Where to live in Boston?
August 12, 2008 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Boston Filter: Where should I live in Boston? 20 minutes, or less, from Tufts Medical in Chinatown.

Looking for a 1 BR rental apartment with a parking space, and possibly street parking or other spaces for guests, central air, clean and relatively modern appliances, a washer and dryer inside.

The catch: would like to be in a location that makes it worth while to live in Boston, someplace close to city life, someplace and walkable to what the city has to offer. Safe and minimal crime also important.

Budget: $2000/mo. Prefer less but could go a little higher.

I asked about finding my best place to live a bit over a year ago. I think I ended up picking Boston. OK- where do I need to compromise? More importantly which neighborhoods and locations should I focus my search?
posted by objdoc to Work & Money (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Jamaica Plain will give you a nice, eclectic neighborhood feel, with a nice apartment in that range. Back Bay or South End will give you a more urban, upscale experience, and a smaller apartment. Both are a 20-minute commute by the T. Some parts of Dorchester or South Boston will be w/in 20 minutes and you can get some great apartment deals in Dorchester. Although some people do feel Dorchester is unsafe.

You're much more likely to get the parking and W/D in JP or Dorchester. But, I have to say, easy parking and an in-unit washer-dryer are not usually compatible with having the "urban experience" unless you're wealthy. You could luck out and find a 1br with a washer in the bathroom and a parking spot, but it's more likely that you'll have to choose either to live in the middle of things OR have those conveniences.
posted by lunasol at 6:06 AM on August 12, 2008

lunasol's right, forget about getting everything you asked for in your question for 2,000 dollars. you're the one who has to figure out what to compromise -- the parking, the washer/dryer, the walking distance to cool restaurants, etc.
2,000 is quite a lot but not really that much when parking and other perks go at a premium.

Jamaica Plain's a good idea and a good compromise.
posted by matteo at 6:19 AM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: Will look into JP. Also can commute by car- so near-suburban places in driving range are also fair game.
posted by objdoc at 6:44 AM on August 12, 2008

I don't think you'll have to choose between parking and washer/dryer. If you live in Boston Proper you're not going to get a dedicated parking spot in your price range, period. But you may get a washer/dryer.

I think JP is a good suggestion-- Orange Line or Green Line will get you to Chinatown without a transfer. You might get parking in parts of Cambridge as well, so that's worth a look-- even with a red line or bus transfer you might be able to get there in 20 minutes. Both of those places have a city feel.

My favorite suggestion though is my old neighborhood-- the South End. You'd have to park on the street, but it's not that bad. But you could walk to work in 5 to 10 minutes, and you could walk a large swath of Boston Proper in a reasonable amount of time. And you can live in a beautiful bowfront built before the Civil War and walk on brick sidewalks. Worth a look.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:47 AM on August 12, 2008

You're looking for a one-bedroom for $2,000 a month, right? That would get you a ridiculously nice place in JP. Seriously. A $2,000 per month TWO bedroom in JP would be super-nice.

This isn't to really push JP, although it's a great place. More to express confusion on my part. Seeing people say you'd have to compromise is making me curious -- a quick search of Craigslist seems to find plenty of options, even in the relatively tony Beacon Hill, in a $2,000 one-bedroom. Beacon Hill does have immense parking issues, but as Mayor Curley said, I think parking will be a concern anywhere in Boston Proper. But the washer-dryer shouldn't be a problem.

The driving issue is kind of interesting. In a funny way, because of traffic, a 20 minute commute by car doesn't always get you that far out of the city. But, if you're willing to extend by driving, how would you feel about Harvard Square?

Central, Harvard, and Porter Squares are all within 20 minutes car drive of each other, have large concentrations of things to do, and are entirely in your price range. Cambridge city living is different from your Boston city living though. Think urban hippie. But I mention it because you mentioned being willing to drive. Also, a subway commute from Harvard/Central square to Downtown Crossing would only be 20-25 minutes, plus a 5-10 minute walk to Tufts at the end. Cambridge also has the awesome visitor parking permit. I miss that thing.

Within Boston, I think Mayor Curley's South End suggestion is spot-on for a great city feel. And it has, in my opinion, a little more character than the Back Bay / Newbury area, although location-wise that's also a good area for the commute to Chinatown.
posted by lillygog at 8:06 AM on August 12, 2008

As a current JP resident, I will agree with the suggestion to a point. It's a wonderfully diverse neighborhood (and that's putting it mildly... think a strong and vibrant latino community crossed with a high gay/lesbian population all mixed together with tons of bespectacled hipsters/anarchists and trust fund hippies who are always pissed off about something) with easy access to downtown via the Orange Line and a strong community oriented populace that prefers the local Mom & Pop shop over the big box chain stores.

However, in the six years I've lived there I've always thought it gave more of a suburb feel than the actual "urban experience." Your more likely to live in a triple decker house than an apartment building for instance. And there are more tree lined streets, parks and picket fences in JP than say in the Back Bay or South End (don't get me wrong - there are plenty of trees and parks in the Back Bay too, but it has much more of a "city" feel with it's brick sidewalks and brownstones - plus you're a much closer walk to downtown.) JP has some radically different areas within itself too. I live on what could be called the cusp of a pretty bad area and the crime has gotten steadily worse in recent years (gang activity has increased in the square up the street.) By contrast the Jamaica Pond/Centre St. area is both gorgeous and fun/quirky. Almost gives the feel of a wealthy suburb (which it essentially is being right on the border with Brookline.)

So, my vote would be with Mayor Curley for the South End (or better yet, Back Bay if you could swing the rent) for urban experience but bear in mind it will be quite a bit more expensive than JP and probably wouldn't include parking (at least not at the price you specified.)
posted by Rewind at 8:09 AM on August 12, 2008

My advice is to look outside Boston proper. You are not going to find a good place downtown for that'll be in your budget. You might be extremely lucky and find a decently priced 1BR in the North End, but having lived there for two years, I would advise you against it. 24-hour pastry doesn't make up for the crowds, the tourists, the festivals that go on long past when you'd like to go to sleep and the people who don't clean up after their dogs. The clubs for old Italian men are a 50/50, because it means your block is super-safe, but you're going to wake up early on Sunday mornings to Frank Sinatra. Your building will probably have a mouse problem, due to the high concentration of restaurants and college students.

I'm living in East Cambridge right now. Newly renovated place with a washer/dryer, dishwasher, new appliances, hardwood floors. No central air. Street parking with permit (a bunch of Zipcars nearby). Larger than a hole in the wall. Definitely in your budget. It'll probably stretch your 20 minute rule a bit, depending on the time of day (rush hour shouldn't be a problem. I'd give you an estimate but the MBTA website appears to be failing at life). It's probably not as urban as you want (houses converted into apartments), but Inman Square is a 15 minute walk away, and it's not much more to walk to Central or Kendall. I feel safe here, and I'm really flippin' paranoid. It's a bunch of young professionals and Portuguese families - very working class, lots of small parks, people out with their kids. The area is basically "up-and-coming" (er.. being gentrified), so if you find a newly renovated place, you're probably getting something good. The only thing I don't like about my neighborhood is the fact that I have yet to find a good local bar, so I always trek out to Central.

If you're willing to venture a bit into Somerville, you're likely to find a nice place. I've never lived in Somerville though, so I can't vouch for any neighborhood specifically.

On preview: Yes to the South End. Unless you're planning on wearing heels.
posted by giraffe at 8:25 AM on August 12, 2008

I vote for South Boston. It's a nice, quiet neighborhood within striking distance of downtown. It's definitely quieter and almost certainly cheaper than the South End, and it's been spending the last decade cleaning up. If you're commuting to NEMC Tufts Medical, the 11 bus will become your absolute best friend.
posted by Plutor at 8:29 AM on August 12, 2008

Oh, and residents in Southie can get free parking permits (all it requires is a bankers-hours trip to city hall in person). Unlike the South End or Beacon Hill, a permit is essentially a guaranteed spot. In two years of living here, I can't think I've ever had to park more than a block from my door.
posted by Plutor at 8:32 AM on August 12, 2008

North Cambridge. Close enough to Harvard, Tufts, Davis Square etc. Not as "urban" as JP. In fact compared to JP it is almost farmland... (I exaggerate, but it seems way less crowded than JP or Somerville). North Cambridge is also close enough to Arlington, Medford etc. that you can enjoy what they have. The Mass Ave corrider through Arlington and Lexington have some nice restaurants and The Capitol Theater.
posted by Gungho at 9:14 AM on August 12, 2008

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