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Bloomfield, NJ: A walkable suburb with lots of greenery

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Moving out of their Jersey City apartment after giving birth to their first child, Angelina and Scott Peters explored communities in nearby Essex County, NJ. The couple fell in love with Montclair. “But it was a bit outside of our price range,” says Mr Peters, 43, who works in the back office of a bank. Then they found Bloomfield, next door.

In the summer of 2019, the couple, who now have two children, bought a four-bedroom colonial house in the northern part of the township for $ 430,000. They liked the accessibility of New York City, the diverse population, and the prestigious Oak View Elementary School in the neighborhood.

Bloomfield also offered “a nice mix of parks and restaurants,” said Ms. Peters, 40, a manager at a customer experience consultancy.

Buyers like the Peterses are fueling the housing market in Bloomfield, a township of about 53,000 residents over 5.3 square miles about 18 miles west of Midtown Manhattan. And the newcomers are arriving in a transition period: the downtown shopping district is being redeveloped with more than 600 apartments, the result of the township’s designation as a transit village by the state of New Jersey in 2003 as part of a program to promote new housing in the vicinity Train stations.

Housing isn’t the only notable renovation. Bloomfield also recently remodeled a former industrial site in Lion Gate Park, a project that Councilor Wartyna L. Davis, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at William Paterson University, is particularly proud of.

“Turning it from brown to green was a major undertaking,” said Dr. Davis about the park, which includes a soccer field, playground, and four acres of wetlands.

Karine Limor, 34, and Rafael Martinez, 43, moved to Bloomfield in the fall of 2018. Ms. Limor, the sales manager of a baby products company, and Mr. Martinez, a real estate investor, lived in Manhattan for six years and enjoy the culture, restaurants and the convenience of walking almost anywhere. But when they had their first child, they decided they needed more space and started working with Suburban Jungle, a company that helps city dwellers find the right fit in the suburbs.

The couple paid $ 540,000 for a three-bedroom colonial home near Brookdale Park, shops and restaurants on Broad Street, and the Watchung Plaza shopping district in Montclair. They like the mix of suburban greenery and urban accessibility.

“I am a great hiker,” said Ms. Limor. “There are definitely walking amenities in Bloomfield that you might not be in a quieter suburb.”

Ms. Limor and Mr. Martinez, now parents of two boys, met other young families who recently moved to Bloomfield. “We liked the idea that it was up and coming,” said Ms. Limor. “It was very easy to find other like-minded people to bond with as a family.”

Bloomfield is roughly rectangular and sits between Montclair and Glen Ridge to the west, Nutley and Belleville to the east, Clifton to the north, and East Orange to the south. The population is diverse: 41 percent white, 29 percent Hispanic American, 20 percent black and 9 percent Asian, according to the census data.

Much of the parish was developed on small lots prior to World War II with green neighborhoods and early 20th century houses including Tudors and colonial houses. Amy Owens, an agent for Keller Williams Realty in Montclair, said the Brookdale and Oakview neighborhoods are particularly popular with young families because of their high-rated elementary schools.

As in other suburbs, demand for housing in Bloomfield increased during the pandemic as shoppers tried to leave the cities, resulting in multiple offers on many homes, said Oneida Mendez-Laws, an agent for Coldwell Banker in Montclair.

According to the Garden State Multiple Listing Service, in the 12 months ended December 15, 2021, 516 single-family homes were sold at an average price of $ 440,000; In the past 12 months, 447 single-family homes were sold for a median of $ 391,000.

A recent review of the multiple listing service found 49 properties in the market, ranging from a studio condominium for $ 110,000 to a renovated three-bedroom colonial home for $ 600,000.

The average monthly rent for a one bedroom in an older building is about $ 1,500; In a new building, a similar size apartment could be rented for $ 2,000 a month, said Michael Sisto of Sisto Realty in Bloomfield.

Bloomfield has three shopping districts: Bloomfield Center, in the southern part of the parish, on Bloomfield Avenue; Wide street; and Upper Broad Street. Green spaces include Watsessing Park, Brookside Park, and Brookdale Park, and Township Green.

Popular dining options include Gencarelli’s, an Italian bakery; Stamna Taverna, a Greek restaurant; Brookside Thai; The Portuguese BBQ from Pit; Bloomfield Steak & Seafood House; and Anthony’s Cheesecake & Restaurant. Holsten’s on Broad Street has ice cream and “Sopranos” nostalgia – it was the backdrop for the much-discussed final scene of the HBO series.

The Bloomfield School District has approximately 6,300 students in 11 schools: a preschool center for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children; eight elementary schools with pre-kindergarten or kindergarten up to sixth grade; a middle school for seventh and eighth grades; and Bloomfield High School, which goes to ninth through twelfth grades.

For the 2019-20 school year, the average SAT scores for Bloomfield High School students were 499 in math and 499 in reading and writing, compared to federal averages of 536 in each. The student body consists of about 42 percent Hispanics, 26 percent white, 23 percent black and 7 percent Asian.

Private schools in the area include the Montclair Kimberley Academy for students from kindergarten through 12th grade; Montclair Cooperative School, an elementary school; and two Catholic elementary schools, St. Cassian in Montclair and St. Thomas the Apostle in Bloomfield.

Bloomfield is on the New Jersey Transit Montclair-Boonton Line and trains stop at two stations in the community, Bloomfield Station and Watsessing Avenue Station. From either, it takes a little over half an hour to get to Penn Station in Manhattan and costs $ 6.75 each way or $ 184 a month.

The train is “a big draw for New Yorkers,” said Roy Castro of Living New Jersey Realty in nearby Lyndhurst. Some are even finding their commutes improving, Mr Castro said, quoting a client who recently cut their commute to Manhattan by moving from Brooklyn to Bloomfield.

Depending on traffic, New Jersey Transit buses can take 45 to 60 minutes (or longer) to reach the Port Authority bus station in Midtown. A one-way ride from Allwood Road park-and-ride station, just across the border in Clifton, is $ 6 or $ 167 per month.

For those who prefer to drive, the Garden State Parkway runs north-south through Bloomfield, and Route 3 and Interstate 280 are major east-west highways nearby.

A 19th-century engineering marvel, the Morris Canal ran through Bloomfield on its way to Jersey City and the Hudson River. The canal allowed coal to be transported from Pennsylvania and iron ore from northwest New Jersey, but ultimately failed to compete with railroads and was decommissioned in the early 20th century. In Bloomfield, portions of Garden State Parkway and John F. Kennedy Drive have been built on the bed of the old canal, said Jean Kuras, president of the township’s Historical Society. Bloomfield was also once an industrial powerhouse, with factories producing consumer goods for General Electric, Schering-Plow, Clark Thread, and Charms Candy.

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