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Blog :: 12-2009

Find Your Community Walkability Rating

What Is Your Community Walkability Score?


walking in Montclair neighborhood

walking in Montclair neighborhood


I'm a big fan of the rating website,, but its algorithm relies mostly on the proximity of a house to stores and community resources.  But to find walkability rating, it's not just about distance -- it's also about the quality and ease of the walk.  Factors like wide sidewalks, shade trees, good lighting and flat topography matter a great deal in determining a walkability rating.  I downloaded this walkability checklist from and walked through my own Watchung Plaza neighborhood in Montclair.

Here's what I found, both good and bad.

What makes Montclair a Walkable Community?


Montclair NJ

walking in Montclair neighborhood


  • Lot's of large trees to keep the sun off your back
  • Most streets not to wide to cross
  • Most streets have sidewalks
  • Streets and sidewalks are free of litter and debris
  • No loose dogs
  • Curb cuts in many sidewalks (for strollers and wheelchairs)
  • Flat heading East toward the train station

Things to Improve...

  • Many sidewalks uneven and cracked from tree roots
  • Spotty lighting - some areas well lit, others not so much.
  • Steep hill heading West toward the "Mont" of Montclair
  • Tricky intersection at Park St. and Watchung Ave

How walkable is your neighborhood?  Download the checklist and let me know.

Visions of Granite Danced in My Head

Granite counters and stainless steel appliances sell houses in MontclairWe have a saying among real estate agents that  "Kitchens sell houses." At the mere mention of the words "granite" or "stainless steel," buyers flock to a new listing, imagining themselves preparing home-cooked meals for the family or having friends gather around the "island" while the host prepares a gourmet meal and offers a little kitchen theater.

So powerful is the pull of the granite kitchen that it can compensate for other defects in the house such as small bedrooms or too few bathrooms.  For many, the granite kitchen has become a symbol of the good life and of good times.  There's just something about family, friends, home, and kitchen that is inextricably tied together - despite our love of take-out.

Check out some of these Montclair homes for sale, and see if these kitchens match your ideals.

Do all of us have a strong interest or skill in cooking? No.  But even those among us who have never flambéed or sautéed love a great kitchen. Friend and fellow Montclair resident, Alma Schneider has even built a business around the incongruity between having a fab kitchen but not knowing how to use it.  "Overcoming Obstacles to Cooking" is the theme of her blog "Take Back The Kitchen." Here she offers tips, coaching packages, and classes.

Me, I'm still living with butcher block counters in my circa 1925 kitchen, albeit with new appliances, hoping that my friends and family will forgive my sin of missing granite.  What does your kitchen look like?

Shopping in Montclair: Anthropologie

iStock_000000232657XSmallAnthropologie--the big retailer with modern urban style clothing and home goods--has opened its doors in Montclair in time for the holiday shopping season.  I'm sure there is some grumbling as people roll their eyes at $200 corduroy pants and worry that chain stores will threaten the character of our very indie town.  Me, I welcome Anthroplogie here.  I think ultimately we need a few William Sonomas and Gaps to anchor the smaller retail offerings of our town and keep it vibrant and walkable.  Unlike mom and pop shops, the big chain stores have national funding to stay open seven days a week and later in to the evening.  Anthropologie is open late--until 9 pm at night--my own preferred shopping time.

There's a positive ripple effect.  With longer store hours people walk in the streets until later, and they're more likely to go get some dinner or a coffee on Church Street after they've browsed (or shopped in the store).    Anthropologie gives outsiders another reason to bypass the mall and come visit Montclair, and maybe pop into Semplice or the Montclair Book Center.

What's interesting is that more and more big retail stores want to be located in a walkable downtown like ours.  For the first time in forty years, the trend is shifting away from malls.  People want to shop locally.  They don't want to get on a highway to buy a pair of jeans or that perfect gift.

This holiday season you'll find me at the sale rack sometime around 8:30 pm.  Anthropologie is located at the corner of Church Street and Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair.