Nicola's Ristorante is one of Totowa's dining spots. Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal

The borough of Totowa, in New Jersey's Passaic County, draws many new residents with its wide range of housing, from relatively affordable ranches to high-end townhouses and mansions.

"I think having that mix attracts people, and they stay," says the borough's mayor, John Coiro, 55 years old, who has lived in Totowa for his entire life. "It's pretty tightknit, more like a neighborhood….People come out and get to know each other."

The borough, which is roughly 4 square miles and has a population of around 11,000, also boasts proximity to New York City and easy access to several primary highways. Route 46 and Interstate 80 run through Totowa, and Routes 3 and 23 and the Garden State Parkway are a short distance away. Totowa is about 15 miles from Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel, and commuters may take NJ Transit buses from the nearby Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, or trains from Little Falls, both of which reach Midtown in around an hour.

Barnyard and Carriage House Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal

Thanks in part to the industrial and retail businesses in Totowa, including large stores along Route 46, property taxes are among the lowest in Passaic County—another attraction for residents, Mr. Coiro says. The annual property taxes for a house selling for around $300,000 to $350,000 are roughly $7,000.

The median listing price for all real estate in Totowa in May was $389,000, says, a 12% increase from the same month in 2013. Brokers say house prices usually start around $300,000 and rise to nearly $1 million for large, newer homes in sought-after areas such as Dey Hill and the gated Hickory Hill community, where the elevation affords some homes views of the city skyline.

"Although small in population, it's got a very diverse topography—it goes from lowlands along the [Passaic] river and it just shoots up into a very nice hilly area that gives us beautiful views of Manhattan," says Russell Juzdan of the Emily Abdy Realty Group. "It's definitely transformed quite a bit in recent years, via all the new developments."

Lincoln Field Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal

In recent years, Totowa's newer luxury houses have drawn some more affluent residents, brokers say, including some professional football players who appreciate its proximity both to New York City and East Rutherford, where MetLife Stadium is situated.

Totowa's commercial centers lie along Route 46, where many national chain stores can be found, and Union Boulevard, with smaller shops and a variety of basic services. Most of the land in Totowa, which includes four cemeteries, has already been developed, but the borough is exploring possible new uses for a 188-acre site that, until recently, was a center for the developmentally disabled, Mr. Coiro says.

The borough's name, pronounced TOE-tuh-wa, derives from a Native American word referring to falling water. The Passaic runs through parts of the community, which is a source of flooding problems that state and local officials have been working to reduce. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has proposed a cleanup of the river, the most-contaminated portions of which are outside the county.

A town sign Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal

Active local organizations include the all-volunteer fire department, which is more than 100 years old, and the Police Athletic League, which organizes youth sports.

"Totowa's one of those towns—the people who are born in Totowa stay in Totowa, or they just move to another side of Totowa," says Matthew Grabowski, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. "It's a really friendly community with an old hometown feel."

Parks: Parks in Totowa include Lincoln and Veteran's fields. Garret Mountain Reservation, a 568-acre Passaic County park with ball fields, hiking trails and an equestrian center, is in nearby Paterson. The county-run Preakness Valley Golf Course is in Wayne, close to the borough's border.

Schools: Totowa has two public elementary schools, one for students in prekindergarten through second grade, and another for students in grades three through eight. Students from the borough attend Passaic Valley Regional High School in Little Falls.

If You're Browsing for a Home in Totowa ...

According to 2012-13 state data, the high school outperforms 38% of schools across the state when it comes to academic achievement. Its graduation rate was 92%.

Local private schools include the Academy of St. Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic school with students in preschool through eighth grade.

Dining: Nicola's Ristorante, a popular Italian restaurant with a bring-your-own bottle policy, is on Union Boulevard. The Barnyard and Carriage House on Totowa Road, on a 7-acre property, serves American and pub-style cuisine. Sushi Lounge, on Route 46, is a bar and restaurant serving Japanese food.

Shopping: Basic shops and services can be found on Union Boulevard, with many chain stores lining Route 46. The Willowbrook Mall in Wayne is a short distance away.

Entertainment: Murph's Tavern, a bar on Union Boulevard, offers live music.