Recommended areas for buying a house/condo near Watertown? (Boston: for sale, real estate)
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Recommended areas for buying a house/condo near Watertown?
I am considering a move for a job in the Watertown area. I have lived in very reasonably priced (and downright cheap) cities up until now, so I am prepared for sticker shock. Any advice would be much appreciated; with a 500-700K budget in mind, here's my wish list in order of priorities:
1) I'd love to park my car and use mass transit exclusively.
2) I really enjoy great architecture/culture. Being able to walk to museums/parks would be neat.
3) Great food shopping/restaurants would be a definite plus (the more eclectic, the better -- everything from French to Ethiopian. assuming that that qualifies as a spectrum ).
4) I don't need a lot of typical "shopping" but bookstores and non-clothing places are always fun.
I realized I may not have the budget for such an area, but are there any parts of town that strike a good balance among these? I'm a newly divorced middle-aged male, not looking for much nightlife and not too worried about security, although obviously, safety is nice.
Cambridge should easily meet all those criteria, though smallish single-family houses are a relatively rare commodity and would fall at the high end of your price scale. There are condos galore throughout the city, however, with all sorts of styles to choose from. At present a cluster of buildings which was formerly a Catholic church + school + convent + rectory is undergoing conversion, for instance. It's situated on Pearl St in the Cambridgeport neighborhood, with a bus from Central Square running right along that street (though it's no more than ten minutes' walk from that bustling shopping/entertainment/transportation hub.) Nearby Western Ave is where you'd be able to catch one of the frequent buses bound for Waltham via Watertown - the route passes the malls on the east side of town, and then the former arsenal within which you might well be working, before traversing Watertown Square and following Main St through the more residential areas beyond.
If your workplace is on or near Mt Auburn St, there's a great trackless trolley line which covers the entire length of that street to Watertown Square after originating in Harvard Square. You'd either transfer from the bus out of Central Square or catch it along its route if not at the terminal.
I'm chronologically of similar vintage, also live an unfettered existence (at least in domestic terms), and couldn't be happier with my own living situation near Central Square. My place is on a quiet side street, but it's situated a hop skip and jump from grocery stores + "ethnic" restaurants + banks + nightspots + an excellent bookstore + the post office + on and on. It's one of those "walk to everything" areas. But neighborhoods throughout the city can boast of the same, no matter which side of town you're on. I'm only highlighting my own community because it's more economically priced (relatively speaking) for real estate than the Harvard Square vicinity, and strategically it and Harvard are the best jumping-off places for a daily commute to Watertown. You might want to investigate the West Cambridge communities around Fresh Pond and Huron Village, also, as they're the closest to Watertown of all. The principal drawbacks are home prices and the relative "sleepiness" of the surroundings. OTOH the big plus is being near Fresh Pond, the reservoir for Cambridge's water supply which is the centerpiece of a vast park that's a magnet for walkers and joggers - as well as golfers on the municipal course at one side of it.
This is a thumbnail sketch that'd be happily elaborated upon.
Thank you for this very informative response. As I'm unfamiliar with the area, some of your references went over my head and were not easily google-able. For instance, I didn't see Central Sq. (which you make sound very nice!). Also, I see a Pearl Street north of the river and south of the river; can you tell me which one you meant (and do you know name of that new development? Sister Barbara would roll over in her grave at the thought of me living on once-sanctified grounds )?
I will be working (if I take the job) on Watertown Square, if that clarifies things. My "dream" is to roll out of bed and walk to parks and museums; is that possible in Watertown/Cambridge or is living near the Museum of Fine Art 1) impossibly expensive 2) not easy to get to Watertown from?
Sorry to keep the questions coming, but that's what you get for being helpful!
Dwelling near the Huntington Ave museums (MFA, Gardner) isn't recommended for two reasons: heavy student population, and rent/purchase prices which reflect that.
Cambridge only lies north (and east) of the river. Pearl St as well as Central Square, Western Av, etc are all in ZIP code 02139. Any maps will probably still show Blessed Sacrament Church; if not, the property is bounded by Pearl + McTernan + Magazine + Erie St's. Since I'm not "in the market" I haven't noticed any names, catchy or otherwise, associated with the development. There's a pleasant, albeit small, park on the north side of McTernan spanning the length of the block.
A job location in Watertown Square is the best you could ask for in that town as far as commuting goes, in case you hadn't deduced that.
The MFA and Gardner Museum aren't the only game in town. The Museums of Harvard are popular - and offer free admission on Wednesdays to Cambridge residents (Cantabrigians); the Museum of Science draws crowds every day to its East Cambridge location and includes a planetarium and Imax theater; the free and little-known National Heritage Museum is not far up the road in Lexington; last year, the Institute of Contemporary Art relocated to a huge new building on the Boston waterfront; the list goes on. Unless you're the first person in line for every new exhibit, I wouldn't attach a lot of importance to having museums be a short stroll away.
Parkland isn't in great supply 'round here; the "Emerald Necklace" is the greenest part of the area and extends from sprawling Franklin Park to the south (bordered largely, and unfortunately, by high-crime communities) by way of Jamaica Pond to the river. Buying a place in Brookline or Jamaica Plain would offer proximity to quality green space, with the MFA not that far away, but the trade-off would be a much more complicated trip to/from work.
My favorite online resource for when I'm house dreaming is Trulia - Real Estate, Homes For Sale, Sold Properties, Real Estate Maps - it's a realtor-neutral site with all sorts of subcategories like "foreclosed properties recently put on the market." Should you decide that being close to what occupies you five days a week trumps convenience to trees and art, Watertown itself is a well-liked and inexpensive town. Boston's westernmost neighborhood, Brighton, would be a brief 57-bus ride from Watertown Square and has some nice and relatively student-free sections i.e. Oak Square. (There're a lot more Squares than Circles here, noticed? lol)
Finally - for this time around - another hidden gem in the vicinity is Gore Place, a 65-acre restored Colonial-era farm straddling the Waltham/Watertown boundary. Aside from the manor and carriage houses, most of the land is open fields save for a small "experimental farm" tucked into the southeast corner. Even on summer weekends, there's hardly a soul on the grounds when an event isn't going on. I've whiled away the all too occasional afternoon plopped under a shade tree watching hawks overhead that're on the lookout for one of the barn swallows to slow down as they - in turn - do nature's insect control work. Distant traffic and some bleating goats are the only aural distractions, and it costs nothing to get in. The 1920's -to-50's developments nearby offer a lot of nice house for the money, whether the house is a post-WWII ranch or Cape or older larger Colonial.
Thanks again for this good input. Yes, the area you're talking about looks ideal, if a bit pricey from what I see on Trulia and the Dana Park Place condos website (the ones you're thinking of, I think). It gives me a good place to start with a realtor.
I don't want to be first in line for anything, but I frequent museums on a very regular basis, so having a few to choose from on the spur of the moment without having to schedule it into my day is my idea of luxury (and it does indeed trump my "day job"). I didn't know about the Harvard Museums--so thanks for that too. I also like being near a lot of academic libraries, so this location is great (though, again, I'm not seeing much in the $500/sq.ft. range). Boston does look like a great place if you've got the money (like most places, I guess).
Right now is actually a cheap phase!
And for an impromptu museum visit, you'll have the Armenian Cultural Museum on Main St just a block up from the square in Watertown if no others.
That's another neat thing about Boston, we joke that everything is "a ten minute walk" away. But the fact of the matter is, there's little which can't be reached inside a half-hour.
Not that you asked, but Jean LeVaux has brokered Cambridge real estate for decades and knows the city like nobody else. I was happy with the person I worked with, who's since retired, and there are a lot of good knowledgeable agents out there. But that's a name to bear in mind.
Some important tidbits to throw in, re developments to stay away from: 55 Magazine St, a large and distinctive old brick building in a primo location, was sold from under its tenants for conversion last year. Much unhappiness and talk of litigation - people have turned to city council members for help. It's progressed farther than that with the "Third Square" buildings near Kendall Square. Some two dozen P & S agreements had been signed, but it seems the developer deemed that "underselling" and is now marketing the place as rental property. Forewarned is forearmed.
Stay in touch via DM or here if so moved Best o' luck to ye.
will do. thanks again!
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