Where to live north of Boston?
May 10, 2010 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Where to live north of Boston?

Asking for a friend. He recently got a job in Andover, MA and is looking to move to the area north of Boston. He'd like to be within reasonable walking (or driving) distance of a T (or commuter rail) for easy access to the city, yet close enough to 93 that the commute to Andover isn't too much a pain. He's interested in a 1BR place with at least 1 parking spot and would like to spend less than <$1200. He's 24 and single, if that matters.

I'm from somewhat outside Boston, but neither of us know much about towns north of the city. He's been hunting on Craigslist but hasn't had too much luck, but it's tough not knowing where or how to look, really.

Any suggestions for what towns to check out or things to keep in mind would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Tu13es to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I spent two years in Malden. It's in his price range and has quick T access on the Orange Line, plus the Purple Line does stop at Malden Center so he may be able to get to work from there. It's also safe, diverse, and while I was there won some kind of "best place to raise your kids" award from a magazine -- I think it was Business Week. I liked the community feeling in the businesses.

Downside? SNORE. Possibly I just didn't belong to the right scene, but I didn't find a lot of intellectual life, cool hangouts, or nifty little places (like coffee shops) to just park yourself. (Except the library, which was very nice.) Boston isn't far, of course, but with his work commute he'll probably be too wiped to do very much.

I went to high school in Andover and would give some consideration to living there myself if I had a job there.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:17 PM on May 10, 2010

Wilmington or Woburn are probably the best choices for the Rt. 93/commuter rail combo. Of the two, Woburn probably has the better rental opportunities.
posted by briank at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2010

Somerville seems to have what he's looking for on Craigslist. (I didn't look too deeply into each result to check how close these are to the T, though.) But it's not hard to get to 93 from most of Somerville.
posted by ignignokt at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2010

I think the only T station in Somerville is Davis Square (Porter is technically in Cambridge but definitely within walking distance of parts of Somerville). Some Orange Line stations, and Lechmere at the end of the Green Line, connect to Somerville by bus if I remember correctly.

Also, your friend should know that ads will lie about the time it takes to walk from an apartment to the T station. But these times probably aren't that important to him as he's not planning to use the T for commuting. Some outlying stations on the T near major highways have big parking lots, including Wellington (Orange) and Alewife (Red).

(I don't really know what I'm talking about; I went to college in Boston without a car.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:52 PM on May 10, 2010

I'd recommend your friend stays north of 95/128 if they want to avoid traffic... so Malden/Somerville probably aren't the best choices. Reading, Woburn, Wilmington... all nice towns, good rental opportunities in that price range with T stops in town.

A couple years ago, we rented a nice 1 BR place in Reading that was a 2 minute walk to the T and a 2 minute drive to 93 for around $1250.
posted by csimpkins at 6:03 PM on May 10, 2010

Seconding Reading. I used to volunteer at a coffee house in North Andover while living in Cambridge. I used the commuter rail to get back and forth. Reading was about half-way. I've walked around the town as well as ridden my bike through it. Nice, but quiet.
posted by michswiss at 6:19 PM on May 10, 2010

Reading and Wakefield are both good.
posted by pentagoet at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2010

Whenever I take Amtrak up to Maine, we cross the Merrimack at a town called Haverhill that looks really pleasant. Near 93, 15 minutes from Andover on the MBTA.
posted by nicwolff at 8:00 PM on May 10, 2010

nicwolff is right. Haverhill.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:35 PM on May 10, 2010

I grew up right outside Andover, hes 24 and single..live closer to Boston I'd say. Its going to be super boring for anyone in their 20s up there. I would not suggest Haverhill, maybe Newburyport, but the commute is going to be the same as a suburb of Boston. I'd say the traffic is worth it to have more a fun/social life while in your 20s.

If I was him I'd just get a roommate in Boston, ditch the car and take the commuter rail everyday. But if you don't mind quiet, Reading is perfectly nice.
posted by mattsweaters at 8:35 PM on May 10, 2010

Haverhill is really, really far from Boston. Over an hour. Close to Andover, for sure, but far from Boston. I'd suggest against that - everyone I've known who ended up moving to Haverhill didn't come to Boston as often (and I lived in nearby Methuen and had the same fate befall me).

If you're (he's) commuting to Andover and you live south of Andover, you're going against the flow of traffic into Boston both ways (provided this person has a vehicle), and the traffic isn't bad - I commuted up 93 for awhile. That makes Malden and Somerville better choices because your outside work life will be easier if you jump on the subway. Also, Reading, Wakefield, Stoneham, but those are much more suburban. I'm voting Malden, honestly. Usually a lot of availability for apartments, and a lot of places are near the orange line.
posted by kpht at 8:35 PM on May 10, 2010

Why not look in...Andover? It's a beautiful town with a train station, he can definitely find something within that price range, and no commute. Is there a reason he's not considering it? Definitely stay straight north of Boston and not northeast (where I am, on the coast), as it's not easy to get from where I am to Andover (a good 45+ mins by CAR, and no direct public transportation). I would stay away from Wilmington, as it's (despite its name) a cultural vacuum and one of the most depressing towns in the state. But frankly, Andover is the nicest town of the surrounding towns. Somerville and Cambridge are the Boston area, so living there would be exponentially more expensive and a hell of a commute.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:40 PM on May 10, 2010

Nthing Andover if it's affordable. I went to (now defunct)Bradford College for 2 1/2 years in a suburb of Haverhill and spent almost all my free time in Boston (the MBTA station was just a few blocks from campus) because there was very little to do in town. The last time I was there was ten years ago; I don't know how much has changed.
posted by brujita at 10:38 PM on May 10, 2010

Haverhill was known for its shoe factories, Andover is still known for the prep school.
posted by brujita at 10:43 PM on May 10, 2010

Having spent over 25 years in Boston (and surrounding 'burbs), I'm going to go against the grain and suggest Lowell.

Suburban towns like Reading (where I work), Wilmington, Woburn, etc., are without exception family-oriented kinda boring little suburbs.

Lowell, on the other hand, is a tremendously multicultural small city about 20 minutes from Andover. It's been having a hipster Renaissance in the past few years and there are amazing lofts converted from sewing mills that are dirt cheap to live in that overlook the river.

Lowell has a minor league baseball team, The Lowell Spinners, which has got to be the best $5 anyone will spend for a night of live baseball.

There are pubs, yuppie gastropubs, amazing Cambodian, Thai, Guatamalan and other great places to eat.

No happening nightclubs, per se, but cool bars. And the Tsongas Arena almost always has a decent artist coming into town.

And the demographic is more your friend's group whereas suburban commuting towns, not so much.
posted by dzaz at 2:51 AM on May 11, 2010

24 and single? He doesn't want to live in a 'burb on the North Shore. Full stop. $1200 gets you a decent one-bedroom place in some of the outer parts of the city, and it'd be criminal to miss everything that's in public transit range in Boston because he wanted to save $50 a month. If he's driving to work, find a place near Sullivan Square in either East Cambridge/Somerville or Charlestown, and plan on a 3-minute surface-roads trip to 93 every morning. If he wants to go car-less, Andover is on the Haverhill commuter rail line, which leaves out of North Station, so he'd want to find a place on the orange or Green lines--literally half the city fits that requirement.

I have a friend who's lived in Charlestown for a couple of years, and I can check with her on his best bet for neighborhoods, if he's interested--MeMail me. Alternately, Metafilter has a pretty sizable Boston population who can answer that question if you were to rephrase and ask about neighborhoods north of the river.

There's plenty of time to stagnate and die in the suburbs when he's 30 and has kids :-)
posted by Mayor West at 4:33 AM on May 11, 2010

24 and single? He doesn't want to live in a 'burb on the North Shore.

Yeah, this. I was all ready to do my usual Salem plug (you just drive down 114 and you're in Andover). Salem is great - very much a Davis Square feel here in the past few years - but I'm not sure if it's the best place to be 24 and single. It depends what he's in to, though, we have a pretty good local music scene, great places to eat and drink, a museum, and a college. Plus he could get a 1 bed apt for ~1,000 bucks on the water a 15/20 minute walk away from the commuter rail.

All that said, 1,200 bucks could get you a 1-bed in Davis Square, so why spend time in a place that's like it when you could be in it? The commute up 93 would be reverse, so hopefully not too onerous.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:58 AM on May 11, 2010

24 and single? He doesn't want to live in a 'burb on the North Shore.

AAAaaamen. Malden, Medford, parts of Somerville, heck, parts of Cambridge if you can stand a roommate. $1200/month won't get you much in Somerville or Cambridge but Medford has some apartment buildings literally across the street from Wellington Station on the orange line. I have friends who live there, it's well kept and accessible. All of these towns are close to 93. In greater Boston, traffic is a given, so live somewhere fun.
posted by hungrybruno at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2010

Melrose is really nice.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2010

"I think the only T station in Somerville is Davis Square"

Davis Sq is the only stop on the red line. Sullivan Sq is on the red line.

Probably anywhere on the orange line north of Boston would be a good choice. Minimize commute and maximize ease of access into Boston.

I lived near Medford Sq for about 5 years and it was right down the street from I93 (<5>
I would not want to live in Haverhill. It's on the moon.

Lowell might be ok; I haven't spent much time there.

Google maps and the MBTA website are your friends.
posted by reddot at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2010

To defend my honor as Someone Who Gets Details Right: Sullivan is actually in Charlestown (which is actually part of Boston), although it is certainly within walking distance of certain parts of Somerville.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:07 PM on May 11, 2010

« Older How can I shoe-shop with Pantone color specificity...   |   Jobs for English Majors (that don't involve... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.