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Potential Move to PHI Area

Hi Y'all - I'm in Austin now, and have been posting for a long time. I'm considering a potential move somewhere around Lansdale/Skippack/Norristown etc. I'm fairly spoiled in AUS with my market being 2 min away, plenty of ethnic grocers, restaurants, etc. My main concern is being near a good market, as I like to go everyday. Are there any nice villages that far out that I could target? I'll be telecommuting, but I will have to travel to NY and NJ often. Could also consider closer in, between that area and the city. I'm not too familiar with various areas, and a real estate agent would never understand the questions I am presenting here. I'm looking forward to learning new things if I move, new ingredients that we don't have, and making friends with a butcher, chinese grocer, thai restaurant owner, etc. like I have here. A walkable community would be nice. Where do the chowhounds live, the real ones, according to the Jim Leff manifesto?

Being near a train station would be a huge bonus. And nice parks. And a suitcase full of cash.

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  1. Have you considered living in the city? It's a lot easier to have all those experiences somewhere like South Philly or Center City.

    7 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      Indeed, if you're telecommuting, and want to be as spoiled here as you are in Austin, just move into the city. Though I guess there must be some other reason you're looking at the Lansdale area instead?

      1. re: Buckethead

        One reason for Lansdale - wife's family just happens to live out there. However, I wouldn't mind not living too close to crazy MIL!

        1. re: rudeboy

          Well, there is a Septa Regional Rail line between the city and Doylestown which stops in Lansdale, the regional rail lines run every day. So you could look at that as either a convenient way to visit the city... or a way to visit the in-laws. Here's the train schedule: http://septa.org/schedules/rail/pdf/d....

          I'd definitely second suggestions that you visit for a few days or a week first, we can suggest an itinerary. And rent your first year here before buying anything (you mentioned a real estate agent, so I'm assuming you're buying something). Personally, I live in South Philly and love it (usually), and I recently came very close to making the mistake of moving to the suburbs (sorry, Conshohocken) before deciding to rent for a year instead. If you're the type of person who consults Chowhound before moving to a new area, I suspect you'll prefer living in the city as well. There are of course some great finds in the burbs but I don't think you're going to find a place to live where you have easy access to all the things you mentioned like you would in the city.

          1. re: Buckethead

            Thanks buckethead and barryg - I think you all are right. Renting is definitely the way to go for the first year. This job just came up on Tuesday, and I'm going to have to act fast. I'll have to balance my wishes vs the fact that I have two kids and thus have to worry about the quality of schools, safety, and all that. I want them to grow up in a food/bon vivant culture, meet interesting people, and have a variety of friends. My fear is that I will end up like Harry Hill in the last scene of Goodfellas.

            http://shelf3d.com/XUWKrzsFh2c#GoodFe... 1990 - ending scene [HD]

            1. re: rudeboy

              Kids and schools definitely change the equation. You should consider posting on Philadelphiaspeaks.com or citydata you get some advice about balancing the non food factors with the food.

              1. re: barryg

                Barryg is right. Children change the equation. The Philadelphia school system is a disaster. I would not put my children in it. If you can afford private school, do it. If not, live in the suburbs.

                If you are going to upstate NY areas like Rochester on a frequent basis, the Lansdale area is good, because you will be close to the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike which connects to 81 which shoots you right to upstate NY. NJ, is accessible from anywhere but you might change your mind if you are going to be spending more time in North Jersey versus south Jersey.

                The comments about Lansdale/Skippack are spot on. You have both renting and buying opportunities there, and its pharma corridor there, so you will find a wide range of options from apartments, townhomes, condos and houses for rent in addition to houses for sale. In Lansdale North Wales you are within 15 minutes of Whole Foods, Wegmans, Assi Market, as well as a good supply fo local businesses.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  I'd add here that Philly's academic magnet schools are still the best schools in the state, and there are charter options that are often much better than the standard public schools. But getting into these schools is not guaranteed and navigating the system might be hard for someone just moving here.

    2. Close to Center City, (and my personal favorite), is the charming town of Chestnut Hill which has just about everything on your list. It is an upscale, sophisticated, and walkable village.
      Great restaurants abound and you are a bit less than 1/2 hour from Center City -- closer than the area you are considering.
      And yes, you are walking distance from a train station as well.
      You owe it to yourself to at least take a look at the area before you make up your mind.
      As for that suitcase full of cash ... well my friend ... you're on your own!

      5 Replies
      1. re: arepo

        Agree that Chestnut Hill is charming, walkable and convenient to the train. However, it is not a town--it's a neighborhood in Philadelphia and is therefore subject to the city wage tax . I honestly don't know how the wage tax is calculated for telecommuters, but I would look into it before moving.

        I also love Skippack as it has a cute walkable town. But it's mostly specialty shops and restaurants and I'm not sure it has the types of markets/grocers you are looking for.

        The Lansdale area has the ethnic grocers you're looking for, but is short on good restaurants. And you'll be driving to these markets.

        If I were you, I'd arrange to visit for a week to check out the area. I suspect Buckethead is correct; what you're looking for really only exists in the city.

        1. re: gaffk

          A full-time employed telecommuter will be subject to the wage tax and a consultant the business tax equivalent. The suburbs have income taxes that will apply as well, typically 1%, but taxes in the city are higher.

          1. re: gaffk

            I may have the opportunity to visit very soon. I looked over Chestnut Hill, which is conveniently located between the city and her family. I will have to figure out the wage tax and the ramifications. We have no state or local tax on income, but property taxes are high. My wife's Father and his wife live in Skippack - I like it, but agree with your sentiment.

            1. re: rudeboy

              Now that kids are in the equation, keep in mind Chestnut Hill is also in the decimated Philly school district (and the cuts keep coming).

              Also, since it seems your need to visit NJ/NY sites off the metro-centric sites, with a company car, it seems like you'll be driving to those sites and the need for a train will be more to visit Philly (or NYC). In that case the Lansdale/Montgomeryville area might fit the bill as it has easy access to both the PA turnpike and NE extension. And, as Buckethead mentioned, easy access to the R5 to Doylestown or Philly. These sites are in the North Penn school district, which has a good reputation.

              I'm glad you'll have an opportunity to visit as this area can be confusing. I moved to the burbs after 40+ years in the city: my mailing address is Lansdale, I pay my property taxes to Montgomeryville, my water comes from North Wales--four years in and I'm still confused ;)

              Still, I'm pretty close to Wegman's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Aldi's (Asian), a meat market, a good bakery and two dairy farms (on the off-chance your children enjoy good ice cream). It's also an easy drive to Chestnut Hill (and its excellent cheese shop) and Skippack (and its excellent cheese shop).

              I'm not familiar with the Delaware County towns mentioned, but agree that Doylestown may be an option well worth looking at: walkable downtown; good restaurants, bakeries, etc; very family-friendly.

            2. re: gaffk

              IMO, gaffk is on point with the comments regarding Chestnut Hill and Skippack. I will not comment on Lansdale as with in laws living there you probably have an understanding of what it is and is not. bg's comment on schools and kid changing the equation is dead on, be careful, very careful regarding city schools. And yes make sure you understand the tax issues with living in the city (Chestnut Hill). Many locals commute to NYC, upper Bucks has both relocated New Yorkers still working in the city and PA resident commuting there.

          2. Aren't you going to miss the central Texas summers?
            My only experience with Philly is camping in a tent outside of JFK stadium before the Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead show summer of '87. And a great show.
            Based on my experience with living in different locales I would rent for at least a year in order to determine which area felt right for me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: crippstom

              Agree with the last sentence. I will NOT miss the four to five months of summer when the low temps are 77 and it is still 90+ at midnight! If we just had two months of summer, and I was immersed in Barton Springs, then I'd be okay!

            2. I would suggest that if you are considering the suburbs, consider Bucks County, around Newtown and Yardley. This way you can drive to trenton, and take the train to the city. When you say markets, are you talking farmers markets, or grocery stores. The high end groceries around here are Wegmans and Whole Foods. You might look where those are. If you are in the Lansdale area you will have Wegmans and Whole Foods not too far away. Norristown you can go to Plymouth Meeting for Whole Foods and King of Prussia for Wegmans. Further out there is a Wegmans in Collegeville.

              10 Replies
              1. re: cwdonald

                I think another good suburban option is Media (in Delaware County). It is very walkable and has a legitimate "Main Street". You are also right near a rail line to be able to get in and out of Philadelphia.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  I like Media too. You actually have two available rail lines to get to the city from there, the regional rail (faster) and the 101 trolley line to the Blue line.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    I just checked out Media on Redfin and Google Maps. Looks like a cool little community. I will check it out when I am there!

                2. re: cwdonald

                  cwdonald - mainly a supermarket. I do a lot of home cooking, so being near a store is essential. Personally, I like Wegman's based on my limited experience. I cook when I go up there, and they have a good selection. I'll search for Wegman's locations throughout the area.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    As you look at your needs to get to NYC and NJ, the question comes down to whether you are doing this for business or pleasure. If you are closer to philadelphia you will be completely reliant on Amtrak out of 30th street station. If you have to pay for it you are looking at a minimum of 100 dollars rt. If you are going yourself, you are better off driving to Trenton, NJ where you have the option of the local train (NJT) which does have express trains into Manhattan during rush hour and costs considerably less. Public trainsportation from Philadelphia to NJ is almost non existent unless you are getting off at major stops (Metro Park, Newark). So that is why I am suggesting you want to be closer to the Bucks area and a straight shot over to Trenton. All the places folks are suggesting are great, but for commuting to NY you are going to have to drive into PHL and then take amtrak.

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      Or just drive. If you live in Philly near the Delaware you can drive to NY and NJ very easily.

                      1. re: barryg

                        Driving to NY (assuming it's NYC) is never really easy, and very costly. But driving to the Park-and-Ride and hopping onto a bus for a 12-minute ride into midtown is inexpensive and convenient. Not as convenient as taking Amtrak into the city, but far better than driving all the way in.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          This is all great info, you three! I'm an environmental engineer, so I'll likely be traveling to contaminated sites in NY and NJ, and not, say, into downtown manhattan. Rochester was mentioned. I'm expecting a company vehicle, and I'm hoping that fees, fuel, etc. will be covered. I'd like to take my kids on the train to see things for pleasure, however.

                          I realize that I have a lot of things going here with regard to location. Having kids is definitely a game change. I could live in a barren shipping container if it were just me....but being virtual and then traveling by car to industrial sites might allow me the opportunity to get at least half of what I'm looking for.

                          1. re: rudeboy

                            Rochester NY is far away from the NJ/NY corridor and is pretty far west and north -- it sits on the shore of Lake Ontario.

                            Edited to add that if you're driving to Rochester and WNY, try to get AWD on the company car. And avoid Rt 17 to get there from Nov.to April (maybe May).

                            1. re: rudeboy

                              Rudeboy you know me, sorta. Rochester is a nice town, awesome in the abbreviated summer, brutal in winter. Forget Louisiana or Texas live crawfish anywhere in the NE, if they have them the Austin prices will seem like a bargain. Real Tex-Mex, no way.

                  2. Welcome to Taxsylvania

                    the city wage tax is brutal but offset somewhat by much lower property taxes than the burbs

                    Chestnut Hill/Mount Airy are really lovely and from Austin I think would be culturally familiar-ish - that said city schools and wage taxes are a drawback -

                    the closer in "main line" suburbs are nice and well connected to the city- Narberth, Bryn Mawr etc but not great for getting to NYC

                    Downingtown and surrounds are really cute but I am a city guy can't help to much with the burbs here

                    If you are going to NYC frequently (this I do) you either want good access to 30th street station (Amtrack) by rail or an easy drive to Hamilton NJ (the park and ride for NJT and Amtrack) one station after Trenton - (skip Trenton, Trenton sucks)

                    you DO NOT want to drive into NYC - its horrid. and you do not want to set up life with a regular drive commuting on 76 ever, its also horrid. We drive slow in traffic here in PA not fast like you do in TX, very slow.

                    For me I live in Fishtown -http://www.visitphilly.com/philadelph... great access, great restaurants, not so great schools and work in No Libs http://www.visitphilly.com/philadelph... there is plenty here to check out even if its not where you would settle.

                    Also welcome to the land of really really good dairy products -

                    And, welcome to the land of mass transit - septa has its flaws but I would not consider locating anywhere without a station - there is a lot to explore here no matter where you choose to settle.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: JTPhilly

                      "the closer in "main line" suburbs are nice and well connected to the city- Narberth, Bryn Mawr etc but not great for getting to NYC."

                      Amtrak's Keystone service stops in Ardmore a few times a day and is really convenient for getting to NYC if their schedule suits. You have a great choice of seats, and there's no waiting on the freezing/broiling platform at 30th St. Or, just take the R5 (as I still think of it) to 30th St.

                      (OT: I've never understood why they let people go down to the platforms at 30th St. before the train arrives. I supposed they're trying to avoid the Penn Station scrum at the top of the stairs, but being from NYC I prefer the latter!)

                      1. re: Strocophate

                        The schools along the Main Line (R5) are much better than Norristown. Both Lower Merion and Radnor school districts get high marks. Ardmore has a farmers market as well as Trader Joe's.

                        1. re: Strocophate

                          ha I did not know that Amtrack stopped in Ardmore that's convenient. Those burbs are known for being very wealthy but they have a pretty diverse housing stock and if you are willing to sacrifice big yard and McMansion size closets you can find houses that are surprisingly affordable - on a quick look on the web you get more for your money in Ardmore than you do in Fishtown these days - which is sort of mind blowing. Gun to my head if I had to do the burbs that's where I would go.

                          1. re: JTPhilly

                            On the Main Line, Bala-Cynwyd, Wynnewood and Ardmore are the closest in to Center City (15-20 min)
                            The school system is superior to that of the charming village-like Chestnut Hill and you wouldn't have to pay that high city wage tax. Taking a train to NY is zero problem and quite convenient from those neighborhoods. Everything else on your list is there. You name it!

                            1. re: JTPhilly

                              Amtrak's Keystone line also stops in Paoli - a little further west.

                              We're in West Chester - good access to Wegmans, decent access to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods (though we don't shop there), a nice selection of farmers markets, good restaurants, and good schools with lots of parks.

                        2. Take a look at Elkins Park, a suburb just across the city line in Montgomery County. I moved there a few years ago and have found plenty to keep a foodie interested! The new Creekside Co-op in Elkins Park is a great place to shop, and has become a true neighborhood hub. It is also easy to drive to a Korean supermarket (H-Mart) and a Russian supermarket (Bell's), as well as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and a huge Shoprite. I'm still exploring the area restaurants, both in the city and in the suburbs...Carribean, Polish, Cuban/Colombian, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Korean. We like to get pastries and cheesy bread from the Colombian bakery, bagels and babkas from the kosher bakery, cakes from the Italian bakery. Elkins Park has excellent access to public transportation; several train lines pass through to get to Center City. Also, I travel up to Rochester frequently and because you are north of the city you get a jump start on the trip.

                          1. You seem like a Doylestown guy to me. It's centrally located in Bucks County, so will have that big-space feel a la Texas (well a lot smaller, but you get the drift), replete with a great Farmer's Market, and you're close to a Wegman's in the area. There are a few good restaurants, such as Honey, but the environs are perfect if you like to cook your own food, since you're so closed to farms, yet live in an affluent area where there are tons of gourmet types. Keep in mind, getting into Philadelphia will be a hike, however. Newtown in Lower Bucks is easier and also has good food options, but for shopping you need to schlep over to Princeton for Wegmans or Whole Foods.

                            Bucks County has more of a farm, colonial feel. Main Line has more of a historic, 19th-century mansion feel. Bucks County is newer, so more like Austin.

                            Do you like Uchi in Austin? Morimoto in Philadelphia does a similar omakase, which is a little more pretentious than Uchi and less heavy on the fried Brussel Sprouts (fo' shame), but still very good and inventive.

                            When in downtown Philadelphia, definitely check out the BYOB scene. That's the highlight.

                            1. Poor rudeboy! I bet that you never thought that you would be overwhelmed with so many suggestions regarding where to live. I have lived in most of the areas suggested previously. My advice is: Check out the school district first. Most Main Line schools are very good. I happen to live in Upper Dublin Township in Eastern Montgomery County now where two of my kids went to high school and I was very happy with their education. Forget the City and Chestnut Hill (where I lived for many years), unless you can foot the bill for a private education. Choose a location near a Septa train station. Then, after the essentials have been considered, look at the farmer's markets and access to restaurants. Fortunately, the suburbs in Philly are relatively close to the urban center unless you go to Upper Bucks or Western Chester counties. I hope that we all have not thoroughly confused you! Good Luck!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Kshell

                                Thanks, everyone - I'm trying to digest it all while looking at maps, etc. I'll craft a response as soon as I am able. I don't have much experience with the PHI board, but from what I've seen so far, I'm in good hands. Thank you!

                              2. If you want to live near a train and good grocery stores, I would suggest Lansdale, North Wales,Abington, Jenkintown and Ambler. Would have to drive from these areas to get to the stores: Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Wegmans but it is possible to find a home within walking distance from that train station. However these trains will only go to Philadelphia. All are close to the PA Turnpike however. If you would rather be close to I-95 and be near Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Wegmans I check out Princeton, NJ, or you could live in Yardley or Washington's Crossing and have a short drive to those stores as well as the train station and it is also close to Trenton and the NJ Transit NE Corridor line to NYC.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: littlecmad

                                  Interesting observations. I would think that with his in laws living in Lansdale he may already have some understanding on what it is and is not and opinions on same. Of the areas mentioned Yardley, Washington's Crossing and Princeton; Lansdale is definitely an outlier.

                                  1. re: Bacchus101

                                    I should know about my potential opportunity sometime next week. Found out that there is a project in Rochester, in Manhattan, on Long Island, and several opportunities in near NJ owing to some recent regulations. Everyone has provided valuable information - I will definitely pull out a map and triangulate if the opportunity comes through.

                                    One general question - all things being equal, is it more advantageous tax-wise to live in NJ than PA with a professional job?

                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                      Depends how much you make and if you plan to own or rent... PA has a flat tax which is advantageous to high earners, and property taxes in PA are generally much lower than in comparable communities in NJ.

                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                        There are very few economic benefits from living in NJ. Property taxes are higher, income taxes are higher, the state has a huge deficit and unfunded pension mandates that they keep deferring that will ultimately have to be paid for somehow. Given that you do not work in Philadelphia or in NJ, you are much better off in the suburbs of Philadelphia than either in NJ or in the city of Philadelphia, especially if you have young children,

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          +1 to all that, but as a former Cherry Hill resident, I can think of three pluses to living in NJ:

                                          1. paid family leave - 6 weeks at 2/3 salary (up to ~$600/week) - concurrent with FMLA-type leave but paid!
                                          2. gasoline is cheaper and they pump it for you
                                          3. easier to buy all kinds of alcohol, given PA's archaic LCB regulations

                                          1. re: truman

                                            Hey I live in Bucks county and I can easily buy gas in NJ and alcohol as well.

                                            The FMLA is an interesting benefit.

                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                              You can still benefit from FMLA if you live in PA but work in NJ :)

                                            2. re: truman

                                              Interesting pluses: If one becomes annoyed with the PA State Stores as most residents have been for decades then NJ or Delaware has wider selections and depending on what and where less expensive booze, close by. How long are we going to have to do this? Cheaper pumped gasoline is nice for sure. While my holidays/vacations are at my discretion #1 would have to be a huge plus for many who are encumbered by the traditional American vacation policies, work for ever for those 2-4 weeks! Are there potential repercussions from an employer disgruntled by those exercising the family leave policy?

                                              1. re: Bacchus101

                                                How long are we going to have to deal with the liquor situation? Talk to your state reps and senators, most of them continually vote against liberalizing the system.

                                                1. re: barryg

                                                  You will have to defeat a large public union that is a large Democratic Party contributor. The arguments against it are: will lower reenue, will get rid of good paying jobs, will not lower prices. Also, folk make the argument that there will be a liquor store on every corner. You will find public health advocates, including a recent CDC report coming out against privatization, along with the prohibitionist group Mothers against Drunk Driving. And unlike Washington State which recently privatized, we do not have a public referenda system whereby consumers can express their preference. Public polls have consistently shown the public is all for government getting out of the liquor business, yet our public officials do nothing. It goes back to at least Governor Thornburgh if not earlier where governors attempted to do something and nothing happened.

                                                  That said, those of us close to NJ or DE have access to places like Canal Liquors and Total Wine. We do not have the convenience of two buck chuck at Trader Joes.

                                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                                    On top of the union, the other established interests also muck up the process. The beer distributors for example lobbied the Republicans to grant only them the ability to sell wine. That kind of thing splits the votes of the liberalization supporters. Still, it is astounding that exactly zero Democrat reps voted for liberalization. Talk about not representing your constituency.

                                                    The whole thing is a textbook example of how established interest groups prevent the will of the masses.

                                                2. re: Bacchus101

                                                  Not to digress too much from the original post or food-related nature of Chowhound, but the NJ state government website has useful info about the paid family leave: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/form...

                                                  I can't comment on repercussions, but can share my family's experience: my company offered 12 weeks paid leave for maternity anyway, so the state money just counted towards that. My husband's employer offered zilch and so he was able to take 6 weeks with some income (his leave was FMLA-protected but unpaid by the company). But his team and boss knew well in advance that he was taking some time off anyway. Employers do not directly pay for this; everyone who works in NJ pays ~$30/year into the fund.

                                      2. Okay, enough already! This poor guy just wants a few suggestions regarding where to live!! Democrats v Republicans; Liberals v Conservatives v Libertarians, WHAT? Let's reserve that discussion for other sites. While I agree that taxes and the PA
                                        LCB play some part, let's stick to the main issues: Children's education, transportation, and good food. After that, I would add the opportunity for an interesting lifestyle (although that is entirely subjective). Give the guy some room to breathe and digest (a pun) all of this well-meaning advice.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Kshell

                                          We'd really prefer that people stick to the main issue -- food -- here on Chowhound, though we realize that's pretty much a train that has sailed at this point in the thread.

                                            1. re: gaffk

                                              Trains are as likely to sail as this thread is to be about food, so we thought it was apt ;)

                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                Maybe the CH team are just really, really dedicated Austin Powers fans..

                                          1. Rudboy sounds like an intelligent individual who has the ability to take the information provided by the Phila CHs he deems of value and leave that which he does not. Great job of providing information and views which may be of interest and concern to the OP.

                                            1 Reply