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Old 04-14-2018, 09:36 AM   #1
BronsonShore
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Tell Me Where to Live

Hello, ArchBostonians. I'm a long time lurker who's always enjoyed your insights on the city of Boston, but someone who's never really posted, primarily because I've lived outside of New England for over a decade.

After living in DC, Iowa, DC again and then Brooklyn for the last 8 years, my wife and I and our infant son are relocating to Boston. I love the city and I love New England so I'm excited for the change, but I'm unfamiliar with the rental market and am seeking your advice.

I realize this isn't normally the type of subject that warrants a thread, but I thought that it could turn into an interesting discussion about Boston neighborhoods and he housing market as a whole. Mods, if you disagree, feel free to tell me to jump of a ledge.

Anyway, to give you sense of the type of place we're looking for, let me tell you a little bit about where we live now and why we love it so much. We currently rent a two-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a three-story tenement building in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights. The apartment is not large, but we have the whole floor to ourselves including exclusive use of a backyard that we've extensively landscaped.

The things I absolutely love about our current living situation and want to replicate in Boston:

-Walkability. I can leave my apartment at 2 AM and come back with a bottle of milk 2 minute later. I can throw a stone from my backyard to my son's daycare. Bars, restaurants, parks, bookstores--you name it--Prospect Heights has everything in a dense but human-scaled environment and I love it.

-Smaller Scale Living. I've done the box-in-a-sky thing before and it's not for me. I prefer an apartment that feels more like an old-fashioned home than a luxury tower in Shanghai.

-Transit Access. Obviously the MBTA isn't the NYC Subway system and I won't be able to walk to 7 different lines as I can now, but I'd still like to be close to the T.

-Private Outdoor Space. Now that I've had it, I can't give it up.

-Cultural Connection. Every weekend there's something going on in the area or surrounding neighborhoods--ethnic festivals, art shows, flea markets, etc. I can walk to Prospect Park, the Botanic Garden and the Barclays Center. I've got multiple bookstores to chose from. As much as possible, I'd like to still feel like I'm in the middle of of things.

Ideally we'd also upgrade to a three-bedroom, and we'd also like to stay under $3,500. Maybe that's asking too much, but we pay $3,450 now, and it seems wrong on principal to move from Brooklyn and end up paying more.

So what do you think? My initial thought was that Southie would provide the best housing stock for what we're looking for, but it seems to be lacking on the transit/culture/urban amenities front. I would absolutely love to live in the South End or Harvard Square, but I probably can't find enough house for what I want to pay. JP seemed like a good compromise, but given that most of the stock comes in the form of triple-deckers and multi-family stand-alone houses, private outdoor space might be unlikely.

Does Boston not have what I'm looking for or am I overlooking some hidden gem neighborhoods? Am I making a major life mistake or is the best decision we've ever made? Have at it.
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Old 04-14-2018, 09:53 AM   #2
tysmith95
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Davis Square is one of my favorite areas, the budget might be an issue though. Other parts of Somerville would be up your alley, but you may have to deal with bus lines/Uber.

Something by Cleveland Circle or Coolidge Corner could work.

Savin Hill is an underrated neighborhood in my opinion.

I think the issue with your search is the requirement for a private outdoor space while also wanting to be at the center of everything. Those are two things that contradict each other. Decide which one you care about more and go for that. If you want more private outdoor space look at parts of Medford or Brighton, but you wouldn't be at the center of things and/or next to rapid transit.
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Old 04-14-2018, 10:03 AM   #3
fattony
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

I have lived in Central Sq and Davis Sq for many years. You can get your outdoor space from a multi family home in either area. It won’t be totally exclusive, but in my experience, whoever rents the ground floor typically dominates the outdoor space. YMMV. If you don’t mind being more than 10 walk from the T, add Inman and Union squares to your list. A bike or buses can very easily close the gap from home to subway (central or lechmere).

Both areas have the level of activity and retail/amenities you mention. You may not get a 2 minute quart of milk, but surely 10 minutes. You may not throw a stone to daycare, it might be a 10 minute detour from your straight-line walk to the T. $3500 ought to get you 2 bedrooms and a shared back yard.

Southie is not what you are looking for, the place is just barely a walkable neighborhood in the sense that you are looking for. JP - some people love it, but in my opinion none of the “stuff” is anywhere near the T so you’ll spend a LOT of time hoofing around. The South End maybe, but I’m not sure that will fit your budget. You should look. Charlestown and the North End are worth a look too, sometimes you can get lucky with a really unique find.

Savin Hill, Fields Corner, and maybe some other red line stops in Dorchester are also likely to give you a decent neighborhood vibe at an affordable price. There won’t be as much activity and special events, but they are very livable places for the daily grind.

Hope that helps! To summarize, I really think Central is most likely to give you what you want in a neighborhood because it has so much and yet is so easy to access the rest of Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston by foot, T, or bus. Davis is more localized, you can’t get to other parts of the city as easily but it probably has a bit more of the housing stock that will get you your yard.
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Old 04-14-2018, 11:18 AM   #4
DZH22
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Count me as another vote for the Davis Square area. Around Porter might work for you too. I can't imagine this coming out above $3500, but I also haven't rented in the area since 2011 and apparently rents have shot through the moon since then.

If these end up being too expensive, consider the area around Arlington Center or Watertown Square. From an urban standpoint though, they are both clear downgrades from Somerville/Cambridge. Arlington is at least right on Mass Ave.

While cheaper and also dense, I would probably avoid areas like Malden, Everett, Chelsea, Eastie... You might want to check out near Medford Square though, if you can't find what you're looking for in the other spots I mentioned.
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Old 04-14-2018, 11:44 AM   #5
tysmith95
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

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Originally Posted by DZH22 View Post
While cheaper and also dense, I would probably avoid areas like Malden, Everett, Chelsea, Eastie... You might want to check out near Medford Square though, if you can't find what you're looking for in the other spots I mentioned.
I wouldn't say avoid Eastie, Jeffries point and the area around Maverick are pretty nice and have gentrified a good bit. The private outdoor space would be an issue in that area though. But if you were able to find a place with a private roof deck in Jeffries Point that would be beautiful, and probably even better then a grassy yard in a place like Somerville.
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:16 PM   #6
BronsonShore
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Thanks for the responses. So Southie sucks for urbanity, huh? I thought that I might be able to find a sweetspot between Broadway and the Redline. I will say this, looking at Google Maps, some of it appears to be shockingly dense--houses tucked into every alley and corner with no room even for trees on the sidewalk (see, e.g.: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3384...7i13312!8i6656). It'll be interesting to see how the area develops.

Davis Square looks, really, really intriguing, and I think I should do some more research around the Red Line-centric areas of Dorchester.

Is Allston essentially too much a student ghetto to consider? Given the urbanity and transit there, I thought it might be worth exploring.
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Old 04-15-2018, 05:44 PM   #7
tysmith95
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

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Originally Posted by BronsonShore View Post
Thanks for the responses. So Southie sucks for urbanity, huh? I thought that I might be able to find a sweetspot between Broadway and the Redline. I will say this, looking at Google Maps, some of it appears to be shockingly dense--houses tucked into every alley and corner with no room even for trees on the sidewalk (see, e.g.: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3384...7i13312!8i6656). It'll be interesting to see how the area develops.

Davis Square looks, really, really intriguing, and I think I should do some more research around the Red Line-centric areas of Dorchester.

Is Allston essentially too much a student ghetto to consider? Given the urbanity and transit there, I thought it might be worth exploring.
Southie urbanity is fine. It's the culture that's interesting. It is mostly ex frat bros and finance bros that seem to live in Southie. That and the few remaining townies. It doesn't have the same hipster vibe that Davis Square has.

I'm stereotyping, but that's the vibe that I get. Lots of people just out of school who want to re-live their college days.

And outside of the projects in Southie 99% of it is white, at least that is what it feels like. It's not a good place if you want any sort of ethnic cuisine. Somerville and Cambridge have more interesting restaurants and bars, and a little bit more diversity.
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Old 04-15-2018, 08:38 PM   #8
Randomgear
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Jamaica Plain, most anywhere directly along the Orange Line for a less urban feel, closer to Centre St for the more urban feel. You also might be able to find something in the South End at your price range - but the backyard will just be a garden.
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Old 04-15-2018, 10:28 PM   #9
chrisbrat
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

union square somerville would be worth considering -- much of the appeal of davis square at about 10-15% less the cost (plus new green line station in a few years, so you'll have that convenience and if you manage to buy you'll benefit from a sizable boost to property value when it comes to resell).
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Old 04-16-2018, 08:13 AM   #10
Shepard
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Haven't lived in most of the neighborhoods mentioned so far, but I'll weigh in with personal experience:

There's a unique neighborhood of Brighton/Brookline where I used to live that might fit the bill. It's called Aberdeen. The key roads in the area are the twisting narrow paths that make up Kilsyth, Lanark, Selkirk, Sutherland Roads (all named for Scottish towns). Lots of condo-ized mansions with outdoor spaces, among many other housing types. Very short walk into Cleveland Circle which has a good deal of conveniences (CVS, Starbucks, sushi, burritos, liquor store, pizza, bars, hardware store, etc), and less than a 10 minute walk to Washington Square which is probably what you can consider to be Brookline's upscale coffee shop and restaurant hub. You have all three lines of the Green Line within a 5 to 10 minute walk, plus the Chestnut Hill Reservoir next door, which is a fantastic walking and recreation area.

This larger slice of Brighton in general is known to be student-y, especially Cleveland Circle. But within these Aberdeen roads areas we found many young professionals and young families. The students tended to stick closer to Comm Ave (in the more junky housing). The streets I mentioned above had a very unique vibe, and great conveniences.

Edit: Here's a fairly representative streetview for the feel of the area.
https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3400...7i13312!8i6656
Note also that Google puts an Aberdeen label north of Comm Ave, though that's wrong - the area I'm speaking about is south of Comm Ave.

Last edited by Shepard; 04-16-2018 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 04-16-2018, 09:56 AM   #11
tysmith95
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Re: Tell Me Where to Live

Brighton isn't as student heavy as Allston. I think BC has added a bunch of dorms over the years, so most students live on campus. More so then previous years.
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