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Old 10-01-2013, 09:16 AM
 
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It depends on what you consider Greater Portland. But I absolutely second the recommendation of Brunswick. Brunswick is a great town, home to Bowdoin College (US News #4 National Liberal Arts College, which offers a lot of resources to townspeople for free.) Walkable, thriving downtown. Pretty big arts scene, with a lot of working artists. People were worried after the Brunswick Naval Air Station shut down, but the economic development committee has worked very hard, and Brunswick seems as prosperous as ever.

Amtrak's Downeaster train recently extended its schedule all the way to Brunswick, so you now have a direct line (other than bus) to Portland, Boston, and other points along the way.

To me, Brunswick just has character. The "suburban" neighborhoods (if you can call them that) are older... not cul de sac hell. People there really love their community. I lived there for many years and would move back in a heartbeat if I could. I still get up there several times a year. It's right on 295 so the commute to Portland is easy. It's also a coastal town, on Route 1.

(I wouldn't call it underrated, though... I thought more people knew about it. The NY Times frequently profiles various aspects.)

Brunswick would be my # choice, but the surrounding towns - Topsham, Bowdoinham, Freeport, are all nice, some more rural than others.
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Old 10-01-2013, 03:09 PM
 
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Hi cowbell76,

Thanks very much for the second endorsement of Brunswick! We have to take a closer look.

As for Brunswick, what are the interesting neighborhoods we should check out / areas of town? I know Main Street and the bridge and Bowdoin but that's about it What part of town would you recommend we check out?

Also - how far to the beaches? I suppose the nearest is Popham?

Thanks again!
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:55 PM
 
678 posts, read 1,163,422 times
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Originally Posted by unportland View Post
Hi cowbell76,

Thanks very much for the second endorsement of Brunswick! We have to take a closer look.

As for Brunswick, what are the interesting neighborhoods we should check out / areas of town? I know Main Street and the bridge and Bowdoin but that's about it What part of town would you recommend we check out?

Also - how far to the beaches? I suppose the nearest is Popham?

Thanks again!
It's Maine Street (with an 'e'! Like the state! )

Brunswick has three main commercial areas:

As far as that goes, I would say stick mostly to Maine Street and Fort Andross (which is at the end of Maine Street, and in addition to housing art studios also houses Frontier, a sort of restaurant/café/gallery/theatre), and then just over the bridge into Topsham (Sea Dog, a brewpub, in an old mill building.)

The second main area is Pleasant Street, which is right off 295. The upper portion of the street is pretty ugly... car dealerships, fast food, some motels. The lower part of the street is close to Maine Street, and has the post office and an ever-changing small group of restaurants and shops, as well as the library (a very nice library) and some churches.

The third is known as "Cooks Corner," down towards Bath... home to strip malls, big box stores, some restaurants. Also not as charming as Maine Street, but home to many amenities a resident will want.

To me, Brunswick has enough interesting shops and restaurants despite most of them being on Maine Street. It's not a huge town but it has a lot for its size.

Residential areas - the best areas, in my opinion are those somewhat near Bowdoin - there are neighborhoods off to the west side of Maine Street, and south of Pleasant Street. Pleasant runs roughly perpendicular to Maine, so if you think of the large quadrant bounded by Pleasant and Maine, you'll have found a nice walkable and safe group of neighborhoods. You can also head further down Maine Street, or Harpswell Road, both of which run through Bowdoin, to find more nice housing.

Brunswick has its own beach - Thomas Point Beach - but it is probably not what you're thinking when you think "Maine Beach." I might be remembering incorrectly, but I THINK that though tidal, it is fresh water, or maybe a mix. Bowdoin College also owns its own Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island, and the property is open to the public. I grew up in the area and we typically would go to either Popham (Phippsburg), or Reid State Park (Georgetown) for spacious ocean beaches. These are each roughly half an hour from Brunswick... depends on where in Brunswick you are. From Brunswick you can also easily get to Harpswell and Orr's and Bailey Islands, both of which have typical rocky Maine coasts, and some seafood restaurants, while remaining more (seemingly) residential and rustic and less touristy than other coastal towns. These are a bit closer than Popham and Reid. You can wander around Land's End (both a location and a gift shop) on Bailey Island, eat on the ocean at Estes Lobster House in Harpswell, or Cook's Lobster House on Bailey Island. There's also a place called the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant in Harpswell. I haven't been there since they renovated, but they used to actually just be a rustic marine store combined with a tiny restaurant... specialty was fish chowder with a blueberry muffin. As I understand it they have expanded dramatically and have a kind of fancy website... seems to be very different, but looks nice.
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Old 10-05-2013, 05:03 AM
 
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Thanks again for the Brunswick info! We will check it out soon.

We had a close look at Saco - wow, that is a really nice town. Great, walkable center that is actually used by the town (not filled with touristy shops), nice homes with character, unique neighborhoods, nice beaches and of course the Saco river.

Really nice option. A *litttle* far to Portland, but Amtrak service to Boston right in town.

A very nice option for anyone considering greater Portland that might not be obvious to someone from away for sure!
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Old 10-06-2013, 11:06 AM
 
Location: Maine
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Originally Posted by unportland View Post
As for Brunswick, that sounds like a really good option to consider. I'd love to hear more about it, the good and the bad, and we'll check it out in person.
The Good:

Schools are very good. Elementary schools are great in fact. The high school is really good. The junior high is the only one I had any real complaints about. The curriculum is fine, and there are lots of school activities, but most of the BJHS teachers I met seemed to really dislike children. Made me wonder why they wanted to be teachers.

The town itself has a great downtown area. Maine Street is a bit heavy on restaurants, but there are other nice shops too. The restaurants are great. Our particular faves are Pedro O'Hara's and Joshua's, but there are also 2 Indian restaurants, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, the Big Top deli (really good), and several others.

The village green is awesome. The town shows a movie in the park once a month during the summer. Lots of summer and autumn festivals, concerts, etc. In the winter, the town floods the green and you can ice skate downtown, then walk up the block to the Little Dog, which has the best coffee in New England. Bohemian Coffee house is also good, but it caters very much to the college crowd. You're more likely to meet a wider assortment of locals at the Little Dog.

Bowdoin College. Gorgeous campus. The college itself has a great theater and brings in some good speakers on occasion.

The train station makes Freeport, Portland, Boston, and points beyond very accessible.

Lots of great stuff for kids to do --- sports, theater, etc.

You're only half an hour from Portland. 40-60 minutes from 2 great beaches. And a pleasant train ride from Boston.

4 distinct seasons. The town does a really good job keeping the streets clear, even during the heaviest winter. In our 5 years, we've had some monster storms, but there was really only 1 time that we decided to stay off the streets, and that was because of an ice storm, not snow.

Lots of farmers markets.

Curtis Memorial Library is fantastic. Beautiful building with a great selection and a very nice staff.

It's safe. As long as you use your brain, there are no dangerous neighborhoods in Brunswick.



The Bad:

After BNAS closed, the real estate market took a big hit. But if you're looking to buy, there are some great homes at good prices.

Like everywhere else in the country, the local economy is still struggling.

The power goes out a lot. I have no idea why. Lots of towns in Maine will lose power during bad storms, but for some reason that escapes me, power goes out in Brunswick several times a year. Sometimes for no reason at all. Maybe the geese are flying to low?
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Old 10-06-2013, 11:14 AM
 
Location: Maine
18,563 posts, read 22,358,418 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowbell76 View Post
Residential areas - the best areas, in my opinion are those somewhat near Bowdoin - there are neighborhoods off to the west side of Maine Street, and south of Pleasant Street. Pleasant runs roughly perpendicular to Maine, so if you think of the large quadrant bounded by Pleasant and Maine, you'll have found a nice walkable and safe group of neighborhoods. You can also head further down Maine Street, or Harpswell Road, both of which run through Bowdoin, to find more nice housing.
The nicest neighborhoods in Brunswick are mostly those south of Bowdoin College and around Parkview. The neigbhorhoods on either side of McKeen Street are also quite nice.

There are no really "bad" neighborhoods in Brunswick in terms of being unsafe, but there are some I certainly wouldn't want to live in. For example:

Behind (north of) Hannaford is the homeless shelter and soup kitchen, so you sometimes get a lot of indigents hanging around. The homes in that area are older, and many of the larger ones have been converted to apartments. Same thing with most of the neighborhoods along the river. There's a small area in between Bowdoin and the former air station that doesn't have the best reputation. Again, nothing horrible, just a lot of apartment buildings.
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Old 10-08-2013, 03:48 PM
 
Location: Cumberland Maine
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Originally Posted by elston View Post
It is a not a long commute tho further than what you mentioned. I think Saco Maine is exactly what you are looking for. A quaint historic community with a real down town and great community spirit. Lovely older neighborhoods, great architecture, and a growing art district in Saco and its sister city......Biddeford.

I would move to Saco before any of the other communities you mentioned......and its only about a 25 min. drive up to Portland. I have two grown sons who live in Saco and they both commute to Portland .... and don't find it a hardship at all.

Both Saco and Biddeford were mill towns....fell on hard times but are actively recovering. Great potential. Biddeford is more blue collar.....but has a great down town......again potential....great buildings and lofts and vibe....I would live in Saco. Biddeford is the larger of the two....and was more depressed than Saco when the mills closed.

Saco kids of high school age go to Thornton Academy.....a beautiful campus private boarding school....the town tuitions them.

I've now been to the Portland area twice looking at real estate/communities for retiring. I keep missing Saco. And I don't mean that I forget about Saco. I just haven't found this downtown area people talk about. I'll be out again in a few months on another scouting trip. Can you list some intersections or street names that I should check out? I would hate to miss out on a "classic" just because my GPS can't find it. Thanks.
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Old 10-09-2013, 02:57 AM
 
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Hi Terry,

Here's what I would suggest for Saco - a small part of our itinerary which others can expand on a lot I suppose.

Depending on where you are driving from, start at breakfast or lunch at the New Moon restaurant on Pepperell Square. You can park your car out front, here is the address:

17 Pepperell Sq
Saco, ME 04072

After a really nice breakfast/lunch, leave your car parked and then walk out of the restaurant, take a left then take a right on Main Street. Walk down Main Street 3 blocks. This is the "town center". Really nice. Then take a right on Beach Street and walk down to Peperrell Park on your right. Take a break there. Then loop back, jump in your car and do the same in the car but keep driving down Beach Street. Beach becomes Ferry. Take a left on Bay View and drive to the end. Park and relax on the beach. This time of year during the week you may have it to yourself.

There is much more to see of course, but if you just spend a few hours doing this you'll get a good feeling of the place I think.

As I said, I liked it quite a bit, a hidden gem really.

Good luck!
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Old 10-28-2013, 02:57 PM
 
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I agree that Saco is underrated. Has a very nice old-fashioned downtown Main Street, beaches, quiet rural areas, and is only 20 minutes or so from Portland.
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