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Old 01-08-2011, 01:46 AM
Location: El Paso, TX
9 posts, read 17,986 times
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So as the title states, I'm hopefully moving to Boston in the very near future. There are still a few deciding factors up in the air but right now, it's pretty much 80%. With a 20% chance of being in Chicago instead. And of course, like everyone else, I need help with neighborhoods to look into. Some background about me.

I am a 26yo black female. I grew up in southern California but I have spent about 4.5 of the last 6 years in Oregon and am quite ready to be away from this coast. I am a college student applying to a variety of schools in the Boston area for transfer. Notably UMass Boston, Northeastern & Simmons. So ideally I would like to find a neighborhood that is relatively convenient. I'm more than likely selling my car before coming because I am highly adverse to the idea of digging it out during the winter. So decent access to the subway lines would be of the utmost importance for me.

I will be living with roommates when I arrive because there is no way that I can afford my own apt just yet. Either way, I am not looking into spending a terribly large amount of money. Though I understand that it may end up being necessary. I will have around $10K when I leave here to sustain me until I can find employment. So ideally I'd like to spend around $700 or less for my part of rent/utilities.

I would like to find an area that is at least semi-safe. Meaning I don't have to worry about getting hit with a stray bullet or something. Somewhere that if I am walking home at night, I don't have to constantly be looking over my shoulder thinking someone is going to pop out from an alley or behind a bush or something. Not that I see that as likely to happen, but still. I'm not trying to end up hurt or in prison. Better safe than sorry.

I'm also pretty big into the nightlife. Bars, clubs, etc. I understand that the T stops at 1am and that is excruciatingly early. So maybe an area where if I were to cab it home I wouldn't faint at the amount owed.

These were the first things that came to mind. I'm sure there are probably others that I forgot about while writing this. Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated. And if there is any other information that you deem necessary, please ask.

Thanks in advance
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:10 AM
Location: Dallas
613 posts, read 1,017,085 times
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What type of work are you looking for? Bad areas you want to stay out of Roxbury and Mattapan. For night life you can pretty much get any where in a cab for 30$ if you split it.
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:45 AM
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With the rental budget you stated, I think you're thinking correctly about having roommates. I have some questions to help narrow the possibilities:

How long a commute can you handle?

And would you prefer, or at least be okay with, being in an area with a lot of undergrads, or would you rather be as close as possible to some nightlife, but avoid having the undergrad crowd living all around you? To follow up on that, would you prefer undergrad dance club nightlife, or more adult/young professionals kinds of entertainment?

Depending on how short you'd like to keep your commute, it could be tricky to name the best areas without knowing which school you'd be attending. Northeastern and Simmons are close to each other, but UMass Boston is in a different neighborhood.

For UMass Boston, since you're looking for some city living, I'd suggest locations along the red line of the T in either Cambridge or Somerville. Areas like Porter Square in Cambridge and Davis Sq. in Somerville have a collection of young professionals. Residential neighborhoods in the streets leading away from Central or Harvard Squares in Cambridge would offer more of a mixed crowd of professors, students (including grad students), non-academic professionals, and families. All of these areas have red line stops.

Closer to Simmons and N.U., the big student areas are Fenway/Kenmore Sq. and the Allston-Brighton areas in the vicinity of Commonwealth Ave., including the neighborhood around Cleveland Circle in Brighton. Around Kenmore Square and The Fenway the feel is more urban than in Allston or Brighton. Fenway and Kenmore are on the edge of the central city. Allston and Brighton are more urban residential--detached houses in many neighborhoods, but tiny yards or basically no yards. Unfortunately, the student areas in Allston and Brighton are notorious student ghetto kinds of areas, where the landlords have the reputation for not always keeping up the properties very well. Still, thousands of students live there and make it through college just fine.

As for nightlife, there are dance clubs with a big college student clientele in Allston. You'll find some of the big dance clubs near Kenmore Square, but the location of Kenmore/Fenway on the edge of the central city also puts you closer to amenities for a more mature crowd, like restaurants and museums, although in much of the Fenway/Kenmore area you'd be living with a lot of undergrads around you.

For a more upscale feel close to Kenmore/Fenway, check out the Brookline Village and Coolidge Corner sections of Brookline. The local shopping and dining are more of the posh sorts of places that appeal to the mature crowd, but if this feels a bit stifling to you, there's quick access to Kenmore Sq. and vicinity via the T's green line.

A couple of other areas fairly close to Simmons and N.U. that might be of interest are Jamaica Plain and the Mission Hill neighborhood in Roxbury. Given the fact that you've expressed concern about safety, I would say these might be a bit more iffy for you. In any area I've suggested you need to be prepared to follow the usual precautions that are prudent in a city--avoid dark, isolated areas, don't stumble around drunk and all alone at 3AM, don't flash money, etc.--but these are basically safe areas where you should be okay if you use good common sense.

The thing about Jamaica Plain is that it has a reputation for varying a lot from neighborhood to neighborhood, or in some cases even street to street, as to its safety or grittiness. Some of the nicer areas have some concentrations of young professionals, and the young professionals kind of nightlife, and from much of J.P. you can get to the Fenway/Kenmore area on the green line. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about J.P. to clue you in to the areas you'd be best off living in. Since you're unfamiliar with the territory, you'd be best off making sure you get some good info from knowledgeable people before living in J.P.

As for Mission Hill, the area has a mix of students, young professionals, and longtime blue-collar black residents. That area is fine in itself, again as long as you exercise common sense, but if you're unfamiliar with the area it's possible to stray off fairly quickly into some not-so-good neighborhoods, so Mission Hill might not be my first recommendation for someone who has emphasized a desire for safe areas the way you have. Still, Mission Hill and J.P. are worth putting on your intitial list of possibilities. Get to know the area, so you know the sketchier spots in the vicinity that you'd want to avoid, and you should be fine in either area.

This should get you started with some possibilities to consider. The answers to those questions I asked earlier should help narrow the possibilities further.
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Old 01-08-2011, 03:03 AM
Location: Quincy, Mass. (near Boston)
2,712 posts, read 4,681,349 times
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Oops, just finally submitting this after realizing that ogre just gave you loads of info...

$700 should afford you the chance to get a roomie situation in desirable Brookline, not far from Simmons or NEU. For U-Mass, check Craigslist for Quincy, parts of Dorchester, South Boston. Cambridge and Somerville.

We really don't get lots of big snowstorms in Boston this generation. Yes, we had 18 inches over the Christmas holiday from what I heard (I was away), but practically all is gone already save for snowbanks in parking lots and such. We had three consecutive days last week with 45-50 temps in the evening...not unheard of at some point most winters. Our last big storm was probably over three years ago. But the wind can make cold temps unbearable even w/o snow on the ground

Last edited by bostonguy1960; 01-08-2011 at 03:19 AM.. Reason: update
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Old 01-08-2011, 04:15 AM
Location: El Paso, TX
9 posts, read 17,986 times
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Regarding what kind of work I would be looking for, it'd most likely be just office type work. I've been an administrative assistant/bookkeeper off & on for almost 5 years. I'm really not terribly picky.

As for commute, ideally anything less than 30 minutes. I've spent much longer commuting in traffic driving to San Diego. As long as I can stick in my headphones and play with my phone, everything is fine.

I wouldn't be TOTALLY against living in an area with a lot of undergrads. I'd definitely prefer not to though. I live in a college town right now and it kind of drives me nuts. At least when its 3am on a Thursday night, they're stumbling home drunk & screaming while I'm trying to sleep. I'd definitely like to be close to nightlife but not living directly amongst barely drinking age kids. I tend to lean more towards the upscale over the "OMG I can finally go to a bar" scene. Though I DO love a good sports bar. Best places to catch a game when you can't be there.

I had looked into South Boston, Dorchester & Quincy because of proximity to UMass. I was confused when it came to Dorchester because there are so many smaller parts to it. And I read some things that say to avoid and others that say its only certain parts that you should avoid. I mean, I've lived in bad, sketchy neighborhoods before. I've held my own when need be. I just prefer to not have to, you know?

Thank you for all the information about the other neighborhoods as well. I was reading about some of them as well and had no idea where to even start so that is a huge help.

I also wanted to be near a Catholic Church which I imagine would not be a huge problem considering there seems to be one every few blocks.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:34 AM
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Like many sections of Boston, Dorchester is known to have a lot of variation from neighborhood to neighborhood in how nice or not it is. You've heard wrong when you've heard people say to avoid Dorchester altogether. However, what I said about Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill might apply to Dorchester as well: Because you may find that you can be in a nice neighborhood where you don't have to stray to far to be in a bad or questionable area, Dorchester might be better if you were more familiar with the area, so you wouldn't make a wrong turn into a bad neighborhood. In any case, Dorchester isn't necessarily a big nightlife area. I've heard rumors of a gayborhood developing somewhere in Dorchester--I forget where--so there might eventually be some young professionals kind of nightlife around there. Overall, though, Dorchester has not generally been known over the years as a nightlife hotspot.

If you want to avoid the undergrad crowd, stay away from the Fenway/Kenmore Square area, Allston and Brighton in the blocks off of Commonwealth Ave. (and definitely avoid Cleveland Circle in Brighton), and possibly Mission Hill as well. To avoid the Kenmore Sq. undergrads, you might also do well to stay away from the blocks at the far west end of Back Bay.

Compared to the neighborhood around Cleveland Circle, Brighton west of Market Street is more a mix of grad students and working people with families. Areas around Brighton Center and Oak Square will have some local mom-and-pop stores, and some neighborhood bars. Not sure what they might have in the way of sports bars. Don't know whether this makes a difference to you, but public transit from the west side of Brighton is by bus. This would also be a fairly long commute to UMass, if you ended up going there.

The Brookline neighborhoods that have been suggested are on the upscale side. Brookline is an affluent and mostly safe town, so it would be good for a nice safe area. You'd probably need to take the T for bar/sports bar nightlife.

Some areas that seem like good possibilities to me are neighborhoods along the red line in Cambridge. In particular, you might want to look around Porter and Central Squares. There are some small dance clubs and a bunch of ethnic restaurants in Cambridge. Not sure about the sports bar scene. These areas could be good because they would offer some local nightlife, and would put you right on the red line, so access to UMass would be easy. You'd have to transfer to the green line to reach the other schools you're considering, but this is not as bad as it could be, since it's a short ride on the red line to the green line connection, and the area where Simmons and N.U. are located is on the fringe of the central city, so the ride there is not too long. Those red line areas in Cambridge might be your best bet for transportation to any of the schools you're considering.

Farther up the red line, Davis Square in Somerville could be worth a look. It's a young pros area, so there will be nightlife, but I'm not sure where the nearest sports bar would be. From Davis Sq. you'd also have a bit longer ride to either UMass or the green line connection.

I'm thinking that Cambridge might be your best bet, with Brookline also a top contender if you'd be okay with more upscale kinds of businesses in your neighborhood, and traveling on the T for nightlife.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:55 AM
Location: Hell's Kitchen, NYC
2,271 posts, read 4,956,510 times
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I think you have the right idea about Boston, especially about schools. However, what's going on with the Chicago school side of things? You said you like to go out a lot and I do too. I consider myself a nonstereotypical black male, and while my own personal issues are my own personal issues, I find myself more comfortable in places where there's more race/class interaction. I'm not saying Boston is a bad choice, but I'm wondering if Chicago would be more of a cultural fit as well.

Last edited by theSUBlime; 01-10-2011 at 01:09 AM..
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:16 AM
Location: El Paso, TX
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So I'm thinking after a little more research and all this information, that I probably will look mostly into Cambridge & Somerville along the red line, Brookline & South Boston. I started reevaluating things and as much as I love the nightlife and going out. I don't as much as I did a few years ago. So realistically, I'd probably only hit the clubs maybe one weekend a month. Whereas when it comes to a neighborhood bar, much more often.

As for Chicago, its still definitely in the running. I have extended family there so it'd probably end up being a much easier move. Pretty much everything is based on admissions decisions. And if rejections, where I can live for a year to get in-state residency to apply again. I'm applying to Loyola, DePaul & UIC in Chicago. From the time I've spent there, Chicago seems very segregated. I don't know if its intentional or if that's just the way it happens. But you can almost draw a line at like Roosevelt and say that the white people live north and the blacks live south. With a few exceptions on the west side.

I also would be considered the nonstereotypical black female. Some have even dared to go as far as to call me "whitewashed". A term which I hate with a fiery passion. But you bring up a valid point that I don't think I thought about. Being from San Diego, there is pretty much a huge interaction between races & classes. Not the extremes when it comes to classes, but everyone else. Maybe I've taken it for granted, but does that not happen much in Boston? Do racial groups not mix? That would probably make me extremely uncomfortable. Especially since the majority of my relationships also end up being interracial as well.
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Old 01-10-2011, 07:47 AM
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UMass Boston is ok. To me it feels like logan airport in being so close to the water. I know what you mean about the undergrads. To note there have been arguments about making dorms for UMass Boston but it is taking forever (debated the past 10 years). When it was first made it was made with the idea that dorms wouldn't be made. Public housing authorities are probably ticked off at the idea.

If you looking for some ideas on restaurants there's a local show that can be found here
Welcome to Phantom Gourmet's Online Dining Community
One a year there's a large festival that costs around $30-40 to get in.
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:04 AM
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For convenience and access to Simmons and Northeastern, I'd suggest the Mission Hill area of Roxbury. Walking distance to both institutions (10-15 min), convenient to the E green line and the orange line, lots of students but not only students, a diverse area, reasonably convenient shopping, and it has the great Our Lady of Perpetual Help Minor Basilica--a/k/a Mission Church--which gives the neighborhood its name. I think it's pretty safe these days since they redeveloped the Mission Main housing project.
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