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Old 08-31-2009, 12:45 PM
 
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Hi,

I will be soon accepting a job in Cambridge (a few blocks from MIT campus) and I've been looking at several of the areas around Cambridge (mainly north and west of Cambridge). I'm having a hard time figuring out which town/area would be the best fit for me and my family, and where we can really afford to live. I'm hoping that some of you can point me in the right direction.

My priorities are this (in order of importance):
1. Safety for my wife and 2 boys (2 and 5 years old)--oh yeah, and me too!
2. Quality of schools.
3. Length of commute to my work (again, just a few blocks west of MIT; Central Station is the closest T stop).
4. Proximity to parks, jogging, and/or biking trails.
5. Living somewhere that feels like a community, and not just a place.

Things that don't matter to me:
1. Nightlife (married and two little kids, remember?).

Other key constraints:
We'd really like at least a 3 bedroom house (single family) with at least 1500 SF, and our house budget is capped at about $400K. My wife really enjoys gardening, so finding a house with enough yard that she can turn part of it into a garden would be a fantastic plus.

If you have a recommendation or two, I thank you in advance for taking the time to reply. Any info you have about the locations you recommend (such as how long it would take to get to Cambridge from there, or which streets/neighborhoods are best) is also greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
David
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Old 08-31-2009, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Dallas
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Cambridge is safe enough for the family with only minor urban issues. I'd say the diversity experience in Cambridge is as good as it gets and if you can afford CAM and find something you like, you should do it. There are few communities anywhere more sophisticated than CAMB.

If a high end urban lifestyle is not for you, you might try Arlington or Medford.
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Old 08-31-2009, 06:30 PM
 
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Are you working in the pharmaceutical/research industry? You should look at Melrose, you can probably get a small house for less than 400K. It is about 9 miles north of Cambridge and the commute would be 1/2 hour. There are tons of things to do for families - I think it was voted best city for families in Boston Magazine recently.
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Old 08-31-2009, 09:14 PM
 
4 posts, read 11,106 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beantown_mama View Post
Are you working in the pharmaceutical/research industry? You should look at Melrose, you can probably get a small house for less than 400K. It is about 9 miles north of Cambridge and the commute would be 1/2 hour. There are tons of things to do for families - I think it was voted best city for families in Boston Magazine recently.
You guessed correctly--I'm working in the Pharma industry. From Melrose, would you recommend driving to the T stop down in Malden and then taking that into town? Or would you take the commuter rail from Melrose into Boston and then transfer to the Red line to Central Station?

Thanks,
David
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Old 08-31-2009, 10:56 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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By taking the Orange Line in from Oak Grove you'd stand a much better chance of getting a seat on the train, though it might be more of a feat to find a place to park near the station. Commuter rail costs more and the service isn't as frequent. But since there are three stations within Melrose the convenience might be worth pursuing that option, at least sometimes.
You (TO) have apparently warmed to Melrose (I like that city, too), but have you ruled out Arlington? While the 77 bus into Harvard Square is renowned for its slowness during peak times, it operates "constantly" from early morning well into the evening. And from Arlington Hts there are SIX bus routes (62, 67, 76, 78, 79, & 84) which can whisk you right to and from the Alewife terminus of the Red Line.
Melrose and Arlington are both quite kid-friendly, with better-than-average public schools and an "artsy" feel (Arlington with its all-ages Friends of the Drama group, Melrose with its own symphony orchestra.) There's a better selection of real, non-fast-food, restaurants in Arlington. But Melrose can boast that present-day American rarity of having an independent pharmacy as well as an independent hardware store. As far as house styles are concerned, there're more cozy yet roomy Capes from the WWII era in Arlington but the supply of Victorians is more plentiful in Melrose (particularly the Highlands.) Both towns run about even in terms of early-20th-Century single-families in the Tudor + Arts & Crafts + 4-Square Colonial styles. Particularly on its east side but also near Mass. Ave all through town, Arlington has an abundance of 2.5-story duplexes with generous space, a fair number of which have undergone condo conversion. They're popular as starter homes and as domiciles for folks who don't intend to remain in the area long-term.
You'd fare happily in either place. My main reason for bringing Arlington back into the light is that it's along part of the "rail trail" Minuteman Bikeway. That is a huge hit with walkers, bladers, runners, bicyclists, stroller-pushers, you name it. The trail is nicely shaded, and extends all the way from Bedford in to Alewife Station. Some commuters are now leaving their vehicles at home in favor of biking to the subway, where not long ago a fenced-in and sheltered bike storage area was unveiled.
Recently I stumbled onto a happy solution to Boston-area realtor Web sites which force you to register before you can view properties online. The trulia.com site displays all public listings without cost or restrictions. It's where I surf now, when I start pining for a residence upgrade.
Best o' luck! And, btw, don't completely rule out Belmont. House prices are never as economical on a whole as they are in Arlington, but the schools are top-tier ("a pipeline to Harvard.") Public parks aren't a strong suit of the town, but it does host the Mass. Audubon nature sanctuary called Habitat which is full of kid-oriented programs. There are several bus (74, 78) and trackless-trolley (73) lines which run to Harvard Square, whence it's one subway stop or a swift bus transfer (#1 along Mass. Ave, #68 along Broadway, or #69 along Cambridge St) to the Central Square area.
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:30 AM
 
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goyguy: thanks for the tip about the minuteman trail. Back when I lived in Durham, NC, I very much enjoyed living near a similar rails-to-trails bike trail like that. I will have to keep that in mind, but I'm not so sure that Arlington is quite in my price range. There don't seem to be many 3 BDR houses there in the high 300s/low 400s.

Thanks again,
David
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Old 09-01-2009, 11:23 AM
 
Location: Boston
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What about Arlington or Belmont? And plenty of great family oriented towns along route 2. You may find something in your budget.
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Old 09-01-2009, 03:45 PM
 
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If you lived in Melrose and wanted to take public transportation, I would suggest taking the Commuter Rail to North Station and then taking the EZ ride shuttle which goes to Landsdowne Street. The link is here: Charles River Transportation Management Association. I agree it would be harder to find a house in your price range in Arlington (and particularly Belmont) in your price range but they are both nice towns.
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Old 09-02-2009, 06:52 AM
 
4 posts, read 11,106 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beantown_mama View Post
If you lived in Melrose and wanted to take public transportation, I would suggest taking the Commuter Rail to North Station and then taking the EZ ride shuttle which goes to Landsdowne Street. The link is here: Charles River Transportation Management Association. I agree it would be harder to find a house in your price range in Arlington (and particularly Belmont) in your price range but they are both nice towns.
Thank you for the tip about the EZ ride shuttle. I didn't even know it existed. That looks like a pretty good option.
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Old 09-02-2009, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Boston, MA
3,436 posts, read 4,776,144 times
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I would recommend my section of Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston Proper, not a separate town) known commonly as Adams Village. My neighborhood is teeming with families with young children. It is fairly diverse although I would still say that it is mostly Irish if you don't mind that, it is safe, and it is convenient (the Ashmont T stop on the Red Line is just a short walk away and you get great access to the expressway). You want a neighborhood that is a community and you will get it here. There is the lively Adams Village Neighborhood Association that hosts cookouts and other activities and keeps the neighborhood informed of happenings. The Neponset River Greenway with its own converted rail-trail is close by as is the scenic Pope John Paul II Park right by the river's edge. There are plenty of single family homes within your price range here with their own yards just like the suburbs and yes people do garden here as well as walk their pets.

The area to do research in are the public schools. I refuse to bow to the common bandwagon in this forum that keeps saying that every Boston public school is horrible because it is simply not true. There are schools to avoid but there are relatively decent ones as well or otherwise no public elementary school student would have a shot at attending our renowned examination high schools like Boston Latin (my own alma mater) and Boston Latin Academy. I would say that you are generally all set if your neighborhood is a good one because elementary school students tend to attend schools in within their own neighborhood. This all changes by high school level but that's years into the future.

I still think you should look into the Adams Village and Neponset sections of Dorchester because these might just be the perfect areas of affordability and convenience for you.
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