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Portland area Portland, ME metro area
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:09 PM
6 posts, read 28,763 times
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Dear Forum,
My wife (late twenties) and I (early thirties) with out infant baby girl are considering relocation from Salt lake, UT to Portland, Maine. We moved to the US from Europe. I lived in So Cal during childhood and high school, and we lived in San Diego, CA in 2006 briefly. We did not like San Diego due to high costs of living, high rent, low walkability (except for certain areas) and high crime. We high-tailed it back to UT real quick.
The weather factor does not seem to be a problem for us, I assume UT and ME weather is similar. I am aware winters are much harsher and colder in ME, this is ok, wife loves this.
From our research, ME seems to be the place we have long dreamed of.
What we do not like in UT is land-locked, very hot summers, and high predominance of one religion that pours over into all areas of life. We are not members of this most dominant religion in UT. If it were only us adults, we would not mind because we keep to ourselves, enjoy simple things, and all persons we meet are really nice and civil. We actually like UT.
But with baby girl, she may suffer from some exclusion growing up. So, between Oregon, Washington, Mass and some others that topped our list we feel that Maine is it for us.
We do not party, have no need for a night life nor enjoy living the high social life. We enjoy nature, beauty, the coast, good community and neighbors, friends and simple pleasures in life. We do enjoy walks in a city, the European-like coffee shop culture and walkability with actually quite a few other people also walking (not like Salt Lake or San Diego where you walk downtown and it’s you, the homeless, and people on work breaks), as well as restaurants, plays, movies, etc. Fairs and carnivals are fun too.
We are law abiding friendly people with good values.
My kind request for advice from forum participants is as follows;
-Is there any wider spread exclusion based on any single predominant factor in Maine? (I do know it is predominantly white and not so diverse)
-Will our child run off to new york a million miles per hour as soon as she hits her teens due to boredom in ME (we have never lived in a town of only 65,000 people)?
-Are there problems because town is only 65,000, such as everyone knowing each other and meetings because the neighbors leaf fell of a tree a little too much to the left side?
-What is the real estate situation like? (elsewhere: if nice, quality, liveable and close to coast then millions of dollars. If average quality, borderline neighborhood, ride to the coast 20 minutes, then ½ mil.)
-I did not see anyone mention good/bad areas of Portland. Maybe they do not exist, since so small. What about most desireable areas of town, what are those? Are there areas where you do not want to venture into?
-Are the blackflies really a huge problem? If only there a few weeks ok, but if people garden in full body suit netting (like I saw one poster say) or if I go on the front lawn and am really uncomfortable being stabbed 10 hits a minute then I don’t know…
-Jobs. I hear horrible. I know we need come with certain funds and prepared, but will I not find anything for like a half a year? I have experience in education institutions and in state government. Are state gov jobs hard to come by? Since it is a small town, is there corruption and preference for jobs for locals or family members?
-Most important question, we do like sunshine. Realistically please, is it really overcast most of the time? Does it really rain very very often? Reading Oregon posts, it is horrible there, similar to Washington state. People develop depressions and SAD syndromes because of the eternal gray sky and almost constant rain. Is it this way in Portland maine? I mean, we can put up with long harsh winters, we can deal insects, we would welcome simple small time life, and would even deal with some gray and drab, but if 300 days in a year are gray and/or rainy then I don’t know…
I apologize for the lengthiness here and thank you in advance to all who respond with advice.
small family considering Maine
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:23 PM
Location: 3.5 sq mile island ant nest next to Canada
3,034 posts, read 5,391,510 times
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You never mention (although I may have missed it) if you have ever been to Maine or New England. I suggest before you going jumping at an opportunity that you come visit. Not just for a week either. Maine is huge and takes some exploring to see even half of it. Maybe a few visits. With the economy such as it is, I would take my time at a move. But that could be just me (but I doubt it). This is definitely NOT like living in Idaho or Cali. But do come look around first. There may not be much racial diversity (and not by our choice, he said again enthusiastically ) but there is a huge amount of geographic diversity in Maine.
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Old 06-03-2009, 03:24 PM
Location: East Boston, MA
10,237 posts, read 18,353,679 times
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It seems you are considering Portland more than the rest of Maine. As a result, this post may be better suited to the Portland sub-forum.

From what you posted, I seem to gather that you'd really enjoy Portland. As retiredtinbender mentioned, visiting here a few times (I suggest during the winter as everyone likes the area in the summer and fall) to get a feel for the area. Also, coming here without a job would probably be a bad idea. I came from Massachusetts (have since moved back to Massachusetts) and had little trouble getting work after a few interviews and meetings. I've heard and seen some cases of preferential treatment towards life-long Mainers over people moving from out of state, but I've never experienced it first-hand. In fact, I've found my employment situations to work out just fine in Maine. I think the the majority of the local favoritism happens further outside the Portland area where it's less transient and there are fewer transplants. I don't know about specific government jobs, but just about any state government is hesitant to hire right now given the economy. That could change, but you should monitor that situation closely.

As you've noted (it appears you've done some good research) Maine is VERY white. In fact, it's just about the whitest state in the nation (often jockeys for the title of "whitest" with Vermont). Portland is the largest city in the state and has slightly more cultural diversity, but it's still 92% non-hispanic white. In my time I never noticed or heard about any racial intolerance. In fact, I found it to be more tolerant than many places that are far more diverse. I don't know what your ethnic background is, but I doubt you'll have trouble in Portland. The actual diversity figures are deceiving and the city is far more accepting and comfortable with different races and cultures than you'd expect from looking at the data. There is a real, "live and let live" attitude in Portland.

I don't know if you're going to find a "European coffee shop" type atmosphere in Portland (or anywhere in Maine). Portland has a very walkable (but very small and compact) downtown area that's quite beautiful. There are a proportionately high number of restaurants downtown and a pretty vibrant arts scene. It's a quaint, quiet yet somewhat active place. It's not what you'll find in a European city, but maybe more similar to a small European village or town. Downtown Portland is the center of activity in the area; not like out West where in most communites the suburbs and malls are the hub of activity. From what you've written, you'll like Portland's downtown. It's not large by any stretch of the imagination, but it's nice and neither overwhelmingly upscale or dismally impoverished... It's middle of the road and for most, just right.

As far as the size of the city goes, it is tiny. There are about 230,000 people in the immediate Portland area and the city itself has 63,000. It's is the cultural and economic hub of the state which makes it act a little larger than 63,000, but not by much and that's not saying a lot anyway since even a city double Portland's size is still quite small. I found that after a year in Portland faces became very familiar and you start bumping into people you know everywhere (at restaurants, bars, grocery stores, the mall, etc, etc, etc). In fact, my girlfriend who grew up in the area used to call any night we'd go to a bar "high school reunion" because it's just that small. People in Portland tend to love the "community" feel of it, but I hated bumping into people I knew just about everywhere. I detested life in a small town and liked the aspect of city living which allows you to really choose to see people when you want to. You don't have that in Portland and it was one of the primary reasons I moved back to a bigger city. That being said, even though it's a small town atmosphere, it's still large enough where you don't really have nit-picking battles with neighbors like you described in your post (about the leaf falling)-- though in the less-urban neighborhoods, this may be more of an issue. It's a small city that feels like a medium-sized town... this is good in many ways and bad in some. I think the relative safety and community feel are great for someone raising a family.

Portland is VERY safe. In fact there is no such thing as a bad or dangerous neighborhood in Portland. I can't think of anywhere that an average adult would feel unsafe walking alone at night. There are some neighborhoods that don't have wonderful architecture and pretty homes, but they're not unsafe, just not pretty. The East End and West End are the nicest residential neighborhoods. They abut downtown Portland and are mostly walkable with nice views (both are located on hilltops overlooking the surrounding area including the harbor and Casco Bay). The architecture in both is pretty nice. Deering, Oakdale and Rosemont are suburban and have some nice older homes with yards... many quiet streets over here (not in a bad way). You'll find that Portland, being so small, is largely self-contained. There are some low density retail and office parks outside the city (mainly an South Portland/Scarborough/Westbrook) and some low-density suburban residences, but not too much sprawl at all. Bayside, Parkside and the area along St. John street are often considered the worst neighborhoods in Portland. They're not bad. Parkside is actually nice and close to downtown. Bayside has some ugly architecture (as does St. John) but crime really isn't an issue in either.

Portland is coastal. Many people here complain about how expensive it is. I tend to think they're whiners. I can't think of many coastal areas in the U.S. that are more affordable (Alaska and Eastern Maine come to mind, but nothing else). In fact, when you consider what you get for your money (i.e. lively coastal town, safety, good schools, beautiful scenery, etc)... It's a great deal. Portland isn't in the same ballpark in terms of cost of living as San Diego (it's much cheaper). I don't know much about Utah's real estate so I can't comment. I will say that if you're looking for a good 3 bedroom apartment in a good location in Portland, you can get it for in the ballpark of $1400-$1700/month easily (maybe less). If you want to BUY a home, you can find a 3/4 bedroom- 2 bath single family home in a good location from anywhere from $200,000-400,000. Coming from the Boston area I was amazed at the affordability of homes and apartments here. The big issue is finding a job that pays enough for you to afford such an apartment or home. That's where it gets difficult. If you can find a decent job, then the cost of living isn't a problem.

You should have NO trouble being within 20 miles of the coast for under $500,000. In fact, I would say that you could find a nice home within 1 mile of the ocean for close to $250,000. It's not that difficult. If you want urban walkability, the only places to really look are Portland's East End or West End (possibly Parkside). Deering, Oakdale, and Rosemont neighborhoods are suburban. It's nice, but you won't find the walkability to be the same as the areas near downtown (East End, West End). North Deering is very low-density suburban.

Being so small, Portland doesn't have real urban neighborhoods. Downtown Portland really acts as the "neighborhood center" for the entire area. Parts of Deering have some shops, but the "coffee shop" atmosphere you're looking for can only really be found downtown. I'd keep that in mind when doing a search in the area.

On to the blackflies. I have had NO issue with them in the Portland area. The sea-breeze seems to be enough to keep them at bay. Occasionally on a really calm night in the spring/early summer if you're in the right place you can be bitten. However, I think the fly problem is far worse in other parts of the state than in the Portland area. I don't even think of the flies except when discussing them on this forum. They're almost a non-issue here. The sun isn't bad at all. The summers are beautiful (mostly sunny too) and you get plenty of sunshine through the Fall and Winter. In fact, the sun in the winter can be wonderfully warming even on a cold day. The spring can have some extended periods of clouds, but not too terrible. I don't know of anyone who has had depression or any issues as a result of the lack of sun in Maine. It's just not much of a problem.

Schools in the Portland area are good. Even the city's schools are alright. Your daughter should have no problem fitting in and wouldn't feel like she was an outcast. If you want a more rural or suburban environment, some of the surrounding towns like Scarborough, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth have very highly regarded schools. They don't have the amenities of Portland, but they're not too far from town at all to take advantage of those things when you choose to.

Finally, I just wanted to comment on your list of potential locations. I see that you have Maine (judging from your post, the Portland area), Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts. I think those are all good choices. Massachusetts is much more expensive than Maine. If you want to be along the coast in Massachusetts, you're looking to spend a lot more on a home and likely live in either a rough neighborhood or way outside the city as Boston's decent and nicer neighborhoods are prohibitively expensive. Almost all of Eastern Massachusetts (near the coast) is "suburban" Boston and very expensive. If you do consider Massachusetts, I would urge looking at places like Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport and Plymouth as they are all walkable and coastal (and safe) and tend to be cheaper than Boston. If you can move away from the coast, Northampton MA is perfect. It's walkable, safe, friendly, open, and the schools are good. It's just 1.5 hours from the coast. Burlington, Vermont may be a good option too if you're willing to be away from the coast (Burlington is on a massive lake though). It's a wonderful city with lots to do. Very walkable and friendly and in a stunning natural setting.

Anyway, good luck to you. Hope this helps a bit.
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:31 PM
57 posts, read 170,347 times
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We are also a young family originally from the west coast and currently living in Boston. We will be moving to Maine in 2 years when my husband is done with his training. We fell in love with Maine and go up there for nearly every vacation no matter what month it is. The way you describe your family is very similar to ours. I think we are planning on moving to Yarmouth, Cumberland or Freeport. I have talked to young adults here in Boston that grew up in Maine and yes lots of them leave ME for college and work elsewhere, although I here many do come back to raise their families since it is such a great enviornment. As far as the European feel areas of Boston have more of that feel. We like Maine so much more than MA. Maine is less snobby and the pace of life is slower, which is what we like. We made the permenant switch from the west coast to east coast and love it. It is chilly yet sunny in the winter unlike all the crappy NW days I had to endure living in WA. Good luck to you.
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Old 06-04-2009, 08:53 AM
6 posts, read 28,763 times
Reputation: 13
Default Many thanks for this and future advice

Thank you all for your input, it is precious.
Thank you Irfox for your informative, objective, insightful and knowledgable thoughts. This kind of info you simply can not find elsewhere on web. I noticed you answered a few similar questions to others on this forum, thanks for your patience and repeating (not redundant because all have different circumstances).
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Old 06-05-2009, 07:58 AM
57 posts, read 170,347 times
Reputation: 28
I agree Irfox had an amazingly informative post
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