Real Estate

Bloomfield, N.J.: A Walkable Suburb With Plenty of Green Space

Looking to move out of their apartment in Jersey City after their first child was born, Angelina and Scott Peters scouted communities in nearby Essex County, N.J. The couple fell in love with Montclair. “But it was a little out of our price range,” said Mr. Peters, 43, who works in the back office of a bank. Then they found Bloomfield, just next door.

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

Bloomfield also offered “a nice mix of parks and restaurants,” said Ms. Peters, 40, a manager in a customer-experience consulting firm.

Buyers like the Peterses are heating up the housing market in Bloomfield, a township with about 53,000 residents across 5.3 square miles, about 18 miles west of Midtown Manhattan. And the newcomers are arriving during a time of transition: The downtown shopping district is being redeveloped with more than 600 apartments, the result of the township’s 2003 designation as a transit village by the state of New Jersey, under a program meant to encourage new housing near rail stations.

Housing isn’t the only notable redevelopment. Bloomfield also recently converted a former industrial site into Lion Gate Park, a project that Councilwoman Wartyna L. Davis, the dean of the college of arts, humanities and social sciences at William Paterson University, is especially proud of.

The Bloomfield Avenue shopping district is being redeveloped with hundreds of apartments. Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

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

Karine Limor, 34, and Rafael Martinez, 43, moved to Bloomfield in the fall of 2018. Ms. Limor, the director of sales for a baby-products company, and Mr. Martinez, a real estate investor, had lived in Manhattan for six years, enjoying the culture, restaurants and convenience of being able to walk nearly everywhere. But when they had their first child, they decided they needed more space and began working with Suburban Jungle, a company that helps urban dwellers find the right fit in suburbia.

The couple paid $540,000 for a three-bedroom colonial near Brookdale Park, the shops and restaurants on Broad Street, and the Watchung Plaza shopping area, in Montclair. They like the blend of suburban green space and urban walkability.

“I’m a big walker,” Ms. Limor said. “There are definitely conveniences in Bloomfield that you can walk to that you might not be able to walk to in a quieter suburb.”

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

80 GEORGE STREET | A four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house, built in 1976 on 0.11 acres, listed for $575,000. 973-694-8000Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

What You’ll Find

Bloomfield is roughly rectangular, sandwiched 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, 20 percent Black and 9 percent Asian, according to census data.

Much of the township was developed before World War II, with leafy neighborhoods and early 20th-century homes, including Tudors and colonials, on small lots. Amy Owens, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Montclair, said that the Brookdale and Oakview neighborhoods are especially popular with young families, because of the highly rated elementary schools.

What You’ll Pay

As in other suburban areas, demand for housing shot up in Bloomfield during the pandemic as buyers looked to leave cities, leading to multiple offers on many homes, said Oneida Mendez-Laws, an agent with Coldwell Banker, in Montclair.

According to the Garden State Multiple Listing Service, in the 12 months ending on Dec. 15, 2021, 516 single-family homes sold at a median price of $440,000; during the previous 12 months, 447 single-family homes sold at a median of $391,000.

 174 BERKELEY AVENUE | A five-bedroom, three-bath house built in 1910 on 0.15 acres, listed for $470,000. 973-489-7204Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

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

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

The Vibe

Bloomfield has three shopping districts: Bloomfield Center, in the southern part of the township, on Bloomfield Avenue; Broad Street; and upper Broad Street. Green spaces include Watsessing Park, Brookside Park and Brookdale Park, as well as the township green.

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

17 BENSON STREET | A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house, built circa 1900 on 0.14 acres, listed for $519,000. 201-636-2280. Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The Schools

The Bloomfield School District serves about 6,300 students in 11 schools: one early-childhood center serving children in prekindergarten and kindergarten; eight elementary schools serving prekindergarten or kindergarten through sixth grade; one middle school serving seventh and eighth grades; and Bloomfield High School, serving ninth through 12th grades.

In the 2019-20 school year, the average SAT scores for Bloomfield High School students were 499 in math and499 in reading and writing, compared with state averages of 536 in each. The student population is about 42 percent Hispanic, 26 percent white, 23 percent Black and 7 percent Asian.

Private school options in the area include the Montclair Kimberley Academy, for students in 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.

Oakeside Mansion was built in 1895 for the Oakes family, which owned a wool mill in Bloomfield from 1830 to the mid-1940s. The house was donated to the township in 1980 and is now a cultural center.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The Commute

Bloomfield is on New Jersey Transit’s Montclair-Boonton line, and trains stop at two stations in the township, Bloomfield Station and Watsessing Avenue Station. From either, the trip to Penn Station in Manhattan takes just over a half-hour and costs $6.75 one way or $184 monthly.

The train is “a huge draw for New Yorkers,” said Roy Castro, of Living New Jersey Realty, in nearby Lyndhurst. Some even find that their commutes improve, Mr. Castro said, citing one client who recently shortened his commute to Manhattan by moving to Bloomfield from Brooklyn.

Depending on traffic, New Jersey Transit buses can take 45 to 60 minutes (or longer) to reach the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown; the one-way fare from the Allwood Road park-and-ride station, just over the border in Clifton, is $6, or $167 a 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.

Van Fossan Theater, at Bloomfield College, is a 300-seat venue in a former church.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The History

The Morris Canal, a 19th-century engineering marvel, ran through Bloomfield on its way to Jersey City and the Hudson River. The canal allowed for the transport of coal from Pennsylvania and iron ore from northwestern New Jersey, but ultimately it could not compete with the railroads, and was shut down in the early 20th century. In Bloomfield, parts of the Garden State Parkway and John F. Kennedy Drive were built on the bed of the old canal, said Jean Kuras, the president of the township’s Historical Society. Bloomfield was also once an industrial powerhouse, home to factories that produced consumer goods for General Electric, Schering-Plough, Clark Thread and Charms Candy.

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