On Wednesday, The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission held its second annual and kicked off the day in Ardmore.
The DVRPC acts as the official planning and review agency for the nine-county metropolitan Philadelphia area. The Classic Towns program originated in 2004 with the commission's "Strategies for Older Suburbs Initiative," and both programs were built on the idea of supporting and stimulating some of the area's better planned suburban enclaves.
Since then, the DVRPC has profiled 21 towns, including nearby Ambler, Phoenixville, Media, and the latest to be marked for the designation, Lansdale and Kennett Square.
For this year's tour, a group of local community and government leaders met with representatives from other Classic Towns for a guided tour of the Ardmore business district.
The morning began with a light breakfast of pastries, coffee at and smoothies donated by After a quick welcome by DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour, Lower Merion Township Commissioner Cheryl Gelber said a few words expressing her Ardmore pride.
"People who live and work in Ardmore love Ardmore," Gelber said. "They don't want to be anywhere else. Multi-generations of families are living in this community because they choose to do so."
She described how the business district has gone from a beaten-down, seen-better-days strip with a few take-out joints to the amazing variety of style and ethnicity that is found in today's Ardmore cuisine. Gelber also commended the efforts of Ardmore’s Commercial Facade Improvement program, administered by the Ardmore Initiative.
"[They] are really bringing Ardmore back to its classic glory," she said.
The first part of the walking tour was lead by Christine Vilardo, executive director of the Ardmore Initiative. Leading her audience down Rittenhouse Place, she told them about several new restaurants that were coming to that particular block. Afterward, the group looped back up through Cricket Terrace to Schauffele Plaza, home to several architectural offices and the Clover Market.
The tour got to take a quick peek into the very botanical lobby of the , which also features a large skylight that opens up. The Plaza will be getting a new resident, the group was told—there are currently plans for a kosher restaurant and banquet hall.
Vilardo spoke of the blossoming idea-makers within the business community and commended their work in making Ardmore thrive. And despite the presence of a small group of union protestors, Vilardo adroitly positioned MilkBoy the way she sees the establishment: "They are really the lynchpin and started to help brand us as a town that is serving the creative class."
The tour went back down Lancaster Avenue and stopped in Owner Nancy Smith greeted the tour and chatted with a few people who were familiar with her West Chester location.
The middle leg of the tour followed Mark Bachus, the current general manager of (and recently e is also on the board of the Ardmore Initiative).
The Texas native is still fairly new to the neighborhood, but he seemed in tune with the Ardmore business community. Bachus gave the tour a brief , hailed as America's first shopping center.
He also mentioned there was a center in Dallas that also claims that fact. "We just like to say we're the first," he joked.
The tour of Suburban Square ended with a quick trip through the Farmer's Market. Linda Flederbach of Collegeville was impressed, and said she was definitely coming back to get some goodies from the market.
The last stop was the one of which is currently for sale. The tour boarded the converted Philly trolley and headed over to the historical property, and was allowed to explore the home. A Wright fan, Commissioner Gelber rejoined the group to tour the home as well.
Guests marveled at the intricacy of details and the extensive number of closets the home had. As noted earlier this year when , several longtime locals didn't realize this architectural gem was in their backyard.
"Ardmore's kind of like that," Vilardo explained. "It's full of all of these little secrets."