Montclair 101

You’ve heard great things about Montclair, maybe you’ve even had a friend or two move into the area but you just don’t feel like you know enough to really consider it yet?

Well, Town Hopper Tours recently spoke with Roberta Baldwin, partner at Keller Williams NJ Metro Group/Montclair, NJ and principal of The Baldwin Dream Team. Roberta, a New York City dweller turned long-time resident of Montclair, has been featured on two seasons on the HGTV hit show Bought & Sold, as well as "Super Realtor" on ABC's Nightline. Roberta, a true expert, gave us a crash course.

“Regarding Montclair, it's important to stress that the township has two zip codes - 07042 (Montclair) and 07043 (Upper Montclair), but it's one town, one municipal government, one public school system, one way of life, so to speak,” she says. Adding that “Upper” Montclair doesn’t necessarily mean better, it just means it is on one side of Watchung Avenue and not the other.

Roberta (who is also a published author) has such an in-depth knowledge, we asked her to put pen to paper, and here’s what we got:

Upper Montclair, at its core, offers beautiful homes long the “wood” streets – Oakwood, Inwood, Fernwood – that are adjacent to Upper Montclair Village shops and eateries. Traveling North toward Rt. 3, there are other very pretty streets, including (but not limited to) Marion, Elston, and Macopin. Upper Park Street, running perpendicular to those streets, has become especially high end, as has the Fairway Section bordered by Watchung, Grove, Alexander and, on the Eastern side, abutting Bloomfield and the ShopRite there.

Many of the homes in this neighborhood were built in the 1960 and 1970s and feature ranches, bi-level, and split homes; architecture that’s different from the rest of Montclair. Many of these homes are now being turned into expanded luxury homes upward of the $2-million range. The streets here include Heller Dr. and Heller Way, Club Rd, and Yantacaw Brook. On the Southern edge of that neighborhood are its older homes - handsome Tudors and stone-fronted colonials that share a beautiful lake in the private Yantacaw Brook Park. Also at that Eastern edge this neighborhood, is Brookdale Park, with a beautiful playground, rose garden, public tennis courts, walking paths, and public parking.

Upper Montclair to the West has a good stretch of Upper Mountain Ave. and its lineup of architecturally impressive homes that run all the way to Bloomfield Ave. downtown. Above Upper Mountain Ave is Highland Ave, which, has become a very popular destination, not just because of the views of the City, but because these homes lend themselves to expansion. Above Highland is Mills Reservation, protected land with walking paths. Just South of this neighborhood, bordering Grove St., are many blocks that dead-end into Brookdale Park.

The cluster of homes around Edgemont and Anderson Parks, one straddling each side of Watchung Ave., are sometimes collectively referred to as the Watchung section. The Watchung primary is off of Watchung Plaza; Edgemont School is located behind Edgemont Park.

Montclair proper, the 07042 side of town, is large and full of interesting homes, too, so buyers have to realize that the great thing about Montclair is that all four quadrants are rich in beautiful inventory and shopping, and there are multiple business districts - Montclair Center (downtown), Walnut (Woho) St (home of the farmer's market and great dining experiences); Watchung Plaza, with its cute shops and bagel and pizza options; and Upper Montclair Village.

The streets just East of Grove St, and South of Watchung Plaza, (Clairidge, Dodd, Glen Ridge Ave., Tuxedo, etc.), run the gamut in price, from the high $400,000s to near $1-million, depending on the block. Those blocks run into Glen Ridge's Ridgewood Ave. at the other end of their blocks. Grove St., itself, may be busy, but it affords newcomers one of the best options for "getting into town" at a reasonable price.

The South End Shopping Plaza is a one-block area with a pizza takeout, hardware store, liquor store, and-medical office, (and soon to be daycare), convenient to those living near Nishuane Park. The South End is in the midst of quite a bit of housing renovation right now.

Also worth noting, is another area in Montclair proper, affectionately called the "In Town" section. It’s just South of downtown shops, a very beautiful Georgetown-like area with big, old houses, pre-war condos, the public library main branch (now with a Montclair Bread Co. café inside), and tons of downtown boutiques and restaurants.

Just West of that area is Montclair's hidden gem of a neighborhood - the Estate Section, bordered by Harrison Ave., Bloomfield Ave., the Verona border on the West side, and West Orange on the South Side. Many of Montclair's most expensive homes are in this section, some with up to 2-3 acre properties and multiple amenities. Some of these homes on the mountain have superior views of New York City. Arguably, the showpiece streets in the Estate Section are South Mountain Avenue and Lloyd and Undercliff Roads, up above, adjacent to the Eagle Rock Reservation, with gorgeous homes perched atop the hill.

Montclair also has many side streets with more affordable homes, many of which are no more than 1.5 miles from the train. Many commuters walk 10 or 15 minutes to catch a train. There are six NJ Transit train stations (seven if you could the Montclair State University Station, which is technically in Little Falls). Note: only the Bay Street station operates on weekends.

Parking at the train station is by permit only, and there’s a large backup of applications, so don't presume you will be able to park. If you want to park sometime in the future, apply immediately upon moving in. The downtown Bay St Station does have a garage where there are day passes available but you will need to get there before 7 am to obtain a spot.

Other areas worth checking out include: Montclair Center, which is a mile of shops and restaurants, centered around Bloomfield Ave at the Church St-Fullerton intersections. The Art Museum and Whole Foods (and forthcoming Montclair Hotel at the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and Orange Rd) at one end; the other end is Lackawanna Plaza, now awaiting a total renovation.

Click here to view a street map of Montclair and check out the below video on Montclair:


Alphabetical list of resources in this blog post:

Baldwin Dream Team

Montclair Street Map

Roberta Baldwin

Transportation between NYC and Montclair