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June 30, 2019 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Our family has jobs in Collegeville PA and Philly (uPenn area). Where should we live?

We're trying to figure out the balance of commutes and quality of life. Currently living in downtown Lancaster, which we love — we live in a very established neighborhood in the center of an extremely blue city, with great restaurants and a low cost of living. We're planning to stay here for a few more years... but the commutes are too parallel to make sense long-term. Philly neighborhoods are a distinct possibility, as are places like Norristown.

• We'd ideally like to buy a small rowhome or similar (~3 bedrooms, 1 bath).

• We want to minimize the pain of everyone's commutes. Public transit (Amtrak, SEPTA) is very much preferred when possible, even if the total travel time is longer.

• We only want to live in a high-population-density, racially diverse, economically diverse area—no all-white suburbs with matching lawns. Our current neighborhood is loud and full of kids running up and down the streets in the summer, and we know all our neighbors, and whenever a cop car or an ambulance stops on the block with its lights on everyone comes to stand on the stoop to see what's going on. There are illegal fireworks going off all summer, and lots of feral cats in the neighborhood. Once a man rode his horse down the middle of the street and folks leaned out of their windows and cheered "PUERTO RICAN COWBOY!!" at him.

• A queer-tolerant area is a priority — it doesn't need to be the Gayborhood, but we don't want to get hate-crimed. Our current neighborhood is verrrry live-and-let-live, but there are a lot of small rural towns in PA where our family explicitly or implicitly wouldn't be welcome.

• Good restaurants and good schools would be nice-to-have's, but we realize they may not be too feasible with this budget, and any school needs for our family are still quite a few years away.

posted by you're a kitty! to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the Mt Airy/West area might be a good fit
posted by shaademaan at 9:03 AM on June 30

Seconding Mt Airy. Manayunk may also fit, depending on your budget and your tolerance for pseudo-hipster young professionals and gentrification.
posted by basalganglia at 9:49 AM on June 30

Luckily, you're describing pretty much any neighborhood in Philadelphia. West Philly/University City is a great choice which is closest to U Penn. The Penn Alexander public school in the area is one of the best public schools in the city due to Penn's investment (but there's a waiting list for even people in the cachment; nearby public schools aren't bad either though).
posted by bearette at 9:57 AM on June 30

Mt. Airy is great but it's not particularly close to either of your jobs (when compared to West Philly).
posted by bearette at 9:59 AM on June 30

Actually, sorry- Mt. Airy is closer to Collegeville than the U Penn area. But, U Penn is IN West Philly. So either could be a good option. But Philadelphia has a plethora of neighborhoods that meet your requirements. It might be helpful if you're even more specific.
posted by bearette at 10:03 AM on June 30

Seconding West Philly/University City. Great area, family friendly, urban, lots of trees, convenient to public transit. A lot of people I know live there.

I myself live in Brewerytown, up around 30th & Girard, which fits "high-population-density, racially diverse, economically diverse area" and has done nothing but get more excellent since I moved there 13 years ago but is still affordable. I have a three-story two-bathroom row house. You can take the 49 to UPenn, it's around the corner from the Girard Avenue entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway, and you can get to 476/276 from the Expressway.

Collegeville is not convenient to either - Expressway to 422 at rush hour is an hour.
posted by Peach at 11:28 AM on June 30

posted by gnutron at 12:21 PM on June 30

I would probably just live in West Philly and suck up the commute to Collegeville, which is not extremely accessible by public transit from the city (or anywhere else, really.)
posted by Automocar at 12:44 PM on June 30

I'd probably go for West Philly too. On a nice day you can fold-a-bike to 30th Street Station (on bad days: trolley) to Norristown, where you can fold-a-bike to Collegeville (Ursinus, I'm guessing?) (on bad days: bus). Public transit it's a 2-hour trip or so 😞

To be a little less brutal on one party, Manayunk isn't bad at all, and both ways there's significant stretches on the SRT. (Long way to Collegeville on a bike but doable. It's also only one transit switch but still 90 minutes.) It's a little bro-y but I'd be shocked if you got hassled any more than anywhere else in Philly (not much, mostly the odd unhinged person on the street who would hassle anyone with a tattoo or wearing shorts).
posted by supercres at 6:49 AM on July 1

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