One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
Technically, we're in Monroe Township, but the emphasis is on Williamstown, the center of this Gloucester County municipality.
"I'm glad you noticed," Ernest W. Carbone II, Williamstown's Main Street chairman, says as he and Council President Cody D. Miller provide a tour of one of the fastest-growing communities in New Jersey.
"It's the Monroe Township School District, but it is Williamstown High School," says Carbone, who has lived in the township for 28 years.
Williamstown, a census-designated place with more than 15,000 of the township's 36,862 residents, is the focus of a push to turn Main Street into a vibrant residential and commercial corridor similar to those in other former industrial communities.
"Most residents recognize that we are growing," says Miller, 25, a native whose family came from Sicily to farm. "They want more businesses to come here, so they don't have to drive out of town.
"We are one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the state," Miller says of Monroe Township, which is expected to add 5,000 residents in the next few years because "a lot of our 47 square miles remain undeveloped."
Adding businesses - 15 since the year began - will reduce the tax burden on homeowners, he says.
"One key of our campaign platform was to stabilize taxes by bringing in businesses and improving the infrastructure along Main Street," Miller says.
The township is aggressively "pro-business," he says, offering incentives such as tax abatements, redevelopment zones, payment in lieu of taxes, and workforce development. Its Economic Development Commission maintains a list of residential and commercial properties for sale.
Of Gloucester County's communities, only neighboring Washington Township (126) and Deptford (82) had more residential real estate transactions than Monroe (80) in the first quarter.
The median price in the quarter was $155,000, with an average of 94 days on the market.
Currently, there are 287 active listings, a large number of them newer houses.
Most of today's newcomers are young professionals or empty-nesters gravitating to communities such as the 400-unit Barclay Glen Apartments and over-55 developments such as J.S. Hovnanian's Stirling Glen next to the Scotland Run Golf Course, Miller and Carbone say.
Prices for newly built homes start in the mid-$200,000 range, according to real estate agents.
At the Justin Commons apartments on Glassboro Road, 20 percent of the units are designated as affordable, and the township ensures that this percentage will be incorporated into all new development.
Main Street has businesses and historic homes, but has suffered from a long-ago decision allowing many houses to be subdivided into apartments, Miller says, noting that they would be good sites for mixed-use replacements.
Under construction or being planned, Miller says, are single-family homes and townhouses, and commercial development is being encouraged near them, as well as along Main Street and Black Horse Pike (Route 322), which connect to each other.
Where they tie in is the Williamstown Shopping Center, where the building that once housed an Acme Market has been repurposed as a dollar store and a number of new businesses, including a trampoline park, are moving in.
Across the street, on 22 acres, is the location of Williamstown Square, a mixed-use project awaiting approval.
Another target of mixed-use development is the intersection of Route 322 and Fries Mill Road, with parcels on each of the four corners, Carbone says.
There are still a number of farms here, and winemaking is on the rise.
Autumn Lake Winery on West Malaga Road is awaiting approval of a 5,000-square-foot tasting room and has produced 1,000 bottles so far, says Brendan Boyle, co-owner with Mark Hernandez.
One microbrewery has been approved for Main Street, and another is waiting in the wings, Carbone says.
Shahed Alam opened Monalisia, his Italian restaurant on Corkery Lane, in 2015, but success, he says, has proved a problem:
"Not enough parking."
Monroe Township By the Numbers
Population: 36,862 (2015)
Median household income: $70,601 (2015)
Area: 47 square miles
Settlements in the first quarter: 80
Homes for sale: 287
Average days on market: 94
Median sale price: $155,000
Housing stock: 11,069 units, older homes, rental apartments, over-55
School district: Monroe Township Public Schools
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; Berkshire Hathaway Home Service Fox & Roach Realtors