PENNSYLVANIA - A GREAT PLACE FOR RETIREMENT LIVING IN A DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD
A number of cities and towns in Pennsylvania keep appearing on various lists of best places to retire in America, and it would take more space than is available in this narrative to discuss them all. However, it is safe to say that if you are one of the new breed of retirees contemplating the concept of "downtown retirement," Pennsylvania offers a wealth of options.
Its major cities, notably Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have undertaken aggressive programs to re-energize and revitalize their core urban centers and, thus, have made their downtown areas much more livable, with the result that both young professionals and youthful, active retirees are being attracted by the surge of new condos and loft apartments that have sprung up in these locations.
In Pittsburgh's trendy Downtown district, upscale living comes with a package of amenities designed to appeal to empty nesters ready to forsake the big house and yard in the suburbs for the convenience of being near restaurants, theaters and shops. But such a lifestyle may carry a price tag that is beyond the reach of the average retiree, with most condos beginning at $200,000 plus.
And while new residential units are also springing up in downtown Philadelphia, the affluent suburbs and small towns stretching across "The Countryside" in Bucks and Chester Counties and the Lehigh Valley still remain more likely retirement choices. One option to consider might be New Hope, a small, charming arts-focused town on the Delaware River that is one of the East Coast's more popular weekend destinations, with an interesting array of antique shops, cozy inns and numerous arts and crafts shops lining its quaint streets. It is conveniently located halfway between Philadelphia and New York City and is a great spot for anyone desiring an active retirement lifestyle in a more rural environment.
There are a number of inviting communities similar to this in Southeastern Pennsylvania, which, in addition to being the home of a number of colleges and universities, offers beautiful winding country roads, picturesque wineries and an assortment of hospitable bed and breakfasts. Small towns like, Wayne and Upper Merion, each with an affluent population, a low crime rate, and a vibrant and active downtown area, are considered among some of best places in the country to live.
In fact, all across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are scores of small and mid-size cities that are actively working to make their downtown areas attractive for both commercial and residential growth. As a consequence, some retirees are beginning to discover the advantages and excitement offered by this new sense of vitality and renovated community spirit. This trend is largely being spurred by the work of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a statewide nonprofit organization devoted to revitalization of the Commonwealth's core or traditional communities.
A prime example of the work of this group can be found in Lewisburg, a city of 6,000 sitting between the picturesque Susquehanna River and Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania. Here an architecturally rich downtown is filled with more than forty distinctive shops, intriguing restaurants, museums and a 1940's-era movie palace. Just minutes away from a pastoral countryside and mountain streams, retirees can experience living in a diverse and culturally rich community with a charming small town ambience.
Central Pennsylvania is also home to several other small towns where the downtown neighborhoods are being given a renewed sense of progress and energy. In Williamsport, the 30,000 residents have embraced and acted to preserve and protect their historical homes and buildings and aggressively moved to maintain their core business district as the focal point of community activity. Known worldwide as the home of the Little League World Series, this is a place where retirees will find an enchanting natural beauty and a welcoming civic pride.
In addition to being the home of Pennsylvania State University and its nationally recognized Nittany Lions, State College offers a unique small college town environment, with tree lined neighborhoods, an interesting and somewhat quirky main street fronted by shops, coffeehouses, galleries and some great restaurants. Residential developers, recognizing the appeal of this university environment to many retired alumni, are actively pursuing the construction of several upscale retirement communities designed specifically for the active retired alumni.
The downtown area of Harrisburg, the capital city, features a stunning waterfront along the Susquehanna River, with remote river islands and parkland lakes. Here, retirees will find a bustling city center with a thriving arts and culture community in an urban metropolis, yet just moments from the panoramic scenic beauty of the nearby mountains and river valleys.
Nowhere is the revitalization of a downtown neighborhood more evident than in the western Pennsylvania small town of Washington, the home of Washington and Jefferson College. With a population of less than 16,000, this enterprising hamlet has implemented a dynamic and far-reaching $100 million revitalization of its downtown that, not only significantly improves the infrastructure of the center city, but also includes the construction of new street level retail, residential lofts, an 80-room hotel, and an outdoor park and amphitheatre, with the focal point of the project being a new national corporate headquarters facility intended to house in excess of 1,000 employees.
Retirees interested in continuing an artistic career may well find it worthwhile to investigate a unique city-wide Artist Homestead Program being offered by the city of York. Ranked among the 100 best places to live in the country, this small urban bohemia of about 40,000 people is providing significant financial incentives for the purchase or renovation of a live/work studio to community minded artists as a way of continuing the renaissance of its cultural and artistic facilities. City administrators see this program as a historic avenue for artists to invest in this rehabber's paradise, where a mix of affordable Victorian and eclectic architecture is available, in some instances at prices around $60,000. For retirement aged artists wishing to continue their artistic careers with limited financial investment, this may be a once in a lifetime chance.
In addition to the cities and towns mentioned above, there are countless other small communities across Pennsylvania where the traditions and quality lifestyles of downtown neighborhoods are being preserved, perhaps more than in almost any other state. Anyone wishing to pursue downtown living or a small town neighborhood for their retirement choice would be well advised to explore the possibility of Pennsylvania as a highly desirable place to retire.
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