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Old 09-24-2009, 02:14 PM
 
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Hello. My wife and I are coming to the Philadelphia area after the first of the year to look around (considering relocating to the area). We currently live in TX, but want to consider moving East. Where should we look in the metro area? Some characteristics about us and what we like:

--No children (not having any)
--like to to eat out
--like stores like Whole Foods, Target
--probably would be characterized as upper middle class
--do not want to commute long distances to employment centers (30 min. max)

We don't know anything about the Philadelphia area, but like it's location central to the major East Coast population centers. Also, not familiar with using trains as transportation, but willing to learn.

Thanks!
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Old 09-24-2009, 11:54 PM
 
Location: South Philly
1,943 posts, read 6,960,574 times
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Where do you live in Texas? Do you like it? What fields do you work in? are you looking for urban, suburban, or texas-style suburban?
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Old 09-25-2009, 12:02 AM
 
Location: SouthEastern PeeAye
889 posts, read 2,563,198 times
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Basing this on neighborhoods around Whole Foods (don't know why, that's what I picked up on in you post), some ideas:

Art Museum neighborhood in Philadelphia. A bigger and bustling WF store in the neighborhood. If you're not used to an east coast urban/city environment this might be a good area. City living, but with lots of wide open streets, boulevards, and you get something of an 'old world city' feeling. It's very walkable and a great area to live. Take a drive on Kelly Drive along the river (also called East River Drive) and you'll get a fell for one of the more scenic areas of the city, map and route: from: Falls Bridge and Kelly Dr to: Art Museum Plaza - Google Maps.

Jenkintown and Abington. Inner-ring suburbs just north of the city limits. Nice neighborhoods and great communities. WF store in the center of the community. Target nearby.

Plymouth Meeting. New concept WF store opening in the next month or two. Should be very nice, will include a rooftop bar and restaurant. Unfortunately it is being built as an addition to a mall, and you'd have to drive to get to it, not walkable from anywhere in the community.

There's a WF store on South Street in south Philadelphia. If you're not used to east coast city living, maybe this area is not for you. It borders 'South Philadelphia', with some interesting places to live, and some not so good. But great for dining out, loads of local mom and pop restaurants, majority of which are Italian, but all varieties available.

Still going by WF store locations, two more locations would be the 'Main Line' communities of Wynnewood and Devon, and all the postal codes towns in between (Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, Wayne) and nearby.

One of the pleasantries of life in Philadelphia is living in a very walkable environment, including the surrounding suburbs. All the locations above are walkable, except Plymouth Meeting. It makes you wonder if that is one of the criteria for where WF locates their stores.

In addition to the drive along Kelly Drive (park along the boathouses, get out look around and soak up the atmosphere, especially if it's a nice fall day), the other must do thing is to visit the Reading Terminal Market in the city. Don't wait until Sunday, go for breakfast or lunch Wed - Sat. Thinking about it as I'm writing this, those are the top two things to do for newcomers and first time visitors to the city. I've heard one person say 'I was never here before, and when I drive along Kelly Drive, I knew I could move here...'

All these locations have easy access to public transportation into the city and/or the major interstate highways.

Hope this gets you started...
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:51 AM
 
30 posts, read 124,917 times
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PeeAye:

Thanks for all the information. This is the kind of thing I was hoping for!

We currently live in a small town in TX with about 12,000 people. We are literally hours from any major cities. Both of us grew up in major cities and have always lived in major cities, so this has been 1 heck of an adjustment.

That said, neither one of us have ever lived in an Eastern/Urban environment (both of us are suburban types). We think we would like that though because we seem to like activities that are more readily available in a more urban environment. Suburban TX is nothing but production home subdivisions, big box retailers, strip shopping centers and chain restaurants. Rural TX is nothing but nothing! Time to move on.

Will be checking out the places suggested!
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Old 09-25-2009, 12:47 PM
 
Location: South Philly
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Nice work with the Whole Foods tour Native! My wife used to work for them on the corporate end so I'm too familiar with the Philly area stores . . . which also include North Wales, Marlton and Princeton.

Where WF sets up shop is mostly to do with the number of people nearby with college degrees.

edit - you can "walk" all of Center City in Google street view

I would say that the two Philadelphia stores along with the Wynnewood store are very walkable.

Jenkintown is walkable but there aren't many houses within a 10 minute walk of there so it's not really practical. The Devon store is pretty much the same thing. I used to have lunch at the Jenkintown store a lot and saw a lot of people riding bikes to and fro. Anyway, I live in the city and I don't even walk to the grocery store. If it's a light trip I take my bike. If it's bigger i take zipcar. I digress, Jenkintown proper is very walkable and Abington isn't so bad either.

The North Wales store is in a strip mall on a busy highway but it's also really close to Ambler, which is a cool, really walkable little town with restaurants and shops and the train to Center City is quick and departs every 30 minutes during the day - of course more often during rush hour.

The Marlton store, in NJ is more or less the same but it's fairly close to older, walkable towns like Moorestown and Haddonfield. So is Plymouth Meeting for that matter - Chestnut Hill (which is in the city limits) is about halfway between the Plymouth Meeting store and the Callowhill (art museum) store.

Lastly, while I agree that the South St. area and the Fairmount area are much different aesthetically I strongly disagree with the assessment 'It borders 'South Philadelphia', with some interesting places to live, and some not so good. The demographics of the neighborhoods around the South St. store are little different than that of the Callowhill store. And personally I prefer the neighborhoods of Society Hill/Washington Square West/Bella Vista/Queen Village (which surround the South St. store) to the Parkway/Fairmount area.

A lot of folks hear "South St." and think of the street itself. I live nearby and the only places I go to on South St. itself are the Whole Foods, the pet store, Lickety Split (because I hate waiting in line for the overrated pizza at Lorenzo's) and Lovash which has, IMO, the 2nd best indian food in the city. If you're a resident all the restaurants are on Bainbridge and the numbered streets that cross south. For instance, Beau Monde is an excellent creperie at 6th & Bainbridge. Ava is one of my favorite BYOs and that's on 3rd near Lombard. Horizons is one of the top vegan restaurants in the country and thats on 7th near Bainbridge . . . I could go on but hopefully you catch my drift.

The Parkway and the neighborhood are certainly beautiful places but the Parkway and the Vine St. Expressway combine to cut that area off from the more happening areas to the south - along Walnut St and around Rittenhouse square. Not saying it isn't walkable but it's psychological barrier - it makes it seem a lot further than it is.

The transition from Center City to South Philly is seamless to the point that a lot of people forget that Queen Village and Bella Vista are in South Philly - and a lot of South Philly old-timers are starting to talk of South Philly being south of Washington Ave. Anyway, the area is a lot more dynamic than Fairmount. There is just no question.

Fairmount is really popular with folks who move here from outside the northeastern US and/or who are more suburban oriented people. I have friends from Seattle who live at 27th & Parrish and love it. I know other people who moved there from Raleigh and moved to Bella Vista as soon as their lease was up. It just really depends what you're looking for.
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:23 PM
 
30 posts, read 124,917 times
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Thanks to both of you! I will be printing this out and taking it with us when we come up!

I really like the concept of living in a place where everything is within walking distance. Here in car culture we don't walk anywhere, not even to the end of the street (I'm not kidding). Nothing is within walking distance. We don't even have sidewalks. We also don't have the variety of restaurants that the east does. Again, mostly chains and big box retailers. Would be enamored with a place that had everything in the world to eat, as well as a few local taverns, within 3 minutes of the front door.

Can either of you shed any light on taxes, housing costs, traffic, etc.? I read some other Philadelphia posts (some of which your names were on) referring to taxes for working/living in the city vs. the suburbs, bad traffic on the Schuylkill (sp?) expressway, high housing costs on the "Main Line", that sort of thing. Would be interested to know what it costs to live in the areas you've mentioned, both rental rates and purchase. For rent, 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1500+ square feet. For buy, 3 bedroom, 2 bath 2000+ square feet. Housing cost in TX is low, so sticker shock may be in order.

Another question, is there adequate parking at surburban train stations? We once lived in the western suburbs of Chicago, and even though all cities had train stations you had to have a pass to park at the train station. The pass was virtually unattainable (up to 10 year waiting list in the suburb we lived in) and of course all streets around the train station were no parking and tow away zones. So, yeah, you had a train that took you into Chicago, but what good was it if you couldn't park at the station?

Where is Fairmount again? Why so popular with transplants? Less dense, more suburban?
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:24 PM
 
Location: SouthEastern PeeAye
889 posts, read 2,563,198 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solibs View Post
...
Lastly, while I agree that the South St. area and the Fairmount area are much different aesthetically I strongly disagree with the assessment 'It borders 'South Philadelphia', with some interesting places to live, and some not so good. The demographics of the neighborhoods around the South St. store are little different than that of the Callowhill store. And personally I prefer the neighborhoods of Society Hill/Washington Square West/Bella Vista/Queen Village (which surround the South St. store) to the Parkway/Fairmount area.
Yes, that I forgot about the different neighborhoods N, NE, E and West of the South Street corridor. I do think immediately south, i.e., the upper reaches of the South Philadelphia neighborhood, might be a bit too citified and closed-in for someone not used to this type of living. It's one of those YMMY situations.

We haven't mentioned to Cadillac the standard line "Philadelphia is a big city make up of a lot of named neighborhoods". Callowhill is a street name in the Art Museum neighborhood (also Parkway/Fairmount) where one of the two in-city WF stores is located.

P.S., One more point. I'd put Jenkintown in the walkable category. Not everyone there does it, but I know some former co-workers who walk to stores and the train station, and have been saying it's a little unknown secret of the area. You would have to live within a few blocks E or W of the main N/S road, Rt-611/Old York Rd, for it to be practical.
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:32 PM
 
9,238 posts, read 22,806,871 times
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It's advisable that before moving you do a lot of research on the taxes up here. Our state income tax, property taxes, school district taxes, etc are probably much higher than what you're accustomed to. Then if you live or work in Philly, there is the Philadelphia wage tax too.
It's not uncommon to pay property tax or property+school tax totalling $5,000-10,000 or higher. If go over to NJ, just over the river, it is even higher.
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:24 PM
 
Location: South Philly
1,943 posts, read 6,960,574 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeAye Native View Post
Yes, that I forgot about the different neighborhoods N, NE, E and West of the South Street corridor. I do think immediately south, i.e., the upper reaches of the South Philadelphia neighborhood, might be a bit too citified and closed-in for someone not used to this type of living. It's one of those YMMY situations.
Good point - although, technically speaking, if you stand outside a rowhouse in Bella Vista, you can be sure that it's a house with one family in it. If you look at one in Fairmount you never know if someone is using at as a townhouse or 3 apartments . . . Parts of South Philly feel more old-worldy but I don't think it's actually more crowded. As a rule the closer to the river you get the older the neighborhoods are, so, in general the houses are usually older and smaller. Of course, we're talking about a 400 year old city so there's been a lot of renewal over the centuries but it just means that it's harder to find larger spaces in those areas. My neighborhood was built in the Victorian era and my townhouse house (ca. 1885) is ~2000 sq. ft. It was originally 5 bedrooms and one bath but we've since made it 4 beds and 2 baths.

Quote:
We haven't mentioned to Cadillac the standard line "Philadelphia is a big city make up of a lot of named neighborhoods". Callowhill is a street name in the Art Museum neighborhood (also Parkway/Fairmount) where one of the two in-city WF stores is located.
Yeah, I don't like to use the name "art museum" because it's really vague and covers a huge area. The neighborhoods are Logan Square, Callowhill and Fairmount.

Quote:
P.S., One more point. I'd put Jenkintown in the walkable category. Not everyone there does it, but I know some former co-workers who walk to stores and the train station, and have been saying it's a little unknown secret of the area. You would have to live within a few blocks E or W of the main N/S road, Rt-611/Old York Rd, for it to be practical.
Jenkintown is def. walkable and you see plenty of people doing it all up and down Old York Rd. from Cheltenham up to Willow Grove. I just meant walking to the grocery store there was probably less practical.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:16 PM
 
Location: South Philly
1,943 posts, read 6,960,574 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CadillacRF View Post
Thanks to both of you! I will be printing this out and taking it with us when we come up!

I really like the concept of living in a place where everything is within walking distance. Here in car culture we don't walk anywhere, not even to the end of the street (I'm not kidding). Nothing is within walking distance. We don't even have sidewalks. We also don't have the variety of restaurants that the east does. Again, mostly chains and big box retailers. Would be enamored with a place that had everything in the world to eat, as well as a few local taverns, within 3 minutes of the front door.
You'll find that on the main line, and in other towns like Media, Ambler, Doylestown, etc. Of course, all the Philly neighborhoods mentioned thus far have their restaurants and bars.

In the 'burbs, unless you live way out, you're never that far from city conveniences and they all have places to keep you busy most of the time.

Quote:
Can either of you shed any light on taxes, housing costs, traffic, etc.? I read some other Philadelphia posts (some of which your names were on) referring to taxes for working/living in the city vs. the suburbs, bad traffic on the Schuylkill (sp?) expressway, high housing costs on the "Main Line", that sort of thing. Would be interested to know what it costs to live in the areas you've mentioned, both rental rates and purchase. For rent, 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1500+ square feet. For buy, 3 bedroom, 2 bath 2000+ square feet. Housing cost in TX is low, so sticker shock may be in order.
My motto is, "live close to work and everything else is easy." Anything more than a 30 minute commute is a burden that I won't put up with for more than a year. There is traffic out there. In a typical rush hour environment you can expect a 30 mile trip to take you about an hour. Some places a little better, some a little worse. If you're working in Center City you have the benefit of taking the train to work. In some rare cases you can do it for a suburb to suburb commute.

If you don't have kids and you'll be working in the city, you may as well live there. No point in having to spend the time and money to commute and then paying the city wage tax and high suburban property taxes. My wife and I lived in the 'burbs here before moving to Center City. Our combined tax bill (property and wage) today is a little more than $1000 a year lower than my property taxes in the suburbs were 9 years ago. Getting rid of one car and eventually the other put a whole lot more cash in our pockets at the end of each month.

Quote:
Another question, is there adequate parking at surburban train stations? We once lived in the western suburbs of Chicago, and even though all cities had train stations you had to have a pass to park at the train station. The pass was virtually unattainable (up to 10 year waiting list in the suburb we lived in) and of course all streets around the train station were no parking and tow away zones. So, yeah, you had a train that took you into Chicago, but what good was it if you couldn't park at the station?
Some suburban train stations have crowded lots but most of the lots are first come, first served. SEPTA keeps a list of the crowded stations on its website. The stations are close enough together that if one is always a problem you know to just drive to the next one. But there are a lot of stations so if you know you'll be commuting by train just look into something within walking distance of a station - or at least somewhere you can ride a bicycle to in 5 minutes.


Quote:
Where is Fairmount again? Why so popular with transplants? Less dense, more suburban?
In most cases you can just go to google maps and plug in the names of these neighborhoods - for instance "fairmount philadelphia" will show you a map of the area.

You can also do a web search and throw "civic association" or "neighborhood association" after the name of the neighborhood and you'll get specific boundaries.

Not sure why it's popular with transplants aside for being known for being popular with transplants. My guess is that it's because it's close to Fairmount Park/Kelly Drive. The parking is terrible, the transit is not that great, it's expensive, there's not much in the way of shopping and all of the really good restaurants are in other neighborhoods
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