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Ardmore as 'Best Place to Live' in U.S: 'Only 45th?'

Local civic and business leaders weigh in on the latest honor, from CNN Money, bestowed on Ardmore.
Ardmore is no stranger to accolades of late, for being ... well, for being a cool town. It’s been cited as a great place to live on the regional level (the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission recently named Ardmore a “Classic Town”) and nationally—CNN Money named Ardmore no. 45 on its list of 100 “Best Places to Live” (Money’s list of America's best small towns), published Monday.

(Click here for Patch story from Tuesday morning.)

“Only 45th?” joked Christine Vilardo, executive director of the Ardmore Initiative. “Of course I am very pleased to see the town we all love so much receive such national recognition.”

CNN Money has a bit of a crush on Ardmore, it seems. In July, it named the town one of the nation’s 25 “Best Places for the Rich and Single.” For those seeking “a sugar daddy (or sugar-mama)” one “can chat up fellow foodies in line for sushi or waiting for Amish soft pretzels at the farmers’ market,” the article said, adding that “you can also drive 15 minutes to Philadelphia to take advantage of the city’s social scene.”

Ardmore has a high median income, access to mass transit, a terrific shopping district (a few, actually) with great restaurants and bars, involved civic associations, a thriving business community, a burgeoning arts scene, and more.

Keeping in mind the gimmicky nature of such lists, we asked a handful of town leaders to comment on the most recent CNN Money list.

Artmore

“As an Ardmore resident and business owner, I am thrilled Ardmore continues to be recognized,” said Sherry Tillman, who runs the Past-Present-Future shop on Lancaster Avenue and steers the First Friday Main Line celebrations each month downtown. “Ardmore is a real place where you can do all that you need to do, from getting your hair cut to buying a great gift to having a great meal.”

Tillman likes to call the town Artmore, and also listed the town’s diverse community as an attribute that is growing as more cultural, visual and performing arts event become daily, weekly or monthly happenings—First Friday of course, but also the Clover Market, live music at MilkBoy, and artists’ shows at the Case Gallery Main Line, as a few examples.

“It is safe, inclusive and alive, and a great place to be,” Tillman said.

The magazine honor “is well-deserved,” said James Hodsden, pastor of Ardmore Presbyterian Church. “Our family moved to the Ardmore area in 2009, and we have been very impressed. Sure, we are thankful for the schools and cultural events, but we are also grateful for the people. Our congregation and the greater community have been personally very welcoming to us.”

“What has always been striking to me about Ardmore, even before I settled here, was its rich sense of history ... its true sense of place,” said Christian Busch, chairman of the Lower Merion Township Historical Commission (and a resident of one of Ardmore’s four Frank Lloyd Wright homes, themselves a national attraction).  “Of course, we are fortunate enough to have some of the best schools, municipal services, parks, shopping, restaurants [and] people.”

Walking the Walk

Busch called Ardmore “a traditional walkable community at its best.”

Walkability is a city planning factor that’s hard to overstate, agreed Doug Muth, webmaster for the Save Ardmore Coalition. “One thing [CNN Money] didn't mention is that despite being in the suburbs, you don’t need a car to live in Ardmore,” Muth said. “I sold my car four years ago and haven’t looked back.”

Bob Gasparro, an attorney who blogs for Patch about news and resources for senior citizens, was thinking along similar lines.

“I think the rankings leave out ‘proximity to other nearby attractions,’ which is just as important as local amenities,” Gasparro said. “We can take a train to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and, for less than $20, travel from Ardmore to New York City in less than three hours.”

“We are, of course, pleased that Ardmore has been recognized as one of the top small towns in America in which to live,” said Lower Merion Township Manager Doug Cleland. “Ardmore is a great place—and it is getting better every day.”

“As an architect, there are a number of reasons that I feel that Ardmore is a successful community,” said Jack Burns, who has an office downtown. “Within the area there are multiple price levels of housing available, from rentals, to first-time buyers, to multi-million dollar homes. It is this mix that allows for a dynamic, diverse group of people spanning all ages and income levels and creates an active core of long-term residents.”

Burns (featured in a video here, about the sale of one of those Frank Lloyd Wright houses), also cites walkability and accessibility as enormous upsides, adding, “The mixture of both business and residential areas in such close proximity is another huge amenity for the area, and I think this is key to the success of Ardmore as a town.”

“Ten years ago when I began working for the Township, I recall being thrilled by the many options within walking distance of the Administration Building in Ardmore,” said Brenda Viola, Lower Merion’s public information officer, by email. “Fast-forward to today, and it is better than ever—the shops, the restaurants, my hairdresser (!), and the merchants who are now friends that know me by name.”

 By Thomas J. Walsh, from the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch, August 16, 2011