With the recent surge in luxury multi-unit development in Morristown, builders and real-estate agents are hoping prospective renters and buyers choose the Morris County seat as their next home.
Municipal boosters point to easy commutes, luxury amenities, a pedestrian-friendly layout and the variety and excitement of an urban lifestyle.
Morristown newcomers, lured by bright and shiny new developments like the all-rental Highlands at Morristown Station and the Metropolitan at 40 Park, cite the unique blend of suburban charm and urban convenience that had once been the exclusive realm of New York City suburbs like Jersey City and Hoboken. There is a collective sense that the burgeoning scene is a refuge for young professionals who appreciate having the best of both worlds.
Allison Lyon may be the poster child for this demographic group. After serving tours of duty in both Hoboken (two years) and Jersey City (five years), she began to feel restless as her lease came up for renewal earlier this year.
A single, 29-year-old non-profit executive, Lyon felt she had "outgrown the scene in my old neighborhood, where most people seem to be in their early 20s."
She was looking for a change of scenery, but was afraid to move too far afield.
Each Wednesday, as she'd drive through the Green on her way to a class in Morristown. She said she'd think, "What a cute town!" She made special note of the new residences near the train station. Curiosity got the better of her, and after stopping in on a whim for a tour of the building, she left with a lease in hand. Generous rent and parking concessions, as well as the rooftop pool and proximity to the train platform sealed the deal, Lyon said.
This spring, she left her Jersey City high-rise and moved into a one-bedroom at the Highlands at Morristown Station.
Choosing Morristown seemed exotic, at first, Lyon said.
"Many of my friends were still living in the city, and I thought only families lived out in the 'burbs." But like many so-called "New Urbanites," Lyon said she has discovered Morristown to be a "nice mix of city and suburbs … a town with more community than places like Hoboken or Jersey City. I love being near a lot of restaurants, bars and stores, while also feeling like I have space and the ability to just drive five minutes to take my dog to a great park."
Lou Longhi, another Morristown newcomer, echoed this "best of both worlds" idea. Longhi, 43, a director of sales at SunGard Financial, commutes to his New York City office on the Midtown Direct line. Earlier this summer, he and his girlfriend, Tamee Sherman, became two of the first-wave of tenants in the new The Metropolitan at 40 Park.
As a licensed commercial pilot and freelance flight instructor, Longhi said he's happy with his decision to land in Morristown, and has already begun to spread his wings in town by taking a membership in The Community Theatre. Longhi said he recommends Morristown to friends looking to move, and emphasizes its central location and the excitement of the downtown redevelopment.
When he moved from Chester earlier this summer, Longhi recalled, "I did consider Hoboken and Jersey City, but ended up in Morristown because I enjoy the activities inland in Jersey, and now I'm centrally located for that. For example, I own and fly my own plane out of Blairstown Airport. I also enjoy skiing and the Jersey Shore."
A season ticket holder for both the New York Jets and New Jersey Devils, Longhi said he was eager to learn the ins and outs of the Morristown-Meadowlands and Morristown-Newark commutes during the upcoming seasons.
Once Longhi settled on Morristown, he toured The Metropolitan and fell for the location, floor plan and high-end finishes.
"I like being on the Green and walking to the shops and restaurants," he said.
Both Lyon's and Longhi's stories touch on several distinctions that position Morristown to lure transplants from Hudson County.
The Commute: For many, it's a personal albatross. But The Midtown Direct from Morristown delivers commuters to Manhattan in an hour.
The Scene: The New York Times cited last year the "smart growth" downtown redevelopment of Morristown, which has seen mixed-use building wed ground floor restaurants and retail with residential units above. New establishments, coupled with the existing network of established bars, boutiques and theaters, deliver culture and nightlife in walking distance of home, according to the article.
The Bells and Whistles: These new rental units, as well as the 76-unit luxury condos at 40 Park, boast amenities to rival those of their high-rise neighbors to the Northeast. Club rooms, fitness centers, game rooms, pool and rooftop decks feature prominently.
The Future: For some newcomers, part of the appeal comes from a sense of trailblazing, a notion they're part of a wave that is revitalizing one of New Jersey's most historic and happening downtowns. Lyon is one of them. "I like that you can live in Morristown as a single, young professional in a brand new apartment and then also raise a family in a beautiful home in the same town. I am truly enjoying living in Morristown, and wouldn't be surprised if I stayed here for a very long time."