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Harrisburg Least Stressful City in the U.S.

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Stressed? Midstate is best place to chill out

Study rates Harrisburg, Lebanon, Carlisle areas No. 1 in the U.S.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

BY IRVIN KITTRELL III

Of The Patriot-News

Patrick Blanch leaned back in his chair at an outside table at Scott's Grille in Harrisburg yesterday and told his three brothers and his sister-in-law to listen.

Not to what they heard, but rather to what they did not hear: horns.

From Our Advertiser

Blanch, who grew up in Highspire, has become accustomed to the sounds of heavy traffic and impatient motorists near his apartment in Washington, D.C. But yesterday on Locust Street, near the often-busy Second Street in the heart of Harrisburg, not a horn could be heard.

Horns, Blanch said, are "a clear gauge that people are impatient and stressed out."

Stress, though, is not an issue in this part of the midstate, according to a study by Sperling's BestPlaces, a company that researches areas to live, work, play and retire.

The business named the Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle region one of the two least stressful urban areas in America. The region tied for the No. 1 spot with Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.

Rounding out the top five least-stressful areas were: Orange County, Calif.; Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.

"These hard-working state capitals and their surrounding areas boast two of the lowest unemployment rates in the country," Sperling's said.

The midstate scored well on the study's nine categories: violent and property crime, unemployment rate, commute time, suicides, divorce rate, mental health, cloudy days and alcohol consumption.

The downside of living here, the report said, was "often-cloudy skies and dreary winters."

Blanch said he can handle the region's weather. And those horns in Washington make him long for home.

"I can't wait to come back here to live," he said.

But even a laid-back haven can't please everyone.

Harrisburg is not Tonie Hill's kind of town.

"I'm going to move out of Harrisburg," Hill said, standing with her bike while overlooking the Susquehanna River. "I hate it here."

Hill said parts of Harrisburg are nice, but some areas are deplorable. Drugs and crime have tainted her view of the capital city, although she still admires the downtown area and the calmness near the river.

"Harrisburg is not what it's cracked up to be," she said. " You have to live here to know."

Sitting on two milk crates in the 1400 block of Derry Street, Joseph Holt said living in Harrisburg is not stressful for him, but it is to others. "It depends on who you are," he said.

Holt said people who live on Derry Street experience a different type of stress. Unemployment is high, he said, and the police presence is too much.

He said people can go downtown and eat and drink alcohol on restaurant sidewalks. He said he doesn't believe that type of dining could happen in his neighborhood.

"It a different standard for different people," he said.

Shaunte Penn likes the area. She has lived in Baltimore and Philadelphia; compared to those cities, she said, Harrisburg is a dream.

"It's a comfortable living atmosphere," she said while operating the cash register at Beauty Accessories in the 1500 block of Derry Street.

Lou Graci, who grew up in Harrisburg, said the growth in the region brings stress. Downtown is booming, housing and business development is spreading throughout the region.

"Harrisburg used to be a quiet town by the river," he said. "The growth of Harrisburg is starting to boom again, which has its good and bad points."

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Many New Jerseyites re-locate along the US 30 corridor, primarly into Lancaster. I am sure Harrisburg is seeing the same trend as well and pretty much the eastern half of the commonwealth.

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