West Chester Picked as Great Place To Retire

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A great place to retire
West Chester picked by Where to Retire magazine for its local amenities

Thursday, April 14, 2011
By GRETCHEN METZ, Staff Writer

Wondering where to retire? Looking for the perfect setting of main street living but not too far from big city amenities? Well, you may already be there.

Where to Retire, a national magazine that profiles what communities have to offer the golden-age set based on a different theme each issue, has given a nod to West Chester as one of its eight “Super Suburbs.”

In Where to Retire‘s May/June issue, eight suburban communities were chosen on “urban perks” nearby, as well as what the town has to offer.

The issue hits the newsstands Tuesday. Price: $4.95.

The magazine is published bi-monthly and has 500,000 readers, according to its website.

Carlee Mausner, who works for the Houston-based magazine, said the Super Suburbs are not ranked. There is no first, second or third place, for example.

Philly burb West Chester shares the list with Boston-Providence burb Sharon, Mass.; Miami burb Weston, Fla.; Atlanta burb Roswell, Ga.; Dallas-Ft.Worth burb Grapevine, Texas; Denver-Colorado Springs burb Castle Rock, Colo.; Seattle burb Mukilteo, Wash.; and Portland burb Forest Grove, Ore.

“Many boomers and retirees looking to escape the congestion and hassles of urban living today are discovering the best of both worlds in suburbs,” said Mary Lu Abbott, editor of Where to Retire. “Here, they find a more relaxed lifestyle, yet are still close enough to enjoy the big-city perks when desired.”

Abbott said West Chester is an “ideal combination” of small-town living with easy access to multiple metropolitan amenities.

“Boomers and retirees are drawn by West Chester’s history and active cultural arts, dining and shopping scene,” Abbott said. “As well, it’s a college town, which many retirees seek for the educational opportunities.”

West Chester University likes the sound of that.

Some 80 students north of age 60 and retired attend classes there now, said Loretta MacAlpine, assistant director of public relations.

“They add to the diversity of the classroom,” MacAlpine said. “They do bring a totally different perspective to the classes they take.”

Pennsylvania residents for at least one year, age 60 or older who are retired can attend classes at any state university for free when there is space available. Most of the senior-aged students are non-degree, she said.

Senior-aged residents also enjoy the university’s free lectures and attending free concerts, MacAlpine said.

The magazine’s Abbott also noted the suburban communities selected were at the center of scenic, historic areas that are complemented with numerous nearby attractions.

West Chester, she said, possesses many qualities important to today’s retirees.

“West Chester, with its quaint historic downtown and Greek Revival architecture, has more than 60 boutiques and restaurants as well as a university that offers continuing education opportunities and cultural and sporting events. Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City and Washington, D.C., are all within easy reach and provide an abundance of big-city entertainment,” Abbott said.

West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta agrees.

“What makes West Chester the place to retire is the same thing that makes it a great place to live: our diversity, our small-town charm, our university, our walkability,” Comitta said. “And West Chester has a tremendous depth of history and culture.”

West Chester has some things in common with the other Super Suburbs.

Forest Grove, home of Pacific University, is a college town.

Many of the Super Suburbs have historic downtown districts.

Manufacturing played a key role in the development of Roswell, Ga., much like Sharpless Works did in West Chester.

Grapevine has wineries nearby.

West Chester, however, is the smallest, about one square mile, with the smallest population. It’s also the oldest, founded in 1799.

Each year 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns to retire, according to Where to Retire magazine.

As retired Americans age 60 and up look for a special place to roost in their golden years, the magazine spotlights communities in each issue based on a variety of themes.

Other community roundups spotlighted by the magazine included, for example, outdoor retirement havens, art and music lovers’ retirement spots, military-oriented retirement locations, mountain retreat communities and the best places for foodies.

Generally, relocating retirees are healthier, better educated and more affluent than retirees who choose to not relocate; and they bring significant economic benefits to their new states and hometowns, according to the magazine.

Nationally, two dozen states and hundreds of towns seek to attract retirees as a source of economic development.

To contact staff writer Gretchen Metz, send an e-mail to gmetz@dailylocal.com.