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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 09-19-2011, 07:26 AM
 
Location: New England
2 posts, read 5,300 times
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My husband is interviewing next month for a job at the medical center in Hershey. I've been doing lots of reading in this forum, and frankly, I'm a little frightened. We currently live in a socially liberal, arts-promoting community of 20,000 - a very family-oriented community with top rated public schools.

First, I'm worried about the quality of the schools. I've researched the ones I've seen most recommended (Hershey/Derry township, Cumberland Valley, Camp Hill) and on paper they don't hold a candle to the public schools my kids attend here. (For example, test scores of the PA schools are far below ours - not that test scores tell the whole story, but certainly have to be a reflection of the overall quality of the school system.)

Second, I'm worried about there being enough diversity for our family to feel they are not surrounded by a sea of white faces. My husband, myself and oldest daughter are caucasian; my two younger daughters are Chinese; my daughter's fiance and my cousin are African American. We enjoy experiencing the foods and arts of other cultures, and socializing with people of many different backgrounds.

Third, we really enjoy the "arts scene" - I'm hoping there are things to enjoy in Harrisburg?

So, can anyone point me to a community that will address these issues? My husband is willing to commute up to 30minutes from the medical center, and we can afford a $500,000 home (must be on at least 1 acre). Good schools, arts, diverisity, socially liberal .... can they be found in one town here?
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Old 09-19-2011, 11:35 AM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
1,434 posts, read 3,561,130 times
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I have only a passing familiarity with Hershey, but it does strike me as a particularly ethnically and racially homogeneous area. You might want to look a little further to the east. Cities like Lebanon will offer a bit more diversity, but that commute along 422 can be brutal.

Lancaster has a very active arts community in its vibrant downtown. The city is about 45 minutes from the med center and has some significant crime problems.

Harrisburg offers a lot more diversity, and the midtown area is rapidly growing as the city's arts & cultural district. It's a little sparse right now, but has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. Unfortunately, the Harrisburg city school district is very bad.

You might find a good compromise around the Chambers Hill area. You're 10-15 minutes from the med center, 10 minutes from Harrisburg, and maybe 40-45 minutes from Lancaster. $500k is entirely reasonable for a decent home a one-acre lot, though price:quality will vary by proximity to a bit city.
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Old 09-19-2011, 04:15 PM
 
Location: Center City Philadelphia
1,099 posts, read 4,264,276 times
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You can learn a lot here: Mapping the 2010 U.S. Census - NYTimes.com

Actually, the Hershey area is fairly diverse and the medical center really facilitates that. For example, the census tract just north of the "town" is actually only 65% white and 21% Asian.

In contrast to the previous poster, I'd recommend against the Chambers Hill area. Schools aren't that great and the area is actually rather blue collar. It's more diverse, but it's still mostly a white/black only.

In terms of an arts scene, you'll definitely want to check out Midtown Harrisburg about 15-20 mins from Hershey. Downtown Lancaster also has a very thriving arts scene, it's about 40 mins from Hershey.
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Old 09-19-2011, 07:15 PM
 
4,264 posts, read 10,283,745 times
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The newer subdivisions in the SW corner of Derry Twp (Hummelstown postal address) are far less lily-white than people picture the Hershey village area. A visit to Gelder Park will show a good bit of racial and ethnic diversity, not so much economic. As mentioned already most are associated with the Med Center. This is a pretty big deal on the school calendar each year and a big networking opportunity for stay at home spouses with origins beyond the Pennsylvania Dutch: Hershey International Fair

The arts scene is minimal in Hershey but signs of that can be seen in Harrisburg and Lancaster (as noted), and also Mount Gretna in southern Lebanon County which began as a Chautauqua colony.

Your house on 1 acre might be an easier find around (not in the borough itself!) Mount Gretna, or in the townships north and south of Hershey (South Hanover, East Hanover/Dauphin Cty, Conewago/Dauphin Cty, Londonderry/Dauphin Cty) that are part of the Lower Dauphin school district, although it might be possible (likely pushing the $500k) in Derry areas with a Hummelstown address.

Lot sizes in central, eastern, and southern PA are typically smaller than in New England in both town and country. I think it may be an expression of a very deep seated cultural difference from colonial times that continues to express itself in the parcelization pattern.

Socially liberal? You won't find that in south-central PA. Those who think you can find enclaves in Harrisburg or Lancaster likely never lived in NY State or New England.
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Old 09-20-2011, 06:29 AM
 
21,122 posts, read 19,019,832 times
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It's more than a half hour commute, probably closer to 1 hour at least, but Wyomissing in Berks would have the school test scores you'd want. They're one of the top public schools in the state. There'd have to be comparable schools in Lancaster that would be a little closer for you.
What kind of diversity are you looking for? A rich cultural area with germanic roots but also polish, italian, french/ swiss? That would be the area. Yes, its mostly white. But there has been an influx of latin americans in Reading and Lancaster and african americans in York and Harrisburg.
You could have a 150+ year old farmhouse with barn and garage on 2 acres for under $500,000 in eastern Berks. You could probably find the same in western Berks and eastern Lebanon or northern Lancaster for that price or a new Mcmansion if you want to go that route.
One quirk about the general area. They are much more honest and thorough in reporting things like crime, news, test scores and economic data than most other areas. They don't sugar coat or fudge numbers, you get pretty much the truth in whats going on. That holds true for even smaller communities. Call it Pennsylvania noseyness but people like to know whats going on and community involvement is important. You won't find an ultra liberal or ultra conservative area, people tend to know the issues and talk them out and meet somewhere in the middle. Which is good. We've had a shift from more conservative views to more moderate views and likewise liberal newcomers from Philly and New Jersey have also shifted more to the center and become more conservtive. You can have a republican win one election and at the same time have a democrat win another or have both a sitting republican and a sitting democrat voted out of office. Now thats political diversity of the best kind.
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Old 09-20-2011, 08:34 AM
 
Location: Midwest transplant
2,048 posts, read 5,279,131 times
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Socially liberal in south central PA is not a common phrase. People may live it, believe it, and talk like it, but it's not promoted as one of our attractive adjectives. Everything else you are looking for is here~clean living, lots of arts in Harrisburg and Hershey area, much culture in theatres, museums, college campuses etc.

As the above poster said, we are aware and want to be in the know as to what our politicians are doing, who and why the decisions in our school districts are made, and the basis for decisions is carefully monitored in the newspaper and in community forums.

That being said, you will be hard pressed to find a better place to live socio economically. Housing and medical care are vast and many choices are available. Higher education is superb, PA offers a magnitude of public, private and large name schools. The four seasons are just long enough to appreciate or detest them and then they change. Your dollar goes far here...a quick trip and you're in Philadelphia or Baltimore (or even Washington DC). Outlets and malls galore for your shopping needs.
People are hardworking, decent and honest.

Socially liberal~not touted but more than tolerated, you will be welcomed in the Hershey area, especially if connected to the hospital system.
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Old 09-21-2011, 07:41 AM
 
Location: New England
2 posts, read 5,300 times
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Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. Seems central PA isn't quite as grim as I was imagining I'll be looking into your suggestions regarding specific communities.

Another quick question.... My husband typically travels to work in the morning around 6am, and travels home 6:30-7pm. Would these times put him outside of the heaviest "rush hour" traffic in the Hershey area? (I need to be aware of his commute time when I look at communities a bit farther out).

Thanks again so much!
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Old 09-21-2011, 08:34 AM
 
4,264 posts, read 10,283,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smdct View Post
Another quick question.... My husband typically travels to work in the morning around 6am, and travels home 6:30-7pm. Would these times put him outside of the heaviest "rush hour" traffic in the Hershey area? (I need to be aware of his commute time when I look at communities a bit farther out).
That's a bit outside the worst times, but that's not an uncommon schedule at the Med Center. In the morning it can coincide with shift change at the chocolate plants, and in the afternoon can coincide with concert/hockey game/Hersheypark traffic. The Governor Rd/US 322 intersection with Hockersville & Fishburn Rd is a difficult one to avoid heading easterly to Lebanon County or southeasterly towards Elizabethtown/Lancaster, and from 4:00 to 5:30 will stack up a mile or so back to the Med Center main entrance - still at least a light delay from 3:00 to 6:30 most nights it seems.

Heading out to PA 283 or the newer developments in the far SW corner of Derry using Wood and Middletown roads also backs up quite a bit from the stop sign at that corner. PENNDOT won't put a traffic light in on its own account, they wait to soak a developer for extra lanes and signalization (typically $250k for an intersection like that, not counting someone buying the property to do it), the developers know that and will leap-frog elsewhere - a pennywise and pound-foolish strategy indirectly promoting sprawl.
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Old 11-30-2011, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Boston Metrowest (via the Philly area)
4,987 posts, read 8,109,207 times
Reputation: 5041
I know the OP wrote this over a month ago, but I just wanted to respond with regard to the supposed disparities between public schools in the OP's New England locale compared to Hershey, CV and CH.

As a note, there is no accurate way to compare school districts from state-to-state. Obviously, each state has their own standardized testing, but this by no means makes for a meaningful comparison between states -- only within states.

Just wanted to clear up any misconceptions that may dictate your ultimate moving decision.
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Old 12-02-2011, 09:25 PM
 
Location: Center of the universe
24,668 posts, read 35,339,477 times
Reputation: 11780
Quote:
Originally Posted by smdct View Post
My husband is interviewing next month for a job at the medical center in Hershey. I've been doing lots of reading in this forum, and frankly, I'm a little frightened. We currently live in a socially liberal, arts-promoting community of 20,000 - a very family-oriented community with top rated public schools.

First, I'm worried about the quality of the schools. I've researched the ones I've seen most recommended (Hershey/Derry township, Cumberland Valley, Camp Hill) and on paper they don't hold a candle to the public schools my kids attend here. (For example, test scores of the PA schools are far below ours - not that test scores tell the whole story, but certainly have to be a reflection of the overall quality of the school system.)

Second, I'm worried about there being enough diversity for our family to feel they are not surrounded by a sea of white faces. My husband, myself and oldest daughter are caucasian; my two younger daughters are Chinese; my daughter's fiance and my cousin are African American. We enjoy experiencing the foods and arts of other cultures, and socializing with people of many different backgrounds.

Third, we really enjoy the "arts scene" - I'm hoping there are things to enjoy in Harrisburg?

So, can anyone point me to a community that will address these issues? My husband is willing to commute up to 30minutes from the medical center, and we can afford a $500,000 home (must be on at least 1 acre). Good schools, arts, diverisity, socially liberal .... can they be found in one town here?
I am African American/Latino, grew up in Hershey and would recommend it to your family.
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