In July 2008, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) named 11 communities as inaugural members of the Classic Towns of Greater Philadelphia, a marketing program designed to attract potential residents and new businesses to the bi-state region’s first ring suburbs and urban neighborhoods. One of the program’s aims is to make the shared qualities of these communities, as well as their unique attributes, better known. Classic Towns is part of the DVRPC’s Strategies for Older Suburbs Initiative, an effort funded by the William Penn Foundation to stimulate and support reinvestment in the older suburbs and urban neighborhoods of southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.
DVRPC has found that these communities—all founded before the predominance of the automobile—share a deep commitment to walkablity, good access to transit, and fostering a strong sense of community. The differences among them are a testament to the area’s unique character. Those selected include towns and neighborhoods that date from the colonial era, classic streetcar suburbs, college towns and river towns. In addition to a website, the DVRPC will provide technical assistance to each Classic Town, helping each community promote itself to specific demographic groups—new professionals, young families and empty nesters—all of whom have shown a preference for compact, walkable neighborhoods.
The Classic Towns selected include Collingswood, Haddon Heights and Riverton in New Jersey; Ambler, Bristol Borough, Doylestown Borough, Lansdowne, Media and West Chester in Pennsylvania; and the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Manayunk and Overbrook Farms. Riverton is located on NJ TRANSIT’s RiverLINE light rail line. Collingswood, located on the PATCO Speedline, is also a designated Transit Village, a program sponsored by the NJ Department of Transportation. Each of these Classic Towns has made a commitment to the effort, paying a $2,500 application fee to join the program.
The DVRPC plans to announce additional Classic Towns on a biennial basis.