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Old 07-18-2009, 11:25 AM
 
8 posts, read 14,561 times
Reputation: 12

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Hi All.

I am a native Washingtonian. I have lived here all my life. Grew up in Bethesda, MD and currently live in Chevy Chase/Bethesda. I always said I would never raise my children here.....so much money with attitude, competitive in every aspect, bad traffic, too much new development, etc. It was a great place to grow up until I hit high school. My husband is from Buffalo and absolutely loves it here. We do live in a nice neighborhood. It is not very community oriented, though. People pretty much do their own thing. Too busy with the rest of their lives to bother with neighbors. Lots of kids, but not on our block. We can walk to both downtown Bethesda and Friendship Heights along a very busy, noisy road. Not such an enjoyable walk. I have a 6 1/2 year old son and an 18 month old daughter. My husband works for Comcast in Northern VA (he has always worked in VA) and the commute stinks. He may have an opportunity to work at Comcast's West Chester office. We are actually both very interested in this idea.

Major question......where do we live?!? I know this has been asked a million times before on this forum. We will be driving through West Chester in August on our way up to Lake Ariel in the Poconos. I have never been to the West Chester area. Just because you work in West Chester, does that mean that is where you should live? The office is on Paoli Pike, I think close to some Goshen Park (?). I want alot of what we have here, minus the attitude and competitiveness. I hate it! I want my kids to be kids. Community activites where people are proud of where they live. I want my kids to be able to play outside and ride their bikes. Sidewalks would be a nice idea. Walk to school and the park. Good schools that want parents to be involved. A walkable downtown would be ideal and we prefer older homes. No cookie cutter developments. We have McMansions all over our neighborhood since we have no covenants. Our house will probably sell for around one million, which I think is insane! We paid a fraction of that for the house 12 years ago. It is a 2300 sq ft cape on a 5500 sq ft lot. Anyway, we don't plan on spending that much on a house elsewhere, though.

I fear what I want just may not exist, but I am trying to find the closest thing to it :-)

Any suggestions?

Thanks so much for reading.
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Old 07-18-2009, 01:35 PM
 
184 posts, read 691,162 times
Reputation: 84
Hi. I feel like I should specialize in advice to DC'ers thinking about moving to the Philly area.

First, a couple of thoughts. I think you can get some of what you're looking for, but not all. Philly is really different from DC, and the suburbs are very different than the DC suburbs. One of the biggest differences for me is that almost everybody I meet in the Philly suburbs grew up here, or nearby. In the DC area you just don't find that same "native-ness." It has good sides and bad sides, but it does seem to translate into a more laid back lifestyle. I feel like my neighborhood has more of a community feel here, and that people are less interested in their careers. Also, not having to worry about traffic is a huge relief.

One of the downsides of having less transience is that sometimes it seems more provincial. You say you don't want "money with attitude" but unfortunately that's something you do encounter here, and to me it seems more blatant and prevalent than in DC. The suburbs are so much less diverse, housing prices are cheaper, and so you have a lot of people in big houses who have never lived anywhere else and think they are the cat's pajamas. Obviously it varies and some areas may be better or worse for that, but it's here.

If you're looking for small town life well outside a city, I think you might be able to find it somewhere around West Chester. My impression of that area as a whole is of a lot of newer houses/subdivisions, because it was more recently built out, but the town of West Chester itself is quite old, and there are old farmhouses and older homes too. It's probably not super close to work, but I think Media is very charming.
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:58 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, formerly DC and Phila
8,739 posts, read 13,124,571 times
Reputation: 8618
As a resident of the DC suburbs for 20 years (including Bethesda) but having grown up in Philly, I agree with SilverSpringer (who has also helped me on some questions for a potential move to the Philly area!). I had a hard time adjusting to the DC area because I felt that there was no community feel there. Everything is run by the county (Montgomery, Fairfax, etc. like the schools, parks and recreation dept.) plus there is such a transient population there. In PA most things are run by the township so there is more of a community feel. Plus most people you meet will be from Philadelphia or maybe NJ or another part of PA. They are born there, live there, and die there. I don't know how that translates to welcoming outsiders (other than you probably don't want to let on that you are a Redskins fan, if you are one. ;-))

Much less diversity in SE PA or another way to put it is there is more defacto segregation. Different races intermingle and are more likely to live next door to one another in DC (of course I've been away from Philly since 1989 so things may have changed). Housing prices are cheaper in Philly, although if you are looking on the Main Line or in a "great" school district, they're not much lower. However, since you are coming from Bethesda, you will be just fine as that is one of the pricier neighborhoods in DC.

I understand about wanting to get away from the competitiveness. I hate that, too. You will see a lot of that on the The Main Line (towns that run along Lancaster Avenue). It is a pretty ritzy, expensive area probably fairly equitable to Bethesda and Chevy Chase. West Chester and its surrounding suburbs might be more down to earth. West Chester has a University and a walkable downtown. Media is also a great little town with good schools and a quaint walkable downtown. I grew up in Newtown Square which is nice and not pretentious, but no downtown to speak of.

One more suggestion - if you're husband works in Northern Virginia and you decide not to move to PA, how about looking into the Town of Vienna? That is where we live now. I find it to be a very down-to-earth place to live. People are friendly. It's very family oriented. There is very little competitiveness. I can dress my kids in clothes from a thrift store and tell other Moms about it at the park, and very few would care, and in fact might ask me which thrift store I bought it at. There are snobs, but they are few and far between. And I lived in Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Rockville for about 8 years prior to that so I know where you are coming from. It is a very different environment in the Town of Vienna. Just a thought.
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Old 07-18-2009, 08:47 PM
 
1,623 posts, read 5,965,113 times
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For sidewalks and such and a community feel I would check out places like Wallingford, Swarthmore, Nether Providence (same as Wallingford) and Media, then West Chester, although it is pretty much full of developments and the sidewalks are only in the downtown area.

Havertown also has a downtown and a family feel but is not really walkable like Media and West Chester.

Also people seem to really love Narberth which is right on the city limits and part of the Lower Merion school district, which is also a monied district so your child will definitely see some have vs have not type issues there as well.

Bala Cynwyd also has some old fashioned sidewalk neighborhoods but they back up to highways so I don't really see the attraction to living there except they are very close to downtown and pretty much anywhere else as well. Schools are also in the Lower Merion school district.

Wayne has a walkable strip but Lancaster Ave bisects it and that is 4 lanes of 35 mph traffic - not Rockville Pike but not a quiet old fashioned downtown either. That part of Wayne generally falls into the Radnor school district which is nouveau riche snob central.

Schools are really top notch in Wallingford-Swarthmore especially but it is relatively close to the city so the service sector, if you can call it that, comes with a lot of attitude and little concern for the customer. Media schools are tad tad lower on the totem pole from W-S, and West Chester's a tad further down still.

That is the the only downside to Wallingford and Media and one of the major reasons we moved further out to Chester County where everyone is just so much nicer and the salespeople and clerks are happy to serve you and helpful as can be. Makes the difference between an ok day and a good day in my book.

Tredyffrin Easttown is the best school district around here, and not the snobbiest, although the area covers some pretty wealthy places - Berwyn, parts of Devon, Paoli, Wayne, parts of Malvern, a wee bit of Valley Forge (we just bought a house there but I had no idea before). You may not find your sidewalks but you will find cul de sacs and streets where kids can play safely and an involved community as well.

Malvern also has great schools and is very much loved by families.

I really wanted sidewalks but didn't want the city attitude any more and am not into housing developments at all - some of these do have sidewalks but tan vinyl boxes or McMansions (Chester Springs is full of those) are not my cup of tea.

If you give us a price range of what you want to spend and how good/competitive you want the schools to be and the type of home and lot you are looking for that will narrow things down considerably.
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Old 07-18-2009, 11:22 PM
 
316 posts, read 886,598 times
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Yeah I was going to suggest Berwyn. I'm assuming you are planning on spending in the $750k range (I think that's the amount to avoid the tax penalties), so that would fit. A nice commuting time to West Chester, and an area that I've noticed has resisted the McMansions. It doesn't have all you are looking for but from the friends I have who live in the area, they love it and talk about what a great community it is to live in. I don't know much about walkable areas nearby there, but can definitely tell you that the high school is one of the best in the area and its competitive, but not sure how that plays out in the elementary school level.
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Old 07-20-2009, 11:22 AM
 
Location: Philly
10,026 posts, read 14,474,108 times
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the question of whether you mgiht want to live in West Chester itself comes down to how important convenience to Philadelphia is. WC isn't very convenient for getting to the city, but if that's not much of a concern, WC itself is a fine place to live. The borough itself has plenty of older housing stock with sidewalks and walkable streets. There's an outside chance that train service will be restored there once again. Yes, the Philadelphia area's demographics have changed substantially since 1989, though mostly with respect to Indian and Asians in the suburbs, though not entirely. It's not as diverse as DC, but it's not exactly Buffalo either. Traffic sucks, but not as much as DC (traffic from WC to Goshen Park isn't that bad). there's nothing to be embarrassed about by saying you live in WC,
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Old 07-22-2009, 01:13 PM
 
271 posts, read 1,306,275 times
Reputation: 93
If your work is in West Chester, then I'd say look for homes in and around West Chester. You will find what you're looking for there. It may not have EVERY detail you want, but it will have most.
And not having a long, time-consuming commute is a blessing in and of itself!
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Old 07-22-2009, 03:29 PM
 
418 posts, read 1,219,887 times
Reputation: 179
Default Imho

Rent close to work for a year.

It will be easier to decide after you have the gist of the area
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