City Guide: Best of the 'Burbs

City-centric? Here’s a compass to lead you on a journey to some happening suburban communities — north, south, east and west.

(page 5 of 6)

The tranquility of rural Pennsylvania is a fact of life in Murrysville, less than an hour from downtown.

After years of Route 22 construction, this community has resumed its growth. Mayor Bob Brooks says the community has gained about 75 building permits within the last year in such developments as Sinan Farms, Serenity Pointe, Barrington Heights and Klifton Villa Estates. Several of these developments are in the process of going through approval or are in construction. Careful zoning, however, preserves the area’s wide-open rural feel.

At nearly 40 square miles, almost twice the size of nearby Monroeville, “we look rural,” says Brooks. Efforts by the Westmoreland Conservancy have helped maintain the rural character of Murrysville throughout the years with the addition of parkland and open space. With its location in Westmoreland County, just over the Allegheny County line, Murrysville boasts property taxes that are nearly 25 percent lower than neighboring communities in Allegheny County.

The residents also provide support for the Franklin Regional School District, a high-performing district whose science curriculum was cited by Carnegie Science Center as the region’s best in 2010. The district’s high-school fields host 15 different sports teams, and its well-regarded marching band will represent Pennsylvania in the January 2012 Rose Bowl parade.

During the past decade, Murrysville’s population has grown 6 percent to more than 20,000. One factor pushing growth is UPMC East; the health system’s new $240 million Monroeville hospital, now under construction along Mosside Boulevard. The building is a state-of-the-art, 156-bed facility slated to open in summer 2012. The LEED-certified complex will create hundreds of jobs at full capacity.

Murrysville itself has seen the beginnings of business district expansion with a new medical-office building and a regional headquarters for PNC Bank, both of which will open along William Penn Highway this year. Other additions to the area will be a standalone restaurant, strip mall and indoor hockey rink.

When it comes time for fun, Murrysville offers some significant resources. With eight community and neighborhood parks, this borough has the largest park acreage per resident in the region—some 1,300 acres. Wetlands, dog parks and other passive conservation areas attract wildlife as well as trail users.

At Murrysville Community Park, the largest of the borough’s recreation spots, something new is being added: Miracle Field. The Murrysville-Export Rotary Club has raised $1.4 million to date (sufficient funding to begin construction) of the total project cost, which is $1.8 million. The completed project will showcase a hard-surfaced area, suitable for use by athletes with disabilities, which adjoins the park’s array of soccer and baseball fields.

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