From the NY Times:
Hackensack, N.J., could not have been farther off the radar screen when Bibi Masara and her two teenagers began looking to move from the Bronx. Ms. Masara, 41, who works for a venture capital firm in Midtown Manhattan, wanted a slower pace and initially considered Westchester County. But her research into home prices pointed her to New Jersey.
Last spring she closed on a three-bedroom, two-bath colonial near a nature preserve in the leafy Fairmount section of Hackensack. “For what I paid, $399,000, you couldn’t get a house in Westchester,” Ms. Masara said. Her new address is a mile from the shopping she prizes — the Whole Foods Market in Paramus. She and her daughters, who attend school in Manhattan, have a reasonable 15-mile, 45-minute bus ride to the Port Authority terminal.
What’s more, “there’s a sense of community here,” Ms. Masara said. “My neighbor next door takes in my recycling bins in the morning because she knows I’m a working girl with two kids. Everyone looks out for everyone. My older daughter even has been asked to babysit.”
Immortalized in an unflattering Billy Joel lyric — “Who needs a house out in Hackensack? Is that all you get for your money?” — the Bergen County seat is an ethnically diverse city of 45,000, suburban in feel but with an urban center hugging the Hackensack River. For decades, Hackensack’s Main Street was the county’s commercial hub and even boasted a pair of ornate movie theaters. The advent of shopping malls in Paramus touched off a long decline that the city is now addressing in earnest.
Six years after a zoning change permitted residential construction in a swath of downtown deemed in need of rehabilitation, about 10 rental apartment projects are in varying stages of construction or planning. One, Meridia Metro, with 222 units, was completed in 2016. The Current on River, with 254 units, is going up on the site of a former tennis club. An art deco, 10-story bank tower and an adjacent building are being converted into 119 luxury apartments.
The projects include fitness centers, rooftop decks and other amenities sought by young professionals, and those fronting Main Street will have ground-floor retail. The hope is that new businesses will follow apartment dwellers downtown, creating a pedestrian-friendly core, burnishing the city’s cachet and bolstering property values.
“We don’t want it to be just a shopping area with a bunch of Starbucks,” said Jerome J. Lombardo, chairman of the Hackensack Main Street Business Alliance, the public-private partnership championing the redevelopment. “We want to keep our local flavor. But we want lots and lots of eateries, maybe even a brew pub or an active brewery.”