Rutherford, New Jersey: A Small Village With A Big Downtown
Article Republished From https://www.forbes.com/sites/keithflamer/2019/10/29/rutherford-new-jersey-a-small-village-with-a-big-downtown
Had Norman Rockwell visited Rutherford, New Jersey during his lifetime, he would’ve painted the town–its corner post office, churches, World War memorials, an offbeat castle, Little League games, Girls and Boy Scouts, and other quaint Americana symbols. Today, this town is turning the page on 20th century quaint (even as it clutches dearly to its sentimental past). It’s easy to feel sentimental about Rutherford.
Tree-lined Park Avenue is Rutherford’s backbone, the spine that keeps the small enclave robust, perfectly postured for the 2020s. It’s home to the historic Williams Center, a former vaudevillian theater and current performing arts center and cinema named for Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, physician and former resident William Carlos Williams.
The borough’s mile-long lamp post strip is dotted on both sides with parking meters, eclectic bistros, gourmet cafés, salons, wine shops, music conservatories, banks, and content citizens enjoying close proximity to job-rich New York City (just eight clicks away on the panoramic horizon).
Park Avenue culminates at a downtown circle where New Jersey Transit buses whiz by every 20 minutes and the renovated train station is grandly central—30-minute commute to New York’s Penn Station and 15 minutes to Hoboken’s PATH train. Rutherford is one of the closest true suburbs to Manhattan, where spring cherry blossoms bloom freely and autumn leaves erratically pave sidewalks like an abstract Jackson Pollock painting. Scraping rakes and buzzing leaf blowers are virtual soundtracks every October.
Now “The Borough of Trees” is blessed with a new four-story residential apartment building aptly named The Parker, a luxury boutique rental whose modern façade reminds of reinvented Hoboken, Tribeca or downtown Los Angeles.
Built by Vango Development and designed by The Childs Dreyfus Group (CDG), the building offers 52 contemporary units—10 studios ($1,700s), 33 one-bedrooms ($2,300s), and nine two-bedroom units ($3,000s). Just six weeks on the market, The Parker is already 75% leased.
Spacious apartments boast high ceilings, oversized windows, in-home washer-dryers, custom closets, and gourmet kitchens with stainless steel appliances and quartz countertops. The Parker also includes a modern lobby, gym, and a resident lounge (with shuffleboard, pool table and big screen TV)–no amenity fees.
The pet-friendly property occupies a former dormant space the width of a city block, with a main Park Avenue entrance, back exit private parking garage, bike storage, and future health-fitness street-level retail (likely a juice bar, coffee shop, yoga studio). Phase 2 of The Parker begins in 2020.
“Rutherford was already known for its great restaurants, shops, farmers markets, parks and community events,” says Van Golemis, CEO of Vango Development. “I believe The Parker provides a fresh and urban-inspired lifestyle choice for residents who recognize Rutherford’s appeal as a residential destination.”
Rutherford was originally a panoramic ridge settled by Lenape Native Americans. Today, countless Victorian homes beautify this still visible ridge called Ridge Road (the town’s second largest residential artery), where the most expensive estates reside. Established in 1881, the town was named for U.S. Senator John Rutherfurd (also a surveyor who helped map Manhattan’s street grid). Within nine years, the First Presbyterian Church (circa 1890) was erected and remains a town landmark.
Then there are all those Victorians, Cape Cods, Tudors, colonials, ranches, and yes, a even few castles which give the town its unique character. Median home prices hover around $550,000 for three to four bedroom houses, with average taxes around $12,500, according to Adrian Tridel, CEO of Adrian Edwards Real Estate.
Modernizing beyond its former 1950s grandma and grandpa reputation, the walkable village ditched its niche cowboy store, butcher shop, and appliance store (Amazon strikes again) in favor of new millennium bricked sidewalks, coordinated storefronts and family-friendly events in Lincoln Park–concerts, car shows and multicultural festivals, honoring Rutherford’s slowly diversifying population. Still Montclair and Ridgewood, New Jersey’s little sister, she’s aiming high and rising taxes reflect her aspirations.
Young families are flocking to Rutherford for its eclectic mix of dining, shopping, festivals, kid-friendly parks, trails (nature and biking), and good schools– public, private and Felician University, whose campus is home to Iviswold Castle, a turreted 1869 historic chateau by architect William Henry Miller.
The Yearance-Berry House (now the Meadowlands Museum) is a 19th century stone house listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another local curiosity is the Ridge Road home of Victor Victori, a sculptor who (to the chagrin of some neighbors) expresses himself via large golden god art statues on his lawn (one with a time capsule in it).
William Carlos Williams’ house on Ridge Road is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and his descendants are still Rutherford residents. Good Morning America’s and Fox NFL Sunday’s Michael Strahan once called Park Avenue home when the Hall of Famer played football for the New York Giants. Word is the Thumann’s deli meat family and a member of the Kennedy clan once lived here too.
Nestled between major highways and the Passaic River (where crew clubs compete), Rutherford sits two miles from Met Life Stadium–where the Giants, Jets and Jersey native Bruce Springsteen play, and the new American Dream entertainment complex.
American Dream is a $5 billion, 3 million-square-foot behemoth with a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, Sea Life Aquarium, Legoland, DreamWorks waterpark, rollercoaster, skating rink, Big Snow ski and snowboard slope, and upscale retailers Hermès, Dolce & Gabbana and Tiffany & Co. Locals are already planning their backroad escapes from this potential traffic nightmare.
Rutherford itself is renowned for its chic cafés and upscale restaurants—notably Paisano’s (Italian), Café Matisse (French), Mambo Tea House (Cuban), and Elia’s (authentic Greek), a nearby East Rutherford favorite. Park Avenue’s other worldly cuisine includes Italian, American, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Thai–even kebob and empanada eateries.
Rutherford also has smoothie and donut shops; multiple Italian markets; a Forest Dairy deli; Playa Bowls; Walgreens; a Wednesday farmer’s market; and three distinct wine stores (Rutherford Wine Shoppe, Mason’s Cellar and the future Village Wines).
Rutherford’s flavor extends beyond the palette. There’s a guitar shop, a costume store, a friendly hip hop barber shop, and an art gallery whose cellar houses an old police station jail cell.
A dry town (restaurants are BYO), those looking to catch the World Series, football or hockey over a few beers can merely trek five minutes across the train tracks to East Rutherford’s popular joint Blarney Station.
Rutherford has always been nice. Norman Rockwell wouldn’t understand why a town like this is moving on. But it is. It must. Rutherford has Park Avenue, The Parker and ballparks, but it can’t mortgage its future for a few quaint Rockwellian parking meters.