Best Places to Live 2012
Our annual guide to finding your happy place.
Because sustainability is a way of life
Median home price: $335,000, One-year change: +1%
This southwest suburb has taken the eco-conscious cause to heart. Massachusetts recently designated Medway an official “green community,” providing grants to install low-energy lighting in municipal buildings and set up residents with rainwater collection barrels. Last May, the first shares of organic crops — heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, fresh-cut flowers — were sold from the Medway Community Farm (local fourth-graders helped plant the seeds) on town-owned land. The high school generates some of its electricity via solar panels, and the middle school is being retrofitted for them, too. Even commercial developers are getting in on the act. One new subdivision near the center of town features geothermal air systems. “Green is good” here, says Paul Yorkis, who is developing 18 energy-saving townhouses in West Medway. Mother Nature agrees.
Because of one ridiculously great grocery store
Median home price: $367,000, One-year change: +4%
We tried to stay within the I-495 loop for this package. We really did. But if there’s one thing we’ll endure a longer commute for, it’s the new mega grocery store Wegmans. Northborough denizens have flipped for the New York company’s first New England outpost, a shiny 138,000-square-foot space teeming with gourmet goodies. “I almost want to cry when I walk by the bakery,” town resident Shawn Gillespie says of the store’s appeal. Home cooks stock up on shallot-thyme butter, red Cerignola olives, and prepared foods galore — and shop the cavernous liquor department. Real estate agent Karen Scopetski, who says a large number of Northborough residents commute to nearby EMC or to Boston, can show you $275,000 homes in the Northgate neighborhood, $400,000 residences in Indian Meadow, or $700,000 McMansions in Brigham Woods.
Because the new high school is a high-tech masterpiece
Median home price: $264,500, One-year change: -3%
This town, where you can get a 1,600-square-foot house for less than $275,000, is a savvy shopper’s dream — and it’ll be even more so when Plymouth North High School opens in September. Principal Kathleen McSweeney says the space will feature a robot-engineering lab, building-wide WiFi, electric-car chargers in the parking lot, and $6,500 worth of gadgets for every classroom, including interactive whiteboards and Bose speakers. (There will also be sparkling facilities for the sports teams.) And for parents? Plymouth offers a quaint downtown and the Colony Place outdoor mall.
Because it’s about to get an extreme makeover
Median home price: $299,950, One-year change: -5%
With $1.6 billion in planned upgrades to a 20-block area, Quincy is a city on the move. Once infrastructure improvements are completed next year, Street-Works Development and the Beal Companies are slated to begin building a downtown department store, farmers’ market, up to 1,400 residences, and more. The project’s buzz may help explain the spurt in winter sales activity around Quincy — 221 single-family homes and condos were sold or went under contract between November and mid-February, compared with 140 during the same period last year.
Because of the bustling harbor
Median home price: $437,000, One-year change: +2%
A wave of development on Scituate Harbor, including retail, office, and condo projects, has energized the waterfront. “All of a sudden, it’s lively,” says Realtor David Drinkwater. On Front Street, you’ll find Wishbones pet boutique, food and gift shop Roman Table, the rehabbed cinema, and seafood eatery Oro. In 2009 three local families reopened the 29-room Inn at Scituate Harbor, and its Dogwatch bar attracts weekend crowds.