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Old 12-17-2011, 08:27 PM
 
Location: Kittanning
4,690 posts, read 8,160,634 times
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I've been researching some of PA's smaller yet urban cities. I am fascinated by the cities hovering around 40-80k population, such as Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and Reading, which have very dense, urban cores for their size. Which of these cities has the best economy, affordable historic row-houses in safe neighborhoods in the city, and a downtown with things going on (not dead)? Can someone tell me how these cities compare, and which are doing well (and not so well)? Thanks!
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Old 12-17-2011, 11:09 PM
 
Location: Marshall-Shadeland, Pittsburgh, PA
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Uh-oh! Is this alleghenyangel's first foray into considering a move out of Pittsburgh?!
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Old 12-18-2011, 07:08 PM
 
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I have been to every "city" in Pennsylvania, lived in 5 different Pennsylvania metros (Altoona, Pittsburgh, State College, Philadelphia, and Reading), but don't know some besides for traveling into them for small trips.

I lived in Reading for 6 months recently before bailing for a small college town half way between Reading and Allentown. You are right in that Eastern, PA small cities have fascinating history, and amazing architecture. Cities such as York, Lancaster, Reading, have so much abundance of beautiful historic Victorian architecture on every block. They are older cities in urban structure than Western PA and loaded with row homes.

From my understanding downtown Harrisburg is coming back. Lancaster and York are growing areas due to sprawl from the cancerous D.C. region. Downtown Lancaster seems ok, but still the inner city is impoverished. I don't know if York is as poor within it's city borders as Reading and Lancaster.

Let me explain Reading. The city is impoverished. You can find affordable (almost dirt cheap) Victorian rowhome in the city. But it would be in a very poor neighborhood. Unlike a Western PA town like that bleeds population and feels like an industrial ghost town such as Johnstown, Reading still kept population but grew in poverty. It is over 90% immigrant Latino population (majority Puerto Rico and Dominican) form the big eastern cities looking for affordable housing. Now before any PC cop calls me out saying that I am suggesting that since Reading is majority Spanish and that is why it is undesirable is not the case. It is undesirable because of the poverty, depression, and crime. A symbol of America no longer producing. In the 1850s when German immigrants came here they had factories to work in and things to produce. The new immigration comes to a empty non-producing service economy, but that is for the political forum. But Reading has population, it has stores downtown, but it is poor and un-vibrant. It is trying to make a comeback but it never will.

However, West Reading is desirable has a vibrant main street. It contains rows that are unique. But comparing this to a neighborhood that one would find in Philly or Pittsburgh just doesn't equal at all. But it does contain unique mid 19th century rows and a main street with restaurants and boutique shops that caters to nearby Wyomissing (a older upper class suburb of Reading)

I like this topic and I also would like to be filled in on livable historic rowhome, urban neighborhoods in other small metros like York, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. Many of the times when people are talking about living in these metros they are talking about the patio home subdivisions that are abundant on the other side of the city borders. I hope we can get more info with others more familiar with other small PA cities.
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Old 12-18-2011, 07:22 PM
 
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If I had a chance to move anywhere in the state that had a rowhome, historic, vibrant vibe to it. I would easily go to Gettysburg.
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Old 12-18-2011, 08:33 PM
 
Location: Downtown Harrisburg
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I have never lived in Reading, but KingKrab's description of it matches what everyone else says.

Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster are very closely tied economically, socially, and politically. Many, many people live in one and work in the other. The region also has the advantage of close proximity to major transportation for when you want to get out. There's rail service to Philly, NY, and Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg International Airport (in Middletown; about 15 minutes south of Harrisburg) has reasonable prices (BWI & PHL are cheaper, but not after you factor in gas and parking).

Harrisburg's core neighborhoods have been undergoing strong revitalization for the past decade or so. Downtown has become a thriving nightlife / entertainment / dining area. Walk down Second Street from Market St to South St and it's a few dozen restaurants, nightclubs, live music venues, martini lounges, sports bars, Irish pubs, and even a few dive bars. The street is shoulder-to-shoulder packed every weekend after 10pm.

Midtown has become a vibrant arts / cultural center. There's a very large farmers' / independent market at Third & Verbeke. Midtown Scholar, an outstanding multi-level bookstore, is across the street in an old theater. Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center (H-mack, as we call it) books a lot of indie and faux-indie acts. Mantis art gallery is a block away, and an entire block was just rehabbed as an independent cultural incubator of sorts.

Just up the street, uptown's revitalization has just started, anchored by a brand-new multi-million-dollar condo lowrise and city plans to completely rebuild the traffic in that part of the city.

You'll have no problem finding well-kept historic rowhomes in midtown, most of which seem to be 1880s - 1920s. Brick sidewalks are common, and the better-kept neighborhoods have a very strong sense of community. Residents will take care of "their" block, making sure the sidewalks look attractive and getting on neighbors who let their exteriors slip. Prices will run from $60k for an unrehabbed rowhome in acceptable-but-outdated condition to $500k+ for a fully-restored historic home with upgraded everything. You'll have no trouble finding a decent rowhome in the good part of town for under $150k, and with some effort, you should be able to score one for just over $110k.

Despite all that, Harrisburg is in the middle of a severe financial crisis right now. The long-term effects are anyone's guess. Due to the close interweaving of the three cities, anything that happens to Harrisburg will also affect York & Lancaster to some degree. I would strongly advise AGAINST buying real estate in Harrisburg right now, though us renters are pretty much invincible no matter where we live.

If you want any more specifics, ask away. I'll be happy to answer.
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Old 12-18-2011, 09:44 PM
 
Location: Kittanning
4,690 posts, read 8,160,634 times
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Thanks to all who commented so far. Am I assuming correctly that all of these cities are safe to live within city limits, or are there actually dangerous neighborhoods? I'm not used to cities of this size actually having "bad" neighborhoods. When we are talking about poverty in Reading, are we talking something depressed but liveable, or something closer to a ghetto warzone? I don't have a problem living in a poor neighborhood as long as it's not a dangerous, poor neighborhood. Hopefully, that makes sense!

When I look at real estate online in Harrisburg, Reading, York, and Lancaster, I see many decent-looking row-houses that are priced anywhere from 15k-30k. I have already crossed Philly and Baltimore off my list, because I was told by many people that under no circumstances would someone be able to live in the neighborhoods of those cities with houses priced that low (due to crime). My dream is to own an 1870s era (or older) row-home, but I'm not going to be able to spend more than around $40k (I don't believe in mortgages. I always pay cash for things). That rules out Pittsburgh for me, because there are no row-houses that old within my price range.
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Old 12-18-2011, 11:45 PM
 
958 posts, read 1,040,754 times
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KingKrab, you do realize that there are over 50 cities in PA right? Have you been to Chester?
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Old 12-19-2011, 06:15 AM
 
443 posts, read 537,113 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by couldntthinkofaclevername View Post
KingKrab, you do realize that there are over 50 cities in PA right? Have you been to Chester?
been there. When I lived in Philly I traveled every weekend. I know all of Pa. I also work a job that requires me to travel to A LOT of towns throughout the state and east coast surveying buildings.
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Old 12-19-2011, 05:27 PM
 
Location: Midwest transplant
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$15-$30K in York would not be in a good neighborhood. Avoid the low numbers (they are closer to the center of the city). Nicer areas might include the "state" streets, South Queen Street area, parts of West Market Street and the subdivision called Fireside. There are some other nice areas near Kiwanis Lake, a couple of blocks around Farquaher Park would be fine as well. The area near the college is congregate housing and an almost frat like atmosphere on Thursdays-Sundays. Taxes in the city are high as well. The revitalized neighborhoods, where the houses will carry some charm, and have young professionals wanting the urban vibe (we have some great loft condos too) will probably run closer to the $80-100K range.
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Old 12-19-2011, 05:43 PM
 
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If I had the choice of any of Harrisburg, Reading, York, Lancaster, Allentown, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh to live in, Pittsburgh would win hands down.
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