Aging Gracefully

Pohlig Builders targets the graying boomer generation with the much-anticipated Athertyn at Haverford Reserve.

Ten years ago, brothers Todd and Don Pohlig were hard at work building brand-new Main Line neighborhoods one $1 million-plus home at a time. They were involved in the creation of such premier communities as Fenimore in Gladwyne, Boxwood in Rosemont, Winfield in Devon, Brooke Farm in St. Davids and Harriton Farm in Bryn Mawr.

Todd (left) and Don Pohlig on the job at Athertyn at Haverford Reserve. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Back then, Pohlig Builders was fashioning dream homes; whatever custom touches buyers wanted, they got.

Today, many of those same buyers have new dreams, and the Pohligs—baby boomers themselves—are again building for their generation. Their current project, Athertyn at Haverford Reserve, is a 55-plus community set on what was once the grounds of Haverford State Hospital. As they debated whether to undertake the project, one telling statistic reassured the Pohligs: By 2010, more than 50 percent of all Main Line households will be headed by someone 50 or older.

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“We’re really at the beginning stages of a demand for a lifestyle product,” says Todd Pohlig. “There’s going to be less and less of a demand for the 5,000-square-foot mansion, and more demand for a lifestyle community. And housing, we all know, is driven by demand.”

The scarcity of open land on the Main Line made a project like Athertyn impossible until 2002, when Haverford Township bought the 209-acre hospital parcel from the state. “It’s a great spot,” says Pohlig. “Obviously, to find a parcel like this on the Main Line that’s available for what we call ‘constructive reuse’ was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

In 2006, Haverford Township sold 40 acres to Pohlig Builders and the Goldenberg Group for development. Along with Pohlig’s 198 condominiums and a clubhouse, the Goldenberg Group is building 100 carriage homes (which won’t be age restricted, but will be marketed to the same older demographic). The rest of the land will be used for public recreation and open space.

“Forty-five acres will include a splash park, an indoor recreation facility, ball fields, walking trails and a playground,” says Tim Denny, Haverford Township’s assistant manager and parks and recreation director. “There are also more than 120 acres of passive recreation with numerous trails and [lots of] nature.”

Not surprisingly, Pohlig Builders did its homework before launching Athertyn. The Pohligs sent out a comprehensive survey to 10,000 baby-boomer households on the Main Line. Nine out of 10 respondents expressed serious interest in the lifestyle-community concept.

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“This is the clientele we’ve been building for over the past 30 years,” says Pohlig. “They’re the ones that asked for this. We don’t create anything. We just follow what our clients tell us they want—and we’ve been very successful in doing what they ask us to do.”

Most of the positive responses came from empty-nesters with houses valued at $1 million-plus. The overwhelming consensus: a desire for maintenance-free living. No more worrying about cutting lawns, shoveling snow or maintaining their homes. They crave the freedom to pick up and leave when they want to, without the worries that typically go along with home ownership.

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Though they have second homes elsewhere, most respondents want to stay on the Main Line to be close to family and friends. “The social connection turns out to be a huge factor,” says Pohlig. “They want to be with other people with a like desire to enjoy life. They’re starting the next phase in their lives, and they want to do it in a social way.”

And the clubhouse is the social center of Athertyn. The community also will have a workout area, library, game room, billiards room, great room, a pool, tennis court and putting green. “Residents have all the access to these amenities without having to be concerned about their upkeep,” says Pohlig.

It’s what’s attracting buyers like John Patterson and his wife, Linda. With the kids gone, the couple knew it was time to downsize from their single-family home in Broomall.

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“At first, we weren’t looking at condominiums,” says John Patterson. “We were more interested in the carriage homes.”

But that was before they toured Athertyn’s model design center in Bryn Mawr, where a representative asked the Pattersons how many rooms they actually use in their current home. “Our answer was three,” says Patterson. “We then realized that a condo might be the right way for us to go.”

The Pohligs’ reputation and history of building on the Main Line was also a key factor in the couple’s decision. “The quality of the workmanship in the model condo is outstanding,” says Patterson. “The whole carefree-living package is what sold us on this development.”

The Pattersons are scheduled to move into their two-bedroom condominium this summer, when the first of six buildings is complete. The couple is one of 17 buyers who signed on last year. And in this trying real estate market, that’s certainly something to celebrate. “We’re very pleased,” says Pohlig.

As it turns out, only two other projects in the greater Main Line market had more than a dozen sales last year: Traymore in Rose Valley and Terrazza in Newtown Square. And like Athertyn, both are lifestyle products.

“Our target market likes to see what they’re buying—and in any market, it’s hard to get people to buy off of paper,” says Pohlig. “We’ve been fortunate to get 17 buyers, which was more than our expectation. We think that once we open this summer and people can see the views, the clubhouse and the amenities, that will be a big plus for us.”

The condominiums at Athertyn have nine distinct floor plans ranging in size from 1,800 to almost 3,000 square feet. Impressive custom home features—like 9-foot ceilings and beautiful millwork—are available in each unit.

“Just because our buyers are trading in their Main Line homes doesn’t mean they want to trade in the luxuries they’ve been accustomed to,” says Pohlig.

And so, while Athertyn has been a long time coming, it should be worth the wait.

“Pohlig Builders always does top-notch work,” says Denny. “They’ve made a real effort to form a good relationship with us. This project is going to elevate the whole township. It will be the crown jewel.”

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