Ewing’s residential real estate market isn’t exactly red hot at the moment — despite an influx of employers — but that combination might just make it an appealing place for young couples. The township’s history, geography, and culture all combine to make it a nice spot for families in Mercer County, on par with nearby Hamilton and Lawrence as a family-friendly town. With home values currently at reasonable levels, young professionals might want to consider adding Ewing to their lists of towns to check out.
With only one 55-and-over development in the whole town, Ewing can’t compete against nearby towns when it comes to attracting retirees. Instead, it appeals to youthful professionals such as Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, who first moved to Ewing in 1991 to study at the College of New Jersey. She had spent much of her childhood moving from place to place as the daughter of a traveling minister father and music teacher mother. In Ewing, she found a welcoming community that allowed her to put down roots she didn’t have before. She likes it so much that she ran for council and was elected last year.
Today, Keyes-Maloney is a lawyer and works in Trenton as assistant director of government relations for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. She settled in Ewing with her husband in a home on Westmoreland Drive in the Glendale neighborhood. To Maloney, who came from Iowa, Ewing was the perfect place to settle, and was a nice happy medium between the high prices of North Jersey and the long drives of South Jersey.
“You can do you shopping without having to travel 40 minutes,” she says.
The growing number of corporations in Ewing offer good employment options. A Fortune 500 CEO may not choose to settle in Ewing Township — there are no million-dollar mansions — but the township might offer a home and short commutes to the average corporate employee.
Ewing Township is home to many large businesses and government agencies. The newest major addition to the business community is the global headquarters of Church & Dwight, the parent company of Arm & Hammer, which opened its headquarters in May at the Princeton South Corporate Center located just off I-95.
The Department of Transportation has its headquarters on Lower Ferry Road, with a large office building and sprawling warehouses where the agency makes traffic signs for the entire state. The State Police headquarters just along I-295 is a major employer, and state police officers crowd local eateries at lunchtime. An emergency management headquarters on the police campus serves as a command bunker during hurricanes and other disasters. Gov. Chris Christie used a briefing room there to speak to the public during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Educational Testing Service, the standardized test maker, has several offices in Ewing, as does FMC, the international chemical company that relocated there from Route 1 in Plainsboro.
Town boosters believe Ewing is on the verge of a major upswing, with the planned redevelopment of the former General Motors factory site on Parkway Avenue set to bring numerous and businesses and homes over the coming decades in a mixed-use development.
One reason the GM site is the source of so much excitement in Ewing is that it is one of the few undeveloped patches of land in the township, together with the former Naval Warfare laboratory across the street from it. The rest of the town was mostly developed by the time the 21st century rolled around.
Transportation is a big part of the allure of the township. I-95 runs east-west through the town. Route 29 cuts north-south along the Delaware River.
I-95 tends to suffer rush hour jams on the Scudder Falls Bridge, as commuters who live in Pennsylvania clog the roads. The traffic situation will be complicated for the next few years, as a new and bigger bridge is built to carry I-95 across the river.
For commuters to Philadelphia, the SEPTA station at West Trenton offers easy access to the city. Officials are planning to open a line to New York at some point in the future along with the transit village.
Ewing is also home to the recently revived Trenton-Mercer Airport, which is one of only three airports in the state offering scheduled commercial flights. Travelers can catch discount flights on Frontier Airlines to 10 cities around the country.
Geography. Ewing is on a flat stretch of land bordered by the Delaware River to the north and west, Trenton to the south and west, Hopewell to the north and Lawrence to the east.
Closest to Trenton are neighborhoods on the street grid. These homes were built as streetcar lines spread out from Trenton in the early 20th century, allowing workers to live in the suburbs and work in the city’s many factories. The bungalows, ranchers and Cape Cods here are among the most affordable homes in the township. Farther north, near Ewing High School, are more tracts of housing built for the town’s industrial heyday in the mid-20th century.
Real estate agent Joan George, a 31-year resident of the town who raised a family there, says those houses, with their affordability and proximity to employment centers, are highly appealing to young couples buying their first house.
“People move from one end of the township to the other,” she says. With a median house value of $251,700, “It’s very affordable for young people,” George says.
The “other” end of the township is on the Hopewell border. The four and five-bedroom homes in the Mountain View neighborhood are among the largest in the township. This end of Ewing resembles rural/suburban Hopewell far more than it does Trenton.
Ewing is defined by its close-knit neighborhoods. In a township as large as Ewing — it covers 15 and a half square miles — many neighborhoods flourish as somewhat close-knit mini communities with their own civic associations and unique characters. Glendale, Hillwood Manor, Brae Burn Park, and the Village on the Green are all examples of this.
The History of Ewing. The first known residents of Ewing were Indian tribes who lived along the banks of the Delaware in small fishing settlements. An archaeological dig in 2011 uncovered remnants of fishing, hunting and food processing camps. According to the Ewing Historical Society, the township was founded in 1834.
Ewing began the 20th century as a mostly rural area with dairy farms and a few hamlets, including Ewingville, West Trenton, and Wilburtha. Many of the older township residents can still remember this era, and can point out which dairy farm used to be where.
A major turning point in the town’s history came in 1938, when General Motors opened up a large auto plant on Parkside Avenue. The plant made accessories for GM cars for most of its history, changing over to produce Avenger torpedo bombers during World War II. The planes were made at the plant and took off from the nearby Trenton-Mercer airport, headed for war. The plant returned to making car parts after the war.
During the GM plant era, Ewing developed rapidly and new neighborhoods such as Glendale sprouted up. According to the Ewing Historical Society, the town’s population tripled between 1938 and 1940. After the war, the growth continued as industries took advantage of the town’s central location.
A new era for the township began in 1998 when GM closed the plant. Some at the time predicted that Ewing Township would go into decline after the loss of its biggest employer, but that didn’t happen. According to the latest census, government and education are today the town’s most important source of employment.
Dining and entertainment. Ewing is home to a growing number of good places to eat, and it’s a diverse mix. First, there is a slew of restaurants that continue the local Italian food tradition made famous in nearby Chambersburg. Marsilio’s was a renowned Trenton restaurant that re-opened its doors in Ewing two years ago, and by all accounts, hasn’t forgotten how to make great food. Many local residents swear by the pizza made at Palermo’s III, Mama Flora’s ant Tutta Rosa.
Those looking for a quick Mexican fix can head for Mariachi Mexican Grill, a hidden gem of a restaurant on Parkway Avenue, which is also near a fine hoagie shop called Haley’s Homemade Sandwiches. Nearby is Barbara’s Hungarian Food, which draws diners from far and wide to sample its central European fare. Mikonos, which opened in 2011, has a growing reputation as an excellent place to get Greek fare.
Beer drinkers can head to the Firkin Tavern for a good selection of brews. Another popular local spot is Freddie’s Tavern in West Trenton. For the ultimate local experience, River Horse Brewery, newly opened on Graphics Drive, sells six-packs of beer made and bottled on the spot.
To burn off all those calories, Ewing residents can head to the Pennington-Ewing Athletic Center or numerous other gyms in town. In keeping with the town’s industrial heritage, Ewing is home to two classic bowling alleys, Slocum’s Bowl-O-Drome on Pennington Road and Curtis Lanes on Scotch Road.
Ewing is known for its active youth sports programs, including little league tee-ball, Babe Ruth League and numerous soccer leagues.
“When my grandson was playing against other teams in other towns, I really became aware of what a great job our recreation department does with our fields,” George says. Moody Park has baseball and football fields as well as tennis and basketball courts. Armstrong Park also offers soccer and softball fields.
Odd Attractions. Ewing has its fair share of out of the way attractions. History buffs will appreciate Ewing’s place in the Revolutionary War. The Victory Trail, where Washington marched after crossing the Delaware, goes through the middle of the township. The town’s historical preservation society is located at the Benjamin Temple House on Federal City Road. The farmhouse, which was moved from its original location when I-95 was built in the 1960s, was home to one of Ewing’s most prominent residents in the 19th century.
Behind the Benjamin Temple House is a site that appeals to an entirely different crowd. Visitors can follow a trail leading from the Temple House parking lot to a nearby woods. In the woods, over a small stream, is a secret BMX bike track. Extreme sportsmen have spent years building a long trail with banked turns, jumps and wooden ramps. Town officials have so far looked the other way, though the teen bikers are not too friendly to prodding reporters. (Don’t tell the adults.)
Culture. The College of New Jersey, on Pennington Road, hosts many cultural events including orchestra performances, plays, lectures and other events that are open to the public. However, Ewing’s main cultural attractions aren’t located in Ewing at all.
George says one of the best parts of Ewing Township is that one can hop on I-95, which goes through town, and be in the arts and cultural centers of Philadelphia or New York City in a little over an hour, not to mention other family-friendly destinations that are opened up by proximity to the highway.
“In less than two hours, you can be at the Jersey Shore, you can be at the art museum in Philly, or you can be at the aquarium in Camden,” she says.
Ewing’s branch of the Mercer County Library System is well staffed and has a good selection of books. Patrons can order books and DVDs from any other library in the county.
Vital Statistics. According to the 2010 Census, 35,790 people called Ewing home, occupying 13,926 housing units. The population was about 63 percent white and 27 percent black, with other races making up the rest. The diverse makeup of the town is part of what appeals to young couples, George says.
“It’s very important for young people today to have the ethnicity and the diversity in the community,” she says.
The diversity of the students is a point of pride at Ewing High School, where national banners hang in the cafeteria. Each flag represents the country of origin of one of the students.
Ewing’s status as a melting pot is part of what makes Keyes-Maloney optimistic about Ewing’s future. “You have a mix of cultures here,” she says. “It informs not just our food, but it also means that kids, when they’re in our schools or recreational programs, guess what, they’re meeting kids from a bunch of different backgrounds, and that’s going to be important as they grow as people. We’re globally interconnected now, and the more experience and exposure you have to people of different backgrounds, the more you are able to compete when you go to work or to college.”
The median household income of Ewing is $69,716, which is about the same as adjacent Lawrence Township.
Schools. Ewing Township has its own school district with three elementary schools (Lore, Antheil and Parkway), one middle school (Fisher) and one high school (Ewing High School.) There are about 1,100 students currently enrolled at Ewing High.
Private schools include the pre-K to 8th grade Incarnation-St. James Catholic school and the Villa Victoria Academy Catholic girls school, which educates girls pre-K through 12th grade.
George admits the public school system does not enjoy an outstanding reputation. The high school was ranked 212 on New Jersey Monthly’s 2012 list of 312 high schools, with its Department of Education school performance report noting the school lagged in academic performance and college preparedness compared with high schools statewide.
Keyes-Maloney said the focus on school rankings obscures the many good programs available to Ewing students, including Odyssey of the Mind teams, a competitive robotics team at the high school, good dramatic arts programs and strong music programs. The high school’s music program was the recipient of an anonymous $50,000 donation last year.
The township is also home to The College of New Jersey, formerly known as Trenton State College. There are 6,964 students enrolled at the college’s 289-acre campus on Pennington Road. The highly-rated college is planning a major expansion, adding a mini “main street” district with shops and businesses catering to students.
Government and Politics. Mayor Bert Steinmann leads the current Democratically-administered city hall. Steinmann was first elected to the office in 2010. The township’s municipal building at 2 Jake Garzio drive also houses a 60-officer police department.
Taxes: Property taxes are relatively high. The average assessed home value in 2012 was $123,000 with an average tax bill of $6,297, according to state records.