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Old 04-20-2012, 02:44 PM
 
95 posts, read 273,925 times
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My husband and I will be moving to Boston this summer for a job at Boston College. We've visited the city a few times, but we don't know it well, so we're hoping for some advice about neighborhoods.

A bit about us: We are a mid-30's professional couple with no children. We do, however, have two cats who believe they are children. We currently rent a loft in downtown Los Angeles, and plan to rent when we arrive in Boston. We enjoy city living, and require a walkable, urban neighborhood. We would like to be as close to the city center as possible. We will not have a car, so parking is not an issue, but we will need easy access to public transportation. We will also want a reasonable commute to BC by bus or train (1 hr or less, and without too many transfers), so that narrows the options quite a bit, I think. Our current neighborhood is urban, somewhat 'up-and-coming', with a bit of dirt under its nails, but with a lot going on in terms of restaurants, shops, art galleries, etc. We enjoy our neighborhood and would be happy with something similar in Boston. We don't want to be surrounded by college kids, but do like to have lots of things nearby
.

We would like to keep our monthly rent in Boston at or below $2000. If push came to shove, we could consider going a bit higher--say, to $2300. But our goal is to stay within a budget of $2000 if possible, and we realize that doing so will probably require some sacrifices. Our current home is just over 1000 sq. ft. I've been browsing the Craigslist ads in Boston, and my sense is that it won't be easy to find a unit of that size in the city on a budget of $2000. So we figure that we may either have to sacrifice on space, or on location. We could probably squeeze into 850 sq.ft., but smaller than that will likely be out of the question.

In terms of location--we definitely need your advice. Based on what we know from our own visits and from what we've read online, we'd enjoy living in the North End or the Leather District. But I get the feeling that those places are out of our price range. We also like the South End, and I've seen some affordable places there, but they seem small. It seems like the South End will involve sacrificing space in favor of location. Jamaica Plain also seems like a place where we'd fit, and apartments seem to be a lot more affordable there, but I'm a bit concerned that it's too far out for us, and not as much is reachable on foot. (E.g. some of the places I've seen online have a WalkScore of 85, which seems low to us.) Plus, even though JP is geographically closer to BC than the South End, the commute may actually be more of a hassle because JP isn't on the Green Line.) Based on what we know about places like Bookline, Newton, Alston & Brighton, these are places where we'll probably not want to focus a search. But, we are open to suggestions, and we may feel differently once we see those neighborhoods for ourselves.

We've also considered some things in Cambridge, but since we've never been there, we have less of a grip on that side of town. We see people on the posts recommending neighborhoods like Inman Square, Davis Square and Central Square, and those places sound like they have some of the features we're looking for. But, we're concerned about the commute to BC from Cambridge, and also about being surrounded by college students. Since we work at colleges, we don't really want to live in a college neighborhood.

So, we'd love to have any advice you could offer us. Is JP as far out as it appears to be on a map? Does anyone know about the commute from JP to BC? What about to BC from areas in Cambridge? Do you think we can find 900-1000 sq ft in the South End for around $2000, or is that unrealistic? (Craigslist ads in Boston rarely include info on square footage, so that complicates our search. But I sense from the photos that 2br apartments going for around $2000 are going to be smaller than that.)

We've read that people don't like the Green Line, especially the B. But, that's the one that goes to BC! We had thought that it would make good sense to live somewhere fairly close to the Green Line, in order to have a simple commute. But, it seems like most of those neighborhoods are populated by students. So, maybe there's a more convenient way to make that commute from another area?

Sorry for such a long post. We're excited for our move, and I know we're going to love living in Boston!
We'll appreciate any advice you can give to help guide is in the right direction.
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:09 PM
 
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For starters, if you are willing to spend $2000/month for rent, you should have little trouble finding a nice 1 bed with at least 750-850 square feet almost anywhere in the city. Perhaps the North End, Back Bay and Charlestown would be tough given the dense nature of the neighborhoods and they are very popular which translates into high rents.

Since you will both be working at BC, I would suggest a few different areas. First, will you have a car? Car and transit aside, Watertown, Newton and Brookline would all be good options as they are close to BC, and generally nice areas. There is also a little more space, so finding a larger apartment will be easier than say South Boston, or the South End. I know people who live in a nice, good sized apartments, all about 900 square feet, near Coolidge Corner in Brookline, which is a great area. There is a wide range of food options and other stores (multipe CVS locations, a Walgreens, multiple banks, etc.) and it is located right on the C line which takes you to Cleveland Circle and a short walk to BC from there.

Another option would be Oak Square in Brighton. It's right on the Newton Border and is a very close distance to the BC Campus. Close to Brighton Center and between Brighton Center and Newton Corner, a short distance, you have all you need. Plus it has easy access to the Pike and a few bus lines that run through it.

Again, given your budget, you shouldn't have a big issue finding a nice, big place in the mentioned areas.
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:14 PM
 
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Also, yes the B branch of the green line is the worst. It's the slowest, but it does go right to the BC campus. However, the C and D branches get close and are a lot better especially the D lbranch. The B line runs right through Allston and Brighton and the neighborhoods that surrounding it are mostly college kids and those in their early to mid-20s.
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Old 04-20-2012, 07:20 PM
 
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People complain about the B line because it's like being on a school bus. It seems to stop every 10 feet, it's full of students, and getting to the end of the line takes an age from Boston. Even if you were to live next to Copley Station in the Back Bay, the ride to work would take you 35-40 minutes, plus walking time to and from the stations.

JP to Boston College would be a nasty commute. Cambridge is also not a great choice (and I say this having lived in Central and Davis while commuting to the end of the C line).

To give you some idea of Back Bay prices, in 2007 my 450 sq ft 2nd floor 1 bed apartment went for $1600. It was very cute, in a brownstone, walk score of 97, but it would not have been suitable for two people. Of course, you're willing to spend $400 more than that, so it's worth seeing what your options are. Any farther out (Leather District, etc.), be prepared for an hour commute.

If you're willing to go bus (#66) to B line, Coolidge Corner in Brookline would give you so much more space and still keep commute time low. The 66 runs very frequently, and you wouldn't be on it very long. Despite what you may have heard about Brookline as a suburb, Coolidge Corner has a walk score of 98 and actually has very similar character to Davis Square and Harvard Square. Another bonus: you'd be living on the C line for rides in to Boston proper.

If I worked at BC and wanted to rent rather than own, Coolidge Corner is probably where I'd pick. I lived there as a college student and always felt surrounded by the young professionals crowd.
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Old 04-20-2012, 07:55 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
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I strongly second the suggestion of Coolidge Corner. I'm not sure what you've read about Brookline, but it's a diverse city, from the very urban, walkable, vibrant, and well-connected area around Coolidge Corner to the uber-rich suburban wilderness in the southern part of the city. But Coolidge Corner sounds perfect for you, and the commute would be a breeze!

I think you would really enjoy the Red Line areas in Cambridge/Somerville (Central/Harvard/Porter/Davis). They're definitely not overflowing with students (that's Allston-Brighton). Aside from Harvard, most of those areas actually have more young professionals and maybe graduate students than anything else (and in Harvard, most of the student populace resides in more distant neighborhoods, as the rents in the surrounding area are fairly high for undergraduates). However, the commute to BC would be a real pain from any of these places. Harvard would be the least painful, but still pretty long.

You're right that the commute from Jamaica Plain wouldn't be easy either. It's a great neighborhood with a great vibe, but it is true that it's a little less walkable than places closer to the city. It's definitely the place to go if you want more green space without breaking the bank.

I don't know if Fenway-Kenmore has the vibe you're looking for, but it's very centrally located, a bit more affordable than the South End, and definitely worth looking into. Honestly, the South End is a big place and depending on where you are, you could be looking at another very long commute. The Green Line sucks, which is why it's best to live as close to BC as you can.
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:44 PM
 
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Kenmore-Fenway is a fun area, but it's mobbed with BU students. If the OP is trying to escape the students just a little bit, that might not be the best place to do it.
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:51 PM
 
3,755 posts, read 4,772,257 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donewithpretty View Post
Kenmore-Fenway is a fun area, but it's mobbed with BU students. If the OP is trying to escape the students just a little bit, that might not be the best place to do it.
BU, Northeastern, Wentworth, Simmons, Emmanuel, Wheelock, Mass Art, etc. all are over in Fenway.
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:49 PM
 
95 posts, read 273,925 times
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Thanks so much for your posts. Coolidge Corner sounds like a good option, so we'll add that to the list of possibilities. It just seems so far out, and we are 'downtown' people. But we are also not rich people, so I guess we're just having a hard time adjusting our expectations. Coming from Los Angeles, we didn't expect the cost of housing to be higher in Boston. We're still wrapping our minds around it.

Thanks for the advice about the Green Line. BC actually has a shuttle that runs to the D branch, so maybe that's a better option than dealing with the B. We don't mind taking a bus to the train, but we'd definitely want to avoid more than one transfer. Too much trouble.

Right now, my husband commutes to Pasadena, which is about 45min by bus, an hour door-to-door. Since you can get some work done on the bus or train, it's not nearly as bad as a commute by car, and an hour each way is fine with us. More than that is a bit much, but we're happy to accept a longer commute in exchange for a more central location. . . if we could afford a more central location.

So, when I'm seeing 2br apartments in the South End for $2000 (not that I'm seeing that many), do you figure they're more like 750sq ft? I rarely see sq ft given in the ads, and photos make the places seem pretty small. But, sometimes photos can be deceiving, right? Am I grasping at straws to believe that there might be something more like 900 sq ft for that price? (I mean, I've come to terms with the fact that the 2nd bath or half bath I've been dreaming of is a totally unrealistic fantasy. Do I also have to face the choice between the suburbs or a shoebox in the city? :/
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Old 04-20-2012, 11:37 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 8,131,569 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmcgill View Post
Thanks so much for your posts. Coolidge Corner sounds like a good option, so we'll add that to the list of possibilities. It just seems so far out, and we are 'downtown' people. But we are also not rich people, so I guess we're just having a hard time adjusting our expectations. Coming from Los Angeles, we didn't expect the cost of housing to be higher in Boston. We're still wrapping our minds around it.
If you think about it, though, the really expensive neighborhoods of Boston - Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Downtown, North End, South End, etc. - comprise a pretty small area (maybe 4 square miles), especially compared to how massive LA is.
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Old 04-21-2012, 10:33 AM
 
387 posts, read 911,492 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmcgill View Post
Do I also have to face the choice between the suburbs or a shoebox in the city? :/
If an hour commute doesn't bother you, you can definitely get a little more space in Boston proper. I gave you my Back Bay footage because that's the neighborhood I happen to know, and it's close to the green line to BC.

I'm wondering though if part of your issue is the way the Boston area labels its towns. Brookline refused to be annexed by Boston back in the 1800s, but it is still an exclave (meaning it's bordered by Boston on almost all sides -- north, south, east, northwest, and southwest). If you lived in Coolidge Corner, it would be "Brookline" in name only. Your walk score and access to the rest of Boston would be the same as living many other places in Boston proper.
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