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Old 10-11-2012, 08:41 AM
 
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Hi, This forum has been a great resource for me and my family during our recent move from Palo Alto, CA to Boston. We moved because my husband got a good job offer here (he works in Cambridgeport) and, crazy as it sounds, we hoped the greater Boston area would be a more affordable place for our family of 4 to settle down than the Bay Area. This appears to be true, but with some considerable trade offs. We are currently renting an apartment in Arlington, which came highly recommended to us by many people, but we are not happy with the town itself (noisy, seems to lack both decent urban and suburban amenities like high quality food and nice open spaces, respectively). The commute isn't bad, 20-35 minutes depending on traffic, and we don't really want to sign up for a longer commute if possible but we are willing to if we can find a neighborhood that offers good schools as well good access, especially walking!, to cafes, markets, cute shops, parks, playgrounds. If it is helpful, I am from Ann Arbor, MI and my husband is from Oakland, CA, which we both love, and we have been happily living in the Palo Alto area for the past 10 years. We were really taken aback by how places like Lexington, and even Newton, just don't have much of a downtown, but at the same time Cambridge doesn't seem to have much access to nature, Boston schools don't sound promising, etc. So far the place we feel most excited about is Brookline but our housing budget is probably maxed out around 600K at present so we definitely can't get into a house there, and we aren't sure about a condo, and rents are quite high as well. We also weren't sure whether we would feel like fish out of water in Brookline, are there many young middle-class families living there for the schools? Any other communities or neighborhoods people can suggest?

Thank you for any suggestions/feedback you can give us!!
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:40 AM
 
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I went to college in the peninsula and held a postdoc there (combined with grad school and now a job in Cambridge) giving me a fair grasp of what you want, but Oakland, Palo Alto, and A2 are quite different from each other! Arlington is definitely not Palo Alto (more like San Mateo), but I'm puzzled by your comment that Lexington doesn't compare. It's been a number of years, but I would say Palo Alto and Lexington approximate each other, down to the people who work in the tech field and higher ed (though the latter is getting pushed out of both towns). If you want something like A2 (I taught there as well!), I would say the closest thing is Providence. As you know, A2 is a pseudo-suburb of Detroit, much like Providence with Boston, and they're both cities in their own right. I would say Brookline is something like Tiburon - not sure if that's what you want. Berkeley is somewhat similar to Cambridge but Oakland is a tough one - maybe Watertown or the part of Boston that stretches from Fenway to Jamaica Plain (though JP reminds me of Noe)?

If you like Palo Alto, I would check out Winchester as well, but $600k would likely put you in one of the smaller homes needing some updates. If you truly want a hybrid of these cities, I would look at Melrose. It has a somewhat walkable downtown, rail transit, proximity to Cambridge, decent schools (though not elite), and Victorian housing stock. Another option might be Andover though it's farther out.
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Old 10-11-2012, 10:27 AM
 
Location: Upper East, NY
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You're asking a lot - a halfway-amped up downtown and access to nature.

Maybe look at Belmont.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by crescent22 View Post
You're asking a lot - a halfway-amped up downtown and access to nature.

Maybe look at Belmont.
The only problem with Belmont is that on a <$600k budget the Waverley area is mainly in play, which is probably denser than what the OP wants (like East Arlington).
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:47 PM
 
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Belmont was my first pick for what you're looking for, though choices will be somewhat limited in that price range. We had clients looking around that price earlier in the summer and the market was really hot. That being said, touring Belmont with them made me fall in love with the area all over again. It's more pedestrian friendly with little shops and great parks and so forth. Payson Park is my favorite area of town & it was theirs too.
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:54 PM
 
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Thanks for the suggestions! I haven't really seen much of Belmont and will check out the Payson Park area. We are ok with a condo so that should give us some more options in terms of housing. Just to clarify, my husband is from the Montclair village area of Oakland, which is cute and has Peets, groceries, and an awesome weekend farmer's market all walkable. I agree that PA, Oakland, and Ann Arbor are all quite different, but they all see to have more going on than say, Lexington, which (unless I'm missing something, totally possible!) has only a few blocks of rather bland commercial development along mass ave, and they are all also racially and culturally diverse places.
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:06 PM
 
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My twin lives in Montclair! Such a lovely area!
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Old 10-11-2012, 03:20 PM
 
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Arlington is far above the norm in the Boston suburbs for walkability but it's no more so than Newton or Belmont, and none of these places have a downtown with everything at walking distance. Newton has all these little "villages" which are cute but limited in their offerings. Not one of them would permit an easy car-free life. Among the suburbs Brookline is the champ and I'd guess that many people get into Brookline for the schools who would otherwise live in Boston itself. Cambridge doesn't have big parks but it has the riverbank, Fresh Pond, Mt Auburn Cemetery, and the rather park-like atmosphere that stretches from Harvard Yard west to the cemetery. Somerville has some walkable areas too but less open space than Cambridge and the schools are questionable. The Boston area is loaded with nice open spaces but they're scattered around. In Roslindale Square, in Boston, you can find bakeries, butcher, fishmonger, full service grocer, a few restaurants and cute shops, the branch library, and the train to Boston. Dingy as compared to, say, Lexington or Belmont, but walkable and comparatively affordable. It's a short walk to some nice playgrounds and the incomparable Arnold Arboretum. Only problem is navigating the Boston schools.
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Old 10-13-2012, 02:40 PM
 
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Winchester and Lexington have bigger downtown areas than most suburbs. Concord Center is quaint with a capital Q but hard to find anything for $600K, if that is the goal. West Concord is very walkable, has a functional but modest town center and probably has a few houses remaining in the $600K range (though you have to wrest them away from developers). You might be able to buy a nice 3 BR condominium in Brookline (maybe Brookline Village). That would have a little bit more and would be walkable.
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Old 10-13-2012, 04:10 PM
 
1,039 posts, read 3,436,889 times
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Originally Posted by jackshaw View Post
West Concord is very walkable, has a functional but modest town center and probably has a few houses remaining in the $600K range (though you have to wrest them away from developers).
One move-in ready house within walking distance of the village just went for under $500k. I believe a flipper was offering around $400k cash but the owner wanted to sell to a family. Another several doors down went around $300k but it needed significant rehab (and presumably went to a flipper). They are both decent in size, ~2000 sq. ft. `
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