other periodic events enliven the civic experience.

* A safe community, where kids can walk or bike to nearby public schools and nearby playgrounds.

* A place where a car is an option, vice a requirement, where one can in fact live without necessarily driving for every single errand or need.

Does this kind of town or community or neighborhood exist in the Carlisle-Harrisburg area? We'd even consider looking further west, toward Shippensburg or further east, toward Hershey.

Thanks for any advice or insights.
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Unread 06-26-2011, 03:53 PM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,439 posts, read 1,594,226 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jssd View Post
* A pedestrian-friendly town, where walking or biking is a preferred means of transit.

* A livable urban center, where restaurants, shops, banks, cafes, grocers, and so forth exist among (or on the ground floor of) residential properties.

* A place where a car is an option, vice a requirement, where one can in fact live without necessarily driving for every single errand or need.
Sorta kinda. Most of the region is not pedestrian- or cyclist-friendly. Your best bet in this regard is definitely Harrisburg. Downtown & midtown Harrisburg are livable without a car, and you will find plenty of what you seek there. The problem is, most of it is fairly spread out. If you don't mind the thought of walking / cycling a mile round-trip to meet your needs, then you'll be fine.

There is a beautiful five-mile riverfront park with split-level walking / cycling trails running nearly the entire length of the city. City Island, a collection of family-friendly activities, is also a short walk across a wrought-iron pedestrian bridge. From my apartment hirise in downtown Harrisburg, I can walk to at least two dozen restaurants / stages / entertainment venues / bars within three blocks, to say nothing of the shops, galleries, and even a university.

However, remember that this is Central PA, and Harrisburg is a small city. If you're looking for Philly- or Manhattan-style walkability, it's just not here.

Yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jssd View Post
* A dynamic community, where festivals, cultural activities, and other periodic events enliven the civic experience.
The region is peppered with such activities throughout the year, though you will have to drive to some of them. Downtown Harrisburg gets a number of events along Riverfront Park, most of which are very well-attended.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jssd View Post
* A safe community, where kids can walk or bike to nearby public schools and nearby playgrounds.
This is definitely not Harrisburg. Avoid Harrisburg city schools at all costs. You'll want to look towards Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill, Carlisle, or the surrounding areas -- though in doing so, you will be sacrificing nearly 100% of your density / walkability.

You might also want to look towards Lancaster, if that's an option. You'll definitely have a more vibrant downtown, though you'll need to be more aware of crime and related nonsense.
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Unread 06-27-2011, 03:26 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD/Washington DC
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Contrary to what the poster above said, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, and Camp Hill are definitely walkable and have some of the type of the development you are looking for (though none are cities and only Carlisle would qualify as a large town). IMO, Carlisle would be your best bet, in part because it has a college (Dickinson) located right in town, only a few blocks from the center of town. The one big negative with Carlisle is that it is a major distribution hub, so there are lots of trucks on Interstate 81 and the PA Turnpike (I-76) and significant warehouse development less than 5 miles from town. When there's a problem on I-81, those trucks need to come through town. (That doesn't happen often though.) The town itself is very nice IMO, and it's a place I may consider moving to when I'm a little older. (I previously lived in the Harrisburg area for almost 8 years.)
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Unread 06-28-2011, 06:36 AM
 
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Mechanicsburg and Camp Hill are pedestrian friendly? I wouldn't agree. I work in Camp Hill, and I wouldn't even walk across the street! Sidewalks are a luxury around here. A coworker who lives in Mechanicsburg said about the walkability of the city, "I mean, I guess you could. If you lived in downtown, and worked in downtown, and didn't need things like clothes or groceries."

Carlisle is a college down, so it does have all of the amenities of that. There are a lot more places you can live in Carlisle that you can still walk or take buses.

I also consider Middletown a walkable town. It is nicely self-contained, and has a good bit of everything on your list, including the "livable urban center" in downtown Middletown. Just small scale.

This region, you could, if you really really dedicated yourself and really worked at it, you could live without a car. If you're really lucky about where you work and where you live, it could be possible. But you would have to severely prioritize your list of desires. The region truly has everything to offer, just not all in one place.
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Unread 06-28-2011, 12:12 PM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DixieJo View Post
Mechanicsburg and Camp Hill are pedestrian friendly? I wouldn't agree. I work in Camp Hill, and I wouldn't even walk across the street! Sidewalks are a luxury around here. A coworker who lives in Mechanicsburg said about the walkability of the city, "I mean, I guess you could. If you lived in downtown, and worked in downtown, and didn't need things like clothes or groceries."
That's my thought as well. The west shore is just too suburban for a walkable lifestyle, in my opinion. What exists over there is too spread out to be able to stroll from a coffee house to a diner to a used bookstore to a farmers' market to a grocer to a park to a museum to a gallery to a theater to a live music venue. Just getting around requires biking / walking a 3-5 mile round trip through severely-congested suburban traffic and over / around Interstate-grade highways. Most of the grocers / markets / etc are of the supermarket variety, and most of the coffee shops / cafes are of the Starbucks / Panera variety.

OP, it really depends on what scale you were looking for. I suggest spending a weekend or two in the area and seeing for yourself.
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Unread 06-29-2011, 09:36 PM
 
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Newport in Perry County has a locally owned coffee shop and natural foods store on the square, Weis chain supermarket a couple of blocks away, park in town (not great but plans to fix), newly renovated K-12 school campus right in town too. What it doesn't have is employment, that's a drive to Harrisburg or Carlisle to most folks.
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Unread 07-09-2011, 08:58 AM
 
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This is all most helpful -- thank to all for the input(s). I've been to Carlisle twice and liked what I saw, although it's a smaller scale than what we're currently used to. It seemed there were nice residential dwellings (both single family homes as well as townhomes/rowhouses) just a few blocks off of the main E-W street running through town. Are there neighborhood markets or grocery stores in the downtown too? Also, any thoughts on the quality of the public schools in Carlisle? Our oldest will soon be entering first grade.

I'm completely unfamiliar with Harrisburg, and while I liked what I've read here and elsewhere about all it has to offer -- especially the historic midtown area -- the warnings about the public schools are a show-stopper. I assume though there are parochial schools downtown one could choose as an alternative?
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Unread 07-09-2011, 05:54 PM
 
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In Carlisle there is still a Weis Market (PA chain supermarket) on the east edge of the core borough area. South of High St. is generally considered the more stable area in the Borough. Letort Park just two blocks south of the Weis has one of those big wooden playgrounds that were the in thing 25 years ago and a little neighborhood elementary school is 2 blocks west of it. We were jus down there about 3 weeks ago and saw a couple of older but seemingly well kept row homes for sale right there (probably E South St). Our friend's kids seem to do more with learning in Carlisle Area than ous do in Derry which is supposedly a higher ranked system so go figure.

If Carlisle is on the small side for you you probably won't like Newport - Newport doesn't even have a traffic light.
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Unread 07-29-2011, 04:02 AM
 
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Thanks for this information.

Can any of you all shed light on the religiously-affiliated grade schools in Harrisburg? I understand that the Cathedral School (Catholic) and the St. Stephen's Episcopal school are both downtown and in areas that are quite nice to live (i.e., historic midtown). Anybody have experience with this institutions or know of their reputations, especially relative to the public schools in Harrisburg?
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