If you haven’t yet noticed Verona’s newest street, White Rock Road, and its traffic light on Bloomfield Avenue just past the Community Center, the balloons on the sign there announcing the opening of the Highlands at Hilltop might have caught your eye. Whether or not Verona residents consider the completion of the first phase of the Verona Hilltop development an occasion for celebration is an open question. In any case, after more than a decade of negotiations and the near-bankruptcy of the original developer, it’s a done deal: The first 95 apartments built on county-owned land in Verona are now available for rent. (Groundbreaking on a second phase of 130 apartments adjacent to the first complex is scheduled for this summer, for a total of 225 units.) We were curious to see what the latest, and possibly the last, large-scale development in Verona looks like.
One thing is clear from the start: Though these apartments have been built on Verona’s Hilltop, they are decidedly not for hillbillies. With monthly rents as high as $3,000 for a 2-bedroom, and luxury amenities like a heated outdoor pool, billiard room and private movie theater, Roseland Property company has clearly targeted high-end renters.
Aiming for that demographic is a compromise of sorts. As we reported in an earlier story, Verona’s Hilltop development was originally slated be age-restricted to avoid burdening the Verona school system. However, because of an oversupply of such housing, the developer has been permitted to market the apartments as luxury rentals instead, hopefully to mostly empty-nesters and young professional couples without school-aged children.
It was a drizzly day when we visited in early March. The drive up White Rock from Bloomfield was bleak , and still bleaker at the top, where acres of trees have been clear cut to make room for the development. Construction vehicles and mud were everywhere, though landscapers could be seen adding shrubs and saplings. Things will no doubt be cleaner and greener for the upcoming grand opening in the next few weeks. And even with the clouds, the view of the western hills from this lofty perch is spectacular.
The rental office is in the same building as the clubhouse, so our tour began with a peek into the 12-seat movie theater, mirrored fitness room consisting of a few dozen exercise and weight machines, and lounge area. The lounge has a small bar and billiards table and will overlook a courtyard with fire pit; heated pool, basketball court and tennis court. The lounge will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. daily to residents with a maximum of two guests. The pool will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in-season with a lifeguard on duty.
One- and -two-bedroom apartments are available with leases of a minimum of one year. One-bedrooms range in size from 698 to 937 square feet and cost from $1,865 to $2,340 per month. Two bedrooms are 1,115 to 1,465 square feet for $2,490 to $3,015 per month. Apartments at the upper end of the price range have more square footage, better views, and/or a balcony.
In addition to the rent, which does not included heat and electricity, there is a $400 yearly amenities fee. Residents may want to rent an underground parking space as well for a $100 per month; ($125 to $175 for spaces with storage capacity). According to Dana Sente, director of operations for the Highlands at Hilltop, there are two spaces allocated for every apartment, but because outdoor parking spots are not assigned, renting a guaranteed spot underground “would be beneficial.”
The 2-bedroom model apartment on the first floor is efficiently designed, with a small kitchen opening to a combination dining area and living room. The kitchen is nicely appointed with stainless steel appliances and granite counters. There is one large window off the living area that in some apartments may be a slider to a small patio or balcony. Two-bedrooms have a hall bathroom with shower and a master bath with tub; both have marble counters. Every apartment has its own stacking washer/dryer, as well as an intrusion alarm, which is activated when a door is forced open. First-floor apartments also have window sensors that trigger an alarm when forced open or broken.
Sente says that there have been about 11 leases signed in the past few weeks since the rental office opened (heads-up school board: Some are couples with children.) If lease commitments are coming somewhat slowly, it could be a reflection of a sluggish real estate market; she says that “a lot of people say that they need to sell their homes first.” For those who turn a handsome profit, Highlands at Hilltop could be a lovely place to hang one’s hat.