Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

How six big shifts in population and wealth are going to change your life. Plus: Our local real estate price report, with predictions for 40 places whose names will go up in lights


WITH THE COST of new construction zooming, it stands to reason that the only place that will really see it on a large scale is the one where people really want to show off. Get ready for the new Main Line, where a nascent trend of teardowns — taking the wrecking ball to august homes and replacing them with big, shiny, big, multi-gabled, multi-garaged (did we mention big?) mansions — will create a land war in the region’s toniest zip codes.

Already, a new home on ritzy Fishers Road in Bryn Mawr can go for $10 million to $12 million. That kind of redevelopment is attracting a new kind of carpetbagger: finance kingpins from Manhattan with obscene bonuses who like the idea of their own fiefdoms on Philly’s storied Main Line. “There’s a lot of money coming in from Wall Street,” says Dan Stango, a Prudential realtor in Haverford. Up-to-the-­minute example: He recently sold a $3 million spread in Gladwyne to a hedge-fund guy. In the next decade, the only thing that might be missing is a gate thrown up along both sides of Lancaster Avenue to keep the great unwashed out as the Main Line gets even wealthier, boosted in desirability by its pockets of celebrity denizens, like the 76ers’ Maurice Cheeks, spooky director M. Night Shyamalan, and seemingly half the news anchors in town.

As all that money alters the Main Line ecosystem, an invasive species is poised to take root: condos. The old PECO building in Ardmore is being flipped into a 31-unit building; developer Brian O’Neill is bringing luxe units to Bala Cynwyd, Lower Merion and Gladwyne. Penn Valley could also see some major development action, as land grows scarce in places like Devon and Bryn Mawr. Haverford is likely to be another hot spot. How much gets developed where will hinge on who does the most screaming before the planning board, which is why areas with entrenched Old Money (Villanova, for example) will be spared; just who do you think is on that planning board?

So while the old guard isn’t simply going to roll over in its collective cashmere, the area’s serene country feel is definitely going sleek and urban, whether inhabitants like it or not. Look for the schools to remain primo, and for the retail environment to shift from ritzy bridal salons, car dealers and spas to more holistic foods stores, upscale gyms and overpriced coffeehouses, to serve the young, overpaid, condo-living elite.


THE WONDER YEARS ideal of American life is hardly new. In the age of Ike, the vision of a single-family home with plenty of yard and a milkman who delivered every week captured the imaginations of people who felt that the suburbs were the summit of the American Dream.

That dream has only gotten bigger in ensuing decades, as the allure of Levittown gave way to the imposing McMansion farms of Toll Brothers and Orleans, with names like “Foxhall Estates” in Newtown and “Dublin Hunt II” in Upper Dublin Township, among thousands of others that promised privacy, space, and no unsightly poor people to spoil the view.