Author: Jacobs, Melissa
Date published: May 13, 2010
The Jewish Exponent, The Ritz-Carlton and Two Liberty Place play starring roles in the happily-ever-afters of Helen and Burt Laman and Susan and Stephen Vineberg.
Helen was a widow and Burt was divorced when she answered his ad in the Exponent. "My friends and I, when we were answering ads, if it was a Northeast exchange, we didn't accept it. But there was something about Burt's ad that made me respond. When we first talked, I knew he was for me."
Burt may have felt the same way, but with conditions. "Burt said that he would never get married again," Helen says. "Of course, he also said that he would never move into the city. And look."
The Lamans were married at The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, and now they live in an upscale condo at The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton. "It's been Ritz all the way for us," Helen laughs.
As it turned out, marriage happened faster than moving. The Lamans wed in 1995, two years after they met. Both have grown children who live in the area. Helen had the bigger house, so Burt moved into her Wallingford home. Not until 2009 did they move into the city, and into the Ritz-Carlton.
What inspired their move? The Lamans were in Center City at a doctor's appointment. "It was a beautiful day and I was looking at the architecture, which I love to do," Helen says. "And then I saw the Ritz, and I knew it was the perfect place for us."
Was it difficult for her to leave Wallingford? "I had a huge garden in Wallingford, and my home was part of the Swarthmore Garden Tour. I enjoyed that, but I was done. I had my 15 minutes. My friends said, 'How can you leave the suburbs?' And I said, 'Watch me.'"
In the case of Susan and Stephen Vineberg, their friends urged them to move into Center City. They lived in Cheltenham, where they had settled after their marriage in 1978. It was a second marriage for both, and Stephen had young children. The Cheltenham house was the right size for them. But after the kids grew up and out, the Vinebergs started thinking about where to spend their retirement years.
"We started looking at houses," Susan says. "I had a list of things that I thought I had to have. A garden. A patio. Things like that. Then I figured, who is going to schlep my bags up to the third floor of a house? Who will tend the garden if I can't? So then we looked at high-rises."
Stephen's must list focused on amenities. "He wanted to live somewhere with hotel-like amenities that we could take advantage of as we get older," Susan says. "And most importantly, we both wanted to be in a place that had accessibility to restaurants, movies, museums, public transportation and our friends."
That place is Two Liberty Place. In 2008, the Vinebergs moved into The Residences at Two Liberty Place. They love their condo and their new lives. "We've gone nuts on Philadelphia theater," Susan says. "We used to come in a lot, but now we are right here, so we use Philly Fun Savers and go to theaters every chance we get."
The Lamans and Vinebergs are part of a growing trend among senior citizens and the first tier of baby boomers. That trend is not suburban-to-urban, as was suspected in the early 2000s. It's not geography-driven. It's lifestyle-based. The Nation-, al Association of Home Builders and the MetLife Mature Market Institute's 2009 survey found that an increasing number of the 55plus population are deciding where to live based on what they want their lives to be. Convenience, arts and culture, and social activity are on the "musthave" list. Among respondents, 69 percent preferred a one-story home. But there's no reason that the one floor can't be on the 22nd floor of a Center City high-rise.
Whether the building is the Murano or the Western Union, or the soon-to-opened 10 Rittenhouse and 1706 Rittenhouse, the most desirable buildings are all about location, location and amenities. The Murano is almost adjacent to Trader Joe's and has an indoor pool. The Western Union building features gourmet kitchens and already has a very gourmet resident: on the ground floor of Western Union, Joses Garces, the celebrity chef behind Amada and Tinto, just opened Garces Trading Company, a gourmet market and eatery. Inside the Trading Company is a wine shop run by the PLCB in conjunction with Garces.
For 10 Rittenhouse and 1706 Rittenhouse, the newest kids on the chic-est block, location and amenities are synonymous. And for those worried that they will miss their suburban gardens, Susan Vineberg and Helen Laman have words of advice.
"You find new things to love," Laman says. "And one of the best things is being able to walk around the city and enjoy its diversity. It's a garden itself."
"I did miss the open windows at first," Vineberg says. "But then I remembered that Rittenhouse Square is now my backyard."
The Avenue of the Arts is also her backyard, and that's one of the urban amenities of Symphony House, the $130 million, 31-story condo building built by Carl Dranoff. Dranoff has also created rental opportunities for upscale urbanities. That's the niche filled by 777 South Broad, the $70 million building recently opened by Dranoff Properties at Broad and Fitzwater Streets. The fivestory building is LEED-certified and has 146 units," a mix of oneand two-bedroom apartments.
Vineberg and Laman say that access to Suburban Station is one of their delights. But the trains run both ways. The R5 is always filled with people headed into Center City from the Main Line, and places like The Ardleigh.
The Ardleigh is a "boutique building" that houses 10 upscale residences. While the homes feature modern, gorgeous amenities, location is a priority here, too. The Ardleigh is across the street from Suburban Square, and a quick walk to the Ardmore train statign, which is both a SEPTA and Amtrak stop. From Ardmore, Ardleigh residents can train to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C. and places inbetween.
Haverford Reserve is an impressive location for lovers of the outdoors. The 209-acre site has 120 acres of woodsy goodness, including hills, streams and hiking trails. Oh, and the homes? There are two options. Haverford Reserve has 100 carriage homes filled with modern conveniences. The Athertyn is located on the same acreage, and it is a 55-plus development. With access to the best of the Main Line but without the responsibilities of a larger home, The Athertyn has become the location of choice for the suburban versions of the Vinebergs and Lamans.
Melissa Jacobs is the senior editor of Special Sections and Inside magazine.