Somerville NJ | The Somerville Real Estate Construction Boom

Somerville NJ | The Somerville Real Estate Construction Boom

Article by Michael Mizov @mikemizov
Photos and Video by Erik Renninger @erikrenninger

If you were to tell someone in 2008 that Somerville would be the hottest location in Somerset County, they’d think you were nuts, but in the past decade the town has entered a golden period, or better yet, a foodie nirvana. People are out walking, eating, shopping, and attending the dozens of events through the year. So much has changed, so many new buildings, the idea of more and more apartments on top of what has already come is a bit much to wrap one’s head around. Will Somerville maintain its identity? Can the town accommodate an influx of people? Is anyone going to be able to find parking? The answers to that are yes, yes, and hopefully.

Growing up nearby, Somerville was known for exactly two things: old houses and McDonald’s. Its forgotten downtown was circumvented by the highways that surround it and Main Street was shuttered, its lifeblood sucked dry by the gargantuan Bridgewater Commons that opened in 1988. The only store I ever went to growing up was Comic Fortress if I could beg my parents for a ride.

Even so, the recent announcement of a proposed steakhouse and food hall on the corner of Bridge and Main Street has garnered a lot of attention, with cries of “more apartments?” permeating the comments section everywhere I saw it posted. With the sounds of construction echoing through downtown for the past decade the inevitable question always pops up: what exactly is going on around here?

This boom started back in 2009 with the destruction of the Soviet-bloc inspired shopping center that dominated Main Street. Downtown Somerville’s erosion began with the construction of the Bridgewater Commons Mall as Americans left downtowns and flocked to malls. Over the years, stores left the structure and replacements were few and far between, the draw of downtown mostly a quick bite to eat when on jury duty. Time marches on and trends change, and as people became less invested in malls, they became more interested in downtowns, citing walk-ability, fresh air, and the mom & pop shop ideal.

In the summer of 2010 the first major downtown project was approved, The Edge at Main, a new apartment building in the middle of downtown, with space for retail and restaurants below 108 apartments and a new Shoprite, to replace the defunct Pathmark. By 2014 construction was complete, with a Starbucks at one end, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at the other, and Shoprite bustling at all hours. Further east on Main Street, a temporary closure of Division Street making it pedestrian only for a time lead to a public consultation that closed it to cars for good, and causing store occupancy to go from 50% to fully leased in a matter of months, with places such as Division Café, Blue Sheep Bake ShopRetro Classics, Beneath it All, and eventually Cheech’s Own opening.

Veteran’s Memorial Drive was transformed, with abandoned commercial properties making way for The Cobalt Apartments housing 117 units. A sliver of property on Doughty was transformed into 18 apartments called Six North . The old site of Somerville Aluminum across from the courthouse was razed to make way for the 14 apartment Somerville Commons which is now home to Salted Lime and Turf, Surf, & Earth ). The last project to be completed was the 69-unit Soma, on South Bridge Street, a short walk from the train station.

As buildings were going up, Somerville was becoming a destination, a veritable foodie paradise, and as a result downtown was growing and thriving. Existing buildings got face-lifts, new restaurants such as KymaMike’s Courtside Kitchen (formerly Hansel & Griddle), and Seoulville opened. Martino’s closed, rebranded, and reopened as De Martino. There are now more things to do up and down the street, with antique stores such as Gallery on Main and Living in the Past joining Elysium Antiques. Pinot’s Palette and Ultimate Xscape brought in some activities that you could easily walk to after a dinner out. The unique rotating brewery/restaurant hybrid Project P.U.B. opened by the owners of Tapastre made Somerville a beer destination, with Village Brewing Company cementing that status this year, and now Somerville even has dueling Oktoberfests where everyone wins with two consecutive weekends of craft beer and Bavarian pretzels.

That brings us to today. These completed projects have added 326 apartments to town and by their own admission they’re all fully occupied (I checked; I didn’t find any availability). Somerville has become a very hot destination, with beautification projects supported by Arts on Division such as the Raymond Brown Mural at Redelico's Paint  and the Jerome Gonzalez Tribute Memorial that went up in September. People are out not just at Friday Night Cruisers but most nights of the week. Verve was voted the best bar in NJ  and to top it all off, even the New York Times chimed in, calling Somerville “A Walkable Suburban Alternative” .

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Stars and Promises to Somerville, New Jersey

Stars and Promises to Somerville, New Jersey

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Peter Mayer of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band and the Peter Mayer Group will bring the 20th anniversary of his widely acclaimed Christmas tour, “Stars and Promises,” to Somerville, New Jersey on Friday, December 20, 2019 at 7:30 P.M. The concert will take place at United Reformed Church, 100 West Main Street in Somerville, New Jersey. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

The Somerville High School Chamber Choir will also perform.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Somerville Educational Foundation that supports creative & innovative teaching and learning programs by funding grants presented by faculty & students of Somerville, New Jersey Public Schools.

Tickets are $35 each and are available at http://www.tickets.com/events/436198. Information on the “Echoes of The Seasons, A 20th Anniversary Celebration” is available online at www.petermayer.com.

Mayer has released 14 albums under his own name including four Christmas releases: “Stars And Promises,” “Stars and Promises Live,” “Echoes of The Season” and the most recent “A Junkman’s Christmas,” which is accompanied by the artist’s first published book.

“Echoes of the Seasons - A 20th Anniversary Celebration” features a world-class seven-piece band, including violin, woodwinds, pipes, keyboard, guitar, bass and percussion. All of these instruments will highlight 20 years of melodies that have made the annual tour a holiday staple for family and friends around the country. This unique yuletide celebration both reflects on the years gone by and revels in the holiday spirit and the New Year to come, inspiring fans to call this tour, “A Christmas show like no other”.

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Somerville NJ Fitness

Somerville NJ Fitness

| A New You for 2020: A Somerville Guide to Wellness |

Somerville NJ Fitness Guide 

Article by Michael Mizov @mikemizov
Photos and Video by Erik Renninger @erikrenninger

Somerville has a lot going for it, from restaurants and stores to town events, there’s always somewhere to go and something to do. Even so, after you’ve eaten everywhere and gone through your holiday feasts it’s soon time to pick up the pieces and move into a new year. A fresh start. And like 60% of people, that new year means New Year’s Resolutions… and usually a new exercise routine. Luckily, Somerville has a lot of options to help you become who you want to be.

Somerville Challenge 5k Somerville NJ

The New York Times called Somerville ‘a walkable suburban alternative’ and I wholeheartedly agree. January may not exactly be the best time for it but a stroll downtown, from the Library at one end to McCormick’s Pub at the other (and back) will get you a little over a mile on your fitness tracker. If you’re looking for something a little more rigorous, the Peter’s Brook Greenway is a full 7.1 miles from end to end. The Greenway will take you through the town’s several parks along paved and dirt paths and outside of the center sections isn’t too heavily trafficked.

Being January and all, maybe outside activities aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, and that’s where you must evaluate what you want to do and how often you want to do it. For a general fitness approach that can be used by the whole family, there’s the Somerville YMCA at Green St which runs $98/month but covers immediate family living at the same address in that price. With exercise classes, a pool, programs for kids and adults, this is the most comprehensive package you can get if everyone at home wants to get in on the action.

Now, if you’re looking to get serious and specific about your fitness goals there are several places to choose from. For the personal approach, there’s Bodhi by Anthony Monetti who are the body transformations specialists. Start off the year with The Ultimate 30 Day Beginner’s Guide to Fitness to get you up to speed, and then transition into options such as the 12 Week Complete Body Transformation Program, Yoga (at Bodhi Breathe around the corner from their main location), nutrition planning, or Group Fitness Classes. There are options depending on how intense you plan to be. 

Bodhi by Anthony Monetti Somerville NJ

At the other end of town is Tatyana’s Fitness which boasts their own 42 Day Transformation Challenge, meal and nutrition planning, spin class, high intensity interval training, weight lifting, and more through their plans and membership packages. There’s also Strength & Honor Fitness on East Main, a boutique style gym that has small group training emphasizing full body movement. They also have courses designed especially for student athletes looking to take their game to the next level.

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Somerville for the Holidays

Somerville for the Holidays

Article by Michael Mizov @mikemizov
Photos and Video by Erik Renninger @erikrenninger

There’s nothing like celebrating the holidays in a small town, and Somerville is no exception. From the decorations in store windows to the seasonal flair on all the streetlights, the holiday season is alive with lights, activities, and a ton of events. Seriously, you’re going to be busy.

For those of you that want to feel like you’re literally running around for the holidays the 4th annual Somerville 5k Turkey Trot kicks off the holiday weekend of activities starting 9AM on Thanksgiving Day.  After you’ve counteracted all that running with your Thanksgiving dinner, and you’ve braved the masses for Black Friday shopping, Somerville comes to life with its first event of the Christmas season, Small Business Saturday and the Holiday Jubilee on November 30th.

All through the day stores downtown will be running deals and giveaways, so be sure to do the full Main Street loop. After a full day of retail therapy, the Holiday Jubilee starts at 5pm on Division Street. Make your way over and claim a spot with a nice view for the tree lighting ceremony, as performed by Santa himself. There will be musical acts through the evening, ice carvings, carolers, Disney’s Frozen characters, carriage rides starting at the Giardina Walkway (between Kumo and 75 West Salon), photos with Santa and a performance by the Jersey Harmony Chorus at the United Reformed Church, and best of all, 4 free hot chocolate stations! A new addition this year will be six igloos on Division Street that, provided they meet with Borough approval, will be up by the 30th.. They will provide a small respite from the icy chill in the air where you can take as seat, enjoy the festivities, and drink your hot chocolate.

Small Business Saturday then gives way to Sustainable Sunday, wherein all the antique and consignment stores will be offering special deals on that special something for someone that appreciates a vintage present. A full loop of all the stores will include Revive, Good As New, Back Home Again, Gallery on Main, Elysium Antiques, Thrifts & Gifts, New Start Consignments, Incogneeto Vintage, and Living in the Past. Start from one end of town and work your way around as these stores are peppered from one end to the other with a lot to see.

 

After doing half a dozen loops through town over the long weekend, take a few days to yourself and then prepare to come out again on December 7th and 8th for the Arts on Division Holiday Art Show, running both days from Noon-6pm. With over fifteen artists participating there will be jewelry, ornaments, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, and a lot of other unique and fun potential gifts to view. Even though it’s called Arts of Division this event will actually be held at 190 West Main St, the site of the former Melting Pot restaurant. Potential for melted cheese at this event? Moderate.  

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Halloween Events in Somerville New Jersey | How Haunted is Somerville New Jersey?

Halloween Events in Somerville New Jersey | How Haunted is Somerville New Jersey?

Article by Michael Mizov @mikemizov
Photos and Video by Erik Renninger @erikrenninger


Somerville has been around a long time, originally settled in 1683, home to the Middlebrook Revolutionary War encampment of 1778-79, The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage site, and the historic Hotel Somerset, built in 1748 and presently the oldest continuous hotel in the country. That’s a lot of history – so is anything really haunted?

There have been many accounts that the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage just might be. There have been screams and banging heard and objects moved around during the night. Some have even said that they’ve felt a tug on their clothing, or a tap on their shoulder when no one was near them. Washington and his officers spent a little time there, perhaps the ghosts of the war linger still.

 

As for the Hotel Somerset, there have been several deaths and even a suicide over its tenure, and it seems some of them might be restless. During the 1926 Hall-Mills murder trial the hotel was at capacity, with media from around the country swarming the courthouse daily to watch the trial unfold. A jilted wife and her brothers stood accused of murdering her husband, an Episcopal priest, and his mistress, a member of the church choir. The jury saw they had the motive and means but were ultimately found not guilty due to lack of evidence.

Back in 2014 Paranormal Diagnostics came out to figure out exactly what was going on at Hotel Somerset, after patrons complained of hearing footsteps where no one was, hearing voices calling out for help, and a couple cases, being tickled in their sleep. Unfortunately, the story ends there, with the site for Paranormal Diagnostics being taken down shortly after, maybe the ghosts finally caught up to them.

Spookiness aside, with its tree-lined streets and dozens of stately Victorians though town, Somerville is a hotspot in the area for Halloween activities for people of all ages. Get your costumes ready now because the events start as early as October 25th and will take you all the way through the 31st.

Halloween Events in Somerville New Jersey

Friday, October 25th:

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