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Moving outward

Veteran suburbanites happy with their decision to move
/ Source: The Standard-Speaker

Roseanne Makuta remembers when towering trees surrounded her Sugarloaf Township home.Now, malls, stores, restaurants and hotels do. Forty years ago, though, Dippel Manor was a developing, suburban neighborhood just off Route 93 north of Hazleton.

Makuta and her husband built there to escape a cramped apartment in the city and give their two young children a safer place to play.

"I wanted to be out of the city," she said. "I wanted to raise my children where I wouldn't have to worry about them.

"It was all woods when we built here," Makuta said.

Her neighbor, Lucille Kuchar, remembers the trees as well - she and her husband built in Dippel Manor nearly 50 years ago.

"When we built, we were the only house on this side of the street," she said. "The school bus stopped at every house in the morning.

"Kids could play out in the street. It was just an ideal place," Kuchar said.

And the small neighborhood created by the late Frank Dippel remains ideal - even as more businesses encroach upon its borders, she said.

The area around Dippel Manor changed, but the neighborhood hasn't, Kuchar said. She sees it as a village with many of the older residents living among younger families who bought homes or built their own.

"It's nice, quiet. We have nice neighbors," Kuchar said. "Everyone minds their own business, but you have a neighbor if you need one.

"It was the best move we ever made," she said.

During the late 1960s, many people made the move to developments on the city's edges or just outside its borders.

Bob Nilles, local real estate broker, said he watched it happen. People wanted more space than city duplexes and rowhomes - most set on long, narrow lots - afforded, he said.

"Maple Manor was one of the first areas driven by the need for a lawn and a garage," said Nilles, who also observed the phenomenon in Laurel Gardens, another development that formed on the city's fringes.

Dominic DeCusatis built on Perry Court in Laurel Gardens 36 years ago for his children, then in kindergarten and seventh grade. One too many cars sped past his South Wyoming Street duplex for comfort, he said.

This new development on the city's north side didn't have traffic problems - the street that he and his wife chose dead-ended, DeCusatis said.

"There were not many people here then. We actually lived in the woods. Deer would come into the backyard," he said. "We figured it was a nice place to raise the kids."

And it was still in the city, he said.

Both Maple Manor and Laurel Gardens extended the city and reached into neighboring Hazle Township. Developers altered the lot sizes - going with wider, shallower lots - spreading the distance between homes and turning narrow courts into full streets.

Duplexes and A-frames gave way to ranchers, bi-levels and Cape Cods in the developments, Nilles said. The most popular, and economical, home to build, though, was the bi-level, which borrowed space from the basement for the garage, he said.

However, these new, suburban homes cost three times that of a city duplex, Nilles said.

"You're jumping from $12,000 for a half-double to $36,000 for a bi-level," he said. "It was a big move."

One developer made a bigger move in the early 1970s when he had an Allentown designer put together plans for a development with amenities such as playgrounds, tennis courts and a swimming pool.

The developer was former state Rep. James Ustynoski, now deceased, and the development is Ridgewood in Hazle Township near Lattimer.

"He had a vision," said Nilles, who began his career selling homes in the fledging development on the hill. "He knew Hazleton was in need of housing."

The plan laid out 180 lots for homes. Eight of them went up on speculation alone - a move unheard of in the industry, Nilles said.

And they sold, he said.

"It grew every year," he said. "We sold six or seven houses a year."

Joseph Bacsick chose Ridgewood because he and his wife, Verna, needed more room for their growing family than their Grant Street rancher provided, he said.

Impressed with the plans, they bought a modest English Tudor and watched their children and the development grow, Joseph Bacsick said.

But they never saw the promised amenities, he said.

"That never lived up to expectations. It just went by the wayside as week by week went by. It never developed," he said. "I have everything good - as much as I need."

Helen Elias' boys grew up without the park, tennis courts and pool as well. Her family moved to Venisa Drive in Ridgewood nearly 24 years ago.

"I wanted to move out of the city. There were two homes on Venisa Drive at the time," she said. "I think (we chose Ridgewood) because it was out of Hazleton, but it was still easy to get to shopping malls. I liked the idea that a there was church close by."

Elias belongs to Sacred Heart R.C. Church in Harleigh, which sits just below the ridgetop development. Others who moved in to the neighborhood joined the church as well, the Rev. Girard Angelo, pastor, said.

Like the Bacsicks, Elias' children left her in a big empty house, but one she doesn't want to leave.

"It's nice when the boys come home with their families," she said. "And we put a lot into it. When you build a home, a lot of you goes into it."

Elias and her neighbors got older and the development expanded, but little else changed in the past quarter century, she said. Most of the original homeowners retired over the years, and some died, she said.

But new families and young professional couples moved into the homes, continuing the cycle begun 30 years earlier, she said. Most families are older, but homes going up in new sections attract younger people with small children, Elias said.

Joseph Rodino, who owns the Colonial Restaurant in Hazleton, agrees that Ridgewood really hasn't changed in the 25 years he's lived there - other than some extra traffic.

"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," he said.

Just across Sunburst Drive, the Bacsicks don't regret leaving the city. They enjoy their home and appreciated their neighbors, Joseph Bacsick said.

"It's a quiet neighborhood," he said. "I have nice neighbors. The whole street is filled with professional people. It's nice graceful living here."

Ridgewood was on Jackie Betterly's list when she sought a larger home, but the former bookstore manager chose Chapel Hill, another wooded development, off Route 93 behind Nathan's Furniture Store.

"I moved out here, because it was convenient," she said. "It's close to everything. It's close to the mall. It's close to the interstate. It's not far from town."

The neighborhood, developed in the 1980s, shares a border with the Laurel Mall complex, which saw growth on its periphery in recent years with a large movie complex and new restaurants being built.

While some criticize commercial development near their homes, Chapel Hill residents don't, because the neighborhood maintains a rural character with many original trees left on the lots and another border shared with Hazle Township Community Park.

"It's convenient to got out to these places because we could walk," Betterly said.

Sandy Hoilko likes to walk with her family as well. She and her husband moved to Chapel Hill 16 years ago.

"At that time, it was unnoticed and behind a wooded area," she said. "We wanted to go somewhere where we weren't far from the city. I liked Community Park. I have no regrets."

The development grew along with the existing commercial centers to its north and west, but neither detracted from the neighborhood, Hoilko said. She doesn't even hear the highway or mall traffic when sitting in her backyard, she said.

"It has grown," Hoilko said. "We've met more people, even people who came from out of the area. It's a lively neighborhood, but I still enjoy it."

The commercial growth hasn't changed how people feel about their homes in Dippel Manor - just on the other side of the mall complex from Chapel Hill - and most of the development began 20 years after many built.

Back in 1972, the Kuchars didn't want the Laurel Mall as a neighbor, but now they're not complaining about their neighbor.

"Now, we're glad it's here," Mrs. Kuchar said. "It's very convenient."

Her East Hollywood Boulevard neighbor, Makuta, considers the restaurants, stores and roads around the mall assets these days, she said.

One neighbor, Mark Gabriel, hates the development around his neighborhood. Rossi's Restaurant and the former ARCO station he grew up with, and the Comfort Inn, Forest Hill Inn and Perkins' don't bother him.

But he could do without the brightly lit, heavily-used Turkey Hill Minit Market directly across the street, he said. Now, there's more traffic and garbage, Gabriel said.

Every morning, he wonders about the value of the house his family called home for the past 47 years as he picks litter off the lawn, Gabriel said.

His neighbor Makuta just doesn't see it that way. Most mornings she walks through her backyard to the mall.

"It's a good place to go for a walk in the morning. It's nice in the morning," she said.

Forty years earlier, she wasn't thinking about her morning walks or ease of shopping - just a quiet place to raise her children outside of the city.

Now, her neighborhood has the best of both.

"I love it out here," Makuta said.