Best Places to Live 2012
Because it’s a suburban town with a global vibe
Median home price: $519,500, One-year change: +5%
This community northwest of the city is earning a reputation for diversity that’s on par with Lexington’s. (In fact, there’s an actual rivalry between the two towns: Last April, Acton-Boxborough Regional High’s math team bested the Lexington squad by one point in a nail-biting state meet.) Thanks to the area’s vibrant Indian and Chinese populations, kids get an international experience that extends beyond school hours. On Sundays, children taking Chinese lessons fill the junior high. Instructors from Angel Performing Arts lead 80 girls, ages 5 to 15, in Chinese folk-dance lessons at Exchange Hall. And at the high school, the student organization Asha (“hope” in Hindi) promotes South Asian culture with activities like food festivals, and is raising money to build a school in Rajasthan, India.
Boston’s Leather District
Because it’s got downtown style with a small-town soul
Median condo price: $605,000*, One-year change: +21%
A strong sense of community pervades this compact, nine-square-block warren of old office buildings and factories near the Financial District and Chinatown. Five-year resident Tim Cushman, who, along with his wife, Nancy, owns the sushi temple O Ya, says they bump into familiar faces all the time, especially at the nearby Dewey Square farmers’ market. “We have a lot of neighbors who come into the restaurant,” Cushman says. The neighborhood is also maturing: Social media startups, ad agencies, and other hip businesses have put down roots in the area and formed a tight-knit group, even banding together for a block party last fall. And although luxury loft construction screeched to a halt when the economy tanked, things are looking up. Current offerings include both smart bargains (a one-bedroom loft for under $400,000) and high-end finds (a $1.3 million terrace penthouse). Hudson Group North America also plans to break ground later this year on a 25-story high-end apartment tower where the decrepit Dainty Dot Hosiery building stands at the corner of Kingston and Essex streets. Expect the project, which is on the outskirts of the neighborhood, to further enliven the area and increase foot traffic. * Data is for the 02111 zip code, which includes parts of Chinatown.
Because it’s an adventurous eater’s paradise
Median condo price: $227,500, One-year change: +7%
In 2009, chef Michael Serpa of the North End’s Neptune Oyster decided to jump on a gut-renovated two-family near Orient Heights. The price? Just $340,000. Two and a half years later, he couldn’t be happier with the choice. Besides the eight-minute commute to downtown through the old harbor tunnels, Serpa and his wife, Lina Velez, love Eastie for its inexpensive global comfort food like Peruvian ceviche, Colombian tongue stew, and Salvadoran pupusas. (The Mexican fare at Angela’s Café is legendary.) Mayor Menino is certainly betting on East Boston, too, having recently announced plans for a series of infrastructure improvements to lure private developers to the harbor.
Because it’s an overlooked waterfront retreat
Median home price: $299,900, One-year change: +13%
In places like Heaven Heights and Bliss Road, houses tucked into the nooks and crannies of Long Pond’s sparkling shoreline start at $200,000 and go up to $2 million. (It’s rumored that John Travolta looked there.) The draw? The waterfront vistas afforded by lake living…minus the beach-town pricing. Real estate agent Tracy Shand of Jack Conway & Company moved to town with her husband after losing out on properties north of Boston. They now have 101 feet of pond frontage. Lakeville does have a sprinkling of amenities — the Cottage Day Spa, Somethin’s Brewing Book Café — but the community revolves around the pond, where locals can putter up to the dock at St. John Neumann’s Church for mass on Sunday mornings.