“Where do you call home?” Although where we were born can be rich with insight, where we choose to live may be a more telling indicator. This is why we strive to live in certain ZIP codes, in certain neighborhoods, among certain neighbors.
With this in mind, our 2013 Top Towns report investigates the character of the region’s top townships, boroughs and villages. Once again we asked Eric Malm, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics and business administration at Cabrini College in Radnor. His goal: to analyze and explore the data in effort to identify the most remarkable places to call home in the counties skirting Philadelphia. The main challenge with such a task, he shares, is to distill the information in a way that isn’t driven completely by household income or home value, challenging the notion that “expensive” equals “ideal.”
Using a statistical method to review data compiled over the course of several months, Malm assigned weights to each criterion to make side-by-side comparisons of individual towns in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, as well as a few towns across the river in New Jersey. This data included average sale prices of homes, average property taxes paid, median household incomes, high school performance (SAT scores and the percentage of college-bound high school seniors), population and crime risk.
The results presented on the following pages do not factor in intangibles such as the proximity to medical centers and other quality-of-life perks—namely, recreational, shopping and entertainment pursuits. Of course, we recognize that the only way to truly understand a town’s character is to actually live there (or have a close friend or family member who does). Read on to see where your hometown ranks among the best places to live in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Overall Rankings: The Top 25
King of Prussia
Richboro: Well Situated
In Bucks County, aptly named Richboro has within its reach all the things that make a great town … well, great. It boasts one of the suburbs’ most reputable school districts (Council Rock), and also owns the distinction of having some of the region’s most beautiful yet accessible neighborhoods. With sister Northampton Township communities Churchville and Holland, Richboro offers everything a resident might want or need, including a number of dining and shopping options in the bustling town center. When the phrase “location, location, location” came into being, they must have had Richboro in mind; Richboro is centrally positioned, with other classic towns such as Ivyland, New Hope and Newtown within a quick drive down one of the arteries that bisect the town. Just outside Richboro’s “downtown” lie swaths of farmland and open space, and, given its stone’s-throw proximity to idyllic Tyler State Park, Richboro offers natives ready access to a network of hiking and biking trails (both paved and rugged), disc-golf courses and fishing spots.
By the Numbers
This Year’s Rank: 4th Overall
Last Year’s Rank: 29th Overall
Average Residential Value: $339,500
Average Property Taxes Paid: $3,734
Commute to Center City: 28.6 miles, or 43 minutes
123: The number of years that Tanner Brothers, a popular family-owned dairy and farm market on Richboro’s outer rim, has been serving local residents.
103: The number of acres in Northampton Township Municipal Park, where locals of all ages flock for activities. Amenities include a playground, roller hockey rink, basketball courts and multiple baseball fields, as well as a butterfly garden and miles of walking/biking trails.
Bucks County Top 10
Chesterbrook: Gateway to the Main Line
Last year’s Top Town in Chester County—Chesterbrook—retained the title in 2013. Compact and somewhat insular, Chesterbrook comprises a warren of mixed residences, from modest townhomes to lovely colonials, on tree-lined streets that are reminiscent of a modern-day Pleasantville, where it seems everyone’s lawn is well kept, neighbors look out for one another and the town itself is shielded from the rest of the world. Tredyffrin-Easttown School District is among the best in the suburbs, with nearly 100 percent of graduating seniors going off to higher ed and some of the highest SAT scores recorded. Chesterbrook has so much at its fingertips, including the historic majesty of Valley Forge National Historical Park, Valley Forge Casino Resort and, with such easy access to the rest of the Main Line, some of the East Coast’s best shopping and restaurants.
By the Numbers
This Year’s Rank: 3rd Overall
Last Year’s Rank: 2nd Overall
Average Residential Value: $263,000
Average Property Taxes Paid: $2,367
Commute to Center City: 23.1 miles, or 31 minutes
90: Number of acres making up Wilson Farm Park—Chesterbrook’s social and athletic hub—which includes multiple ball fields, volleyball courts, picnic areas, a concert amphitheater, fishing pond and other amenities.
1740: The year Duportail House was built. The stone farmhouse was named for General Louis Lebègue Duportail, who was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to design fortifications at Valley Forge to fend off a potential attack by the British army, which at the time was encamped in Philadelphia. The historic property is now available for special events and educational field trips.
Chester County Top 10
Chadds Ford: History Meets Culture
Chadds Ford’s landscape offers unique vistas of the township’s rolling hills and, in nice weather, lush greenery along the meandering seam known as the Brandywine Creek. Rich in historic sites (Brandywine Battlefield, the spot where George Washington chose to halt the British advance on Sept. 11, 1777, though he ultimately failed and the British marched on to Philadelphia) and home of world-class wineries (Chaddsford Winery and Penn’s Woods Winery) and art/history museums (Brandywine River Museum, offering collections by natives Andrew Wyeth and N.C. Wyeth; and the Christian C. Sanderson Museum, featuring historical artifacts), Chadds Ford enables residents to drink deeply of life’s finer things. Along Baltimore Pike, the central artery cutting through Chadds Ford, residents can choose from myriad dining, shopping and gallery options.
By the Numbers
This Year’s Rank: 29th Overall
Last Year’s Rank: 56th Overall
Average Residential Value: $350,000
Average Property Taxes Paid: $3,868
Commute to Center City: 28.5 miles, or 40 minutes
1982: The year Eric and Lee Miller founded Chaddsford Winery, which produces a number of nationally acclaimed varietals.
45,000: The number of acres permanently protected in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware by the Chadds Ford-based Brandywine Conservancy.
Delaware County Top 10
King of Prussia: Grand Plans
KOP is known first and foremost as home to the King of Prussia Mall and its tenants, which include some of the finest names in fashion, cuisine and other retail—from Gucci and Cole Haan to Nordstrom and True Religion. Those interested in entertainment other than shopping and dining have plenty to choose from, as Valley Forge Casino Resort, Valley Forge National Historical Park and a wide-ranging network of hiking and biking trails are within easy reach. Besides all this, King of Prussia boasts access to some of the region’s top school districts—Upper Merion and Tredyffrin-Easttown, namely—known for producing elite learners and high achievers. Also, with some of the region’s best medical centers, from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to Fox Chase Cancer Center, keeping offices in King of Prussia, superior health care is literally just around the corner. Although KOP is not exactly a walkable town, it is rife with wonderful neighborhoods of colonials, townhomes and Cape Cods, while offering convenient access to so much in a relatively condensed area.
By the Numbers
This Year’s Rank: 1st Overall
Last Year’s Rank: 6th Overall
Average Residential Value: $235,250
Average Property Taxes Paid: $1,882
Commute to Center City: 19.7 miles, or 25 minutes
47: The number of the fire station in King of Prussia on whose grounds lies a 9/11 memorial, fashioned out of steel from the collapsed towers.
1,200: The square footage of a recently opened “soft” children’s play area inside the KOP mall sponsored by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Montgomery County Top 10
King of Prussia