EAST WHITELAND – When you think of this township in Chester County, it’s easy to think of it as a space between somewhere and somewhere else.
East Whiteland, after all, appears to be just land that hugs the corridors of Route 30 and Route 202 between Paoli and Exton, with perhaps little to show but a strip of asphalt from Malvern to Frazer. Its Native American name, “The Dark Valley”, seemed appropriate.
So, stick to your roadmaps and gather the following information: Between July 2020 and July 2021, no other municipality in the state of Pennsylvania saw more people decide to live there. It has the highest number of new residents that year — 866 people — and one of the highest growth rates — 5.9% — in the state, according to the Pennsylvania State Data Center (PSDC).
Although he expressed surprise at the designation, longtime resident Richard “Rich” Orlow said he could understand both the why and the how of the township’s population growth.
“I think a big part of the reason is the quality of life” in East Whiteland, Orlow, the deputy chairman of the three-member supervisory board, in an interview on Friday. “It’s very accessible. It has everything you want. You can go anywhere very easily. And we’re not overwhelmed by retail clusters like Exton of King of Prussia.
As for the “how” of its growth, Orlow, a lawyer and accountant, cited a number of factors. Although real estate development slowed considerably during the years of economic crisis that followed 2008, the COVID-19 pandemic tended to push down interest rates to allow “almost everyone to buy a house “.
Developers began planning to build homes and apartments in East Whiteland before the pandemic hit, and as home because more affordable throughout the county, they were readily available in the township. Places like the 800+ unit Atwater development on Route 29, luxury apartments like The Yards along Route 30 and the massive Worthington development off Route 202 were ready for occupancy at just the right time. , did he declare.
“We have a good mix of all kinds of housing units,” said Orlow, who lives in the township with his family and has been active in civic affairs since 1989.
According to census statistics cited by the PSDC, East Whiteland now has an estimated population of 14,768, making it the eighth most populous municipality in the county. (The other nine, in order, are Tredyffrin, with a population of 31,798; West Goshen, with 23,168; West Whiteland, with 19,810; Uwchlan, with 19,081; Phoenixville, with 19,029; West Chester, with 18,630; East Goshen, with 18,344; West Bradford, with 14,631; and Caln, with 14,379.)
Of the county’s 72 municipalities, 42 saw their population increase while 30, including Tredyffrin, East Goshen, Uwchaln and Coatesville, lost population. Others experiencing strong population growth over the period include Elverson, which grew from 1,330 to 1,387; Upper Uwchlan, which grew from 12,319 to 12,639; Phoenixville, which grew from 18,591 to 19,029; and Kennett, which grew from 8,404 to 8,724.
Only two municipalities – West Marlborough and West Sadsbury – saw neither growth nor decline.
The county itself continued its overall growth in numbers faster than other counties in the state, leading the way with 4,004 new residents, a growth rate of 0.7%. Its population of 534,413 makes it the seventh largest county in the state, behind Philadelphia, Allegheny, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Lancaster.
“Chester County remains a highly desirable place for people to live, which means we are seeing immigration,” said County Planning Commission Director Brian O’Leary. Census figures show that 3,844 people moved here between April 2020 and July 2021.
“The pandemic has definitely changed things a bit,” O’Leary said. “Before the pandemic, we were seeing more in-migration from international rather than internal migration, whereas recently internal immigration has been much stronger. Additionally, natural increase, births per ratio to deaths, was higher before the pandemic.Many people attribute higher domestic immigration to people moving from more expensive urban cores, like New York, to cheaper places that offer more indoor and outdoor space.
He agreed with Orlow on the reasons for East Whiteland’s growth and predicted that the next boom area would be its neighbor to the west. “East Whiteland’s population increase is most likely due to recently completed residential developments. I would expect West Whiteland to show significant increases between 2021 and 2022, as approximately 1,100 units were completed in the township in 2021.
“Most of the population growth is happening in our growth centers as we see new housing being built in places that were previously mostly non-residential,” he said. “A lot of that housing is apartments or townhouses. This is an interesting difference from the 1990s and early 2000s, when a higher share of housing was single-family and located in more rural parts of the county.
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.