Where to move family outside South Boston?
May 1, 2010 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Considering family move to Boston suburbs after 15 years in the Bay Area. Seeking towns to research that meet a few basic criteria...any advice appreciated.

Have been considering a return to the East Coast for a few years, and now may have an opportunity to have my employer fund the move, so looking for family-friendly towns within commute distance of South Boston (don't want to live in the City) that we can research.

Looking for:

a) Area - More town than city, with community/neighborhood feel, nearby small downtown area(s) (a few restaurants, coffee shops, groceries), but approx. 45 min or less commute to South Boston (mass transit preferred, driving ok). Must be safe and attractive, good for young kids, and ideally offer good outdoor activities (biking, running, hiking, parks).

b) Housing - Nice home with yard in walk-friendly neighborhood in the $450 to $550k range. Would rent to start, but looking for a great place to settle in indefinitely. Good schools important.

posted by gmania to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (15 answers total)
Best answer: Norwood immediately comes to mind. Its a 30 min ride to S. Boston on the commuter rail and fits all your criteria.
posted by kmavap at 11:24 AM on May 1, 2010

Needham has much of what you're looking for. It's on the commuter rail to South Station, from there it's a short bus ride of walk to Southie, depending on where in Southie you need to be. The home prices should be in your ballpark too, but houses in that market move very quickly.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2010

Is your office close to south station? In that case, what you are looking for is ideal, all commuter rails come into that station. I actually think there is no better area than what you are looking for than new england!
posted by pazazygeek at 11:30 AM on May 1, 2010

There are many towns/communities that meet your criteria. I can't recommend any one in particular, but you might find Boston Magazine's annual round-up to be helpful: Best Places to Live 2010: Guides & Advice.
posted by ericb at 11:35 AM on May 1, 2010

Jamaica Plain might be worth looking into (In fact, it's listed as "best value" in the list ericb posted). I'm not sure how the schools rank, but it's popular with young, well-educated couples who moved out of the city proper to raise a family. While it's technically in the city, it's the most outdoorsy of Boston neighborhoods, due to Arnold Arboretum. Since it is technically part of the city, public transportation options are pretty good.

Stand-alone houses might be a little bit out of your price range, but you could find a nice condo in a triple-decker with a yard.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2010

If you're willing to have an up-to-45-minute commute, you might look in areas a bit farther south like Abington and Bridgewater or south shore towns like Hingham or Weymouth. Those are all very nice, New England-y towns on the commuter rail line into South Station.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 12:19 PM on May 1, 2010

all commuter rails come into that station.

Except for the half that don't. The northern half of the MBTA commuter rails go to the aptly named North Station.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:52 PM on May 1, 2010

Arlington meets your criteria, and I really like it. Check it out.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:06 PM on May 1, 2010

My brother and family live in West Newton, and when they were moving there I told them the couldn't afford Newton (turns out there's a lot of variety within the city). It is on a commuter rail that goes in to South Station. It has a a town square area they can walk to, housing ranging from multifamily to mansion, good parks and good schools. It's also right off the pike, so it's an easy 15 minute drive downtown (if it's not rush hour - in rush hour, take the T or commuter rail or bike it, and you'll be as fast or faster).

If W. Newton is too city for you, Framingham line commuter rail towns or some of the South Shore towns listed above should be good fits.
posted by ldthomps at 6:48 PM on May 1, 2010

If you can settle for a shared yard but be "in" the city, Jamaica Plain.
If you really care about schools and are willing to pay on the higher-end of your range, Sudbury, MA.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:07 PM on May 1, 2010

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) publishes Community Profiles for every town in Massachusetts.

These profiles include a background narrative, demographics, transportation access, cultural resources, housing stock, healthcare facilities, schools, etc. They're not as glitzy as what you get from Boston Magazine, but it's a great resource if you want to know the basic facts about any town in the state.

Good luck with the move! (I live in Brookline and love it, but I think it doesn't quite match your criteria: too urban and too expensive.)
posted by alms at 7:32 PM on May 1, 2010

If your office is a short walk from South Station, then all the above suggestions are really good. The commuter rail can be great but it's also prone to delays. Hingham also has a commuter ferry in addition to a rail stop. Canton's next to Norwood and has 2 commuter rail stops, which helps if you miss a train. The Blue Hills are nearby for your hiking needs.

But if you need to take a bus (pdf of MBTA services to South Boston), that'll cut into your commute time. I'd reduce that to the Greenbush line of the commuter rail since it's 1) the newest line built and 2) you can get switch to the red line at JFK to get to Broadway/Andrew so Hingham and Weymouth would probably be your best bet. I like Quincy too but I don't know how their schools are.
posted by zix at 8:21 PM on May 1, 2010

Within the 45 minute commute to S. Boston circle are many wonderful towns that meet your child and walk friendly, not-in-the-city, and housing budget criteria: Stoneham, Melrose, Medford, Somerville, Arlington, Belmont, Watertown, parts of Newton (some are very pricey), Jamaica Plain, Wollaston, West Roxbury, Quincy to name a few. Generally speaking I think you'll find any town outside the Rte 128 beltway to be pushing the 45 minute to an hour average commute limit. I know there will be many people who will tell you they make it in to Boston from Framingham or Southern New Hampshire or Providence, RI every day in less than an hour but that depends on whether you can be late for work from time to time because you will have delays in bad weather. And it depends on whether you want to spend two hours a day commuting to work round trip. No, I think confining your search to within the circle of towns I mentioned would cover the geographic range and allow you a cushion for weather.

Which town would I recommend? I'm a Cambridge native and have a condo in the Kendall Square area but I think I could live in Arlington and consider it the 'burbs. Boston area towns really do have individual character. One size doesn't fit all. You'll have to see which town 'fits' your lifestyle.

I recommend you get a map of the 'T' lines and use it as a key. Towns along the Red Line and Orange Line offer you tremendous range. I don't trust the commuter rail. Despite the meltdown the other night, the 'T' is pretty dependable. Driving and parking here is a nightmare. Once you spend a few days sitting in a traffic jam you will quickly learn to overlook the blemishes of the 'T'.

Second Boston Magazine as a source for best towns/schools info.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:02 AM on May 2, 2010

Response by poster: OP here. Wow, awesome leads, thank you all. Checked out a few areas (via online) over the weekend and will be in Boston in a few weeks so hope to drive around a bit.

Again, thanks... and btw I grew up a Sox fan in Vermont if that takes the sting out of yet-another-Californian coming to Boston. :)
posted by gmania at 10:23 PM on May 3, 2010

Norwood's the best answer? Really? Well, have fun cruising the Automile I guess.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:24 PM on May 17, 2010

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