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Old 09-26-2013, 08:38 AM
 
14 posts, read 34,769 times
Reputation: 16

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Hi!

We are relocating to the Portland area from Boston South Shore and have been up many times, toured many communities and we regularly read this forum.

As many others, we like the vibe of the city, the amazing food, the water, the beach access, the people and more and prefer it to greater Boston communities.

We have two elementary school aged kids and I run an online business in Boston now. I will move it from Boston to Portland and take some office space downtown so I'll be commuting into to town and fighting for parking Locating the office in an urban environment with vibrant, creative people is really important to me.

We've lived all over the US (Boston, New York city and suburbs, San Francisco suburbs, LA suburbs, Boulder, CO), as well as abroad in France and Spain. After traveling so much, we want to plant some roots in a community that offers the size, amenities, feel and access that Portland offers to raise our family.

So, that's a little about us, now a few questions for the very helpful folks here..

I always get a chuckle when people post things like, "my son Johnny is soooo smart and as such, we need really great schools", etc. etc. Of course I get it, but obviously everyone wants good schools.

That said, we now live in one of the usual-suspect towns in the South Shore that everyone seems to want to live in because the schools are supposedly great, etc. etc., back to back Range Rovers, etc. etc.

The reality is, I find the community really dull, everyone is the same and a huge percentage of the kids are spoiled brats being pushed and over-scheduled by two working parents (working to pay for a huge house they never spend time in, not to make ends meet) to fulfill some sort of Ivy League dream for their kids that they never realized (or, Major League dream, etc. etc.). In fact, I'm mostly afraid my kids will get sucked into being brats and I am already fighting against them not over-scheduling themselves...

I personally went to a really crappy South Coast MA public school and so far have not become a drug addicted criminal.

So, we know the environment we live in exists everywhere and we want to avoid it. We have spent a lot of time in the target/magnet communities everyone seems to suggest in greater Portland for mostly good reasons - Cape, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Scarborough, etc. They do all seem nice, but many seem to have a lot of the cul-de-sac culture we are trying to avoid.

So the main question is, what are some up and coming communities or under-rated, under-the-radar communities we could take a risk on that provide good access to Portland, are reasonably close to the water and have a little bit of a town center feel with character and reasonable schools (as long as they are not failing completely)? Maybe even within the city limits?

Really looking forward to your thoughts on this - the key towns are covered very well, and don't get me wrong, the ones we have seen are all very nice, but I am trying to avoid the brat-factor and we are willing to take a risk!

Thanks!
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Old 09-26-2013, 03:18 PM
 
Location: South Portland, Maine
2,356 posts, read 5,229,388 times
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I grew up in Walpole and familiar with the South Shore of Mass.. have many friends all over the area there.. I will give you a quick rundown of my opinion of the Portland area. Portland itself is a very livable city however its broken down into many different neighborhoods and IMO there is a lack of sense of community such as I was used to growing up in Ma. Cape Elizabeth (south) Falmouth (north) are both smaller and wealthy "towns" that on paper the schools are rated tops.. Both have a nice community feel and are close to amenities though I would not call them "walkable" as they do not have a town center with tree lined streets off of it ect.. they are only a 5-15 min drive to Portland downtown. Its hard for me to correlate them to a specific town in Mass as this is Maine and its just different..

Westbrook(west) is considered a city and a small downtown area.. It has some rundown areas and was know for its Mill (and the smell ) but I think by default in recent years has seen a lot of growth just because of its affordable housing when compared to Portland ect..

South Portland... South Portland is a city of about 25000 covering an area of only about 12 square miles and located south of Portland between Portland and Cape Elizabeth.. I call it the tale of two cities.. we have the Mall area over by 95 which includes many of the chain restaurants and loads of business's.. we also have a harbor and are the 2nd largest oil import location on the east coast (There is a pipeline that goes from south Portland to Canada, the oil tankers come in and unload) We have a very small "lower income population" and the majority of the city is middle class.. the neighborhoods along the coast (cottage st, meeting house hill, and Willard square where I live) are older neighborhoods with lots of character, our kids play and ride bikes all over the place, they can walk to school, to any of the many ice cream parlors, there are a few restaurants right in the neighborhood and we a 5 min to the old port in Portland.. a very desirable area.. South Portland city has the lowest unemployment rate in Maine, highest per capita income, and our property taxes are low when compared to the other places mentioned.. fiscally I am impressed with how well things are run here.

DM me if you have any specific questions
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Old 09-26-2013, 05:31 PM
 
Location: Portland, ME
234 posts, read 300,996 times
Reputation: 250
Brunswick is a great town with a walkable core that has good restaurants and shopping. Their public school system is better than other similar sized towns as well. You would be looking at a 25-35 minute drive depending on where you lived in Brunswick and where you worked in Portland.

South Portland is another good choice but the traffic is horrendous on Broadway around 5PM. I know that's superficial but something about crossing the bridge and grinding to a halt just as we get into South Portland frustrates me. Like flycessna said, it's a great city overall for raising a family but if you're under 40 it really feels more like a residential bedroom community with some chains and a large mall tacked on.

Freeport is full of outlet malls.

Westbrook is improving, especially the area near Gorham.
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Old 09-27-2013, 04:01 AM
 
14 posts, read 34,769 times
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Thanks for the replies, really helpful.

Parts of South Portland do look interesting.

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.

Thanks!
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Old 09-27-2013, 08:55 PM
 
Location: Cape Elizabeh, ME
404 posts, read 696,012 times
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South Portland sounds like a consideration for you particularly the Willard beach area. Good for commuting to down town. Interesting people, and I can I know a few who graduated from S portland high, and I would not call them spoiled brats, I'd say they were very well grounded.
Brunswick sound like a option to look into, sorry not much info other than they have a nice downtown, with some artsy stores, the commute isn't awful, I work with a few people downtown who do it....I prefer my commute though.

Worth pointing out that you don't have to be like the other parents and schedule up your kids every activity. My daughter grew up in a very stepford community in the south I'll call cul-d-sac hell. I did not raise her to be one of the stepford children and she found other like minded interesting friends and grew up well adjusted. She going to U maine which is not the usual school for a kids from Alabama.....my point is Pick a place you like and make it yours, be a good influence.
I picked Cape despite it reputations because it reminded me of where i grew up in NJ and its amazing convenience to downtown. Every body told me about all the rich snobs here...and I have to say I see it in the summer residents some times, but I really don't see it very much in the year round residents. I see some real honest, nice freindly interesting people, and I think some of the snobby generation has grown and is begining to move out, new people are moving in....its just my impression for what its worth. Cape High doesn't even seem to have chearleaders....however they do have a wide array of extra curricular classes and do highly encurrage top colleges. I have a feeling that you won't raise spoiled brats no matter where you live.
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Old 09-29-2013, 05:52 AM
 
Location: Florida (SW)
40,177 posts, read 19,590,779 times
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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.
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Old 09-29-2013, 09:00 AM
 
14 posts, read 34,769 times
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Thanks so much - I wouldn't have thought of South Portland, Brunswick or Saco. After looking into each a little further, they definitely are options!

These are really great alternatives to the most common suggestions.

@atrixwolfe, good to hear you are having a great expereince in Cape. I don't mean to say that Cape, Falmouth, etc. are cul-d-sac hell, only that I have heard from others second hand that can sometimes be the case in these communities.

Also, I suppose we can ward off brat-i-ness and not over-schedule - but would prefer somewhere where we don't have to actively manage it (the over-scheduling part). Hard to avoid getting sucked in as friendships are made with Johnny, Suzy, etc. with mom and 7 series carting them to soccer-painting-ballet-yoga Saturdays... it's not a peer pressure thing for us, just that I think it's natural for kids to want to be involved in everything their friends are involved in, including activity overload, $200 jeans, etc. But, we will fight the good fight! Better if we can avoid it.. but I guess if I honestly think about it, I think we will manage it regardless I just would rather not have that in my face all the time as it is just kind of sad.

Hope that makes sense!

Keep 'em rolling!

Thanks everyone.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:22 PM
 
Location: Cape Elizabeh, ME
404 posts, read 696,012 times
Reputation: 272
I didn't think you were implying any place in maine was cul-d-sac hell...just trying to point out that I lived there and didn't feel where I live now even came close...despite what it seems like on this board and its reputation. I'll just keep Cape my best kept secret, since people seem to think its something its not, or is no longer.
I understand completely what your trying to avoid and what your looking for. Good news is you live pretty close, weekend, or day trips are somewhat easy...visit often, you'll get a good feel.
Another suggestion, some places here have local town news papers on line or town web sites, you might get a feel for the communities that way, here are some:
Front Page | www.timesrecord.com | The Times Record
Gorham Times, the news of Gorham, Maine
The Cape Courier
Front Page | sentry.mainelymediallc.com | South Portland Sentry
News
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:25 AM
 
14 posts, read 34,769 times
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Excellent, thanks for the links, these are really helpful atrixwolfe.
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:08 AM
 
Location: South Portland, ME
894 posts, read 1,072,808 times
Reputation: 891
Unless you live downtown (within walking distance of your office) you are going to find parking extremely difficult (or expensive) for work. Good luck!

We currently moved to the area and we live in South Portland. I really like it, there is a lot going on (so it's not the "boring suburbs") but the main draw for everyone is obviously across the bridge in downtown Portland (which is very close) so it's not the center of everything either.
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