As an adult, it’s interesting to look back on my family’s financial situation growing up. If there were money concerns, my father and mother, a patient-transport assistant and a certified nursing aide, respectively, never struggled in front of my three brothers and me. I was raised in South Philly, and I can’t recall ever being told we didn’t have the financial means for me to participate in sports or after-school activities. It was a comfortable upbringing.
I didn’t attend college, but my parents helped me financially in other ways after high school. When my children were born, they helped with child care and gave me money from time to time. Now, my son is 18 years old and goes to Kutztown University, where, luckily, he pays in-state tuition. He didn’t always know he wanted to go to college, so I didn’t save for it. He received financial aid, and then I took out a loan, which he’s also on, for the remaining portion. I help him apply for as many scholarships as possible. Seeing how much it costs to attend college nowadays, I’ve already started saving for my daughters, ages nine and 13.
My children’s quality of education is important to me. I send both of my daughters to Catholic school because the local public school isn’t great. There are additional costs, like uniforms, but the tuition isn’t that bad. Plus, they offer an affordable after-school program for my youngest daughter that lets me pick her up at 6 p.m. after I get off work.
I’ve been in my current job for five years but have held similar positions most of my adult life. I’d like to make more money, of course, but I try to take it day by day. It would be easier to not have to worry about putting aside enough money for bills throughout the month. I’d prefer to pay all of them on the first of the month and then use the second check to have a little fun. On the rare occasion there is money left at the end of the month, I might get my hair done or buy an outfit online, where I can search for a deal.
I have very little debt — maybe $150 from unpaid bills I blew off when I was younger. I’m trying to clean that up by putting a little toward those when I can. I save for retirement through my 401(k) at my company, but I also try to save on my own with a separate account. My biggest financial concerns are general monthly expenses, like cell-phone bills, utilities and groceries. There are three of us on my family plan, but my youngest daughter will need a phone next fall, because her older sister won’t be at school with her. Groceries are a killer, but I do have strategies to offset that. I shop only twice a month and buy in bulk at BJ’s Wholesale Club, or I’ll go to the Walmart Supercenter because they’re cheaper than the supermarkets near me.
I want to teach my children the importance of being financially independent and cutting costs when it’s possible. If I were a person who smoked cigarettes and was putting money toward those every day, that would absolutely be an expense I would cut. I used to frequently eat out for lunch, but I completely stopped. I’ll use vacation days and stay in Philadelphia, but it’s been years since I’ve vacationed outside the city. My kids know that if there’s something they want and I won’t pay for it, they can put aside money and buy it themselves. It’s about saving when you can and working hard so you don’t need to depend on other people.
— As told to Marina Lamanna
First published as “Living in Philly on … $18,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Growing up in Montgomery County, I remember my parents telling me, “You need to pay your bills, and you need to pay them on time, because they’ll follow you.” But it’s hard to understand the concept of credit until you need to get a place to live or a car to drive. Looking back, I wish there had been a high-school course that was mandatory, just like child development, about the ins and outs of credit.
I got a crash course after high school. I went off to college, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to study. After my second year, I dropped out, not thinking that when you’re not in school, your student loans kick in. My parents didn’t pay for anything, and I didn’t have scholarships or grants. Now those loans are biting me in the ass.
My boyfriend and I live out in the sticks. We don’t have Comcast or Verizon out here; we have some teeny-tiny company that I don’t remember the name of. Our major expenses are groceries, rent and car payments. Luckily, we’ve been able to avoid daycare. He works as a restaurant manager, which allows for changeable hours, and I’m able to bring my not-quite-two-year-old to my day job at a relative’s law office. When I go to my second job as a server, usually my mom or sister will look after my daughter.
Neither of us grew up endowed. He was one of nine kids raised by a single mom; I lived in a one-income middle-class household. I feel like my parents were more frugal, whereas I’m more of a spend-now-figure-it-out-later type of person. We’re still able to eat healthy. We still manage to go on vacations, even if we’re pinching the wallet. Last year we went to the beach, just the three of us, for four days. Beforehand, we packed food, to avoid eating out. And this year, I think we’re going to do a staycation, with activities like going to the zoo and swimming in relatives’ pools.
Having another baby is scary, scarier than the first one. The first one, you don’t really know what you’re getting into. This time, I know how expensive it is. They’re so little, but they have so much stuff.
If I made a few thousand more dollars, I would put half in savings, and the other half I would put toward my debt. If I could just work on my credit, I would save more month to month, because what I pay in interest because of having bad credit is part of why I’m hardly able to save anything.
With the second baby on the way, it’s about to get more complicated. But we’ll find a way. We always do. It’s kind of far away to start thinking about schools, but I considered it when we moved out to Birdsboro. Right now, anything like private school or Catholic school wouldn’t be in the budget. But who knows what could happen in five years?
— As told to Malcolm Burnley
First published as “Living in Philly on … $50,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
My mother didn’t come from money. Her father was a taxicab driver. Back then, in the ’50s, there were sororities in high school. My mother has always been extraordinarily beautiful, and the rich girls at her Philly-area public high school asked her to join their sorority. But she didn’t like the way they acted and declined. For prom, she wore a borrowed dress from a wealthier friend.
I was more fortunate from a money perspective. My father passed away when I was five and left me a nest egg to do practically anything that I desired. I went to overnight camp. I pursued the performing arts. I went to private school. At the same time, I had friends who would go out shopping and buy a $100 pair of jeans, and if I had done that, my mother, who worked two jobs, would have asked, “What, are you nuts?” Life was comfortable, not cushy.
When we moved to Center City from the Main Line when I was 16, my grandmother moved in with us. So it was three generations of women, each with different money experiences, all in the same household. When I applied to a private performing-arts high school, I got a scholarship for all four years. It was from a fund for girls of single mothers whose fathers had died. And with the money my father left me, I was able to graduate from Temple without student loans.
Today, I’m raising two daughters — a 10-year-old and a seven-year-old — in Center City while working as an independent contractor. I’m a rental agent, and my husband works full-time in the business world. At first when you have kids, you’re not thinking about college. You’re just trying to get through the day — diapers, crying, etc. But a few years ago, I started setting aside a little bit each month for them — probably not enough to pay for college, but it’s growing steadily. I’m lucky to have a wealthy relative who’s been donating to their college fund as well.
We don’t give our daughters any allowances, but they have a good grasp on money. The four of us have never been on a vacation together. Instead, the money has gone toward sending the girls to the best schools and summer camps. In fact, this year they’re both going to the same camp that I did as a preteen.
When my husband and I met, he was a personal trainer and I was a teacher. We have more financial stability now, but if I have a few slow months at work, I worry. Our car is paid off, so our biggest monthly expenses are the mortgage, health insurance and groceries — food and shelter, really. We’ve recently started to think about retirement. I just opened a 401(k) through the bank. I don’t want to be waiting tables when I’m 70.
— As told to Malcolm Burnley
First published as “Living in Philly on … $130,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, money-wise. Both of my parents came from large farming families. Where I grew up, hard work is paramount — my grandfather was still on his tractor the year he passed away, at 92 — and we understand the value of a dollar. Neither of my parents went to college, but they worked tirelessly and put in overtime to be able to help me financially; they paid my college and grad-school tuition and helped me with a down payment on my first house.
My husband comes from a very wealthy family who have long worked in the financial industry. He always knew he’d join the family business. It was an amazing upbringing, but the stark dissimilarities in our backgrounds definitely gave us pretty different ideas about money. It’s something we butt heads about, but overall, we balance each other out well.
When you make millions and have large trust funds — and still get gifts from your in-laws on top of that — there aren’t a lot of money-related stresses in your life. We don’t have debt and don’t have to worry about saving for retirement or putting money away for our kids’ college educations. The most stressful part of having a lot of money is knowing how to properly preserve it. You want to make sure you’re making smart investments and leaving enough for your children and their children. Even though my husband came from great wealth, his family never talked about financial decisions with him, and I didn’t have any tools because I don’t come from money, so it’s been a learning process for us.
The biggest money mistake we’ve made was investing with friends. When you have money, everyone wants to invest it for you. We would never work with a friend again. We’ve realized that in order to get the most out of our assets, it’s important to stay on top of our financial planners; otherwise, we don’t get the best service and aren’t in the forefront of their minds when opportunities come. One of the things we’ve started doing more recently is talking about money with friends who are in similar financial situations. That’s given us tools and tips to use moving forward.
Even though we have plenty of money, we don’t just go buy luxury items on a whim. I don’t feel comfortable waltzing into Gucci and buying a dress, for example. We’ve never had to cut back on spending, but we try to be frugal with buying. We spend the majority of our money on our kids’ educations (we chose to put them in private schools, and the tuition is crazy-expensive) and vacations (we go to Disney at least once a year and do a bunch of other trips each year). Our biggest splurges are jewelry and watches.
The best thing the money has afforded me is that I can have time to enjoy my kids. I quit my job a while back; now, 95 percent of my time is dedicated to my children. I can’t tell you what a gift that is. I want to teach them to understand the value of a dollar and to be good people. I also want them to know more than we did; we want them to fully understand how to invest, save, spend wisely and preserve their fortune. We do spoil them on Christmas and for birthdays, but we make them save their allowance money, which they get for doing chores, to pay for their own toys and treats.
I’ll probably never go back to work, but my husband won’t be able to retire anytime soon, because he works for a family business and needs to be present to keep his footing there. Would our lives be better with even more money? Well, that’s tough, because whose wouldn’t? I’d love to own a private jet and throw the kids in and travel to Milan any old day, or walk into Gucci and buy 10 dresses without having to think about it. It’s all so relative.
— As told to Nicole Scott
First published as “Living in Philly on … $1,000,000+” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
What are the best-paying jobs in the Philly region right now? Exactly how much are lawyers raking in these days? Your kid’s orthodontist? Your CEO? Who’s due for a raise, what’s the common man making, and what jobs will be worth the most in the next decade? Here, answers to those questions … and more.
Philadelphia’s Top-Paying Jobs*
1. Anesthesiologists: $268,920
Medicine in general is a good bet as far as salaries go. Ten of the 20 highest-paying jobs in the region in 2016 were in the medical field. (That’s not counting dentistry, which also makes a showing.) The breakdown, at a glance:
Family docs and general practitioners: $207,000
Nurse anesthetists: $180,230
Physicians and other surgeons, all: $166,150
Internists, general: $164,670
2. Orthodontists: $242,310
Followed closely by oral and maxillofacial surgeons at $192,460.
3. CEOs $225,090
Of course, this is chump change compared to what some CEOs in Philadelphia make.
4. Dentists, general: $173,910
Dentists in all other specialties average out at $151,560.
5. Natural sciences managers: $167,430
The higher-ups in pharmaceutical and science firms do well, but this category also includes management jobs in math, statistics, and research and development in the sciences.
6. Financial managers: $159,380
Our region is the fifth-top-paying metro area in the nation for these jobs, which include everything from securities and commodity contracts intermediation ($191,180) to agents for artists and athletes ($186,550).
7. Sales managers: $158,890
8. Marketing managers: $156,550
9. Computer and information systems managers: $153,690
10. Architectural and engineering managers: $153,130
11. Human resources managers: $145,440
And compensation and benefits managers: $141,880
12. General and operations managers: $141,230
13. Lawyers: $137,810
Good news for law students: Entry-level salaries are on the rise after a years-long standstill. Last August, several of the city’s high-profile firms hiked first-year salaries, which now range from $160,000 to $180,000.
14. PR and fund-raising managers: $132,690
The local industries with the highest concentrations of PR and fund-raising managers:
Grant-making and -giving services: $109,760
Advertising and PR: $153,710
Social advocacy organizations: $107,920
Business, professional, political, labor and similar organizations: $115,330
15. Personal financial advisers: $131,020
16. Construction managers: $130,940
New Jersey and Pennsylvania both rank among the highest-paying states for construction management jobs; Philadelphia is among the highest-paying metro areas in the country.
17. Petroleum engineers: $130,470
18. College law professors: $127,570
Law profs are followed closely by agricultural science post-secondary teachers at $126,620.
19. Veterinarians: $127,560
20. Advertising and promotions managers: $127,130
21. Training and development managers: $125,840
22. Purchasing managers: $124,520
23. Physicists: $123,040
24. Actuaries: $122,520
25. Podiatrists: $120,770
26. Industrial production managers: $118,310
27. Pharmacists: $117,550
28. Computer network architects: $116,570
Followed closely by computer and information research scientists at $116,480.
29. Education administration, postsecondary: $114,960
One notable outlier: Penn prez Amy Gutmann pulled in $3,333,878 in salary for the 2014/’15 school year — she’s the second-highest-paid president of an Ivy League school, after Columbia’s prez.
30. Transportation, storage and distribution managers: $114,740
*Salaries are the mean annual wage.
The Most Common Jobs in Philadelphia
A ranking of popular local professions … and what they pay.
1. Retail salesperson: $26,820
2. Cashier: $21,070
3. Registered nurse: $76,460
4. Office clerk, general: $33,650
5. Food prep and service: $19,670
6. Customer service reps: $37,440
7. Secretaries and assistants: $37,880
8. Laborers and movers: $30,780
9. Servers: $21,720
10. Janitors: $28,440
The Jobs of the Future
Jobs expert Judith M. Von Seldeneck — chairman of Diversified Search executive search firm — predicts where the demand (and cash) will be over the next decade.
1. Financial Services and Insurance
“Generally, professional and business services jobs have shown the most growth in the region over the past five years, and health and education have shown the second-highest growth, so it would be likely this trend would continue, specifically in several industry areas. I think there will be demand for informatics and big-data analysts, actuaries and Medicare consultants on the insurance side of health care, due to the increased changes in health care and our aging population.”
2. Health Care
“According to [consulting firm] McKinsey, the majority of private-equity investment in the health-care sector is in technology. As a result, there will be major innovation in the sector, and this region is really a health-care hub. Also, no matter what ultimately happens to the Affordable Care Act, there is truth in the old axiom that wherever turmoil and change occur, there are opportunities — particularly for organizations that must change the way they reach their audiences.We’ll likely see an increase in demand for chief marketing officers in all health-care sectors. And with the bulk of the baby boomers still under 65, services related to serving an aging population are also going to be big growth centers: physical rehab, pharmacists, nursing. Home health care will be one of the fastest-growing areas.”
“With the growth in technology, which shows no signs of abating, will come parallel growth in technology support — most specifically in the growing field of cybersecurity. There is no company in this region that does not need cybersecurity, and good cyber-security. The need is only going to grow as hackers develop more and more sophisticated methods of attack.”
4. Real Estate
“Count the cranes.”
Data for jobs and mean annual wages comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 report. The region is defined as the following counties: Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware, as well as Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties in New Jersey and Cecil and New Castle counties in Delaware.
Published as “The State of Our Salaries” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
As the American economy (the world!) has changed over the past few decades — what with the recession, the millennials, a tech boom, the Uber effect and so on — our own personal economies have transformed right along with it. Pretty much everything having to do with money — how we’re making it, how we’re spending it, how we’re saving it (or not), even how we think about it — has changed. Well, except for this: We still want to know about other people’s money; we still want more of our own; and, for better and worse, it still makes the world go ’round. (Right, President Trump?)
So here, we take a wide-lensed look at the current state of cash in Philadelphia, from the jobs that are bringing it, to the people who are making it, to the worries that are giving us ulcers … and everything else affecting our bottom lines in 2017. And yes, we also sneak a peek at the neighbor’s bank account. (How did he afford that Lexus?) — Edited by Christine Speer Lejeune
What are the best-paying jobs in the Philly region right now? Exactly how much are lawyers raking in these days? Your kid’s orthodontist? Your CEO? Who’s due for a raise, what’s the common man making, and what jobs will be worth the most in the next decade? Here, answers to those questions … and more. Read more »
In case there was ever any doubt, yes, it pays to be a union boss in this town. Here’s a look at the annual compensation (including, in some cases, bonuses and perks) of other Philly bosses, ballers, players — and a few regular Joes. Read more »
A mother of two, 43, lives in Center City with her husband, who’s in finance. Read more »
A rental agent, 47, is married with two kids in a dual-earner household in Center City. Read more »
A 28-year-old works at a law firm and moonlights as a waitress while raising a toddler (with another on the way) in a dual-income Berks County home. Read more »
An administrative coordinator, 41, is a single parent raising three children in South Philly. Read more »
When buying nothing is everything. Read more »
Fresh ways to build your wealth in 2017, from expert money managers. Read more »
We found one of each and asked them. Read more »
How do the spending habits of today’s Philadelphians compare to those of previous generations? Here, a snapshot of where our money has gone and is going … as well as a look at how we compare to the rest of the country. Read more »
First published as “Money in Philly” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Philadelphia magazine and WURD Radio, who collaborated on a special podcast for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, have announced they’re teaming up for a new podcast series.
“Pushback,” which debuts on March 16th, will focus on social justice in Philadelphia and beyond. The series is hosted by Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris, CEO of Techbook Online and regular contributor to WURD, and Malcolm Burnley, a writer-at-large for Philly Mag. The debut episode features an exclusive interview with Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney, who talks about the need for resistance and vigilance in response to many of the policies coming from the Trump administration. Read more »
West Chester: The Buzzy Borough That Only Gets Better
While planning committees around the region rush to give their downtowns the Oprah makeover treatment, West Chester only has to ponder how to improve an already vibrant borough — one with more than 65 places to eat and drink and quality independent boutiques. Volume is what’s coming next: Three new apartment complexes (including an eye-catching Eli Kahn development) have added 360 upscale residential units that are being rented by boomers and millennials alike. “The high density, the parks, the historic buildings, all the dog owners … it provides the community with neighborliness. People can’t help but know each other,” says Malcolm Johnstone, executive director of the West Chester Business Improvement District. “This is the anti-urban-sprawl community.” Buyers want in, according to realtors from around the region, who report that interest from clients across all age groups and demographics is growing. Additional attractions in the works — like a possible second hotel and the Knauer Performing Arts Center, which is giving the 100-year-old armory a second life — will only up the cultural appeal.
Media: New Retail, New Life for the Whole County
The formula for resurgence in Media is familiar. Step one: Add amenities downtown (five new restaurants opened last year; the many art strolls and popular holiday celebrations). Step two: Construct some new apartments that allow residents to walk to said amenities and public transportation (see the new, upscale West End Flats, which is bringing 162 apartments to State Street). Step three: Rehab dead zones (see BET Investments’ massive plan for the Granite Run Mall). Even though the latter two projects aren’t finished, this Delaware County town — which benefits from the fantastic Rose Tree Media School District and a quick commute to Center City — gets livelier each year. “We don’t have to advertise anymore, because the restaurants are full,” says Zubair Khan, of the Media Business Authority. “We draw patrons from a 10-to-20-mile radius.” It’s true: Surrounding towns are already benefiting from this newfangled Media.
How to De-Mall a Mall
The Granite Run Mall — a onetime Delco staple — is being born again. Michael Markman, president of Horsham-based BET Investments, breaks down his ambitious plan for the 88-acre property, now called the Promenade at Granite Run, set to open in 2018.
1. Add air. The walls and roof are being torn down to create an outdoor mixed-use walking community.
2. Add fun. Frank Theatres is opening a bowling alley and dine-in movie theater with a bar and nightlife events. Twelve new restaurants are being added as well.
(Parents, take note: While the kids watch the next X-Men, you can eat and drink.)
3. Add people. Four hundred luxury apartments are being constructed, with heavy landscaping and walking paths. So are offices and new stores.
4. Add services. CHOP is opening a pediatric medical facility.
5. Add transit. A shuttle will run a two-mile loop from the Promenade to West End Flats, BET’s downtown Media apartment building, so people can access both shopping districts and the train without a car.
Conshohocken: A Skyline That’s Growing for Residents, Too
Seth Lejeune, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Collegeville, says Conshohocken has “become almost a rite of passage, much like Manayunk is for younger people.” That makes sense, considering so many people are heading to jobs in the ’burbs. Conshy has easy access to all the 76s (the Expressway, the Blue Route and 276) plus regional rail, and it’s a stone’s throw from Center City. It has great schools and new hiking and biking trails, and the town leadership continues to weave in smart residential and commercial projects that add activity and density. One such skyline-altering project — to be complete by 2020 — is Keystone Property Group’s SORA West (formerly known as One Conshohocken), a proposed development on a five-acre site that has plans for two office towers, retail, outdoor dining, a rooftop lounge, green space and a hotel. It’s a block from the train station. “Conshohocken is one of the most desirable office locations in the suburbs,” says Keystone partner Richard Gottlieb. “Companies are continuing to come here. People like the opportunity to be close to work, and amenities enhance that. On Friday and Saturday nights, the streets are alive.”
Newtown: Smart and Seamless Development
Newtown Township has long been synonymous with historic country charm, which is why the yuppies flocked here in the ’80s to new developments that used to be orchards and farms. Now their offspring — as well as new arrivals — are reshaping the area again. “A lot of the changes have to do with demographics,” says Newtown native Jay Spaziano, an agent with Addison Wolfe Real Estate. While most Newtown-area residents are getting up in years, an influx of younger folk led to a 27 percent drop in the median age of Newtown Borough’s south side from 2010 to 2015. Those new arrivals — who love the lauded Council Rock school district — have a new way of living: They’re replacing older houses with more modern ones and prefer planned communities with smaller plots of land to tend to (like the Reserve at Makefield, a new Toll Brothers community). All this activity is having an effect on the town center; there’s a new condo project with retail called Steeple View on State Street, and the recently completed Promenade on Sycamore, which has apartments and upscale retail (there’s a new Anthro), has expanded the walkable downtown. Despite all the movement, locals are quick to note that the borough has done a great job of preserving the quaint vibe and history.
Malvern: The Biggest Building Boom in Chesco
Malvern is in the midst of a gold rush of sorts. Buyers looking to get into the excellent Great Valley School District and close to the Main Line at a good price (realtors like to refer to this as the Upper Main Line, much to Gladwyne’s chagrin) are making grabs for newly converted land. “We’re seeing an awful lot of new construction,” says Linda Theuer, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway in Malvern. Some of these new communities have walking trails, playgrounds, and houses with all the great rooms and chef’s kitchens one could want, but smaller lots, by design. “People today want to be doing things with their families, not taking care of big plots of land,” says Theuer. Commercial projects are sprouting at an equal clip. One such project is Uptown Worthington, a development by O’Neill Properties that will have high-end apartments, eateries and a hotel to complement the Wegmans that’s there. Plus, changes coming to downtown Paoli and Devon (if that tempestuous Urban Outfitters center ever happens) will only benefit this growing village.
Glassboro & Pitman: Revivals That Are Revving Up the Entire Region
Glassboro, the home of Rowan University — traditionally a commuter school — is slowly becoming a college town. The Rowan Boulevard development plan, in the works since 2000, has successfully connected the campus with the town’s main drag. Now there’s fresh retail, student and non-student housing, and restaurants (like burger place Prime, from the Pub & Kitchen crew) — all good reasons for students to stick around. While it might not be Happy Valley just yet, says Rowan prof and Glassboro resident Courtney Richmond, a tipping point feels nigh.
Not to be outpaced, the neighboring (and once sleepy) town of Pitman has been crafting a new vibe. A regulatory loophole led to the recent opening of two microbreweries, sparking an anti-temperance movement. After 100 years, Pitman is dry no more. A pocket park and wine bar are in the works, and thanks to an infusion of funds from medical publishing titan Peter Slack, the rehabbed Broadway Theatre of Pitman will put on a full roster of shows (including many for kids) this year. Now, says former chamber of commerce president John Fitzpatrick, Pitman is seeing “more younger people, couples in their 30s with kids.” The next hurdle: getting that long-rumored Glassboro-Camden light rail line on the books.
Ardmore: A Downtown That’s Making a Comeback
Ardmore has been around for more than a century, but town leaders have been working overtime in the past decade in hopes of making it the hippest Main Line town. (Take that, Wayne!) It’s working: Newer, cooler spots like Ardmore Music Hall and brewpubs like Tired Hands Brewing Company and Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant have brought life downtown — “Young life,” notes Emily Withers, of Keller Williams Main Line Realty — and people who are looking to put down roots. (The town, the largest on the Main Line, boasts more than 40 drinkeries and eateries.)
Those same 20- and 30-somethings, plus empty nesters, are expected to fill two new high-end apartment buildings. Dranoff Properties hopes to break ground this spring on One Ardmore Place, an eight-story building with 110 luxury rental units atop street-level retail. The project, which is replacing a surface parking lot on Cricket Avenue, is the linchpin of the revitalization plan, which connects Lancaster Avenue to Suburban Square. Across the street, Core Development has proposed a 77-unit building. And Suburban Square is getting a refresh: The defunct Macy’s is being replaced, in part, by the upscale health club Life Time Fitness, and a new parking garage, an enlarged Trader Joe’s and a rehabbed SEPTA station are in the work
This newly robust, pedestrian-friendly downtown is a top priority for today’s buyers. But so is diversity. The south side of town is home to one of the oldest and largest black communities on the Main Line. “I think diversity is always a draw — having a well-rounded area where you meet people of different backgrounds,” says Withers. The shops aren’t alone in expecting boom times: The Lower Merion School District has approved expansion projects, knowing that its student body is about to swell.
Q&A: The Developer Speaks!
After nine years, Carl Dranoff will break ground on One Ardmore Place this spring. Here’s why it was worth the wait.
You build giant towers downtown. Why apartments on the Main Line?
CD: This fits right into our playbook — we take on large-scale, game-changing projects. Ardmore has all the right ingredients: architecturally interesting buildings, the train station. You don’t need a car. That’s rare for the suburbs.
Did you need to be sold on the ’burbs?
CD: No. The township outlined a multi-phase, multi-year redevelopment plan. We saw, even back in 2008, that many residents in our urban buildings were commuting to jobs in the suburbs. Even more do now. We will diversify our holdings with Ardmore.
What sets this building apart?
CD: Most Main Line apartments are decades old, with no sense of community, no one to take your packages. We have outdoor space. We hired Cope Linder, the 1706 Rittenhouse architects. We will build an underground garage with 210 spots for the township.
There was some resistance from residents. Why stick with it?
CD: There were many opportunities for me to throw my arms up, but at the end of the day, this is the poster child for public-private collaboration. It could be a prototype for other towns that are starting to come back.
Marlton: A Quiet Town on a Building Spree
In Jersey, single-family homes and townhomes with upscale finishes are in high demand, and developers are responding. In Marlton — a 3.25-square-mile town that makes up most of Evesham Township — at least six communities are in the works from prolific developers like Procacci Development Company and Ryan Homes. And, says Cristin Holloway, managing broker of the Holloway Real Estate Group, most of her new buyers are young professionals fleeing the city in search of great schools and more space: “They’re ready to settle down and coming to New Jersey to do that.” Locals are loving the restaurant boom (even though it’s in a mall in nearby Moorestown), while Evesham officials have been furthering deals to keep the fun in town: There’s a lot of buzz about the redevelopment of the Tri-Towne Plaza on Route 70, which will have almost 300 luxury apartments, a pool, a gym, health services (Virtua has already signed on as a tenant), restaurants, a 1.5-mile recreational path, and a walking path that connects to Marlton’s downtown.
Phoenixville: High-End Rentals Mean a Younger Crowd
Here’s something to consider: Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix Village — one of a few newly opened upscale apartment buildings here — is around $2,000 a month. There’s a reason for that. This borough is a case study in downtown revitalization, with a main street that gets more vibrant every year. (The historic Colonial Theatre — of The Blob fame — is currently getting a state-of-the-art redo, and revamped theaters are traditionally boons to local economies.) That downtown life brought in the apartment buildings, including a 2016 Toll Brothers project called Riverworks that has a rock wall and dog spa; proposals could see another 1,000 rental units in the next few years. The appeal extends beyond Bridge Street, though. New-construction developments are being filled by young families who love hanging downtown, the Schuylkill River Trail, the proximity to offices in King of Prussia and Malvern, and a school district that ranks in the state’s top 50. While home prices are on the rise, realtor Seth Lejeune, from Berkshire Hathaway’s Collegeville office, says savvy investors are still finding good buys on the outskirts of town.
Published as “The Hottest Suburban Towns” in Philadelphia magazine’s March 2017 issue. Edited by Ashley Primis; Brian Howard and Sandy Smith also contributed to this story.
In a Philly campus apartment, a student is selling her worn underwear online for weekend spending money. In Center City, a gay man is shaving everything to keep up with the onslaught of hairless, six-packed sex gods on Grindr. And all over the city, people are meeting for steamy sessions of Orgasmic Meditation. (Don’t know what this is? You’re in for a treat.) Welcome to sex in Philly in 2017.
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