Walking

Montclair: A Very Friendly Town

bicyclistsAs a longtime resident of Montclair, I've always thought of my town as a very friendly community. Apparently the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks so too; Montclair was just designated a Silver Level Walk Friendly Community by the DOT's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Walk Friendly Communities is a nationwide program honoring communities which have made pedestrian safety and convenience a priority. With our Safe Routes to School program, traffic-calming projects, and other initiatives, Montclair is definitely pedestrian-friendly.

Montclair is also a welcoming town for cyclists: We were recently recognized as a Bronze Level Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Our major roads all have bike lanes (all?), and one of the most popular town-wide events for the past 10 years has been the Tour de Montclair, sponsored by Bike & Walk Montclair (BWM took a break this year but plans to bring back the Tour in 2014).

You might be wondering why any of this matters.  Well, the way I see it, these awards show that Montclair  is a town that values the environment (bikes and feet don't spew pollutants into the air) and the health (exercise is great for our physical and mental well-being) of its citizens. Sounds pretty friendly to me.

Back to School Safely in Montclair

Kids-Walk-to-SchoolIt's official - summer is all but over. So the next item on Montclair's agenda must be back to school. What makes this year even better than most is that three of Montclair's elementary schools, and the township as a whole, have been recognized by the NJ Safe Routes to School program for their work toward making Montclair a safe place for our children to walk or ride their bicycles to school.

An important component of the Safe Routes to School initiative is parent and PTA involvement in the program. Edgemont Montessori, Bradford, Charles H. Bullock, and the Montclair Township have all pledged their continued efforts to encourage walking and biking to school, and to ensure that safety remains a primary concern. For example, at Edgemont, the Boltage system - a sensor that automatically records the arrivals and departures of children carrying tags embedded with a chip - lets parents track their children's arrivals and departures online. In addition, schools host Walk to School days, and organize walking buses for their students throughout the year, even during the colder months.

The statewide initiative supports schools and communities in their efforts to create safe routes for walking and biking to school. The benefits are healthier, more active children, less traffic and better air quality as well as fewer traffic conflicts near our schools. It also raises overall awareness about making our communities better places to live. Alex Kent, Montclair's Safe Routes to School coordinator, concurs, saying, "...we see our children making connections and choices that set positive patterns that can last a lifetime."

While Montclair has always been a superb place to raise a family, we're also committed to keeping those values moving forward. Community support for healthy lifestyles is an important component of life here, and I'd like to offer my support by helping you find your perfect Montclair home. Call me at 973-809-5277, or email me at info@walkablesuburb.com, and let's make you the newest member of our Walkable Suburb.

Montclair is"Buzz"-ing

buzz aldrinOne of the many things I love about Montclair is its creative vibe: How many other suburbs can boast an art-house cinema, an internationally-recognized annual film festival, a jazz club, and a dozen or so art galleries?  Next month, though, my town will be focusing more on the sciences than the arts when it honors a hometown hero--astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Aldrin was the second man (after Neil Armstrong) to walk on the moon. He is also a graduate of Montclair High School's Class of 1947, where he played on the football team. He'll be back at Montclair High School on June 2 to receive the first-ever "Key to Montclair" and see the unveiling of  a plaque commemorating his historic flight. The event is open to the public, and I'm sure it will be mobbed, but I'm definitely planning to attend.

As a Montclair Realtor who loves walkable communities, I can't wait to meet the man who walked all over Montclair before walking on the moon.

 

Driving Less: Sign of the (NewYork) Times

300px-Waldwick,_NJ,_train_station_from_pedestrian_bridgeEarlier this week, I came across an intriguing headline in The New York Times: "Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving."  As aNew Jersey Realtorwhose home-buying  clients tend to be New Yorkers looking for urban convenience along with leafy yards and good schools, I've been a witness to this phenomenon locally. Apparently it's happening nationwide as well.

According to Phineas Baxandall, the author of a report mentioned in the article, "Millennials  (those born in the 1980s or '90s) aren't driving cars".  This is a major change from past generations, when teenagers everywhere saw a drivers license as a symbol of independence. A drop in the number of  licenses issued nationwide is partly the result of a weak economy (fewer jobs to drive to, a desire to save on gas), but also the result of increased environmental awareness and improved mass transit options nationwide. On the other end of the age spectrum, Baby Boomers are "aging out of the daily work force and need to commute less," according John Schwartz, the author of the article.

I believe that the trend toward increased use of buses, trains and feet (for walking and biking) will continue. And whether you are a Millennial, a Boomer, or somewhere in between, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. I'd love to show you homes in New Jersey communities such as Montclair, Glen Ridge and Maplewood that are already less car-dependent.

 

 

Is Montclair a Safe Community? Walkability Helps!

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I consider walkability very important to both the environment and one's general health, both physical and mental. According to an interesting post on the AARP website blog that I read recently,  walkable communities also tend to be safer communities. The author, Dan Burden, is the Executive Director of the unities Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.  His thinking is: In a neighborhood where residents barely see each other, how can they look out for each other?

In the post, Burden recounts his visits to gated communities and more open, accessible ones. Contrary to expectation, gated communities, built for seclusion and isolation, are not safer. He explains that "Neighbors in neighborhoods designed for inclusiveness watch over their streets naturally and consistently...They use the sidewalks and trails and open space as more than just a place to pass by in their cars  but rather as a way to connect, and yes, as a way to create natural surveillance of their neighborhoods."

I have to admit that before reading Burden's post, I had never thought of walkability as a boon to public safety . It makes a lot of sense, though, and also makes me even more glad that I live and work in Montclair, New Jersey.  

 

Living in Montclair? These Streets Were Made for Walkin'

"Let's go for a walk." Now that spring is here in earnest, you may find yourself  frequently uttering this phrase. There are many good reasons to go for a walk--to get some fresh air, burn some calories, enjoy the trees in bloom. And, depending on where you live, you can accomplish all of this while actually getting someplace you need to go.

In most of suburbia, walking is a recreational activity and driving is a functional one. In certain towns, though, feet are a  perfectly viable mode of transportation. I am fortunate enough to live in Montclair, New Jersey, where I can walk to the supermarket, the bank and the post office. My teenage sons ride their bikes to school and to their friends' houses.

As gasoline prices continue to climb, I love that I have a free, non-polluting way to accomplish many of my daily tasks. I suspect that there are many folks who feel as I do. Maybe that's why, despite a  sluggish economy and a generally weak housing market, Montclair real estate continues to be highly desirable. I'd love to show you around; let's take a walk.

Just Say No to Suburban Sprawl (and Yes to Towns Like Maplewood)

Here's a short quiz:  What do the diner, the fast-food drive-thru, the turnpike and the mall have in common? Apparently, these icons of suburbia all had their beginnings in New Jersey. I  learned this bit of historical trivia from an interview with Dr. Richard Jackson published last week on NJ.com.

Jackson is a physician who believes that our environment, specifically suburban sprawl, is making us sick. Born and raised in New Jersey, he remembers when neighborhoods were arranged around downtown: a central area with schools, shops, and religious and civic buildings (towns like Bloomfield, Maplewood and Montclair). At some point however, the American Dream came to mean "getting away from it all."  Homes were built further and further away from downtown areas, which meant a new dependence on the automobile.

As Americans are driving more and walking less, Jackson claims, we are becoming heavier, which leads to complications ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes. We are also living further from each other - this isolation may well have something to do with the huge increase in diagnoses of depression over the past several decades.

Like any good doctor, Jackson has a cure for what ails us. He prescribes a return to traditional neighborhoods: "We need to stop making the car the first priority in everything we build." Sounds like a walkable suburb to me.

There! I Said It: You'll Be Happier Living in Montclair...

You'll be happier living in Montclair than in  most other suburbs - A bold statement, I know. It's subjective, but there are in fact, a three key predictors of happiness -  1. health 2. wealth and 3. social connectedness.  Because of its  street layout, design and diversity of housing  Montclair offers  opportunities to foster all three.  Here are some examples.

 

 

  • Many parks and sports facilities where you can exercise and meet people.
  • Places to walk and bike to.
  • Streets with sidewalks so you can interact with other walkers.
  • Mixed-use and diverse housing styles/prices - from thrifty to extravagant.
  • Good public transportation so you don't always need to take your car.
  • Small, owner operated businesses - where they know you by name.
  • Lots of cultural venues for music, art and entertainment
  • A certain density of population so you don't feel isolated

I'm sure there are some die hard cul-de-sac fans out there as well as few Office Max aficionados.  So for those of us whose suburban dream is a three car garage and good access to the mall, I propose that Montclair may not be a good fit.  There's always Mt. Olive though.

And the Survey Says...

As a New Jersey Realtor, I am a member of the National Association of Realtors, and I regularly read its publications. Recently I came across one that I found interesting and worth sharing.

In March of this year, the National Association of Realtors commissioned a market research firm to conduct a survey regarding Americans' housing and community preferences.  Over 2,000  randomly selected adults took part in this updating of a 2004 survey. In both cases, a significant portion of adults indicated that living in a community where they could walk to shops was either "important" or "very important."

The economy  has seen big ups and downs over the past seven years, and people's housing priorities have changed in certain areas. I was interested to see that 66% (two-thirds) of the adults  polled this year said that being within an easy walk to places in their community was important to them.

Clearly, walkable suburbs are still seen as very desirable places to live. I'd love to show you some of New Jersey's finest.

Can You Walk to a Restaurant from Your Montclair Home?

Walkablilty makes no sense unless we have somewhere interesting to walk to. Walking around the neighborhood in loops is only valuable if you're looking for an exercise regimen. Destination walking is where it's at and shops, stores and restaurants are at the top of the list. Have you ever tried to find parking in downtown Montclair on a Friday or Saturday night? Well, it takes some strategic planning to score a prime spot across from your favorite haunt. Imagine those lucky ducks who just stroll out their front door, walk a few blocks and BAM!- they're in the hub of Montclair's dynamic restaurant scene with 130 of New Jersey's most fabulous places to eat.

Well guess what? It turns out commercial real estate benefits from walkability too.  Not that I'm surprised.  According to The Harvard Business Review, an increase of 10 points in walkability out of a score of 100 increases the value of the property by 9%.  What does this say to me?  That houses and retail have a symbiotic relationship and it's good when they're not too far away from each other.

Montclair NJ is a great example of how well this works.  Montclair has 5 thriving business districts all of which are nicely nestled among our neighborhoods.  From north to south there's Upper Montclair Village, Watchung Plaza, Walnut Street, Montclair Central and South End Village. If you live in Montclair, what restaurant do you walk to?