Malvern Homebuilder’s Public/Private Partnership at Heart of Haverford Reserve’s Journey From Unused Grounds to Success Story

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MALVERN, PA — Athertyn, Pohlig Homes’ luxury 55+ community in Haverford, PA, is now finishing up its final phase of construction, coming off its strongest year of sales ever.

Buyers have been enticed by its Main Line location, maintenance-free lock-and-leave lifestyle, elegant clubhouse, heated pool and spa, fitness center, spacious open floorplans and Malvern, Pa.-based Pohlig Homes’ well-earned reputation for quality customization.

While the completion of this beautiful neighborhood of homes is noteworthy itself, it also represents the final leg of the Haverford Reserve’s 15-year journey from abandoned former state hospital grounds to the crown jewel of Haverford Township.

This unique public/private partnership between homebuilders and township has resulted in the 209-acre Haverford Reserve, which includes open space, ballfields, an innovatively accessible playground, a dog park, an environmentally friendly community center, 5 miles of walking trails and two neighborhoods that offer the carefree style of living desired by active adults.

Haverford Reserve before construction
Haverford Reserve before construction

Prime location and an amazing opportunity

As with all things in real estate, the Athertyn story began with location, location, location — in this case, prime acreage in the heart of the Main Line.

“When Harrisburg announced that they were selling the grounds of the closed Haverford State Hospital, it was a big deal,” says Tim Denny, the former Haverford Township Assistant Township Manager and Director of Parks and Recreation, who spearheaded the effort to create the Haverford Reserve. “The prospect of a new parcel of 209 acres in our well-developed inner-ring suburb was exciting, but it needed to be handled very carefully.”

In 2006, Pohlig Homes and the Goldenberg Group approached the township with a proposal for a hybrid public/private development that honored a mandate to retain 120 acres of open space and 45 acres for active recreation while providing funds for trails, ball fields, a playground and a community center.

Another plus for the plan was that it increased tax revenue for the township — which earned none while the hospital sat vacant — without putting any burden on the school system as the target market would not have young children.

It took years of “back and forthing” but the two builders succeeded in their bid, besting 23 other firms. “Sometimes the process felt like we were holding on by our fingernails, but I’m glad we held on,” explains Todd Pohlig. “They offered the developers free rein in laying out a constructive reuse of the abandoned brownfield. That blank slate allowed for the vision of a much-needed empty-nester housing element.”

The result of the collaborative effort in land planning with the Township provided a much-desired Township park program. After working together to demolish the 25 vacant buildings that comprised the hospital’s campus and leveling and grading the land for the various playing fields, the two builders set out to build their separate communities: The Goldenberg Group building the carriage homes and Pohlig targeting the 55+ market with a much-needed single-level home in an amenity-filled condominium community.

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Athertyn offers Main Line living… simplified

Pohlig Homes’ founders, brothers Todd and Don Pohlig, knew Haverford Reserve was ideally located and perfect for developing an exceptional community that the target market would absolutely love.

“Pohlig always starts from the demand,” explains Todd Pohlig. “In creating the concept for Athertyn, we worked with consultant Barbara Kleger to create a survey asking local Boomers what they wanted in a 55+ community. We sent out 10,000 surveys and received an overwhelming response. We held focus groups and participated in a week-long multi-family session with the National Homebuilders Association. We wanted to make sure we were offering a community that met and exceeded the expectations of our market.”

As a result, Athertyn raised the bar on how to best serve Boomers who love the Main Line lifestyle, but want to shed the hassles of single-family homeownership, like roof repair, landscape maintenance and snow removal.

“Some of our homebuyers came from our focus groups,” says Pohlig Homes’ Marketing Manager Carrie Sullivan. “They helped shape the vision for their future community.”

That vision included some of Athertyn’s most obvious and popular attributes: spacious and open floorplans of 1,500-3,000 square feet, private terraces, a heated pool and spa, tennis courts, community garden, an elegant clubhouse and a natural-light-filled fitness center.

As typical, Pohlig paid attention to the little details that the focus groups brought up in order to raise the Athertyn lifestyle to an even higher level.

“We heard that buyers wanted the advantages of living in multi-home buildings, but didn’t want to ever feel like they were living in an apartment,” says Don Pohlig. “We worked with engineers to ensure sound attenuation and vented the kitchens to the outside, and included energy-saving materials and amenities such as Energy Star appliances, Low-E Glass windows and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. Even though each of our buildings contain more than 30 units, each home feels like its own customized space.”

“The buyers wanted their homes to genuinely reflect their tastes and not be forced to choose between a handful of predetermined palettes and offerings,” says Cassie Barnes, Athertyn’s Sales Manager. “Our selection center offers thousands of choices in finishes, fixtures and appliances. The sky is the limit and no two homes here are the same — Athertyn proudly offers true customization.”

Homebuyers also wanted to enjoy the perks of a maintenance-free community, including a lock-and-lifestyle that makes travel a breeze, without feeling like they were in a retirement community. In fact, many of Athertyn’s residents have yet to retire and physical activity is a prime form of recreation among homeowners, who enjoy the Haverford Reserve’s 5 miles of trails, working out in the pool and fitness center, and competing in the community’s popular pickleball league.

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Even so, there is a strong appreciation for the ways in which Athertyn’s single-level homes are easy on the knees. “We are a completely step-free campus,” says Barnes. “You can walk from your front door to the clubhouse to your car in underground parking without dealing with stairs or stepping up onto a curb.”

Another part of Athertyn’s appeal is the Pohlig name, which is synonymous in the region with quality. “Our homebuyers have the security of steel and concrete construction from foundation to rooftop. We use the same teams of expert craftsmen to build all of our homes, whether at Athertyn or in one of our multi-million-dollar custom builds,” explains Todd Pohlig, who is currently a finalist for the National Home Builders Association’s Custom Builder of the Year Award. “Your kitchen will be built with the same level of care and attention to detail.”

The award-winning Pohlig Homes has built more than 600 homes on the Main Line in the 47 years since its inception. In addition to building at Athertyn, the company is currently working on 9 custom homes and its 15 homesites at Ivy Lane at Ardrossan, a planned neighborhood set within Ardrossan Farms, the fabled Montgomery Scott Estate.

A community set within a park

As with all things in real estate, value comes from location, location, location and Athertyn’s Haverford Reserve secluded and lush setting is hard to beat.

While Pohlig Homes was envisioning Athertyn, Havertown native Tim Denny was working on creating an environmentally sustainable park that would serve his community’s needs. “We worked with Temple University to create a survey asking people in the area what they wanted,” explains the former Haverford Township Parks and Recreation Director.

What evolved was a green space that served the entire township, from children to senior citizens. Highlights include the all-accessible Freedom Playground, multiple ball fields, 5 miles of walking trails, a dog park, 120 acres of open space and the innovative Community Recreation and Environmental Center (CREC), which features a fitness center, basketball and pickleball courts, and spaces available for rental.

“The CREC isn’t a private club and it doesn’t offer memberships,” says Denny. “Anyone can drop in and use its facilities for a small fee — which is only there to help it break even.”

Among the CREC’s “regulars” are a large cadre of Athertyn residents who attend group exercise classes.

In addition to being welcoming, the CREC is also beautiful, with a light-filled design that “brings the outdoors indoors,” and sustainable, too: “When the hospital was in operation, the state required that it use Pennsylvania coal for power,” says Denny. “The CREC is located on the site of the hospital’s power plant and runs on geothermal energy from 40 wells located beneath its parking lot. I feel very fortunate to have been part of something that benefitted my neighbors and helped elevate Haverford Township, too.”

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Denny began his Parks & Rec tenure as a one-man-show in the 1980s and retired as Director of a full department in 2019. The department was named the #1 Parks and Recreation department in Pennsylvania in 2016, in no small part because of his involvement at Haverford Reserve.

Athertyn’s homeowners look to the future

“Athertyn was just what we were looking for at just the right time,” says Linda Patterson, who, along with her husband, John, were among the community’s founding group of residents. “We weren’t quite 55 yet, but we lived only 2 miles away and it was exactly what we wanted.”

Being among the first to move into Athertyn has given Patterson a unique perspective on its history. “Pohlig built all the amenities at the very start. The first year, it was like having our very own private resort with our own pool, clubhouse and fitness center that we shared with less than a dozen neighbors.”

“It was amazing,” she continues, “but later on, when more people moved in, it only got better. John and I have a new and interesting group of close friends who have different backgrounds, who have had different experiences and who are of different ages. Making friends here is easy: you may think you have nothing in common, but then you discover a shared interest or a friend you both know, or maybe you can teach each other something new, if you’re open to it.”

The Haverford Reserve location is one of Patterson’s favorite things about the Athertyn. “Lexi (Patterson’s mini pinscher chihuahua mix) and I love watching games on the fields, runners on the trails, and birds and deer in the woods. In the summer, everything is just such a rich green and knowing that they can’t build on any of it is great! I can’t wait for our 18-month granddaughter to get a little bigger so she can start enjoying the Freedom Playground.”

Patterson feels that Athertyn’s lifestyle even made the difficult times of COVID-19 more bearable. “Having neighbors nearby is a blessing and has kept people connected. It’s been a challenging time, but friendships continue to be made and strengthened. I look forward to meeting new people as they move in, but in the meantime, a group of us has learned how to play Canasta on Zoom.”

Homes at Athertyn range from the high $500,000s to $1.4 million. The community is in its final phase as Building 1000 nears completion. Of Athertyn’s 198 homes, only a handful of opportunities for new construction remain.

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