Blog :: 2016

Walkability Is The New Black

Patio DiningI just read a piece in the New York Times about how today’s buyers are more interested than ever in homes “close to town,” further supporting my theory that walkability is, in fact, the new black.

On December 16, Marcelle Sussman Fischler writes, “With an uptick in buyers wanting to live within walking distance of restaurants, shops, schools, parks and train stations, single-family homes closer to town are selling better than ones that are farther afield, real estate agents say.”

She goes on to say that buyers think of walkability not just as a “convenience” but also as a “quality of life” choice. People want to run into friends on their way to the drugstore or a restaurant – and they’re not talking about fender-benders.

Being able to walk where you need to go makes life feel easy – at least it has for me. I live within a half mile of two of Montclair’s four main shopping areas -- Upper Montclair Village and Watchung Plaza --  and there are even more walkable “town hubs” beyond those. I love that I can walk to the movies, walk to great restaurants, walk to the post office, or the nail salon, or the bookstore. It’s one of the things that make the feeling of community here so very strong.

And you can feel the commitment of the community in keeping our “downtowns” lively and vibrant – not only by their patronage, but also in how very many residents open up their own shops or restaurants, creating the niche destinations that they want to see here.  

With so many “downtowns” in one town, it’s not too difficult to find a home that’s walkable to at least one of them. And the even better news is that if perching high atop a mountain with New York City views is more your thing, there’s plenty of off-the-beaten path homes to choose from too!

And I’m delighted to show you all of them – so you can find exactly the shade of black – I mean walkability -- you’re looking for.

 

The Bike Depot Cometh (To Bloomfield, NJ)

Bike ParkingThe other day, I drove into Manhattan on Saturday morning and headed to a block that, in the past, I’ve had good luck finding on-street parking. But not this time. Because, apparently, since my last time here, a big swath of curb space had been allocated for Citi-bikes.

Despite the inconvenience of an extended parking search, I was happy to see the city giving up parking spots in favor of bikablity. I am always on the lookout for examples of how walking and biking are supported.

So I was delighted to learn that our own Bloomfield Train Station is about to get a great bikability upgrade. It’s called a Bike Depot and, according to this month’s NJ Bike&Walk Coalition newsletter, it’s slated to be operational next month.

We already have a Bike Depot in the parking garage of the Bay Street Train Station in Montclair, and for many it has been a game changer. A portion of the garage is reconstructed to securely store bikes while their owners are away. Aside from keeping the bike safe and dry, there are also lockers where riders can stash bike shoes or helmets.

The Bloomfield Station Bike Depot is going up in the Glenwood Garage in downtown Bloomfield, so members can use it for commuting or while they’re shopping. Of course, I’m waiting for the day that every train station in the area has a section devoted to bike parking. But my habit of choosing to walk or bike over driving whenever I can has made me more patient overall.

If you’re looking for a home in an area that supports a smaller carbon footprint, let me tell you more about all the walkability and bikability benefits in living in Montclair and our surrounding towns. Next to finding people homes, it’s my passion. Call or text: 973-809-5277

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    A Walk To The Wellmont (in Montclair)

    Jim Gaffigan Tour PosterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to see Jim Gaffigan at the Wellmont Theater. If you’re not a Gaffigan fan, all I can say is LOL. This guy is consistently hilarious without being crude and it was the perfect way to de-stress before the holiday.

    And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. People young and old were in attendance, which is not unusual for the Wellmont – our own local concert venue hosting everyone from Tom Jones to One Direction to Max & Ruby in the Nutcracker Suite. I think Jay Leno was there the night after Gaffigan.

    Growing up in the Manhattan, I loved being able to see live performances easily and locally. And living in Montclair, I’m afforded that same luxury. In addition to the Wellmont, we have a “grassroots” concert series called Outpost in the Burbs, bringing folk artists like David Bromberg and Joan Osborne practically into our living rooms.

    And Montclair State University has an incredible series called Peak Performances – interesting (and sometimes avant-garde) music, dance and theater events that are often written up in the New York Times as “not to be missed”. (By the way: tickets are usually $20 each and there is truly not a bad seat in the house.)

    But here’s the coolest thing for me: I picked up my Gaffigan tickets at the theater (rather than through Ticket-Master), because I happened to be walking around downtown when they went on sale. The night of the show, we had dinner at Fusion Empanada, window-shopped our way down to the theater, and returned hours later to our car where (unlike Manhattan) we’d parked easily (and freely) on the street.

    Just to keep it real: we don’t walk everywhere all the time. But we all relish that we often have the option of ditching the car and being out among our neighbors – doing fun things, eating good food, and having a few good laughs.

     

    We All Walk Together

    Walking on SidewalkEven though I’ve always inherently understood that “cities” tend to be more liberal than rural areas, I never really took any time to think about why. This New York Times piece was an interesting read on how liberals and conservatives tend to organize themselves geographically.

    Montclair is a decidedly liberal town. We are a village that tries to welcome all residents with open arms, but the truth is, conservative bumper stickers on these streets are not very typical fare.

    But the other truth is that we have plenty of conservatives living here – happily, I might add. I’d always wondered why a right-leaning homebuyer might choose this town (which is about as blue as they come). And, although I can draw plenty of conclusions from this article, I chose to read it as a kind of treatise on how walkability can be one of the great political unifiers. (I know, I know – I’m a walkability nut – but what else can explain the harmony we typically have here in Montclair besides the fact that we all really like that we can walk to Java Love for our morning coffee?)

    Over the years, I’ve worked side-by-side with many of my more right-leaning neighbors – on the PTA, on boards, and even in the business of selling homes – and I’ve noticed that, for the most part, our ideals are far more similar than they are different.

    Because the third truth is, it's simply a lot more difficult to have an “us versus them” stance when we’re all sharing the same sidewalks. (And bike racks. And train seats.) Or at least that’s how it seems to me. If you’re looking for a change – upsizing, downsizing, or a place to start a family -- I’d love to show you around my town; it can win the hearts and minds of practically everyone.

    New To Market: 152 Forest Hill Rd. West Orange

    This 4-bedroom renovated English colonial has so much going on inside. Majestic stone fireplace in the living room. New kitchen and formal dining room. Cozy den and a completely finished basement. Plus, a master bedroom suite with fireplace and dressing room. I happen to adore the third-floor retreat – a paneled enclave with a view of New York City.

    There’s a lot to love about living in West Orange. This home is very close to two of my favorite hiking destinations: Eagle Rock Reservation and South Mountain Reservation. When I hit the ridge of Eagle Rock, I look out onto the Manhattan skyline and marvel at how lucky we are here to be so close to New York City and still be able to spend hours hiking trails that are literally a few minutes drive from our house.

    This home has the added bonus of having quick access to Route 280 and is steps away from the commuter jitney. It’s also an easy drive to the nearly new South Mountain Recreation Complex (zoo, ice-skating, mini-golf, paddle boats, zip line, and reservoir walkway), an expansive Whole Foods Market and the inimitable Short Hills Mall.

    If you’d like to see this or other homes in the area, please call or text! I love showing people around!  (973) 809-5277

     

     

    Slow Down and Linger

    One of the reasons I like living in a walkable suburb is because it slows the world down a little bit. And one of the best things about slowing down, is having the opportunity to linger.

    Lingering is not something you can do very easily in a car. (And if you do, you’ll probably hear about it from the car behind you!) But when you're walking, you can linger on the foot bridge over Edgemont Pond if you happen to see the white heron strutting near the shoreline, or you can linger in front of the Montclair Bread Company because it smells so dang good out there.

    One of my favorite places to linger is Watchung Booksellers – and not just because it’s my neighborhood bookstore. It's just a delightful place to spend time. It’s cozy and unhurried. And everyone in there seems as if there’s no place they’d rather be. Add to that the fact that it's full of books and it just doesn't get any better than that.

    I came across a piece about Watchung Books  on Facebook (another place I sometimes like to linger) and the writer summed up the vibe so well.

    “The term ‘curate’ is often used for what booksellers do, but as [owner] Margot and I sat chatting about the business in the conjoined café, we agreed it is less like a museum collector than a chef or a matchmaker. What do you want to read today? With platters of book covers spread out before you, the store resembles a cocktail party of stories and ideas.”

    I loved reading Thomas Pluck’s ode to my favorite bookstore. I liked the way he provided so much context for its existence, and how he, himself, lingered over details about our town, painting a picture that feels authentic and true for all of us that have made our home here.

    Maybe it’s just the sweet melancholy of autumn, but it’s been feeling especially good to me these days to slow down and linger.

     

    Montclair: We've Got It Made In The Shade

    Even though summer is officially over this week and the days are getting shorter, it's been a very warm September. Which reminds me of one of the things I love about Montclair: the town's commitment to shade trees.

    I often share this fun fact with clients: With a population of close to 40,000, Montclair reportedly has as many trees as residents.

    I don’t think I ever appreciated Montclair’s shade trees more than I did this August when, in the swelter of an east coast summer, I decided to walk to town to do some errands. This was one of those days that we all were wilting. I filled a bottle of water and started out the door. The sun was high, but most of my walk was under a canopy of trees. The air was still, but in the shade, the little air that did pass by me as I walked felt almost like a breeze.

    It was hot. But it wasn’t awful.

    Montclair retains a part-time arborist to make sure our tree game is strong. Not too long ago, it had become fashionable to plant Bradford pear trees – smallish tree shaped like lollipops that are prone to splitting. Montclair still has many old oaks and sycamores that parasol the streets and sidewalks, and we’ve stepped away from the pear trees, which I’m glad about, as they do not provide the same quality of shade.

    To me, part of a great suburban experience includes optimal walkability, even when it's hot. If you’re interested in a town that is designed for walking – call me. I’d love to show you around. 973-809-5277 

     

    Hot and Cool ? Montclair Jazz Festival Aug 13, 2016

     

    I know I tend to go on and on about the events in Montclair – the Montclair Film Festival, Taste of Montclair, the YMCA 10K and Family Fun Run. Even the weekly Farmers Market feels more like a social happening than a produce-buying excursion. All of these popular gatherings started up since I’ve moved here. But it feels like the one that’s grown the most is the Montclair Jazz Festival.

    August can feel so quiet in Montclair, with so many families off on vacation. But on the day of the Jazz Festival, people seem to come out of the woodwork.

    This free event began seven years ago, an outdoor sampling of jazz performances where people tossed a blanket on the grass and soaked in some sun and some great music. Back then, 300 people showed up. Last year there were 10,000!

    I am so excited to have Keller Williams sponsoring one of my all-time favorite events. We even have a tent where we’ll be giving out lemonade and cookies. (Consider yourself invited!)


    I’m not sure how set in stone the schedule is, but here’s the proposed line up:

    12 p.m. - 52nd Street Big Band
    12:30 p.m. - Philly Soul Big Band
    1:00 p.m. - Bright Moments Big Band
    1:15 p.m. - Afro-Latin Big Band
    1:45 p.m. - The Big Solid Sax Mob
    2:15 p.m. - Jazz House Vocal Large Ensemble
    2:45 p.m. - Jazz House Faculty Collective celebrates Bowie + Prince
    3:45 p.m. - Michele Rosewoman + New Yor-Uba
    4:45 p.m. - Dynasty Big Band featuring Louis Prima, Jr.
    5:15 p.m. - Jazz House Big Band featuring Louis Prima, Jr.
    6:00 p.m. - George Coleman Organ Quartet
    7:15 p.m. - A Christian McBride Situation
    8:30 p.m. - Dee Dee Bridgewater Quintet

    Come and go. Bring a cooler. There are shuttles from parking and plenty of grass for lounging. Cool music on a hot day with a cold beer. It really doesn’t get any better.

     

     

     

    Get Healthy: Run Your Errands in a Walkable Suburb

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    I live about a mile from the drug store. A post office and a Starbucks are across the street. One block north is one of my favorite gift shops.

    When I walk "uptown" to run some errands, it absolutely takes more time than if I drive. But the experience is 100 times better.

    I love looking at people's gardens on my way to do my errands. I'm a sucker for pretty flowers - they remind me to pay attention to what's beautiful in the world.

    I'm also bound to run into friends or acquaintances on my way there or back. We may not have time to sit and catch up over coffee, but a spontaneous 15-minute chat in front of the firehouse can be almost as soul-filling.

    Plus, when I walk, my body feels better. Soaking up some sunshine, moving rather than sitting, taking in the fresh air. Turns out all the things my grandmother told me were good for me really are.

    The medical community says when we're running our errands on bikes or on foot, we're healthier. When I do it, I'm happier.

    With 7 train stations, myriad bus stops, 5 distinct retail centers and several more smaller clusters of shops, restaurants and services, Montclair offers plenty of opportunities to show up on foot. Wherever you live, there's always somewhere to walk.

    If you want to find out more about this Walkable Suburb or even take a walk around town with me, please call! 973.809.5277

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    New Listing: 182 Alexander Ave. Upper Montclair

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    Sometimes Things Go Sideways

    One thing I love about this area is how individual the homes are. Even within broad categories like Colonial or Tudor, there are so many variations. And even within all that individuality resides an extremely small subcategory.

    I'm talking now about the Sideways House.

    Sideways Houses are homes that have been built so the front entrance faces the side yard, rather than the street. This orientation gives the home a decidedly Country House feel, as it overlooks only landscaping. From the inside, Sideways Houses tend to feel very private and secluded, even though they might be smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.

    And that's exactly the case for this wonderful 5-bedroom 2-full/2-half bath home in beautiful Upper Montclair. Wonderful because it looks out on a big, open yard, wonderful because it offers a coveted wrap-around porch, and wonderful because the renovated kitchen has an unusually "artsy" vibe, featuring a large custom banquette for lazy Sunday brunches with family and friends.

    Other features include: oversized rooms, central air conditioning, newly renovated, ensuite master bathroom,

    This home is a 3-minute walk to the New York City bus; the train station about a 10-minute walk. It's also located at the Northern end of town, with quick and easy access to the highway.

    Because they're so few and far between, Sideways Houses don't come on the market very often.

    Priced at $799,000, this special house will not last. If you're looking for a wonderful family home in a remarkable community, please call me and let me show you the magic of Sideways Living.  973.809.5277