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Old 02-22-2013, 08:09 AM
 
2 posts, read 2,699 times
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Default Moving to Springfield area with middle schoolers - advice needed

Hello, my husband got a job in Springfield and we need advice on the nearby towns, with good middle school and high school being top on the list. Would like to keep the commute from Springfield under 40 min if possible. We like safe, walkable, bikeable towns, we need a large yard for our dogs and for a veg garden.
I work from home.

Have been reading up on the different towns here on this website, but many of the posts are older. I see that Hadley homes seem to have large lots, but is it too rural there for our kids to meet friends without being driven? Are Hadley streets/sidewalks safe for kids to bike to each others homes? Is the Hadley Hopkins Academy too small for my kids to enter and find friends and fit in to a new school?

Also see great things about Northampton and Amherst. Which one is better? We like to walk to stores/down towns, we like farm markets, good libraries, and dog and bike friendly places. We also like older homes with character and steam heat Don't need the pool and 3 car garage type of place.

We are leaving NJ shore area which is wonderful, but quite competitive with luxury cars and designer clothes, and we are surrounded by a really republican pocket -- all things we would like to avoid in Mass if possible.

Any advice would be much appreciated!
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Old 02-22-2013, 08:42 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
6,884 posts, read 6,685,318 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dogsncats34 View Post
I see that Hadley homes seem to have large lots, but is it too rural there for our kids to meet friends without being driven? Are Hadley streets/sidewalks safe for kids to bike to each others homes? Is the Hadley Hopkins Academy too small for my kids to enter and find friends and fit in to a new school?

Also see great things about Northampton and Amherst. Which one is better? We like to walk to stores/down towns, we like farm markets, good libraries, and dog and bike friendly places. We also like older homes with character and steam heat Don't need the pool and 3 car garage type of place.
Hadley has a small downtown area with sidewalks where kids can bike. Hopkins Academy has 293 students over 6 grades. Unless it is really clique-ish, I don't see why your kids would have trouble finding friends.

Between Northampton and Amherst, I prefer Northampton. Amherst is dominated by the huge population of students at UMass, and seems more car-dependent. Northampton is smaller and more walkable, and has a great library. BTW, you will find very few Republicans in either area, as both are very liberal, ecology conscious area. Bicycles will give you status, rather than BMW's.

If you are looking for a more traditional town, look at Longmeadow. Think white colonials with picket fences. It is has a small, flat town center to ride bikes in. The schools are very good, and probably score better than the other towns. However, the town is not diverse; it is 91% white. It is not Republican, as it went 61% for Obama in 2008. It is probably as status-conscious as New Jersey.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:02 AM
 
711 posts, read 679,436 times
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Add Wilbraham to the list as well.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:05 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
6,884 posts, read 6,685,318 times
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One incentive for looking at Hadley is that its property tax rate is about half that of nearby towns. The mill rate for Hadley is $10.22, versus $21.54 for Longmeadow, $20.39 for Amherst, and $13.35 for Northampton. It may have to do with private endowment of the Hopkins Academy in Hadley.

here's a tax rate chart for Hampshire County: http://coldwellbankerumr.blogspot.co...perty-tax.html .
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:28 AM
 
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It sounds like Northampton will best fit what you are looking for - particularly older, walkable neighborhoods. There is a dog park (unofficial perhaps), many bike paths and the most vibrant dowtown in western mass.
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Old 02-24-2013, 03:43 AM
 
Location: New England
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Northampton also has parks. Look Park is larger and great for kids but there is also Child's Park, which is small and quiet.

http://www.lookpark.org/
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:41 AM
 
Location: South Central Texas via Worcester County, MA
2,676 posts, read 1,842,122 times
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If a town like Hadley is on your short list, you should add Hatfield and Deerfield into the mix, too. If you're selling property on the Jersey Shore, you probably won't be fazed by the higher price tag in Northampton vs. surrounding towns. There are very few Republicans in the Pioneer Valley. Welcome!
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Old 02-25-2013, 05:02 AM
 
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Thank you all very much for the advice and the excellent and informative links! We have not even visited the area yet - the idea of this move is overwhelming but with this information I feel like I finally have my head above water. The dog park info is great! I had forgotten to ask about that but I take our dogs to the dog park here and it is a really good way to meet people, so thank you. I am excited to check out the other suggested towns as well. Many thanks, and looking forward to the Pioneer Valley!!
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Old 02-25-2013, 07:56 PM
 
Location: a swanky suburb in my fancy pants
3,391 posts, read 4,523,676 times
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It sounds like Wilbraham and particularly Longmeadow would be too fancy for what the OP is asking for. Those towns actually have a few homes with swimming pools LOL
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:33 PM
 
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Howdy,

I recommend checking out Easthampton. I moved here from the midwest back in 1989 and have lived in a bunch of different towns in the "Happy Valley" since then. My wife and I bought our house in Easthampton about 15 years ago after looking around the area for about a year trying to decide - it was a good value and Easthampton has a good central location imo - roughly 20-30 minutes to Springfield (depending on traffic), Amherst and South Deerfield, and it's right next door to Northampton. Depending on your budget, I think you've got a better chance of finding a more affordable home with a big yard in Easthampton than many other towns in this area. I don't know how the tax rate compares these days, but it was lower than most other towns when we bought our place.

Easthampton is more provincial than Northampton (absolutely no worries about status symbols here) and the downtown is nowhere near as large, but there's a little strip of stores and restaurants. There's also a bike trail running through town that makes getting around easy. For long rides you can bike from Easthampton to Amherst (I don't do it - too many hills for me).

Politically, most of my neighborhood is Republican - but I'm a lefty and no one cares - we talk about the weather and sports. If politics are a big concern, Noho and Amherst are the primary places to consider (a right wing radio host from Boston that went to prep school in South Deerfield calls Amherst "The People's Republic of Amherst" if that helps).

I don't have kids, but from what I've heard, the Easthampton public schools aren't great (one of my friends in town sends his kids to private school in Northampton). They have started building a new $40 million high school, so hopefully that will help down the road a bit. If you've got a lot of cash, your kids could go to Williston in Easthampton - another one of my buddies is loaded and his daughter loved it there. Tuition is like 28-35K per year, though.

I prefer Northampton to Amherst - though they are pretty similar. Amherst feels like a "college town" to me (since it is) while Northampton is a typical "quaint" New England town (Smith College is right in town, but since it's a women's school, Noho doesn't have the wandering groups of frat boys like Amherst does). There are plenty of very old homes in both towns. Both have walkable downtowns with numerous shops and restaurants. Amherst is noticeably less busy once college kids head out for summer. Noho has more buskers and panhandlers because it is a destination town for dining out (not too many college kids handing out quarters, I guess).

Easthampton, Northampton, Hadley and Amherst are all safe towns to walk around - I've never run into any problems. Although like everywhere, it depends on where you are and what time you're there - there's bad streets/neighborhoods everywhere in this country - but the happy valley is generally very safe.
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