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Somerville, N.J.: A Walkable Suburban Alternative

Like the Perrettes, Kay Lavsi and her fiancé, Goran Stanic, were looking for a vibrant lifestyle — more active than the one they had in Branchburg, N.J., where they lived in a townhouse, but not as frenetic as Ms. Lavsi’s experiences living in New York City and Jersey City. In May, they bought a 1965 four-bedroom, center-hall colonial for $499,000, paying the full asking price after learning that there were already two offers when they attended an open house this spring.

“Anything that’s nice in town is going very fast,” said Ms. Lavsi, 33, the director of customer solutions for a pharmaceutical company, whose house has become a gathering spot for friends and family. “We’ve had friends over every weekend. They come to our house for drinks, then we walk into town for dinner. There are so many different places; people love it.”

Millennials are not the only ones attracted by Somerville’s active, walkable community. When Laura Estep, 55, a retired nurse, moved from Rochester, N.Y., to central New Jersey in early 2017, she and her husband, Craig Estep, rented an apartment in Somerset and often had dinner in nearby Somerville on the weekends. In January 2018, they bought a three-bedroom house in Somerville for $380,000.

“We were just meant to be here,” said Ms. Estep, who was charmed by their home’s cozy sunroom and extensive woodwork, as well as the wide age range of the neighbors, some of whom were in their 20s, with others having been there for more than 40 years.

“It’s very down-to-earth,” she said. “It just felt real.”

At just 2.3 square miles, Somerville offers a surprising variety of residential choices, commercial activity and community events. The residential neighborhoods include a mix of housing, from large, colorfully painted Victorian homes to small bungalows on tiny lots. Off the residential streets are numerous pocket parks and walking trails that wind through the borough.

CreditLaura Moss for The New York Times

In recent years, Somerville has seen a boom in luxury-apartment and commercial development, which started on the west end of Main Street and by the train station, and has expanded to include the east end of Main Street and neighborhoods south of Main Street.

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