Denville, NJ: Living by the lake with an eclectic downtown


Newcomers to Denville, NJ, which sits midway between Times Square and the Delaware Water Gap, are likely to acquire something associated with the latter.

“We bought a canoe,” said Jessica Lemmon, resident since 2018. “At first my husband wanted a motor boat, but we decided that a canoe” – plus kayaks for the couple’s two daughters – “ would be a good start. “

Watercraft are useful in this township of Morris County, where a third of households reside in one of the four lake communities developed a century ago as summer settlements. Previously, Jersey City townhouse dwellers Ms. Lemmon, 41, who works in software sales, and Alan Lemmon, 41, an electrician, bought Indian Lake, the largest and most socially active communities on the lake, with 1,200 houses and the only one allowing motorboats.

The couple discovered Denville while looking west, looking for a suburban house with a yard. Their new address – a four-bedroom colonial built like a bungalow in 1930 – is a few blocks from the shore and costs $ 475,000. Available to the family are three beaches, a boat and a clubhouse that serves as a venue for luaus, parties and yoga classes.

“Fifteen years in Jersey City we had never done water sports,” Ms. Lemmon said. Besides the opportunity to be entertained, she enjoys the “strong sense of neighborhood” in a township where lake residents – children and adults – participate in swimming, softball, volleyball and even horseshoes.

“In Jersey City, it was rare to see someone you knew in a restaurant or grocery store,” she says. “But here you still meet a familiar face.”

Despite hiking trails, a dozen waterways and rugged terrain, Denville is not a backwater. The township, with 16,500 residents spread over 12 square miles, is on two New Jersey Transit rail lines and has a regional hospital. Interstate 80 and US Route 46, both covering northern New Jersey, crisscross near a well-maintained downtown area with nearly 200 businesses.

Tired of the pandemic, Alana Jermanok, 47, assistant principal of a college in Manhattan, and Brian Jermanok, 50, property manager, came to Denville specifically to live by the water. “Growing up, my family had a summer home in the Hamptons, and I have very positive memories of leaving the city environment,” Ms. Jermanok said. “We wanted to offer this experience to our son,” who is 5 years old.

Deciding that the lakefront property elsewhere was too remote and too expensive, the Jermanoks paid $ 750,000 for a custom-built, four-bedroom cedar-shingled home on Cedar Lake, which is surrounded by woodland and was once used for ice harvesting.

For now, they are keeping their Hoboken condo and using the Denville house on weekends, and will be spending summers there. When their son is older, they can move permanently to Denville, which has a well-regarded school system.

Although living by a lake often means ‘being in the middle of nowhere’ and without distractions, Ms. Jermanok said, this is not the case in Denville, as the central business district is two miles away. of the. “It’s almost like a seaside resort, even if it isn’t,” she said. “The stores are really cute. Everything in the city is comfortable. Even the way people interact is nice – they walk past you and greet you. “

Denville is shaped like an arrowhead pointing south, with the lakes, downtown, and the train station in the northern half. It is bordered by the township of Boonton to the north, Mountain and Parsippany lakes to the east, and the township and borough of Randolph and Rockaway to the west.

Because many of the homes near the lakes – Rock Ridge and Arrowhead, in addition to bungalows and vacation cabins – are originally bungalows and vacation cabins, they tend to be modest in size and much of a fifth of an acre are typical. But south and beyond Route 10, where an upscale mall is home to national fashion retailers and Trader Joe’s, Denville shows a different face. Here, in an area developed over the past 45 years or so, farmland has given way to the classic suburban array of grand colonial houses and the occasional McMansion, on manicured grounds of half an acre or more.

In central New Jersey’s wealthiest county, Denville has a median household income of $ 125,655 – $ 10,000 above the county median, but significantly lower than in Madison, Chathams, and neighboring mountain lakes. , according to the 2019 American Community Survey.

“Denville is becoming the choice of many homebuyers who can’t afford Madison and Chatham but still want a city with a train station and a nice downtown area,” said Mary K. Sheeran, owner of Sheeran Real Estate Group in Denville, part of Keller Williams Metropolitan. About 40% of homebuyers come from New York and densely populated areas of New Jersey, Ms. Sheeran said, and empty nesters are part of the mix: “They see living on a lake as a way to entertain grandchildren. . “

From May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, 297 single-family homes sold in Denville, at a median price of $ 460,000, according to the Garden State Multiple Listing Service. In the same period a year earlier, before the pandemic increased demand for suburban real estate, 252 homes sold for a median price of $ 412,000.

Denville’s average residential property tax bill in 2020 was $ 10,200, $ 670 lower than the Morris County average. Owners of lake communities pay less than $ 1,000 in annual fees.

On May 19, the listing service showed 27 properties on the market, mostly single-family homes, ranging from $ 185,000 for a one-bedroom condominium to $ 1.899 million for an 11-acre working farm. Approaching the township median of $ 435,000 was a 1930 three-bedroom, two-bathroom colonial settlement on Warren Trail in the community of Indian Lake, with property taxes of $ 7,927.

“As our downtown area evolves, so do our property values,” said Thomas Andes, Mayor of Denville. “Our goal is to keep it charming and quaint.”

Adorned with flower baskets placed by a beautification committee, the downtown area – seemingly unaffected by the pandemic or the presence of the county’s largest shopping center five miles away – is anchored by an extra-large Broadway with corner parking. The thoroughfare is the site of events throughout the year, including street festivals, a classic car show, and a Thanksgiving parade.

Shopping is eclectic, including swimwear and communion dresses; olive oils and day spa services; sneakers and CBD products. A variety store / smokehouse offers candy, picture postcards and a huge tobacco inventory. Across the street, a former cinema is now a chocolatier.

Dining options range from Irish pub to sushi, Puerto Rican to Indian cuisine – and dessert typically means ice cream at the venerable Denville Dairy, which has over 100 flavors.

In a township with a local shopping tradition, “there aren’t many places you can walk in without knowing who owns the joint,” said Meg Olenowski, a longtime resident and owner of Sisters, the ‘one of half a dozen. clothing shops in the city center.

Denville’s public schools – two elementary schools and a middle school for students in grades six to eight – are 74% white, 12% Hispanic, 8% Asian and 2.5% black.

Morris Knolls Regional High School on Knoll Drive has 1,400 students. Average SAT scores in 2019-20 were 574 in reading and writing and 567 in math, compared to statewide averages of 536 in both subjects. At Morris County School of Technology, a public magnet high school on East Main Street, students scored 644 in reading and writing and 631 in math.

Other options in the township include Morris Catholic Co-ed High School and Celebrate the Children, a private school for students with autism and special needs.

From Denville Station, commuters on the New Jersey Transit Morris and Essex Line can reach Penn Station in Manhattan in 70 to 80 minutes without changing trains. The trip costs $ 15 one way or $ 436 per month.

Lakeland Bus Lines serves the Port Authority terminal, an approximate one hour journey. The fare is $ 12.25 one way or $ 104.60 for 10 trips.

The Ironworks along the Rockaway River and Den Brook put Denville on the map. Den refers to either Daniel Denton, a 17th-century Englishman who explored the interior of northern New Jersey, or the “lair” of wild animals found near waterways.

By the time the township was incorporated in 1913, the iron was a distant memory and developers were touting Denville as a getaway. Among the wealthy New Yorkers who vacationed in the area was Babe Ruth, who had a place on Cedar Lake.

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