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July 12, 2010 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Expanding family priced out of NYC looking for alternatives, preferably in the Northeast (though flexible). Looking for some walkable density, historic (and/or good modern) residential architecture, some things to do, excellent schools and not-insane property taxes, good sense of community, etc. College towns a plus. Any ideas?
posted by dearleader to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Cambridge/Somerville/Boston area? I moved up here from NYC, and while I haven't found it to be super cheap, it is MUCH more affordable than New York. Another great (really lovely) option is Brookline, which is served by Boston's T, but is a delightful suburb. There are tons of other options up here. Come visit!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:28 PM on July 12, 2010

I grew up in Montgomery County, MD. For walkable density combined with excellent schools you'd probably be looking at Bethesda. In no way a college town, but because of NIH there's a similarly intellectual tinge to the population. Not cheap, except when compared to New York. I liked being a kid there a lot.

Actually, have you considered Princeton, NJ? Again, not cheap unless you compare it to New York. But it's a college town, completely walkable, with easy access (by car or train) to both New York and Philadelphia.
posted by escabeche at 12:33 PM on July 12, 2010

I'd say Philly, but for the excellent schools bit. The public schools here are not excellent.
posted by angrycat at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2010

Welcome to Philadelphia.

Actually, I'm not sure about schools, since I don't have kids and I don't even know anyone who has kids. But certainly there have to be some good schools, either private or public, somewhere in the city.

Philadelphia is easy to move to from NYC (well, it was for me) in a way I suspect less city-like places are not.
posted by millipede at 12:39 PM on July 12, 2010

How about Portland, ME?
posted by golden at 12:40 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I loved Northampton, MA, when I loved there. I was a renter, though, so no idea about property taxes.
posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2010

Northhampton, MA is a neat town; formerly a manufacturing area (like most of New England) but in the process of reinventing itself. It has a very eclectic / artistic-granola feel to it. It is both a college town itself, and is part of what is sometimes called the "Five College area". It has a walkable downtown, but not (IIRC) a ton of public transportation.

I suspect that the problem with living there -- like a lot of other really charming, historic, walkable places in New England -- isn't the community but the job market. There is not a ton of industry there anymore, with the exception of the colleges and healthcare. If you have a transportable or remote-work job though, one that's stable enough for you to count on in the future and plan around, it could be a very nice place.

Burlington, VT is also a great town but has fairly hard winters if you're not used to that sort of thing. I don't know about the schools, but it is on the Lake, which is a lot of fun in the summer. (Although if it were me I'd probably pick Montpelier rather than Burlington, because less of the population is transient, but you specified 'college town.')
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:43 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I see after submitting that rtha and I are on the same wavelength today.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:44 PM on July 12, 2010

I was also thinking Northampton, MA. Bonus: spectacular autumn leaves.
posted by ambrosia at 12:47 PM on July 12, 2010

Ithaca has everything you want, maybe even jobs! Property taxes are a bit high, but housing costs are way lower than NYC. An even cheaper and smaller alternative is Oneonta, two colleges, some culture. Schools in Ithaca are probably better than those in Oneonta. My kids went all through the Ithaca schools.
posted by mareli at 12:50 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Schools are tricky here in Philly, but I'm pretty sure trying to balance schools and property taxes is always a huge problem. I know very few people with kids; my cousins who grew up in the city (their parents are very much on the upper side of upper-middle-class) went to Friends schools (eg, Quaker.) Other than that, we're just right: Highly walkable, tons of historic architecture, more colleges than you can shake an undergrad at (please don't).
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:56 PM on July 12, 2010

Swarthmore, Pa is your new home. College is there. Very good schools. Shopping as well as historic homes. Near Philadelphia too. If I were you and I was ok with a little colder winter than NYC has, I would consider Saratoga or Saratoga Springs, NY.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2010

(alternately, the Philly suburbs might be what you want: easy access to the city and its amenities, obviously much better public schools, admittedly higher real-estate taxes.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2010

I've been thinking about CT (with the same concerns), but haven't gotten into the real research stage yet. I have heard great things about the schools. Good luck!
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2010

Charlottesville, VA! (Not quite Northeast, but also avoids most of the nasty VA stereotypes, and is located in one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous locales on the eastern seaboard. You get four well-rounded seasons, affordable housing, supposedly good schools, and an adorable college town. DC and Virginia Beach are both within reasonable driving distance for an overnight trip)
posted by schmod at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2010

How about Ithaca, New York? After all, it's gorges. Downtown Ithaca is totally walkable, the schools are great, and with both Cornell and Ithaca College, cultural activities are in abundance.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:55 PM on July 12, 2010

Charlottesville has about 40,000 people. Unless you grew up in a smaller city or town, that will be a huge shock after New York. It will be really different from what you are used to, and probably not in a good way.
posted by jeoc at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2010

Providence RI.

A college town, a train ride to NYC or Boston, nice, walkable areas, lots of artsy culture.
posted by chiefthe at 2:15 PM on July 12, 2010

The Philly suburbs have many excellent private schools. As far as public schools, the public schools on the Main Line are excellent (e.g., Radnor, Lower Merion, Haverford school districts).
posted by odin53 at 2:15 PM on July 12, 2010

Takoma Park, Md. Esp. strong sense of community (if you're a liberal), notable bungalow architecture, and better than average density (walkable downtown with Metro station, but you'll probably still need a car, though). Excellent public schools run by wealthy Montgomery County. Strong economy.
posted by hhc5 at 2:30 PM on July 12, 2010

2nd Swarthmore

I grew up there, a fabulous cohesive and walkable community with excellent access to public transportation.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 2:43 PM on July 12, 2010

Agree on Portland. There are actually a ton of NYC expats (self included, although I did grow up in the Portland area). Great architecture, super walkable, great community. University of Southern Maine, one of the campuses of University of New England, and the Maine College of Art.

The schools are fine (it does sort of depend on where you live, esp. for elementary) and there are also lots of great private schools.

Jobs can be an issue, depending on what you do. Feel free to MeMail me, I might have some insight if it would help.
posted by miss tea at 3:28 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived in Northampton, MA (or nearby) for 6 years and I absolutely loved it. Living in Northampton itself can be quite expensive, from what I understand, but there are several nearby towns that aren't as expensive, like Hadley, Hatfield, Westhampton, etc... One of the things I always loved is that the center of Northampton is busy, but the neighboring towns have a lot of country space, places to walk and hike and bike and enjoy the fresh air. And there's a children's museum in Holyoke, and the Eric Carle museum over near Hampshire College.

The schools are great, the community is fantastic, and there is a bus system between Northampton and Amherst that is fairly reliable if limited in routes and somewhat annoying during the summer when it only runs once an hour. It does have a very crunchy granola feel, as some others have mentioned, but it also has some really fantastic restaurants.

I miss living there so, so much!
posted by rosethorn at 3:39 PM on July 12, 2010

New Haven, CT meets all of your requirements except property taxes. Be cheaper than NYC though.
posted by reptile at 5:11 PM on July 12, 2010

Another vote for the Northampton, MA area. Moved there from NYC seven years ago. MeMail me if you want tons of details.
posted by dayintoday at 7:32 PM on July 12, 2010

Middletown, CT has Wesleyan. Nice town, not sure about the property taxes.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:42 PM on July 12, 2010

Schools are tricky here in Philly, but I'm pretty sure trying to balance schools and property taxes is always a huge problem.

Yeah, I was about to say the same thing. My co-workers bitch about their insane property taxes in South Jersey, but...those schools don't pay for themselves. We've got low property taxes here in Philly, and the schools are a mess. It is navigable, there are great schools, it's just complicated and sometimes frustrating.

But my excellent, safe, fabulous, delicious, multicultural, artsy, desirable neighborhood that's about a mile from City Hall is a neighborhood of brick rowhouses that go for about 250K on average. (Give or take 50K for size/need of updating) Does that ease the sting?
posted by desuetude at 9:24 PM on July 12, 2010

I'd suggest checking into a few of the suggestions in this thread.... I've had great experiences in Saratoga Springs, Ithaca, Norhthampton, MA and Burlington, VT.

If you're willing/able to move internationally, I'd check out Montreal.
posted by brand-gnu at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good comments/suggestions! Should have added that our work is freelance and not entirely location dependent (but somewhat). But there's some great leads to follow here.
posted by dearleader at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2010

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