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Old 03-16-2010, 08:15 AM
 
9 posts, read 15,391 times
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Default Guys with kids relocating

Hi All,

My partner and I are relocating to Boston. We have two daughters (ages 5 and 8). We currently live in a close-in suburb of DC in a nice progressive neighborhood of single family detached homes. We are not looking to move to the South End as I think we generally askew the guppy neighborhoods, more in favor of just the yuppy neighborhoods We have been considering Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown (note: our budget is up to $1.9 million). I'd love to hear from folks what people pereceive to be the differences between these neighbrohoods in terms of people, progressivity, gay presence, shopping and restuarants, vibe, etc. Also, would love to hear if there are any other neighborhoods we should be considering?

Lastly, if anyone has any insight into good inependent schools in Boston that are strong academically but very committed to diversity, including LBGT issues, that would be MUCH appreciated.

Thanks in advance!!
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Old 03-16-2010, 06:53 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
3,734 posts, read 5,739,143 times
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Brookline and Cambridge have well-established, and deserved, reputations for diverse populations with a progressive slant. With gentrification have come similar developments in Somerville, particularly its western precincts (bordering Arlington, Medford, and Cambridge, and centered around Tufts University + Davis Square.) Charlestown has become somewhat "tolerant" since its anti-busing notoriety during the 1970's, helped by an influx of folks from outside the area, but there are still some sections (near the Bunker Hill and Mishawum Village housing complexes) where the reception would be mixed at best and hostile at worst. On a whole, though, Greater Boston has transformed into much more of a live-and-let-live environment than was the case not all that long ago.
Other neighborhoods within the Boston city limits which have evolved into multicultural and accepting communities include Jamaica Plain, Dorchester (certain parts), and Roslindale. The jury is still out - on my part - as to whether or not South Boston should be included on that list. In suburbia, Arlington has also grown to be much more accommodating, as has Watertown, and Newton has been known as a liberal city "forever."
Aside from parochial and self-identified "Christian" schools, you should have no problem whatsoever with placing your daughters. Shady Hill (Cambridge) and The Park School (Brookline) are arguably the most progressive of the bunch, along with the Cambridge Friends School, but none are K-12. I think it's safe to say that any independent educational institution would be clamoring for children from a same-sex-couple household to help their "diversity numbers." Aside from Boston (worth considering when it's time to take the Boston Latin entrance exam, not until then) and Cambridge (mixed-bag in terms of quality), the public systems deserve a closer look before you start shelling out for tuitions.
No matter where you settle out of all the places named, save for decidedly suburban Newton, you'll find bustling town centers with lots of shopping and dining options. There's an especially strong Jewish presence in Brookline and Newton, with greater racial/ethnic diversity to be found in Boston and Cambridge than elsewhere. Charlestown would make an excellent choice if a restored brownstone rowhouse is appealing, while elsewhere there are myriad home options which include fully modernized Victorians. With nearly $2m to indicate on a mortgage application, you're not very limited!
Best o' luck.
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Old 03-16-2010, 07:39 PM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goyguy View Post
No matter where you settle out of all the places named, save for decidedly suburban Newton, you'll find bustling town centers with lots of shopping and dining options. There's an especially strong Jewish presence in Brookline and Newton, with greater racial/ethnic diversity to be found in Boston and Cambridge than elsewhere.
Goyguy's info is, as always, good. I would say that, although Newton is for the most part "decidedly suburban," it does have several town centers that are bustling. Not like Cambridge or Brookline, but not a blink-and-you'll-miss-the-center New England village or a sprawling sun belt suburb with no walkable downtown.

Quote:
Originally Posted by goyguy View Post
Charlestown would make an excellent choice if a restored brownstone rowhouse is appealing, while elsewhere there are myriad home options which include fully modernized Victorians. With nearly $2m to indicate on a mortgage application, you're not very limited!
Best o' luck.
Just as goyguy questioned Southie's openness, it's hard for those of us who remember 20 years ago to think of the Town as particularly welcoming in your situation. It has undergone tremendous gentrification on the side nearer to downtown Boston, but goyguy's right that the insular townie vibe still persists in some parts. I don't mean to speak ill of Charlestown because I know these issues are complicated, and often misunderstood, but it has a fairly recent history that is much more laden with insularity and the accompanying intolerance than a place like Brookline or Cambridge, which have been progressive and diverse (or sort of diverse, for Brookline) for longer. Whether that would affect your daily life in 2010 I don't know.

Charlestown is a pretty hip scene today, with some top restaurants. It also is a beautiful area and very convenient to downtown, but very urban. You mentioned your current area (Takoma?) has detached single family homes. As goyguy's post suggests, not much of that in the town. In terms of density, it's more like Georgetown. As a result, your money is likely to buy you much less space in Charlestown than in any of the other places you (or we) identified. Still, I imagine $1.9 M would buy a very nice place for a family of four in Charlestown.
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Old 03-17-2010, 07:21 AM
 
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Default Goyguy and holden125 -- Thanks!!

Thank you both for your thoughtful posts!!

We actually live in close-in Bethesda, MD, just over the DC line, in a detached single family home. It is nice and large and only minutes to downtown by car (only 4.2 miles but takes 20 minutes!!), feels pretty suburban. As mentioned before, progressive, but by no means Takoma park.

If we were to look harder at public schools, which school districts would you suggest? Schooling is to be honest the biggest issue for us as we have found in DC a WONDERFUL pre-K through 12 school that works very hard on all of the issues that matter to outr family... from teaching the 4 Rs, to critical thinking, to a committed celebration of all diversity, including LGBT issues.

What's your take on BB&N? I've heard on the one hand, very progressive, then I've heard uber-preppy, and very monied... notably, of, course, most indepenent schools are very monied given the nature of the beast... big tuitions!! I'd love to get into one school, one community, etc... and not have to move our girls come 9th grade, but unlike the DC independent schools where the best schools seem to be k-12, Boston seems to follow the 9-12th grade prep model I guess (all of this coming from the mouth of a former public school kid, so I likely have no idea what I am talking about here).

Lastly, we had been thinking perhaps Charlestown -- downsize from our suburban house in DC, buy a smaller house within walkable distance to more restauarnts and coffee shops, etc...

Here's a question:

The prototypical family in Cambridge can be described as...

The prototypical family in Brookline can be described as...

The protoypical family in Charelstown can be escribed as...

Thanks again for all your insight. It is MUCH appreciated.
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Old 03-17-2010, 09:03 AM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
2,954 posts, read 7,426,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boston2go View Post
If we were to look harder at public schools, which school districts would you suggest? Schooling is to be honest the biggest issue for us as we have found in DC a WONDERFUL pre-K through 12 school that works very hard on all of the issues that matter to outr family... from teaching the 4 Rs, to critical thinking, to a committed celebration of all diversity, including LGBT issues.

What's your take on BB&N? I've heard on the one hand, very progressive, then I've heard uber-preppy, and very monied... notably, of, course, most indepenent schools are very monied given the nature of the beast... big tuitions!! I'd love to get into one school, one community, etc... and not have to move our girls come 9th grade, but unlike the DC independent schools where the best schools seem to be k-12, Boston seems to follow the 9-12th grade prep model I guess (all of this coming from the mouth of a former public school kid, so I likely have no idea what I am talking about here).

Lastly, we had been thinking perhaps Charlestown -- downsize from our suburban house in DC, buy a smaller house within walkable distance to more restauarnts and coffee shops, etc...
I don't know too much about the private schools, but most of them are pretty monied. For good urban public schools look at Brookline. They're very good and the schools are all K-8, with all students from the elementary school feeding into one high school, Brookline High. So there is a move from 8th to 9th grade, but everyone is making the same move. Most public school districts around here have three schools (elementary, middle and high) between K and 12.

Brookline High has many illustrious alumni, including Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes, Bob Kraft (owns the Patriots), Mike Dukakis, Conan O'Brien, Theo Epstein, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boston2go View Post
Here's a question:

The prototypical family in Cambridge can be described as...

The prototypical family in Brookline can be described as...

The protoypical family in Charelstown can be escribed as...

Thanks again for all your insight. It is MUCH appreciated.
All three places are such that there's no one type of prototypical family.

Cambridge: It's a city and, like any city, has significant diversity, both economic and ethnic. For example, almost 40% of Cambridge's adult residents have some kind of graduate degree, but over 10% didn't finish high school. Cambridge is 35% nonwhite and 25% foreign born. It has considerable diversity, a lot of students and academics, young professionals (ranging from yuppie to just getting by), some old money, working class Irish Catholics who've been there for generations, crunchy co-op shopping vegetarians. A lot depends on the neighborhood. There are neighborhoods that have old wood frame multi-family houses packed together, and neighborhoods that are more reminiscent of urban wealth like Kalorama. It's like Alexandria, if Alexandria had two of the world's top universities within city limits.

Brookline: Is less urban than Cambridge, though the northern parts are pretty urban and have most of the urban conveniences. The southern areas, below Route 9, are woodsy with large estates. There's a section in the middle, near Chestnut Hill and Fisher Hill, that's very suburban and expensive. Kind of like Chevy Chase but with more windy roads. The population is more diverse than some of the tony suburbs farther out, but more white and more affluent (overall) than Cambridge. A lot of professionals, young and more established. A significant Jewish population as goyguy pointed out, and an Asian and Russian population as well. The total black and Hispanic population, which is something like 20% of Cambridge, drops to 5 or 6% in Brookline. Only 3 or 4% of residents don't have a HS diploma, and 45% have a graduate degree. It has great access to Boston, is by and large a very attractive town, and Brookline is the prototype, maybe for the whole country, of an urban setting with great public schools. They're very good, fairly diverse, and progressive.

Charlestown: There are a lot of yuppies in Charlestown today, mostly closer to downtown as discussed above, but in my experience far fewer with kids because housing space is at a premium and Boston schools don't have the best rep. There are good schools but the system can be hard to navigate. Charlestown in particular is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, so getting a kid to a good school a bit farther away, if that's what you want, is more of a challenge. The North Zone, which includes Charlestown, also includes relatively far away places like East Boston, Allston/Brighton and Mission Hill. In addition to the newer arrivals, there's still a pretty strong Irish working class townie vibe, particularly heading toward Bunker Hill St and Medford St. Charlestown is not a particularly dangerous neighborhood to walk around, especially near City Square rather than near the projects, but there is more street crime there than in a town like Brookline. Also, there is a restaurant scene but it's not that big a neighborhood, so there might be more restaurants or coffee shops in Brookline or Cambridge. Of course, Charlestown is right across from the North End!

Last edited by holden125; 03-17-2010 at 09:13 AM..
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Old 03-17-2010, 10:34 AM
 
9 posts, read 15,391 times
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Thanks, Holden 125!!! Your ability to use DC-specific comparisons is very helpful!!!
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Old 03-17-2010, 08:20 PM
 
Location: North of Boston
1,369 posts, read 1,893,230 times
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Where are your jobs located?

I can't offer feedback on many of the issues you mentioned but if I had a budget approaching $2 million I would look at Brookline, Newton and Wellesley to the west, Milton to the south and Winchester to the north and trust in the public schools in those communities.
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Old 03-18-2010, 06:47 AM
 
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Default Downtown

My job would be downtown (lawyer here). My partner is a recovering lawyer turned stay at home dad (who is amazing and wonderful btw!!). Our concern with Wellesley and Milton are that they may require a longer commute (generally like to limit my commute to no more than 25-30 minutes each way). Also concerned that Wellesley may skew more conservative (I think data from the 2008 election showed it to be one of the suburbs that voted the most for Bush). LOVE the housing stock in Wellesley, of course... What's the progressivity of Milton?

Thanks!!
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Old 03-18-2010, 08:31 AM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
2,954 posts, read 7,426,943 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boston2go View Post
Also concerned that Wellesley may skew more conservative (I think data from the 2008 election showed it to be one of the suburbs that voted the most for Bush). LOVE the housing stock in Wellesley, of course... What's the progressivity of Milton?

Thanks!!
Wellesley may skew a bit more conservative than Cambridge or Brookline, or suburbs with a decided liberal reputation like Newton or Lexington, but it's not that conservative. Wellesley went 61% to 37% in John Kerry's favor in 2004, and 65-35 for Obama. Considering how high-income a town it is, and its past as a WASP moderate Republican enclave, 35% Republican is pretty low. Those numbers are in line with the totals in other upscale suburbs like Belmont, Winchester, Weston, Needham, etc. The more "conservative" upscale towns (quotes since it's more like an even split than GOP dominance) are Hingham and Cohasset to the south and the Boxford, Topsfield, Middleton area to the north.

Kerry did slightly better in Milton than he did in Wellesley. Obama did a bit worse, but still won the town 61-37). In the 2010 special election (which is a complex subject and not a sign of growing or latent "conservatism," in my opinion), Wellesley and Milton both split about evenly, while Brookline, Newton and Cambridge went very heavily Democratic as usual.

It's not easy to compare Milton and Wellesley. Milton's a well-off town, but nowhere near as affluent as Wellesley. It's also a very different population. Milton has a growing African American community,maybe about 10% now, but also a huge Irish community, many of whom moved from Dorchester or South Boston at some point. Although some of those Irish in Milton are liberal, many are somewhat more conservative Democrats and others have become "Reagan Democrats" who vote Republican more often. It's not 90% Democratic Cambridge, but it's not very strong territory for a George W. Bush either.

I think this is the biggest difference between Boston and DC. In many of the towns around Boston, and the non-yuppie neighborhoods in Boston, the overwhelming majority of people come from the area. Their politics have been shaped by Boston's own particular history. I never got the impression that towns like Bethesda were populated by people who moved out to the suburbs after generations in tight-knit blue collar neighborhoods in DC. DC just gets more people from all over the country. Honestly, that is one reason I never liked living in DC. I just could not relate to the lack of local flavor. I do think more families with long neighborhood roots in DC, and more recently moved to the suburbs, can be found to the east in PG County.
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Old 03-18-2010, 04:42 PM
 
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Holden125, thank you again for your thoughtful post. May I ask if you are a native of Boston? I am curious to hear from others who relocated to boston about how hard it was to integrate into the community. DC has quite a non-native population, and is quite transient too (which can be quite a bummer). That having ben said, pretty easy to integrate in DC as a new resident, I think in part to the fact that many people in DC are transplants versus lifers.
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