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Old 07-02-2009, 07:27 PM
157 posts, read 407,548 times
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Hello all (again):

After much discussion with my wife, we will first see if we can find a good condo/apartment to buy. Budget around 400k

Which area best suits us? The areas we are looking at are: Jamaica Plain, Brookline, Cambridge, South Boston (I hope we didn't miss any good living area)

We want somewhere safe, and within 30 mins commute to BU and the Broadway T station (red line). The realtor gave us some 100 listings in these areas, there are different style homes in each area, so biggest thing to decide first is which area to look?

If someone can give some general comparison/description of each area in terms of urban living experience will be greatly appreciated.


Last edited by zoo_x; 07-02-2009 at 07:37 PM..
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Old 07-03-2009, 09:18 AM
Location: Cambridge, MA
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In Dorchester - the Polish Triangle, Mother Teresa Parish (around the Columbia Rd/Dorchester Ave intersection), and Savin Hill - especially its eastern quarter, "OTB" (Over the Bridge, that bridge being the I-93 overpass.) These neighborhoods are near the Red Line's Savin Hill or JFK/UMass stations. Bus route 8 originates at UMass-Boston and goes right to Kenmore Square; you can also use the CT3 express bus from Andrew Station and transfer easily to the 47, which traverses BU's south campus via Park Dr and Mountfort St before making a stop on Comm Ave ahead of turning onto the bridge to Cambridge.
Dorchester is in the news for the wrong reasons almost every day, but what a lot of people don't appreciate is that it's the largest section of the city. Writing it off would be akin to writing off all of Queens in NYC because some of the borough is sketchy if not outright dangerous. The reality of the neighborhoods I've spotlighted is that they're rejuvenating from the dark days of the '50s to '80s when suburban migration accelerated by cross-district school busing held sway. In 2009 the story is completely different: what were once exclusively, and aggressively so, Irish-American blocks now are populated by a plethora of cultures and economic classes. One three-decka can hold various members of the O'Grady family, the next might have the Trans on one floor and the Nguyens on another and the Hoanhs on the other, the one across the street could be a condo conversion with three UMass students from Quincy renting the third floor while a young family of Trinidadian immigrants owns the second floor and the deed to the ground level is in the names of a gay couple...you get the picture.
Dorchester is, probably officially, the birthplace of the three-decka. They're great to live in, with tons o' space inside to go along with the big porch(es) outside. Many of them have features like stained-glass windows on landings, and built-in china cabinets. No doubt this along with the shrinking of the size of the average American family is what has brought on the continuing wave of condo conversions. When we're talking Dorchester condos, the three-decka is king. For whatever reason, not all that many duplexes or larger apartment houses were ever built there. As for some of those larger apartment houses? Bleccchhh. To an extent if not completely, the brick boxes which went up in Savin Hill OTB facing 93 forty to fifty years ago are now comprised of condo units. It's not that the buildings aren't secure or well-maintained, but if you buy or rent in a place of that sort you might as well be in Hyde Park or Weymouth or Revere.

Elsewhere in Boston - I lived in Audubon Circle for a while, and am still a fan. Though technically part of the West Fenway, it's physically set apart from the remainder of the neighborhood by the Green Line's D branch. So while it's easy to walk over to Fenway Park or Shaw's or to a movie, you leave most of the "commerce" and much of the noise - along with all those hulking old brick apartment buildings - behind as soon as you're on the Park Dr overpass. The brick buildings persist on the Audubon Circle side, but they're smaller (four stories vs six) and nicer (front yards, bay windows.) On the east side of Park Dr you'll find a parade of these buildings, with a brand-new one at the end of the row that's replacing one destroyed by fire. Across the street at the top of the hill stand a pair of balconied stucco structures which went condo a long time ago, then on the other side of Medfield St there's a string of appealing two-story off-white rowhouses. Along Medfield facing north you'll see a neat condo/apartment row with a white facade and Spanish tile roof, and then an unremarkable large building of sixties-seventies vintage. Feeding into Medfield St are Keswick and St Mary's St's, both tree-lined and with a good supply of rentals if not condos. This is the quieter, better shaded section of Audubon Circle; the streets east of and parallel to Park Dr (Aberdeen and Miner) have lots of brick buildings and very little green. At the dead-end of Miner St, the style of multi-unit structure which is all the rage (and that I think is an atrocity, lol) - a big cube - has gone up and now has condos for sale. This place really is at the end of the block; most of it extends above the Green Line tracks.
Most of Audubon Circle north of Beacon St, its dividing line, has been conceded to BU. The old apartment buildings now all sport "Boston University Residence Hall" signs. But Beacon itself still largely houses grown-ups in its apartment buildings and rowhouses. When I was in the neighborhood recently, a unit was for sale in an almost-new rowhouse that blends fairly well with the originals it's in the midst of. The building is almost immediately adjacent to the Boston Book Annex, with Chef Chang's House and Economy Hardware and Ginza and O'Leary's Tavern and a Dunkin' Donuts between it and the first above-ground stop on the "C" Green Line. Not that I'm trying to be a real-estate broker or anything (lol.)
Roslindale - too far removed from your workday destinations? If not, I ramble similarly about "Rozzi" in other threads. Ditto for some of the Dorchester neighborhoods situated farther south than the three I expounded on above.

In Cambridge - Riverside and Cambridgeport. These communities extend from Mass. Ave to the river, between Harvard and MIT. Harvard, Central, and Kendall stations make Red Line commuting a piece o' cake - when the trains are running as they should. And the 47 bus is across the BU Bridge and rolling down Mountfort St within ten minutes of departing Central Square. You might be surprised at what $400k can fetch in Cambridge given today's market. The mammoth old Blessed Sacrament church on Pearl St is in a "pre-construction sales" phase, with the former convent already remodeled and occupied. Along Third St just outside Kendall Square, two more "atrocities" like the one in Audubon Circle - respectively named Watermark and Third Square - are accepting new tenants. Those are just the "major" developments. All over the area, units are for sale or rent individually and more often than not - recession be damned - are spoken for fast. So, if you don't venture to the other side of the Charles you'll be missing out.

BTW I've been contentedly residing in Cambridge's Riverside for 21 years, the last seventeen in a three-decka condo - if that matters.

Have a glass of water. You've just read a marathon
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Old 07-04-2009, 11:04 AM
157 posts, read 407,548 times
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One of our cars is still on lease... so we have to keep at least one car.... which seems to be a big problem for some areas such as Southie... Even worse---we really hope to get garage parking spot, since the car is new and doesnt have MA sticker.

we like newly built places... do you have the websites of the newly developed communities? thanks!
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:04 PM
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Default Quincy or Brookline Village

What about Quincy or Brookline Village?

Both are "T" accessible..-- I think you'd definitely enjoy Brookline Village
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Old 07-06-2009, 11:39 AM
Location: a bar
2,545 posts, read 4,854,748 times
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Originally Posted by zoo_x View Post
One of our cars is still on lease... so we have to keep at least one car.... which seems to be a big problem for some areas such as Southie... Even worse---we really hope to get garage parking spot, since the car is new and doesnt have MA sticker.

we like newly built places... do you have the websites of the newly developed communities? thanks!
I believe all new builds in the city have to have to include 1 off-street parking space per unit. Bear in mind, this doesn't include gutted buildings.
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Old 07-06-2009, 05:28 PM
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If you like "new builds", you'll be sorely disappointed in the Boston area. The "new builds" around here tend to be not nearly as nice as the other housing stock, from what I've seen. We're talking crappy 70's-style decor, etc. In large coastal cities, everything was built up (for the most part) ages ago and is thus over 100 years old. You'll find lovely Victorians with original molding, fireplaces, gleaming hardwood floors, built-in bookcases and china closets, etc.

That said, 400k might just be enough to squeak you into the newer stuff on the Charles in Cambridge, if that's what you're into.

A garage spot with a condo? Maybe. I've seen them here and there. But not for 400k in Brookline or Cambridge, sadly.
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