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Old 11-07-2016, 09:01 AM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
1,786 posts, read 1,930,929 times
Reputation: 3554

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Our home rental lease is expiring in a few months, and we've decided we like the area enough to stay. After weighing pros and cons and looking at communities from exurban towns like Romeo and New Baltimore, to car-centric suburbs like Novi and Troy, and even inner-ring burbs like Ferndale and St. Clair Shores, we've decided that we already found home with the town we decided to rent in, a year ago, we really like Royal Oak.

The problem we've come across in home shopping is that Royal Oak is sadly a bit expensive for a growing family stuck temporarily with one modest full-time income. We can have a great elementary school in a less-walkable neighborhood (~13 Mile/Rochester), or a mediocre elementary school in a more central neighborhood (Gardenia/Main), but not both. (Northwood is out of our budget, unless we want something that's falling apart; we don't), but on the other hand, Berkley (east of Coolidge or North of 12 Mile) offers both a good school and walkable proximity to restaurants, stores, parks, the library, and even Downtown RO at a price we can afford(ish..) and truthfully I can barely tell the difference between the two towns, but that could be because I've not spent as much time in Berkley.

Can you tell me about Berkley? Not the statistics. I can gather that from census data, school data, crime stats - I'm good with quantitative data and I've looked at all of it. I've concluded that Berkley is a great little town, every bit as good as the best towns in the Metro and in some ways even better than Royal Oak, but tell me some of the qualitative stuff. What is it like, living in Berkley in a 1200 square foot bungalow and two kids? Anyone have experience with that?

Also, an aside, Keller Elementary (Royal Oak) - ratings wise it's not bad, nor is it good, it just is. This is unexpected given that median family income for the area is in the 80-100k range and it shows in both the homes and interactions with neighbors. Typically incomes like that translate to high test scores at all levels, but that's not seen at Keller despite rather high test scores at ROJH and ROHS, what gives? In some ways I feel like I have to question how much school testing data really matters given that every kid I've met from the neighborhood seems good and on a likely path to success.

Also, please don't suggest we "Check out Clawson". We have. Clawson is a good town, but schools are mediocre at best, taxes are too high for the minimal savings on home prices, and any time we've attended a function in town it has felt a lot more conservative than you'd expect for a town nestled between Royal Oak and Troy. This isn't bad, and you can lecture me about the negatives in creating your own social bubble, but we all do it - but let me have that.

So.. Berkley..
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Old 11-08-2016, 09:00 AM
 
1,648 posts, read 2,743,255 times
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All I know is we have a lot of work happy hours at 24 Seconds, which is in Berkley and has a fun rooftop bar.

I do drive through the neighborhoods though to avoid the cops who troll the main roads - they are like military in Berkley - and I see more and more tear downs and new homes (akin to Royal Oak and Birmingham) so I would take that as a positive. (i.e. people with means are choosing to build new construction there) so I would say go for it.

Kudos!
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Old 11-08-2016, 11:14 AM
 
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I've lived in Berkley for the past 25 years, but I didn't send any children through the school system and I don't really socialize much with the neighbors. As such, I can't really tell you much about the Berkley family vibe, although I do average about 125 to 175 kids who come to the door on Halloween. I take that as an indication that there are plenty of families with young children in the neighborhood.

It will take at least 150K-200K to get a house in Berkley with 3 bedrooms. As mentioned above, the lower priced homes are getting bought up, torn down, and replaced with new construction that sells for $450K and up.

There's actually different neighborhoods in Berkley, based upon when the land was developed, from the 1920's to the 1940's. The most desirable parts are St Johns Wood, which is just west of Roselawn Cemetery and runs west for about five or six streets, and Oakland Manors, which is about a quarter square mile in the southwest corner of 11 Mile Road Woodward. The least desirable areas seem to be along the western and southern edges, near Greenfield Road and 11 Mile Road.

One spot to avoid would be the area around the Vinsetta Garage on Woodward Avenue - there's not enough parking for the restaurant patrons and the overflow fills up the residential streets.

On the other hand, Westborn Market is just a few blocks south on Woodward Avenue - buy a home near there and you can walk to get your groceries.
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Old 11-08-2016, 11:58 AM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
1,786 posts, read 1,930,929 times
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Yeah, 175-225k is the budget we're looking at. They pre-qualified us for 270k, but no way! It honestly concerns me that a bank would even suggest I can afford that going off only my income (we didn't include wife's income as it's intermittent being that we expect our second, and final, baby in a few months). 225k is at the very top end of what I'd be comfortable affording while still being able to eat food, save for retirement, and replace a major appliance once a year or so.

Thanks for the input on the town, especially the input on the more and less desirable parts and the issues with Vinsetta Garage. I know I'd heard they wanted to build a parking garage, but that ran into some zoning restriction issues. Personally I would've thought that southeast Berkley would be nice - being that it borders Huntington Woods, but this is why I was asking.

Would you be able to shed light on any community events the town holds? Is there a good public library? Any community gathering place like the Royal Oak Farmers Market? Any popular coffee shops and non-bar-like hangouts?
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Old 11-08-2016, 12:34 PM
 
5,114 posts, read 4,812,513 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo-Aggie View Post
Would you be able to shed light on any community events the town holds?
Berkley has several city events:
There are other events in Berkley, craft shows, theater performances and such; usually put on by one of the various community groups, schools, or churches.

Quote:
Is there a good public library?
Berkley's public library is on Coolidge, south of 12 Mile Road. I've been there usually to purchase tags for soft yard waste disposal, and only browsed the place once. Frankly, I wasn't impressed, but then growing up I was spoiled by the Birmingham and Southfield public libraries.

Quote:
Any community gathering place like the Royal Oak Farmers Market? Any popular coffee shops and non-bar-like hangouts?
Hangouts like the RO Farmer's Market? I can't really say. The city is trying to open up an urban park like scene downtown along 12 Mile Road (link).

Berkley does have its share of drinking establishments. I do know that there's a few places around which aren't bars and seem to have good clientele.
  • Pappa's Pizza is a local restaurant just off of the high school, on the corner of Catalpa and Coolidge, which seems to be the high school hangout place.
  • In the summer, there's always a line out the door at Clark's Ice Cream and Yogurt. There's also a small park right next door where young families tend to congregate after getting their ice cream.

The downtown strip along 12 Mile does have its share of small shops and restaurants. You might take a stroll one evening just to see for yourself.
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Old 11-08-2016, 05:25 PM
 
12,825 posts, read 20,818,865 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djmilf View Post
I've lived in Berkley for the past 25 years, but I didn't send any children through the school system and I don't really socialize much with the neighbors. As such, I can't really tell you much about the Berkley family vibe, although I do average about 125 to 175 kids who come to the door on Halloween. I take that as an indication that there are plenty of families with young children in the neighborhood.

It will take at least 150K-200K to get a house in Berkley with 3 bedrooms. As mentioned above, the lower priced homes are getting bought up, torn down, and replaced with new construction that sells for $450K and up.

There's actually different neighborhoods in Berkley, based upon when the land was developed, from the 1920's to the 1940's. The most desirable parts are St Johns Wood, which is just west of Roselawn Cemetery and runs west for about five or six streets, and Oakland Manors, which is about a quarter square mile in the southwest corner of 11 Mile Road Woodward. The least desirable areas seem to be along the western and southern edges, near Greenfield Road and 11 Mile Road.

One spot to avoid would be the area around the Vinsetta Garage on Woodward Avenue - there's not enough parking for the restaurant patrons and the overflow fills up the residential streets.

On the other hand, Westborn Market is just a few blocks south on Woodward Avenue - buy a home near there and you can walk to get your groceries.
Don't want to be too far from fun spots like Vinsetta Garage or some other fun spot. Wouldn't want to have to do DUI.
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Old 11-09-2016, 05:00 AM
 
5,114 posts, read 4,812,513 times
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GeoAggie was asking about family-friendly non-alcoholic venues, else I would have pointed out all of the establishments along the Twelve Mile business district.
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Old 11-09-2016, 05:12 AM
 
5,114 posts, read 4,812,513 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geo-Aggie View Post
Thanks for the input on the town, especially the input on the more and less desirable parts and the issues with Vinsetta Garage. I know I'd heard they wanted to build a parking garage, but that ran into some zoning restriction issues. Personally I would've thought that southeast Berkley would be nice - being that it borders Huntington Woods, but this is why I was asking.
I should probably been a little more specific regarding the various parts of Berkley more or less desirable. I was referring to housing stock rather than whether the area was nice. Some areas simply have better housing and others have less desirable quality of housing, but frankly, all parts of Berkley are nice.
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Old 11-11-2016, 03:33 PM
 
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Here goes my take, no particular order or organization...

Been in Berkley for 6 years with my wife and two high school daughters. They have in same house here since 1996. Lots of 1200 square foot bungalows. As others have said, lesser quality homes being demolished replaced by 2200 sf colonials with detached garages. Many of my stepdaughters' fellow students have been in Berkley since kindergarten. It seems many stay here for the long haul. In my short time here, we are seeing many more young families with strollers or little kids, or young single couples.

In the summer when kids are done with dance classes or baseball/softball games, we see people hanging out at ice cream places like Clarks. Hartfield Lanes is two stoies. Dad's & Mom's Club share costs to run kids baseball, softball, and football. They even share the cost of maintaining ballfields with the City and the School District . School District and the City coperate with sharing the ball fields.

Two years ago voters overwhelmingly supported a bond to significantly upgrade school buildings and facilities. 2017 will be the 2nd year of improvements. As for the district, it is not as good as Troy, but definitely very good. No busses as it is a walking district. After Friday football, students invade Leos Coney in Royal Oak. Staff actually plans for this!

No coffeeshops or central hangout spots, not sure why. Seems like all the hanging out durning the week is with kids stuff. The City just finished conducting a pilot program to close a small portion of Robina, just nort and south of 12 Mile for a "hangout spot". The long term plan is to permanently close the road ends and convert to small pocket parks. Anecdotally the pilot closure did not appear to attract many. Its very possible the City may choose not to implement permanent closure.

Most adults on weekends get together with neighbors or walk up to local bars and restaurants. Its not uncommon to see neighbors, our friends, or parents of girls friends when we go out locally. In the summer, we ride our bikes to Vinsetta or downtown Royal Oak for dinner. Evening front porch sitting also comon for those with more than a stoop.

If you have kids, you will be connected to other families, even if just by name....kind of small town-ish but not nosey or invasive. As for raising kids, Berkley parents communicate well, even if all parents dont know other parents. We tell our kids, and this is the truth,,,, if they cause trouble in Berkley, we WILL hear about it.

Hope this is informational.
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Old 11-12-2016, 07:28 PM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
1,786 posts, read 1,930,929 times
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Berkley Man, that was a great and very informative post. It sounds like a slightly more family oriented place than we are accustomed to, and looking over their city website confirms this. I showed your post to my wife too, and she was impressed, so thanks. If I could "rep" it twice, I would

My wife and I looked at a few homes in Berkley today. One was... very much what we're looking for and we're debating making an offer on it. My only reservation is the location. It has proximity to the recreation center and proximity to Oak Park, a town which I don't know a ton about - other than coworkers have suggested not moving there. The neighborhoods nearby appear to have decent incomes and low unemployment according to City-Data data, but could anyone advise whether or not northern Oak Park is sketchy? From a data standpoint is looks decent enough.

More concerning would be the rec center. On one hand it would be nice, but on the other... how much noise does it make? Will baseball games be keeping my kids up 'til 11 pm on weeknights or do they wrap up pretty early? Any input would be much appreciated.
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