Winter Hill advice needed, please (Boston, Cambridge: transplants, real estate, foreclosure)
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I am considering moving to Broadway in Somerville (Winter Hill, near Foss Park). I loved the condo I saw but have since read worrying and kind of terrifying things about the area (that is filled with gang-violence, dirty,noisy, etc.). It wasn't the prettiest street I've seen, but it didn't look sketchy or bad to me. It seemed busy but not especially noisy. Are the rumors of it being unsafe true? Is this an area that a single woman would feel safe walking around in the morning? I've heard that Union Square is gentrifying; are things changing in the Broadway area, too or declining? I appreciate any advice anyone might have on this. Thanks!
I drive down Broadway several times per month, often after midnight. It seems fine, although the Foss Park side of the street is not as educated or yuppie, it seems, as further up near Winter Hill, up to Powderhouse Circle.
Union Square seems to be doing better now; brighter lighting on Somerville Ave. now, with the street reconstruction progressing.
I've walked a few times around 10pm-12am up Broadway last near, from Sullivan Square's Orange line. Lots of immigrants, as you're probably aware. I felt safe.
Foss Park was the scene of a rape of a girl in a wheelchair 10 yrs. ago or so. You may be able to google that info.
Supposedly, Somerville has a presence of the notoripus MS-13 gang in recent years. But I'd never know just driving thru -- same with a newcomer I asked this about.
Broadway has better landscaping on its median strip recently, so that's a good sign.
There haven't been any major problems around there recently. A few years back, there were some juvenile gangsta wannabe's who did some bad things but were mainly just annoying while trying to be intimidating. Maturity and/or jail took care of most of them. A lot of the old-timers talk about the neighborhood's not being what it once was, but there's prejudice encoded in those kinds of remarks. What was once a predominantly Italian-American community (with many Irish- and Portuguese-American households mixed in) is now heavily populated by first-generation immigrants from Brazil, Central America, and the West Indies. But right along with them, to a lesser extent, are urban-pioneer yuppie and/or artistic types who are quite likely "transplants" themselves but in this case from New Jersey or Kansas. The gentrification wave has barely started lapping at Broadway's shores, but allow a few more years. Union Square is upscaling at a rapid clip and is bound to really take off when the Green Line spur opens.
Foss Park has a menacing aura about it after dark. But what urban green space doesn't transition from shaded activity by day to shady activity by night? McGrath Highway and Broadway are remarkably quiet for being the heavily-traveled arteries that they are. The pedestrian and vehicle traffic which is continuous practically around the clock helps keep unseemly behavior along them to a minimum. I worked in the vicinity for eight years and walked between my job and the Sullivan Square T station every day. Not once did trouble find me in all that time.
FYI my "treasure" in that area is Patsy's Pastry Shop, on Broadway just east of McGrath Highway. They've cheerfully adapted to the changing demographics around them by offering cakes, balloons, etc inscribed with messages in Portuguese and Spanish as well as in English. It's one of those places where you can't help but leave smiling no matter what mood you were in before you walked through the door. Irish soda bread? They've got it. Italian cookies? They've got 'em. Melt-in-your-mouth delicious sheet cakes iced to order? HELL YEAH, they've got 'em.
Those responses were extremely helpful. Thank you both very much! I was pretty much beside myself with worry all night (I'm so naive I had no inkling there was any gang activity). I agree that often there's prejudice behind remarks about how things have changed. At the same time, I walk a lot and intend to walk to work (up over the hill, through Union Square and into Cambridge) and I want to feel safe doing so when it's dark (say 7 or 8 at night). I did google the rape in Foss Park--it was nauseating and bone-chilling to read about. I just can't understand how that could happen. Is is it naively hopeful to think that if I avoid the park at night that the area is safer now? Thank you again for your help.
I'm a walker as well, and my assessment of that general vicinity is that it's perfectly OK to pass through on foot. My only cautionary note would be sounded about Cross St. It's a fairly well-traveled secondary thoroughfare in that it "cross"es between Broadway and McGrath at strategic points. But there's a large playground adjoining a school at the corner of Cross and Pearl. City playgrounds are what they are, a magnet for adolescents out to shoot hoop or "just chill." It's a safe assumption that a woman aged between 14 and 64 might be made to feel uncomfortable when strolling by there. Rarely do the predictable noises and comments amount to anything more than that, but why go through the aggravation and unease?
From time to time, there are organized activities in Foss Park which are meant to "take back" the space. But they go on during the day, when any problems of course happen after dark. You might want to check Somerville PD statistics, though I'd be surprised if any legal infractions beyond public drinking and perhaps some low-level drug dealing are logged these days. The question over there being few if any violent crimes would of course lie in whether it's truly safe or whether potential victims know to steer clear. Truth be told, the park would rarely be used as a shortcut unless a grocery run to Stop & Shop was made for "just a few things." Nothing other than residential streets lies between there and I-93 except for the supermarket. And when summer rolls around, all the mature trees provide a great and natural way to beat the heat.
Thank you, again. I noticed that you seem knowledgeable and have posted really sound and thorough advice on various a few areas. So I have one more question: would this area be preferable to parts of Dorchester? I don't know Dot at all, but I would like to either be within walking distance to Harvard Square or on the redline. I can't seem to afford the Porter/Davis areas (I need more than 400 sq ft) but there are many places listed in Dot. I took notes from other postings (including yours) about which areas of Dorchester are okay. So now I'm curious if you have any advice as to which area (winter hill or dorchester) would be better suited for a single woman who likes to run early in the morning and walk and prefers to take public transport when possible.
I would live in Winter Hill. But I would not BUY in Winter Hill, personally; simply because it could still go either way. It's not really close enough to the tipping point of gentrification to be a good investment, IMO.
Why are you limiting your choices to Winter Hill and Dorchester? These are pretty far-flung areas. Does your public transit have to be by rail, or could you use buses instead? I think you're likely overlooking areas that might work better for your budget and needs...I'd keep looking.
Thanks. So far I've looked pretty much everywhere; of the areas that had places I could afford (Arlington, Dorchester, JP, Watertown, Quincy, Somerville, South Boston, Medford), Somerville and Dorchester had the nicest places (ones which didn't require a ton of work) and were most convenient to Harvard Square. Much as I like JP it's too long of a commute and most of the places I could afford were in "sketchy" neighborhoods, according to friends who live their. Arlington feels way too suburban and removed to me. So I've focused mostly on Somerville and am now considering Dot because of the redline.
If you're a runner as well as a walker, I bet you'd love Savin Hill. The amusingly named Malibu Beach would be "right there," with the extensive and scenic waterfront paths of the UMass Boston campus and the JFK Library not far off. Hiking and "trail running" (to some degree) could be done at Savin Hill Park, a favorite "secret" retreat space of mine in warmer weather. Unlike any other green spaces in the city except for Franklin Park, the only modifications to nature in Savin Hill Park are mowings of the grass. Other than that, the glacial drumlins on the hill are intact for jogging around or clambering over when they're not being perched on for taking in the view. Better still, the place is deserted a good bit of the time. I've peered across the ocean for over an hour on a glorious summer day without seeing one other person there.
You'd have a Red Line station (Ashmont trains only) for your commuting convenience, and a great neighborhood grocery store plus a bakery to complement the Shaw's at JFK/UMass. Need to make a big-box store run? Target and Best Buy are waiting to serve you in South Bay Plaza. Hankering for an Irish breakfast, or a cold Guinness after work? The Banshee, on "Dot Ave," is the place to go.
Medford is well on the way from being undiscovered to being "hot," and may have reached that point. "Everybody" priced out from West Somerville is crossing the city line these days. The Japanese supermarket which was forced from its 20-year home in Cambridge has just reopened in Medford Square, now with a big separate sushi deli (for lack of a better term) added. Nothing says "trendy" quite like a neighborhood sushi spot, lol. Part of the vast Middlesex Fells Reservation bumps up against Medford in its western, northern, and northeastern sections. The main drawbacks of "Me'fa," IMHO, are its comparative lack of transit accessibility (infrequent buses only, save for the Orange Line on the eastern fringe) and its large quantity of two-family houses which have borne the insult of "Italianization." (Italianized houses have had the front porches clumsily and tackily enclosed, the front lawn paved over, semi-oval bay windows grafted on with real or fake latticework on the panes, etc. Sections of NYC and Philadelphia also hold plenty of examples. Ethnic slap? I don't think so.)
I'd call it a toss-up between Medford and Winter Hill, with Savin Hill emerging as the favorite given the criteria.
Remember, Arlington borders both Cambridge and Somerville. I'd hardly call it "removed", definitely not more removed than Winter Hill. If by "suburban" you mean that it's clean, yep. And it's inhabited by its share of yuppie families. I'm thinking you just don't know the area well, so that's why you describe it as "removed"--much of Arlington is a 10 minute or less drive to Harvard Square, Davis Square, etc. Of course, you have to stick with buses since there's no train access there.
I agree about Medford...heck, I tell everyone it's a 10 minute trip to everywhere from there. The over-Italianizing goyguy described (which cracked me up, btw--totally spot-on!) is really prevalent only in certain areas. Where I used to live in Medford, my husband caught the express bus to Haymarket across the street from our house and was there in 10-15 minutes most days. So the transit options vary.
What about Watertown?
The thing you really have to remember if you're talking about buying (which it sounds like you are!) is this: if you buy in fringe areas, you run a bigger risk of being totally stuck if the market takes another downturn (which many people are forecasting, sadly...) or if the neighborhood tips just a little in the wrong direction. Right now it may seem like you'd feel more comfortable and be happier somewhere that feels urban and familiar, but that could all change very quickly. Condos can be especially tricky--my real estate agent has so many of the most heartbreaking stories of people who bought condos in fringe "oh, it's gentrifying" areas and are now so very far upside-down in them that they can't do anything but stay there or go through foreclosure. Just putting that out there because most people buy because they don't want to "throw money away" on rent, but losing 125k in a year and a half is a helluva lot worse.
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