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Old 09-18-2009, 10:26 AM
 
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The age old question - where should I live rears it's head one more time. I went to school at BU and really enjoyed my time in Boston. Now, 37, divorced and with the very real possibility of a job (finally!!) in Boston I am moving back. It has been a long time and I had a different viewpoint back then so I would really love the help.

Being divorced I would like to be in a socially active area, upscale professionals, safe neighborhood. My rent would need to be under $2K ideally. I need a one bedroom, no pets.

I'm sure a lot has changed over the years so your insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old 09-18-2009, 11:46 AM
 
Location: Newton, Mass.
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You might check out Coolidge Corner or Brookline Village
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:00 AM
 
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isn't that mostly college students from BC and BU?
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:30 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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A changed viewpoint would of course mean ruling out Allston...LOL...student Nirvana but adult nightmare! It's no less of a slum now than it was fifteen years ago.
A natural and logical choice would be Cambridge, and I'm not saying that because I live there. In today's market, $2k for a 1-BR shouldn't be an issue. Despite heavy condo-conversion activity in the wake of rent control's demise fifteen years ago, a lot of rentals are still out there. In fact, the recession has led would-be condo developers to market their new buildings as apartments instead. (Caution: steer clear of the "Third Square" complex near Kendall Square; the owners decided to rent the units after sales went too slowly for their liking. People who'd signed legally binding purchase-and-sale agreements have litigation going on.) If new or post-80's construction is appealing, the Watermark building - also on Third St - has vacancies. Then there's the University Park area between MIT and Brookline St, a brand-new building at Brookline + Franklin St's where the notorious Man Ray club once stood, and a sprawling complex alongside Alewife Station. Of course, Cambridge is also chock full of large older brick buildings as well as three-deckas and 2- and 3-family houses. And there's no lack of realtors and rental agencies to help match you to a place. Same as it ever was, Cambridge can deliver "upscale" and "socially active" in spades.
In Somerville, the gentrification that had gotten underway with the opening of the Red Line extension through Davis Square and started picking up speed by the mid-90's is now in full throttle. West Somerville, encompassing Davis + Teele + Ball Squares (I've always snickered at the latter for its oxymoronic name) could easily be construed as an annex to Cambridge now. All the way east to Union Square, the longtime Italian and Portuguese populations are making room for flocks of immigrants - whether they be fresh off the boat from Haiti or Brazil or Korea, or newly minted Caucasian yuppies. After decades of dead-ended plans, there are now real proposals in the works for an extension of the Green Line from Lechmere to the Tufts area, with a spur line leading right to Union Square. If you're planning to stay long-term, this sector of Somerville would be a great one to establish yourself as a renter in - then make a housing investment before prices soar.
This will no doubt come as a shock, but Arlington is now starting to become a "happening" place. Its residential streets are still sound asleep by 9 PM, but a relaxation of the Blue Laws brought full liquor licensing rights to restaurateurs. Consequently, you now have your choice of no less than five sushi joints in Arlington Center alone. Among other eateries, there are Krazy Karry's with made-to-order hamburgers, a top-notch Indian restaurant, several Thai or Italian places, and even an Argentinian establishment. Gone are the days when pizza/sub and lousy Chinese take-out shops ruled the scene, though they're of course still around. The Capitol Theater, multiscreened for some time, is a great place to catch a flick. Spiraling real-estate costs in Cambridge and West Somerville have served to make Arlington a much more progressive-leaning town than had been the case until the early '90s. It's still an "overwhelmingly" White bedroom community of families, but no longer are "people of color" or same-sex-oriented persons an unusual sight. As far as safety is concerned, Arlington's Finest continue to while away their shifts keeping an eye out for minor traffic violations on Mass. Ave and teen partiers at Magnolia Field and in Menotomy Rocks Park. There are available apartments galore along the entire length of Mass. Ave, though most are in drab "brick box" buildings. Nicer and more spacious rentals would be in one of the early-twentieth-century duplexes which are abundant in many sections of town but no more so than in East Arlington.
Another part of Greater Boston which has undergone drastic change since circa 1995 is South Boston. Once infamous for its shall-we-say socially intolerant residents, "Southie" is now near its saturation point with warehouse-to-loft conversions and new or renovated row houses. Shot-and-beer pubs are now window-walled microbrew bars. The huge new convention center, courthouse, and Institute of Contemporary Art along the waterfront are keeping the neighborhood hot. Although a group of "kweeyahs" which proclaimed themselves as such met with major hostility the one time they joined the renowned St Patrick's Day parade, participants are at least now of every skin tone and don't catch any flak. Deeply prejudiced though many may be, the established residents of Southie are genuinely proud of their families and community. They're quick to become true friends as long as you look like them. A more "socially active" enclave would be hard to find. There's always a youth baseball, hockey, or football game being played depending on the time of year, a "time" (fundraising dinner and/or dance) being thrown to (for example) help pay the hospital bills for Muggsy from N Street who has "cansah," you name it and it's happening.
Jamaica Plain has kept its reputation for being a melting pot intact even as housing costs climb. Centre St now has only a few businesses which date back to the days when JP was mainly blue-collar; now it's lined with bookstores and tchotchke shops and "ethnic" bistros along with two CVS's. The Hyde Square section, which suffered almost terminally from "White flight" during the '60s and '70s, is now energetically rejuvenating. Its rambling Victorians and roomy duplexes and three-deckas are getting makeovers, with new occupants of every kind who are in professional or artistic fields. In 2009 as in 1989, though, the closer to the pond you get the safer you are.
Brookline will always be Brookline...if you have the $$$.
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:33 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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Default Brookline 101

Quote:
Originally Posted by IslandNomad View Post
isn't that mostly college students from BC and BU?
No, Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village are priced out of reach for most collegians. Ditto for Washington Square. You're thinking of Cleveland Circle, I suspect.
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Old 09-19-2009, 09:02 AM
 
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goguy - that was fantastic - what a great rundown of the area! I really appreciate it and yes, I was thinking of the Circle.

Cambridge seems like the place for me and I will look at Somerville as well. Quick question for you - what do you think of the Beacon Hill area?

Thanks for that excellent recap!!
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Old 09-19-2009, 10:19 AM
 
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This is one of the sad problems that we have. Students come here to attend school, and they never want to leave. If they do leave, they often want to come back. Our cost of living is haywire.
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Old 09-19-2009, 11:19 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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You're welcome, that's what I'm paid to do...wait a minute...lol
There's a lot to like about Beacon Hill. Just looking at all the perfectly maintained brick row houses along the tree-lined and "gaslit" streets is a stress reducer. Then again, the effect could stem from walking uphill. In spite of all the yuppification of Charles St, some of the classic businesses i.e. Paramount Diner and Gary Drug still hold on. And The Sevens and Beacon Hill Pub are no different than they were before the TO or even I were old enough to have a fake driver's license. Thanks to the big new Loews Boston Common, Hill dwellers once again can walk to the movies, which hadn't been possible for quite a few years in the wake of all the Sack/Loews theater closings in town. The Public Garden is as beautiful as it ever was, and the Common is best hastened through by day and dodged by night like always.
Beacon Hill's main drawback is that there's no place for day-to-day food shopping aside from a Whole Foods down near Government Center where once stood a Stop & Shop. 7-Eleven is good for munchies + frozen dinners + soda + gimmick water, but no one should subsist only on what they purvey. And Savenor's, up by the post office, is good for those with gourmet tastes and budgets - fun for when you want to splurge for a fancy dinner party or hot date at home, but not for your typical meals.
You don't see that many children on the Hill. Those who do live there are probably at one private school or another during weekdays, if not away at boarding school once they're 12-14. So it really doesn't have that strong of a neighborly feel to it. Most of the residents are affluent students living off Daddy, childless professional singles and couples, and older perpetual preppies. (Plus, of course, Mr & Mrs Kerry of Louisburg Square.) If "socially active" is to be interpreted as meaning people involved with making their community a fun and worthwhile place, Beacon Hill would score low on that test while Southie aces it.
It occurs to me - now - that I should've given some virtual ink to Audubon Circle. That's the northwest corner of The Fenway which is scrunched between the "D" tracks of the Green Line and Beacon St. Neighborhood agitation brought BU's South Campus sprawl to a screeching halt at the north side of Beacon. There's still a large student population along Park Drive and Aberdeen St, but a small new condo building recently got tacked onto the end of a Park Dr rowhouse and may not be given over to undergrad rentals (the jury's still out on that one, it's that new.) The west side of Park Drive contains a tantalizing two-story white brick rowhouse and - closer to the D line - a pair of distinctive balconied stucco orange/brown apt/condo buildings from the 1920's. Keswick, St Mary's, and Medfield St's make up the remainder of the neighborhood on the Brookline side of Park Dr. Aside from a concrete cube out of the '60s standing perpendicular to Medfield, those blocks are filled with tidy brick structures and are as quiet on a Saturday night as they are on a Tuesday morning. East of Park Dr, Miner St now has a huge brand-new condo/apt complex at its dead end - part of it even extends over the D line tracks.
Audubon Circle is somewhat of a "hidden jewel," despite being cheek-by-jowl with BU, Fenway Park, etc. I lived there for a while, and it's still one of my favorite neighborhoods. Beacon Supermarket has disappeared, but there's a new '50s-scale grocery store called Johnnie's Fresh Market in its stead. So one rarely has to do "marketing" at the enormous and overpriced Shaw's across the tracks at the end of Boylston St. O'Leary's Pub is still there, as are Chef Chang's House and Sol Azteca. Boston Book Annex means never having to do without reading material (or feline socializing, courtesy of the two cats in residence.) And Economy Hardware, formerly known as Granite, stands ready for whenever there's a household "project." Lost and lamented is the Nickelodeon Cinema, but now the Regal Fenway 13 anchors the former Sears warehouse ("Landmark Center" today) between the D line and Brookline Ave. BTW Beacon St itself has lots n' lots o' apartments which are pretty much free of adolescents from Park Dr westward all the way to Cleveland Circle at the far end of Brookline.
I welcome DM's for still more specific info.
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Old 09-19-2009, 12:55 PM
 
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Again, a well thought, well articulated answer. Thanks again!!

"socially active" - what I meant was a vibrant scene and it sounds like, while Beacon Hill is a very nice place to live, there isn't much in the way of a social environment. Having left Boston so many years ago I'm looking for a neighborhood that is friendly, somewhere I can easily meet new people and someplace that people actually WANT to meet other people.

Thanks again goyguy!
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Old 09-19-2009, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Dorchester
2,602 posts, read 4,650,334 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IslandNomad View Post
goguy - that was fantastic - what a great rundown of the area! I really appreciate it and yes, I was thinking of the Circle.

Cambridge seems like the place for me and I will look at Somerville as well. Quick question for you - what do you think of the Beacon Hill area?

Thanks for that excellent recap!!
goyguy is a machine!
I wish my area (Ashmont) was doing what Somerville was. Brand new Red Line terminus but still unsafe.
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