One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.
The skies over New Hope threatened rain well into the late afternoon, not once but twice recently, but that didn't deter the visitors on whom this Bucks County borough depends.
They filled the restaurants and shops, fumbling for change for parking meters in lots and along West Bridge Street.
They lined up for picturesque round-trip rides to Lahaska on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, and strolled across the bridge to the art galleries of Lambertville or along the towpath of the Delaware River Canal.
What makes New Hope, well, New Hope?
"It's exciting," said real estate agent Stephen Darlington, of Prudential Fox & Roach.
He was referring to the housing market there, too.
Darlington, who has been selling residential and commercial real estate for 29 years, had just sold one of the 20 townhouses developer George E. Michael has been building along Canal Street up to the West Mechanic Street bridge, bringing the number unsold to just four.
One of Michael's best-known projects is Union Square, off West Bridge Street above the railroad tracks - retail, restaurants, and office space carved from what once was Union Camp Corp.'s paper-bag-production plant.
The townhouses are listed at $1.15 million to $1.28 million, "but buyers are putting a lot more money into them" than the list price, he said. For these people, "money is not an issue."
"A lot of those buyers are coming from New Jersey to escape the high property taxes," said Darlington, who lives just over the line in Solebury Township and who owns commercial property in the borough, as well.
New Hope - like Doylestown Borough, Newtown Borough, and West Chester - is a destination for people who are downsizing who want to be able to walk to dining and entertainment but who don't want to trade the wide open spaces for Center City.
"It is urban, but with a suburban character," said developer Tom Scannapieco, who has lived in New Hope for 23 years and who has been building there since the mid-1980s.
"It has an almost European character, with great respect for what is old, and with architecture dating from every period in what I consider a unique mix," Scannapieco said. "Remember, Washington really did sleep here."
Twice, actually, when this place was known as Coryell's Ferry. New Hope was the name Benjamin Parry gave to the grist mill he rebuilt after a 1790 fire, and the village eventually took that name, too.
Since 1939, New Hope Mills has been the Bucks County Playhouse, after a group of artists saved it from demolition.
Martin Milner, an agent with Coldwell Banker Hearthside in Yardley, said prices ranged from about $200,000 for a one-bedroom condo in the Village 2 development or a townhouse to more than $3 million for a 3,700-square-foot condo along the river in Waterview, one of Scannapieco's projects.
"There is a diversity of housing types in the borough, and a lot of them are older homes," some owned by local businesspeople, Milner said. "It is what makes New Hope interesting."
Diverse, yes. Darlington has just listed an old mill for $2.25 million and a contemporary house for $2.4 million. And he has just sold a house on West Bridge Street that will be renovated for the first time in 70 years.
There's just not enough inventory, Milner said.
"Especially new things," added Darlington.
New Yorkers looking for weekend retreats have long put New Hope high on their lists. But, Milner noted, "they are savvy about real estate and aren't going to overpay."
Scannapieco thought New Yorkers would be his primary buyers at Waterview, with eight buildings facing the river and eight with canal views.
"I was building urban-style, glass-and-steel, single-floor condos in the wood-frame suburbs," he said. "I thought that it would interest well-heeled New Yorkers, but my buyers ended up being people from Bucks County and central New Jersey."
Prices of condos facing the canal ranged from $710,000 to $1 million; those on the river cost $1.3 million to $3.2 million.
"They were the highest-priced condos outside of Philadelphia," he said. The project began in 2003 and sold out in 2006.
"The single-floor-condo concept turned out to be a great one," Scannapieco said, noting it became an inspiration for his tony 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street in Center City.
Darlington said he just listed one of the Waterview units on the canal side for $950,000. "It had sold last year for $800,000," he said.
Scannapieco's first New Hope project was the 62-unit Waterworks, built in 1987 on the site of Union Paper Co.
Recognizing the growing interest in places like New Hope for downsizers, he is awaiting final state approval on the Preserve, a 37-home "empty-nester development" on 23 acres.
"If you consider the borough a square, it nips the edge along Route 202," he said. "There will be sidewalks, and all the houses [starting at $900,000] will be on pocket parks."
What about walkability?
"You'll be able to cross Route 202," he said, "and walk right into New Hope."
Town By Town: New Hope, By the Numbers
Population: 2,528 (2010).
Area: 1.27 square miles.
Homes for sale: 42.
Settlements in the last three months: 14.
Median days on market: 94.
Median sale price (single-family): $540,000.
Median sale price (all homes): $535,000.
Housing stock: Many historic homes, as well as new condos and townhouses.
School district: New Hope-Solebury.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Zillow.com; Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Market Report
Contact Alan J. Heavens
at 215-854-2472, email@example.com,
or follow on Twitter @alheavens.