With September 1 getting closer and closer, Boston’s Allston neighborhood is about to be swarmed by a tidal wave of students and young professionals. But how well do you know this lively part of town that sits comfortably between BC, BU, and Harvard? Allston can sometimes get a bad rap from those who have never lived or visited there. (I should know, I lived there for eight years between 2003 and 2011).
With so many people of different backgrounds about to descend on the neighborhood, we thought it would be a good time to get a clear picture of Allston. We spoke with Alana Olsen, director of Allston Village Main Streets — a community resource for small businesses, homeowners, and residents, to help set the record straight. Next
Myth: It’s Just a Bar Scene
This is definitely not the case, Olsen said. While yes, there are plenty of watering holes in Allston, Olsen said the neighborhood is a great place to go for a nice meal out, not just pub fare.
“Allston is also Boston’s Little Korea,” Olsen said. “There are more Korean-American restaurants in Allston than pizza joints.” According to a list she provided, Korean establishments slightly outpace pizza restaurants in Allston. So if you’re out on the town in Allston stop by one of the neighborhood’s Korean, Chinese, Indian, Afghan, Italian, Burmese, or other worldly offerings. Next
Myth: The Neighborhood Isn’t Safe
When it comes to crime, Allston doesn’t have the worst reputation compared to other parts of the city. In fact, statistically speaking, Allston has become safer than Boston’s other neighborhoods. According to the most recent statistics available from the Boston Police Department, Allston has seen a 27 percent drop in all types of crime compared to last year, more than any Boston neighborhood.
That’s not to say everything in the neighborhood is perfectly safe, of course. BPD Officer Steven Law, a community service officer for Allston-Brighton, said most crimes in the neighborhood are alcohol-fueled. “Sometimes young people and alcohol don’t mix,” Law said. “We will see some assaults, like one drunk guy picking a fight...we’re talking about drunken foolishness.”
Another frequent type of crime is the “crime of opportunity,” which can include break-ins and stolen property. According to Law, this is because of the neighborhood’s frequently shifting population. “We have students and young professionals living here who have items that thieves are interested in,” he said. (On a personal note, my own Allston apartment was robbed twice during a three-year period while I lived there).
According to BPD stats, the highest types of crimes fall under the categories of burglary, larceny, and aggravated assault. More violent crimes like homicide are much lower than other neighborhoods, with zero homicides reported in Allston so far this year. Next
Myth: It’s a Student Ghetto
According to statistics from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, properties in Allston are almost 90 percent renter occupied. However, Olsen said the neighborhood boasts a diverse real estate scene, not just places for students to rest their feet.
“We also have brand new housing, historic Victorians, and single-family homes,” she said. “We have very diverse houses. Allston has a little bit of all of it. When we think about the ‘student ghetto’ we’re only talking about certain parts of Allston where students live.”
Of course, the upcoming Allston Christmas tradition where numerous items like furniture are discarded and put on the street for scavengers might add some weight to the student ghetto image. But Olsen said that it’s a good thing for the community.
“For business owners, Allston Christmas can represent a more lucrative shopping day than the actual holiday rush,” she said. “While there is definitely stress involved, Allston Christmas is a great opportunity for small businesses to introduce themselves to a new customer base.” Next
Myth: It’s a Transportation Headache
There are lots of public transportation options in Allston, including the Green Line, several buses, and a new commuter rail station on the horizon. Olsen pointed out that the MBTA’s B-Line is so infamous it has been featured in several songs by local bands, including the Allstonians’ “B Train to Allston.” With services that extend from Boston College to Boston University and into the city, the B Train is one of the most heavily utilized Green Line routes.
Several major MBTA buses pass through Allston, including the 57, 64, 66, and 86 routes. The MBTA has included the 57 and 66 routes among the Key Bus Route Improvement Program due to their high frequency of use and is devoting resources to improving customer experiences, improving safety, and increasing accessibility. Next
Myth: There’s Little Diversity
BRA statistics indicate Allston’s ethnic makeup is 60.2 percent white. But with roughly 15 percent of residents of Hispanic or Latino origin and another 17 percent from Asia, Allston is quite the melting pot community.
Figures from the BRA indicate that most foreign-born Allston residents come from China (more than 20 percent). Other nations represented in Allston come from El Salvador, Korea, Brazil, India, Guatemala, and more. Next
Myth: It’s a Creative Hub (Okay, This One’s True)
Allston can’t quite get around this myth. The neighborhood is definitely a hub for creative types to call home while they’re writing music in a variety of genres.
“Allston has a long-standing tradition of being home to musicians and artists,” Olsen noted. “We have Studio 52, the Allston Sound Museum, and artist studios in 119 Braintree street. Lots of local musicians start out performing in Allston, and if fans want to see them they would see them in Allston. ”
Those bands include Aerosmith, who visited their old Allston apartment building in 2012 to put on a live show. Back to the beginning
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