Townhomes and McMansions are so 20 years ago.
Seems everywhere we turn, there’s an apartment complex just waiting to be built.
From Narberth to Ardmore to Berwyn and beyond, developers are teeing up hefty rental projects. 2,000 new units are in the pipeline in Lower Merion alone.
So many, in fact, they’re beginning to blur: mid-rise buildings with flat-roofs, mixed-material facades, pristine kitchens and baths and smallish living quarters. What you lose in personal square footage, you gain in amenities and walk-to-town/train/trail convenience.
Or so the pitch goes.
Among the rental developments on drawing boards or under construction up, down and near Lancaster Ave., from east to west:
- Befitting its small-town status, Narberth’s projects are relatively compact and, consequently, somewhat light on amenities. The most noteworthy: developer Bob Kagan (CDK Partners) plans to raze a 1960s-era office building on Forrest Ave. and put up a four-story, 56-unit building – huge by Narberth standards.
- We’ve taken you inside the apartments at Dranoff-developed, seven-story high One Ardmore, but the proposed Piazza Ardmore (between Ardmore and Greenfield Ave.) is even bigger. If approved, IHOP and the Acura and VW dealerships will give way to two, five-story buildings with 257 rental units, ground-floor retail, and an 840-space garage. And, on the same street as One Ardmore, The Cricket Flats are rising, courtesy of Core Development: five stories, 72 posh apartments, with ground-level retail, fitness center, rooftop terrace, green roof, etc. Also, in Ardmore, Kimco wants to build 152 rental units in a mix-used complex on Coulter Avenue in Suburban Square.
- Bozzuto, the developer behind new rental complexes at the King of Prussia Town Center (i.e. Omnia, Indigo, Canvas), plans to raze the old HH Gregg/Golf Galaxy on Swedesford Rd. in Tredyffrin and erect a 250-unit upscale apartment building in its place, a permitted use under township code.
- Undaunted after a similar plan died at Devon Yard, Main Line developer Eli Kahn hopes to build a a luxury apartment building on the north side of Lancaster Ave. in Devon, across from the horse show.
- Developers Cornerstone Tracy and Pohlig Builders want to knock down Handel’s, a strip center, an office building and an old warehouse in Berwyn Village and build Berwyn Square in its place. As currently drawn, the complex includes 120 apartments and two or three shops, including a new Handel’s Ice Cream and a mini town green.
- Four-story, 153-luxury-unit Station Square is rising just north of Paoli station on N. Valley Rd. and Central Ave.
- At least four new luxury apartment complexes are planned or under construction in Malvern, in or near the Great Valley Corporate Center. One project by LCOR, Arlo, just finished on 12 acres near The Grove, includes 244 units anchored by a huge clubhouse with a multi-sport simulator, work-pod, fitness center and screening room. Rents range from $1,400 for a 439 sq. ft. studio to $3,120 for a 1400 sq. ft. three-bedroom unit.
- GMH Capital plans to replace Frazer Lanes Bowling Alley and an adjacent trailer park, pub and barbershop with Frazer Lanes, a new four-story, 227-unit, amenity-laden apartment building at Lancaster Ave. and Planebrook Rd.
Long list, right? Who’s going to rent all these units? Is the market for luxury, multi-family housing really that strong?
Call us old fashioned, but wouldn’t folks paying monthly rents of $1,500 – $5,000 be better served buying a place? Maybe build up a little equity?
Local developers assure us the demand is real. And the rental market is far from over-saturated. (At least not yet.) While the single-family home market has stalled since the Great Recession, multi-family construction has seen double-digit growth.
It’s the “new normal in housing,” affirms Villanova developer David Della Porta of Cornerstone Tracy, whose plans for Berwyn Square were described in detail in the August SAVVY.
“I see the demographics,” adds developer Eli Kahn, who’s long been bullish on the rental market for millennials and empty nesters. “There’s demand but no product,” he says.
A quick check of the suburban Philly rental market shows demand remains strong, despite the expanding supply. The area’s multi-family vacancy rate in June 2019 was just 4.1 percent, a tick above the prior year but still healthy, according to a report in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
What’s driving the boom? A blend of sticker shock at home prices, societal changes and sagging retail.
For a high net-worth area, the Main Line is shockingly forlorn in spots, dotted with sagging strip centers and shuttered businesses gone to seed. Commercial vacancies have become part of the landscape. We drive by blight every day and don’t bat an eye.
But developers do – and, increasingly, smell opportunity.
Suburban Philly apartment buildings are selling at a record clip. So-called “merchant builders” know they can lease up a bunch of units to show demand, then turn around and sell for a tidy profit.
The zeitgeist is changing, as townships like Lower Merion and Easttown, and before them, Tredyffrin, have been revising zoning maps to encourage pockets of density (aka “walkable downtowns”) along Lancaster Ave. Most redrawn “town center” zoning maps permit, with limits, mid-rise multi-family housing, presumably to fill long-vacant holes and provide foot traffic for local businesses.
Who’s renting? To a person, developers tell us their new, luxury rentals will attract:
~Millennials. They’re greener than their parents, happy to rely on ride shares, zip cars, trains and buses. They also marry later, have kids later, and like to job hop. Save for a down payment? Not when home prices are steep, you’re buried in college debt, and you may or may not stay in your current job.
“Millennials can’t afford existing housing in the neighborhoods they grew up in,” says Kahn.
They’re priced out of new construction, too. Starter homes that boomers bought for $100K to $300K a few decades ago are selling for two three, even four times the price – great news for owners, not-so-great news for their adult children.
~Older singles and divorcées. Studies show single-person, U.S. households have jumped from 19% to 28% while the percentage of married-couples-with-kids, i.e. traditional homeowners, has halved in the last 30 years, from 50% to 25%.
~Empty nesters. They want to be footloose and mortgage free. Many have vacation homes but want to live on the Main Line – close to family and friends – for at least part of the year.
Pete Sikora, VP of Bozzuto Development says the complex he’s proposing for Swedesford Road in Tredyffrin will attract “more mature” renters, i.e. empty nesters and snowbirds.
LCOR VP Brandon Segal tells us his company did tons of market research before committing to Arlo in East Whiteland. He, too, expects to attract downsizing boomers and yo-pros “not ready to commit to a location and mortgage.” With home prices so high, it’s not unusual for retirees to “try out” new places and lifestyles before pouring their profits into down payments.
For all three groups of renters, convenience counts.
“Time is a precious asset,” Segal tells SAVVY. “More and more we are seeing professionals don’t want to deal with long commutes,”
Kahn talks about empty nesters not having quality “move down” options and valuing hard-earned free time. Why weed the flower beds or replace the garbage disposal, when you can be buffing up your bod, brunching with your buds or enjoying the grandkids?
Posh rentals may be old hat in Manhattan and Center City, but their expansion to our fair suburbs is fairly recent.
“They’re nothing like grandmom’s apartment building with dark halls, cramped bathrooms and a washer-dryer in the basement,” says would-be Berwyn Square developer Della Porta.
Instead, they’re plush “live-work-play” places that feel like resorts. Rooftop gardens, landscaped courtyards, infinity pools, state-of-the-art fitness studios, and amenity-rich clubhouses are par for the course. The only cruel reminder that life is not one big vacation: the on-site co-working and conference suites for the growing fleet of work-from-home folks.
One group that’s NOT targeted: families with school-age children. Every developer we talked to insists that fears about overburdening local schools are overblown.
With only a few exceptions, planned apartments have just one or two bedrooms. Most are 750 to 1,400 sq. ft. max. Not a whole lot of space for play dates and toy bins.
And sure, most complexes include outdoor “playgrounds”– but for grownups. Think fire pits and flat screens, not swingsets and sandboxes.
Meanwhile, homeowners, particularly in Berwyn, Devon and Ardmore, are choosing sides.
Even if zoning code allows multi-family projects in their neighborhoods, folks are crying foul. Too dense! Too tall! Too many new cars! Too out of character! Too much strain on schools and first responders!
Yard signs are popping up.
Facebook groups are buzzing.
Emails and petitions are circulating.
Township meetings are jammed. A zoning hearing about Berwyn Square was so packed last month that the hearing was tabled. It’s been rescheduled for Oct. 30 and, to better handle the hordes, was moved to the auditorium at Beaumont Elementary.
Developers have siginificant allies, too. Among them:
- Some pro-smart growth town officials who see these projects as a way to revitalize downtowns and expand the tax base.
- Local business groups, merchants and restaurateurs eager for new shoppers and diners.
- Pro-growth residents looking for more vibrant downtowns within easy walking, biking or driving distance.
Will the Main Line see every one of these projects built as planned? Not likely.
Most plans have built-in wiggle room; It’s no secret that developers like to float their biggest, most profitable blueprints first. Then, if there’s pushback, they’re able to shave a few feet here, knock a floor off there.
Sometimes, though, the dollars on the shrunken project don’t add up and developers throw up their hands and walk away.
New owners relaunch 118 North Wayne
118 North – Wayne’s first live music club – has been rockin’ and rollin’ since early 2018.
Making considerably less noise? Its ho-hum food and booze.
But the times they are a changin’.
“We have great bands and atmosphere, but food was an afterthought,” admits 118 North partner Kenny Kearns.
Well, not anymore.
And this week, 118 relaunches with new, “approachable but not ordinary” menus, a new craft spirits program, new furniture, a new happy hour and late-night hours, expanded talent bookings and more.
“We want to be known as a restaurant that has live music – not a live music venue that happens to have food,” says Chris Perella, a partner at Ardmore Music Hall and now, at 118 North.
“We want to fill out the whole evening – have people come in for dinner, then stay for the show,” adds Gottehrer.
Perella and Gottehrer have successfully merged food, booze and music at Ardmore Music Hall and its smokin’ hot, next-door neighbor, Ripplewood. Kearns (who founded the Wayne Music Festival) bought out his old 118 North partners and brought in the Ardmore gang (Perella, Gottenhrer, Rick Andersen and George Corrigan) to effect the same kind of culinary/musical magic in Wayne.
With its vibrant shopping and dining scene, Wayne is “the Rittenhouse Square of the Main Line,” says Gottehrer, a Lower Merion native.
Music towns like Austin and Nashville have long married live acts with elevated dining. But that combo “didn’t exist around here until now,” Kearns says. “We’re taking the best of what we do in Ardmore and bringing it west.”
So, stop in 118 North for refined, well-priced gastropub fare ($7 – 25), wash it down with one of 10 craft cocktails ($10 – $13), 12 craft beers ($6 – $8), and nine wines ($9 – $13). Then stick around for the show.
You’ll find riffs on Rip standouts here like it’s legendary double-patty, dry-aged burger but topped with brie, onion jam and special sauce in Wayne ($15).
The killer wings ($11) and Brussels sprouts ($12) are headed to Wayne, too – along with The Rip’s signature “Brookie” (brownie/cookie) and Ricotta Donuts.
Eat light with, say, the Grilled Broccoli Caesar ($11), Mediterranean Salad ($13), Mahi Tacos ($14) or Branzino ($21). Or go hearty with a Lamb Burger with goat cheese and black garlic yogurt ($17), Brisket Dip (13), or Hot Fried Chicken with grits and white BBQ ($21).
Seasonal menus will be rounded out with “thoughtful twists on what people know and love,” says Chef Gottehrer, who sharpened his chops at Stove and Tap, Dandelion and In Riva.
Prices are more than fair. “If I’m not going to order a $16 cocktail, I’m not going to make anyone else pay for one either,” Gottehrer says. “We’re not here to gouge anyone.”
Also on tap: a broader range of shows including more jazz and singer/songwriter acts on weekdays and Sunday nights, kids shows on Sunday afternoons, and a comedy act or two.
The retooled 118 North officially launches this weekend and Kearns and Co. are stoked. “We were pouring beer and throwing a band in. Now we’re a fully functioning, full-service restaurant, bar and music club.”
118 North, 118 North Wayne Ave., Wayne, 610-971-2628, is open 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. Tues. – Sunday, Your Hour Happy Hour, nightly 4 – 6 p.m. ($4 drinks and food at 4, $5 drinks and food at 5, etc.). Reserve on Open Table. Show times vary. Musical acts include rock, Americana, funk, roots, jam, blues, pop and folk.
Main Line gets first taste of Montreal-style bagels
Spread Bagelry is now boiling and baking in Bryn Mawr Village, the Philly-based chain’s first suburban spot and its fifth overall.
Spread makes bagels the Montreal way: hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, and then baked in small batches in wood-fired ovens. Eastern Europeans brought their old-world bagel recipes to Canada in the early 1900s and it’s spread south.
Folks rave about the taste of Spread’s flatter, chewier bagels. Plus, they’re usually easier on the waistline than their puffier New York-style cousins.
On the menu: homemade “spread” sandwiches ($3.75 – $5.75), all-day breakfast sandwiches ($8.25 – $12.50), lunch sandwiches, bagel burgers, dogs and pigs-in-everything blanket bagels ($9.50 – $18.50) and two $11 salads. Half or whole pizza bagels or cheese-melt bagels for the kiddos. Limited eat-in seating.
Spread Bagelry, 925 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr Village (near La Colombe & Tredici) is open 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. (or when they sell out).
Curl up in new Cocoon Pod to shed weight, ease pain, detox and more
Climb in, close the hatch and prepare for lift-off. Space-age wellness has touched down on the Main Line.
Strafford Chiropractic just launched the Cocoon Wellness Pod.
While it looks like a next-gen tanning bed, it’s actually a luxury infrared sauna and full-body massager … on steroids.
Science has long touted the benefits of dry infrared heat. And this sleek white beauty offers them in spades. Main Liners are using the Pod to detox, lose weight, relieve pain, de-stress, tone and tighten skin, boost energy and mental acuity, improve sleep, strengthen and tone muscles and simply relax.
It’s like a restorative, invigorating stay at the health spa, but instead of a long weekend, you’re in and out in a hot minute. (Actually, 30 minutes.)
The infrared light heats your core body temp, gets your blood pumping and your metabolism firing so you can burn 500 calories in a single session, the Pod’s creators claim. At the same time, the Pod’s vibrating massage bed loosens muscles and turbo-boosts circulation.
And all the while, you’re breathing through a soothing Himalayan salt block so you’re clearing your airways, too. Get extra cervical support with an optional neck-traction pillow.
Not one to lay still? Ask for resistance bands to be attached near your feet so you can exercise while you work up that healthy sweat. Want to really amp up the metabolic burn? Slip on a disposable zip-up sweat suit.
Like an astronaut, you’re in the driver’s seat of this wellness capsule. Heat and massage controls are at your fingertips and intensities can easily be tweaked in flight. Select a strength workout or relax into all those good vibrations – the choice is yours.
Unlike traditional box saunas, the Cocoon is built for comfort. Your head stays out and a stream of adjustable cold air blows on your face so stretching out for the full recommended half hour is a snap. You’re not tempted to beat the heat after 15 minutes.
Devon resident Tom Hipp, 48, uses the Pod for neck and shoulder pain but says it’s also “great for relaxation and stress relief.” Usually claustrophobic, Hipp says he was “pleasantly surprised with my level of comfort.”
Wayne resident Mindy Hauser, 52, uses it to detox and “hopefully, lose a few pounds.”
She’s lost 1.5 pounds after three sessions. She loves the fact that she can work up to higher heats. “I was looking for a good long sweat and because I could customize it while I was using it, I was able to achieve that.” The massage is another big plus for Hauser. “It was totally relaxing. The room the Pod is in is so calming. It smells amazing and you forget where you are for 30 minutes.”
Pro cyclist David Dawson, 27, says the Pod has become his new training buddy. He uses it to warm up and feel more energized before riding and to help muscles recover after riding. On days off, he uses it for light training. “The minor muscle stimulation helps flush my legs for the next day’s ride,” Dawson says.
While infrared saunas have been hot stuff for a while now – pro athletes and celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston swear by them – the Cocoon offers an efficient way to get a huge health bang for your sauna buck.
“Its added value is off the charts,” says Strafford Chiropractic massage therapist Amie Hamel. Chiropractor Dr. Jenn Hartmann endorses the Cocoon for its ability to boost micro-circulation. “You want good oxygenation at the capillary level” to ward off the “capillary fragility” that comes with age, Hartmann says. “The better your vascular system, the longer you live.”
Strafford Chiropractic & Healing Center, 3521 E. Conestoga Rd, Wayne, is the exclusive provider of The Cocoon Wellness Pod on the Main Line. Call 610-293-1660 or book online.
That’s why we jumped at the chance to scrub in with Dr. Brannon Claytor, Main Line Health’s Chief of Plastic Surgery. (Anything for a story, right?)
The first local doc to perform the new “Ellevate” neck lift, Claytor invited a Who’s Who of Main Line plastic surgeons to his Bryn Mawr offices to watch his live demo.
Another inducement to tag along: The Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who invented Ellevate – Greg Mueller, aka The Neck Doctor – was in the house.
Mueller told us he’s been perfecting the FDA-approved technique for years but began marketing it in earnest under the Ellevate trademark a few months ago. He says he’s successfully performed it on scores of women and men, ages 21 to 80, among them “Vanderpump Rules” star, Ariana Madix, 34, who wanted a more defined jawline.
On the Main Line, Claytor is a convert. He’s performed Ellevate dozens of times since he started offering it more than a year ago. Patients tend to be 35- to 55-year-olds who can’t afford the downtime of surgical neck fixes. Some have double chins, others have the beginnings of turkey neck.
He calls Ellevate a “great option” for the right candidate. “It’s not going to deliver what I can deliver when I open the neck up surgically, but that’s a different level of commitment.”
The procedure is super popular with men, Claytor says, because shorter hair makes surgical lift scars behind the ears more obvious. A 57-year old Ambler lawyer who had the procedure eight months ago tells SAVVY he couldn’t be happier. He’d tried liposuction but says nothing – including liposuction – took away his double chin like Ellevate.
“The procedure’s not as complicated as a surgical neck lift but the results are pretty close,” the lawyer said. The worst part were the needles used to anesthetize the area. “Swelling subsided quickly and it was great that I could see full results in day or two.”
Claytor demo’d the technique on 41-year-old Damaris Ortega, who’d long despised her double chin.
The procedure took about an hour and a half under mild sedation. First, he used Smart Lipo to remove fatty tissue. Then he made tiny punctures in the skin, and used a light-guided rod to string permanent sutures under the jaw to support and contour the neck and jawline.
No incisions (beyond the punctures), no stitches, no general anesthesia, no hospital stay, and, no need to hide for a few weeks.
Both physicians caution that Ellevate is not a “lunchtime lift.” While patients can return to work in a few days, they’re advised to take it easy. Exercise is forbidden for three weeks and the neck won’t fully heal for about 14 days.
By comparison, open neck surgery means several weeks of hibernation. It often takes months before swelling/discoloration totally disappears.
And while at least one well-regarded plastic surgeon in attendance questioned the procedure’s long-term effectiveness and feared “cheese wiring” associated with similarly non-invasive thread lifts, Claytor insists Ellevate’s results will be long lasting.
Because they use absorbable sutures, typical thread lifts last only a few years. But Ellevate’s sutures are precisely strung at deeper levels, Claytor says, and they’re permanent, like sutures long used for cardiac and bladder procedures.
Ellevate non-surgical neck lifts are offered at Claytor Noone Plastic Surgery in Bryn Mawr and at select area plastic surgeon’s offices. Prices begin at $4,500 for a simple Ellevate and go as high as $9,500 for Ellevate combined with Smart Lipo and thermal tightening. Learn more about Ellevate at an open house at Claytor Noone Plastic Surgery Nov. 6, 5 – 8 p.m.
Devon Yard’s Amis gets a mini-makeover
Terrain Café and Terrain Gardens event space at Devon Yard have been solid hits since Day One.
But Amis? Not so much.
Some blame the restaurant’s underwhelming performance on its look and feel. The rest of Devon Yard is green, lush and warm, while Amis seems cold and sterile, they say. A style misfit.
Others say the food is good but doesn’t wow them enough to keep coming back.
Well, Amis’ owner URBN has heard y’all loud and clear and this week unveiled Amis 2.0.
Handcrafted wreaths and commissioned artwork from LAA Art Collective warm up the walls and new greenery and plantings make the entrance more inviting.
The menu strays from its Roman-Italian focus in spots with more seafood dishes and inventive cooking techniques. The pizza dough has been reformulated so it doesn’t get soggy with seasonal toppings. And there’s a new happy-hour menu with shareable snacks, “simple yet strong cocktails” and “discounted glasses of our reserve wines,” says URBN’s Larissa Crossley.
Happy hunting at Paoli’s new Fashion Xchange
If you like Chic & Simple in Berwyn, you’ll flip for Fashion Xchange, a new resale boutique a few miles west with the same owner.
Spacious and well stocked, Fashion Xchange buys better brand-name and designer clothes, accessories and home décor, then sells them for a song.
So, yes, there’s Talbot’s and Chico’s, but there’s also “pre-loved” Eileen Fisher, St. John, Burberry, Versace, Lilly Pulitzer and brand-new designer knits from France. Plus, a trove of recycled furs, new colognes, fabulous bags and jewelry and assorted home accents.
The new 5,000 sq. ft. store across from Paoli Shopping Center is the former showroom of kitchen remodeler Creative Nook, which closed last spring. (Owner Alex Hall has taken his talents to Tague Design & Showroom in Malvern and rents his Paoli building to Fashion Xchange.)
Wulk tells SAVVY she’s eyed the Creative Nook building for years and plans to consolidate operations in Paoli. “This is it for me,” says the serial entrepreneur. She’s already sold her Chic & Simple home goods store in Berwyn. The Chic N Simple fashion shop in the same Berwyn center is available for sub-lease. (Interested? Contact [email protected]) .
Fashion Xchange, 96 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, 610-296-7000, is open Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 4. Items are bought outright, not consigned. No appointment necessary to bring in gently used items.
High-octane, low-impact workouts at Wayne’s Plank Studio
By Rebecca Adler
What the Main Line lacks in parking spots, it sure makes up for in workout studios. Barre, yoga, spinning, boot camp. So how do you choose where to sweat it out?
May we suggest Wayne’s Plank Studio, a Pilates MegaFormer studio with a mom-and-pop, everybody-knows-your-name vibe?
Open since 2014, Plank was a boutique studio before the Main Line was blanketed with them, a point of pride for owner Hilary Ryan.
“I was coming home to visit my family from New York City where you’re tripping over these studios on every corner,” Ryan says. “I realized the need for one here.”
Fueled by high-energy, heart-pumping music, Plank classes lengthen and strengthen muscles, improve balance and stability, and burn up to 700 calories.
Teachers wear microphones and plan fun, themed playlists. While every class is different, all ignite your core as they tone from head to toe.
They’re also user friendly with modifications for beginners. Plank also offers private lessons – a good option for people nursing injuries or recovering from surgery.
“We have clients from ages 18 to 80,” says Ryan of the low impact, high-cardio workout “Running or alternative workouts may be too much banging and pounding on the joints … but Pilates is sustainable for years upon years.” Golfers, tennis players and athletes benefit from the increased range of motion they develop at Plank, she says.
Ryan’s own tired knees and aching joints – mementos from back-to-back NYC Marathons – forced her to find a new workout.
Pilates proved perfect. Ryan so loved the core-based, full-body workouts, she became a certified instructor, ditched a career on Wall Street, and moved back to her home state to open Plank, the first MegaFormer studio in PA.
MegaFormers are widely considered the Rolls Royce of reformers, a Hollywood fave that’s cutting-edge and incredibly versatile. Each of Plank’s 11 MegaFormers is 250 pounds of power, loaded with bells and whistles that keep boredom at bay. Clients can perform hundreds of moves on them.
The key to Ryan’s success in today’s over-saturated fitness market? The Plank community. “We don’t have a cult following; we’re not a corporation,” she says.
This month Plank collected donations, hosted a “Slay & Rosé” class, and gave a day’s worth of profits to a client participating in the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer walk.
While Plank trains men and college athletes, typical clients are Main Line moms squeezing in an hour of elusive “me time,” Ryan says. “We want people to come because we want them to feel good about themselves, to find the best version of themselves. That’s why I opened the studio.”
Plank Studio, 371 W. Lancaster Ave., 610-688-0107. Open Monday through Sunday. New clients get $10 off their first workout.
Ardent-ly hoping you’ll make the switch
When we heard the crummy old McDonald’s in Wayne would be bulldozed and replaced with a credit union, we yawned. We suspect you did, too.
No restaurant? No Chick-Fil-A? No fun boutique?
The Main Line has banks on every corner. Do we really need one more place to stash our cash?
But then the new building went up. And, darn, if Ardent Credit Union didn’t look fine. Sleek, hip even. Then, again, these are the folks who just got a patent for the revolutionary “cube branch” in Collegeville.
Maybe we were too quick to judge. This is not your great grandpa’s credit union.
First, it’s local. Ardent is based in Philly, has 33,000 members, and Wayne is its eighth branch.
Its CEO is Bryn Mawr-bred Nova grad, Rob Werner, whose first job out of college was in the Strafford Office Building across the street.
Second, it has built-in benefits. Members can get better rates on deposits and loans and lower fees. Ardent’s High Yield Money Market account pays $1.85% APY, which Werner says is four times the PA average.
And its free Auto Buying Concierge takes the hassle out of car buying. (Who doesn’t love a concierge?)
Ardent’s “private-banker feel, concierge-level service” is “getting hard to find as some financial institutions grow and become more beholden to Wall Street” rather than customers, Werner tells SAVVY.
Everyone dreams about all the things they’re going to do in retirement. But better to be specific, a local expert warns. Because truly golden years don’t just happen.
Bryn Mawr wealth manager Erik Strid, CEO of Concentus Wealth Advisors, just launched his third book, Exploring: Replacing an Outdated Paradigm for “The Retirement Years” and Exploring a New Phase of Life. And it’s chock-full of takeaways.
Among them: We all can’t wait to relax after decades of work, but you can’t play golf every day.
Sure, retirees gain free time but they lose a lot, too: structure, social connections and feelings of accomplishment.
“Retirees are experiencing a rising rate of divorce, depression and suicide as a result of the loss of their former lives,” Strid tells SAVVY. “We are wise to be careful what we wish for, and plan accordingly.”
So, yes, we should definitely figure out the financials – how we’ll pay for all the travel, charity work and greens fees.
But we should also work on the nuts and bolts of advancing age. Because many of us will be active well into our 90s and our retirements will look nothing like our grandparents’.
A smart place to start, according to Strid: Write your own retirement story before you stop working. Include main characters (spouse, friends, family), plot (what will you do every day?), main conflicts and their resolution (how will you stay healthy? handle health care and transportation? support unforeseen challenges? stay in your kids’ lives?)
Want to learn more? Click here to order a free copy of Strid’s book.
Horror show at Villanova’s Stoneleigh garden
Stoneleigh launched in May 2018 under darkened skies: the threat that it might lose all or part of its land to Lower Merion School District.
That scare, thankfully, is long gone, but a new one lurks. And this one’s bone-chilling, blood curdling, and entirely of Stoneleigh’s making.
This Saturday night, Oct. 26, the public garden in Villanova will host “Stoker’s Dracula,” an acclaimed one-man show by master storyteller Josh Hitchens – the only theatrical adaptation that’s faithful to the original Stoker text.
Gates open at 5:30. Show starts at 6:30 (and moves inside the mansion if it rains). Bring a picnic dinner and cash for wine and beer. Tickets are $35 for Natural Lands members and $50 for non-members.
Storm clouds gather in Devereux’s migrant shelter dispute
Devereux just made a last-gasp effort to avert a long tussle over its plan to house undocumented migrant children in Devon.
In a conference call Wednesday, the behavioral health agency pleaded with Easttown’s top zoning official to please please PLEASE reconsider his recent determination and thereby allow the Highland Ave. shelter as a continuation of Devereux’s non-confirming use. (See the last SAVVY for the 411 on this unfolding controversy.)
Easttown Zoning Officer Eugene Briggs deliberated a full day – “I wanted to think on it,” he tells SAVVY. The next morning, he emailed Devereux with his decision. He was sticking with his Sept. 26 determination that the planned facility would be a new, non-conforming use.
Which means Devereux’s next plea goes to Easttown’s Zoning Hearing Board, because both sides are dug in – upset Devon neighbors and Devereux. If Easttown’s board doesn’t rule in their favor, both say they’ll appeal to higher courts: the Chester County Court of Common Pleas and then the PA Commonwealth Court, if need be.
Meanwhile, the Inquirer is reporting that a third organization, Bethany Christian Services, plans to open a migrant youth shelter in Bensalem.
And last week, a Jewish group entered the Devon Devereux fray.
The Philly arm of the organization, Never Again Action – as in, no Holocaust ever again – staged a small protest in Lower Merion on Oct. 17.
Carrying signs reading “Free Them All,” “Never Again is Now,” “Abolish ICE,” “No Borders, No Walls,” about 25 people – all but two of whom were millennials – protested at Ashbridge Park (above), then blocked the driveway at Devereux headquarters in Villanova.
“Never Again … is committed to calling out the detention of migrants in this country as concentration camps,” said protestor Aidan Frank. “… Migrant detention is happening at Berks. It’s coming to Vision Quest in North Philadelphia and it’s coming to our backyards right down the street at Devereux.”
In a statement to SAVVY, Never Again said, “This isn’t about whether Devereux is a better-than or good-enough option for unaccompanied migrant kids. It’s about asking why we are incarcerating migrant kids at all when US and international law agree that seeking asylum is not a crime.”
But if the goal is to change U.S. immigration policy, protesters are barking up the wrong tree, according to Devereux VP Leah Yaw. Devereux is trying to help kids, she insists, by getting them out of detention camps at the border and into safe and caring shelter while awaiting placement with U.S. relatives or sponsors.
Stay tuned on this one, folks. Under township code, Easttown is supposed to begin hearings within two months of a zoning relief application. This squall has all the makings of a hurricane.
This and That
Say adios to Lumbrada, the Mexican restaurant in Devon Village Shopping Center near Whole Foods. It’s been sold and is now part of the Plaza Azteca chain. Menu and decor have been tweaked and a new sign is coming, manager Alex Lopez tells SAVVY. Plaza Azteca has 42 locations, including five in the Philly ‘burbs. The new owner in Devon is Ruben Lara, Lopez says.
A long-running Chesterbrook salon has checked out. Expressions Hair Salon in Chesterbrook Shopping Center has closed after a three-decade run.
Over at the KOP mall, Mistral is no more. Despite rave reviews, the upscale restaurant and bar near Lord & Taylor never caught on. “We put up a great restaurant,” co-owner Stephen Distler told the Inquirer’s Michael Klein. “We just weren’t able to turn the numbers.”
Lower Merion School District sure did its homework. Before proposing new school start times, the district spent three years, engaged six external partner studies and four volunteer committees, hosted 15 presentations, and entertained six routing scenarios. Here’s the plan: Move high school starts from 7:30 to 8:25, middle school starts 8:15 to 9:05, and elementary school starts from 9 to 7:45. Before the school board votes yay or nay, LMSD will host Community Listening Sessions, send out a survey and accept comments at [email protected]. Now that’s what we call due diligence.
T/E School District is tweaking its Conestoga expansion plans. The Tredyffrin Planning Commission voted last week against the project as currently drawn, citing concerns about the need to cut down 200 trees for a new 128-space high school parking lot. Upset neighbors claim the district and school board rushed to approve the plan without sufficient community input.
Take a bow, People’s Light. Anyone else feeling Malvern Proud that People’s Light is the first theater IN THE COUNTRY to offer supercool closed-caption glasses for the hearing impaired? Deaf theatergoers read actors’ dialogue, which is streamed through the glasses. Each pair costs $1,200 and People’s Light has 12 of them.
Where are Main Liners most educated? Merion Station, where 61% of residents have advanced or professional degrees, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. In all, eight Main Line zip codes made the PBJ’s top-ten, best-educated list. Wynnewood, where 51% have advanced degrees, was a somewhat distant second. Narberth came in fourth with 47%, then Haverford (#5), Gladwyne (#6), Devon (#8), Bryn Mawr (#9) and Bala Cynwyd (#10). Two other zip codes to crack the top ten are in Center City.
We’re so gratified that our story about the homeless T/E bus driver/photographer Andras Szekely has struck a chord. A few updates:
- Andras will be a vendor, showing and selling his cards and prints, at the Nov. 9-10 Alternative Gift Market, thanks to the good folks at Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church in Devon, Baptist Church in the Great Valley and United Church of Christ at Valley Forge. Proceeds from this fair-trade show benefit T & E Care. If you go to the market – it’s at Saint Luke’s – please bring a non-perishable food donation for the Great Valley Food Cupboard.
- Surrey Services for Seniors CEO Bob Madonna met with Andras and is reaching out to area stores to sell his cards.
- The Jewish Exponent just published a terrific follow-up profile of Andras.
- After our story published, Andras donated tons of greeting cards and prints – $2,000 worth – to the West Chester YMCA’s annual fundraiser, although he couldn’t afford to buy a ticket to attend.
- The Old City Jewish Arts Center in Center City has expressed interest in showing his work.
- A local author wants to pay Andras as an expert consultant for a book she’s writing about the Hungarian Revolution.
- Numerous readers tell us they’re exploring ways to lend a hand, although we haven’t heard of anything concrete yet.
If you or anyone you know is helping Andras Szekely in any way, please drop a line to [email protected]
One of the Main Line’s most inspiring productions opens next week: the 24th Annual Art Ability Exhibition and Sale. Art Ability gives artists with disabilities a chance to show and sell their work, while it raises money for Bryn Mawr Rehab. This year’s featured artist is former BMR patient Carol Spiker, a paraplegic painter whose life changed forever after a car accident 21 years ago. Spiker’s canvases, along with amazing works by 200 other artists with disabilities from 30 states and eight countries, will deck the halls of Bryn Mawr Rehab in Malvern Nov. 2 through Jan. 26. Among this year’s judges: Radnor’s own Katie Sampson, the lacrosse phenom who suffered a spinal cord injury while sledding at the Willows, started a foundation and inspired a hugely popular lax festival.
When we’re kvetching over traffic snarls in Radnor this Sunday (Oct. 27), we’d do well to remember why motorists are inconvenienced each fall – the 1.7 million Pennsylvanians battling lung disease. The Penn Medicine Radnor Run raises big bucks for the American Lung Association’s lifesaving work on their behalf. Kicking off this year’s race will be Stage 4 lung cancer survivor, Penn Valley’s Denise Zimmerman. Way to GO, Denise!
Grace springs eternal: the immortal Grace Kelly will grace this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show. The PA Horticultural Society is partnering with Prince Albert II of Monaco to present “Riviera Holiday” Feb. 29 – March 8. Cue gardens lush with lavender, rosemary, olive, lemon and palm trees and plenty of Princess Grace’s favorite flower, roses. In a nod to the times and Prince Albert’s green activism, the show includes an environmental summit this year. On the table: ways to combat climate change by planting trees and reducing use of pesticides and herbicides. Princess Grace was a regular at the Flower Show during hometown visits and even judged the show in 1976.
Meet – and question – T/E School Board candidates at Tredyffrin Public Library, Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Sponsored by BUILD T/E, the forum is open to all Tredyffrin/Easttown voters.
Hoping to beat the oven heat this Thanksgiving? We sure are. Consider HomeCooked for the holidays. They do the cooking, you heat, serve – and enjoy the day. Not sure what you’d like HomeCooked to handle? Skip lunch next Friday, Nov. 8 and head to HomeCooked’s Paoli HQ for a soup-to-nuts Thanksgiving-menu tasting from 12:30 to 1:30. Or peruse the online menu, which includes easy breakfast and dinners for house guests. Order apps, sides, desserts, or the works.
A topic worth tackling: plastics and the environment. The League of Women Voters of Radnor will host “The Problem with Plastics,” a free talk by Lisa Anne Hamilton, co-author of the grim 2019 Plastic and Climate Report. All are welcome – from Radnor and beyond – at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Radnor Township Building.
Police, public works and public meetings are staying put, but the rest of Tredyffrin Township has moved to temporary quarters at 850 Cassatt Rd. The 25-year-old building in Chesterbrook is getting a facelift.
Fashion – not florals – will take center stage at Valley Forge Flowers Girls Night Out, Tuesday, Oct. 29. Enjoy Scout & Cellar wines, nibbles and shop-til-you-drop fun with a veritable trunk-show tsunami: Lisi Lerch, Julie Vos, Neely and Chloe, Gingy’s, Manastash Mercantile, Crab and Cleek, Peach Athleisure Wear and Giddy Paperie. Pre-register for a chance to win prizes.
Calling all boss ladies. C’mon out to West Chester U. for “Navigating the Journey,” a conference for women entrepreneurs on Tuesday, Nov. 19. The price is certainly right. $10 gets you breakfast, lunch, tips on banking, marketing, product development, management and communications, and wise words from Karen Loftus, founder of Women’s Adventure Travels, and Team SAVVY’s own Barbara Bigford. Register here.
If tradition holds, frugal fashionistas will flock to the old Wayne Anthropologie for Community Clothes Charity’s big annual sale next week. Each year, well-heeled women – and we do mean that literally – empty their designer closets for these do-gooders, who then resell the castoffs and donate proceeds to charity. Brilliant, right? Since its founding 62 years ago, CCC has raised an eye-popping $6 million for assorted causes mostly benefiting women and children. The CCC sale runs Sunday, Nov. 3 – Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Coffers are swelling a bit at Tredyffrin libraries. Tredyffrin Library Foundation’s first-ever charity golf event – the Penn Medicine Golf Classic at St. David’s Golf Club – raised a tidy $40,000 – $15K over its goal. And the township’s libraries were just awarded a $50,000 Keystone Grant to install LED lighting.
And finally, time to get your read on in Radnor. Radnor Memorial Library will host its big children’s book sale this weekend, Oct. 26-27, and its “Big Book Sale” Nov. 1 – 3.