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Easton, Pa.: A Gritty River Town Being Transformed

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Rachel Zanders would not have opened a candle shop in the historic center of Easton, Pennsylvania. What if his brother Stephen Zanders moved from Allentown to the city 10 years ago, where he didn’t help open the dining room?

When Mr. Zanders, now 47, first rented a place in Easton, he thought he had made a mistake. Located on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers, the city felt devastated by the weather. However, he soon discovered that 27,000 cities in Northampton County were in the midst of dramatic change.

So in December 2014, he paid $ 90,000 to a two-bedroom 1.5-bath tenement house in the working-class neighborhood of Nishi-ku. When his friend asked him why he bought it there, he told them he believed in what the Easton people were doing.

“Easton feels like a little Manhattan,” said Zanders, who refinanced his home last year. “It’s like one of the Manhattan blocks fell to Easton.”

About 75 miles west of Manhattan, the city is now revitalizing downtown, with new shops and restaurants adjacent to restored historic homes. “There is a lot of life. You see people you know and everyone says hello,” said 34-year-old Zanders.

A former resident of Brooklyn, Zanders has grown her business, Easton Candle, from an online wholesale company to include physical stores. And while she’s still renting Easton’s space where she lives and works, she’s serious about buying.

For over a decade, Easton has been a haven for expatriates in New York and New Jersey who want more real estate for their money, along with lower property tax invoices. Elizabeth Slevin and her husband, Jean Siccone, who moved from Maplewood, NJ to Easton in 2014, are typical. Both retirees have found that a four-bedroom home in Easton can be purchased for about the same price as a three-bedroom home. Maplewood house. That is, there are rooms for grandchildren who lived nearby. And the tax bill was about one-third of what they paid in jersey.

“As I told my husband,’You can sit in the yard and watch the roses grow on maple wood, or find a cheaper place and spend extra cash on fun things like traveling.” Former speech Mr. Slevin said. -Language pathologist.

There, she and former Newark Public School administrator Ciccone paid $ 388,000 to her 2003 home in the Old Orchard district of Easton. He can still teach part-time at Montclair State University, and his friends at Maplewood’s Community Theater are only an hour away.

And if they choose to volunteer their time, there are plenty of opportunities. Megan McBride of Greater Easton Development Partnership, a non-profit organization that oversees popular public and farmers markets, states that newcomers are often volunteers.

Interstate Highway 78 wipes south of Easton and winds east towards New York. According to the residents, this trip will take about an hour and a half. However, the city is about an hour from Poconos and about an hour and a half from Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore.

Founded in 1752, Easton later became a foundry city and a hub for steel transportation. Many of the buildings and bridges are remnants of that time. But by the time Crayola Experience, one of Easton’s main drivers of recent upturns, opened 20 years ago in Center Square, not far from the company’s headquarters in Forks Township, the city is in a better era. Was greeted. Salvatore J. Punt Jr. (who also served as mayor from 1984 to 1992), who has been a Democrat for four consecutive terms as Mayor of Easton, is a prestigious Lafayette College student in the College Hill district who travels to nearby downtown. He said he was advised not to step in. ). When Mr. Punt began his second mayoral mission in 2008, he strengthened the city’s police and people began to rediscover riverside parks, promenades and historic charms, he said. I did.

The Crayola Experience currently welcomes more than 400,000 visitors annually, primarily for family day trips. “Easton has caught the attention of the people,” said Kim Kumets, manager of the Easton Main Street Initiative, a non-profit organization that promotes Easton’s central business district.

As of the end of May, there were 84 properties for sale with Easton’s address, according to data from the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors. This included not only the city, but also the Wilson, West Easton and Glendon Autonomous Regions, as well as the houses in the towns of Williams, Forks and Palmer. Prices ranged from $ 110,000 for a 2-bedroom 2-bath Nishi-ku Nagaya in the historic district to $ 4.5 million for a 5-bedroom 3-bath townhouse.

So far in 2022, sales have declined and prices have risen. By the end of May, 382 properties had been sold for an average price of $ 314,947, with an average sales period of 16 days in the market. In contrast, in the first five months of 2021, 418 properties sold on average $ 274,027 (about 13% lower), averaging 26 days in the market.

Overlooking Scott Park near the confluence of the rapids of the Lehigh River and deep Delaware, there is a statue of a boxer firing a left jab. The person shown is Larry Holmes, known as Easton Assassin. He grew up in the city and held the World Boxing Council heavyweight title from 1978 to 1983.

Easton seems reluctant to shrug his days as a tough river town. The grit adds that aura. However, the historic district is also a big attraction. Today, it has become so exclusive that potential buyers are willing to consider homes in the West Ward and southern neighborhoods. One of Mr. Punt’s challenges as mayor is to prevent long-standing residents of these areas from being pushed out, he said. Building more affordable homes is another challenge.

According to Punt, old people sometimes complain that Easton isn’t what he used to be, but he believes newcomers have strengthened the city. These recent transplants are often referred to as “front platters.” Drivers in Newyork and New Jersey need a license plate in front of their car, so Bethlehem-based RE / MAX real estate agent Jonathan A. Miller said. Pennsylvania drivers are not.

“But we have things here now,” Miller admitted that the city had grown. “Now you don’t have to drive to New York or Philadelphia.”

The Easton Area School District, which serves students in all or part of the three townships in and around Easton, has seven primary schools, a cyber academy, a junior high school, and a high school. As of August 2021, 44.2% of the district’s 8,300 students were Caucasian, 17% were Black or African American, 28.1% were Hispanic or Latin, 5.4% were Asian, and 5.1% were two or more. Identified as a race of.

According to the State Department of Education, the average number of students in the Easton region who took the SAT in 2019 was 512 in mathematics and 537 in literacy, while the average in the state was 537 and 545.

Trans-Bridge Lines provides daily bus service from the Intermodal Transit Center in downtown Easton to the To Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. With one exception, Easton is the penultimate stop on the way to New York and the second stop on the way back.

Seven buses depart for New York between 4:20 am and 8:10 am on weekdays, and there are 3-4 buses daily on weekends. The trip takes about 2 hours, from 1 hour to 35 minutes. The round-trip fare is $ 82.55. A book with 40 one-way tickets costs about $ 672.

At each Thanksgiving, Lafayette College’s Fisher Stadium hosts Easton Red Rover vs. Philipsburg Stateliner, one of the most intense high school football rivals in the United States. The series dates back to 1905 and has attracted a crowd of over 20,000 sold out and has been broadcast several times on national television. In 2021, the Red Rover’s recorded a last-minute touchdown to win the match.

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