Real Estate 2010: 10 Awesome Neighborhoods To Call Home

If the tanking of the real estate market has taught us anything, it’s that a house isn’t an investment. It’s a home — a place to retreat to at the end of the day, to raise your kids and hang with your friends, to build your life around and become part of a larger community. So, what are the best places to call home around Philly? Here, our guide to some great neighborhoods worth discovering … or rediscovering

The Grower
Chester County

With standard Aframes, big ol’ colonials and not a few developments, this former mill town — the Brandywine runs through it — of 8,000is still somewhat worn at the elbows, but totally ready to bloom.

Schools: Ninety percent of the grads of Downingtown’s two high schools — East and West — go to college.

Commute to Philly: 45 minutes by car; 4065 on the R5 or Amtrak.

Things you get: Large lots; proximity to the Turnpike entrance, corporate centers and Lancaster; great dining at Firecreek, Amani’s, Jasper; scenic jogs and bike rides along Struble Trail; drivethrough coffee shop Coppertown for vegan smoothies; a “fishing rodeo” at the duck pond.

Things you don’t: A finished product. A couple of beats behind West Chester’s development boom, this bargainfilled community still wants for retail and restoration.

Betcha didn’t know: Downingtown Middle School owns 75 bikes; for gym class on sunny days, kids pedal outside.

Resident you ought to know: Painter (and White House Christmas card creator) Adrian Martinez.

The future: Close to half a billion dollars is being invested in the 2.2-square-mile borough, via mixed-use development, a merger of the library and senior center, a bridge across the Brandywine to a revamped train station, gastropubs, diners, and, according to rumor, a Molly Maguire’s.

Meet the neighbors: Sunoco Chemicals business manager Jeff and wife Sandi Malcolm considered school district first when relocating their middle-school-age kids to the area. “When we were looking, West Chester residents were saying, ‘If I could do it over again, I’d move to Downingtown,’” says Sandi.

Wanna buy here? Re/Max realtor Jamie Wagner notes the variety. On the market: “Lots of new developments, a good amount of historic houses, old farmhouses, and homes that are new to 35 years old, with goodsize lots.”

Just sold: A twostory, 80-year-old Pennsylvania Avenue cottage with hard-wood floors, knotty-pine-walled family room and wood shop, for $226,000.

You might also like: Pitman, New Jersey, has that just-about-to-pop feel — plus a historic grove, great schools and wellpriced houses.