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Roslindale finds its place in the city

By By Teri Borseti, Globe Correspondent, 09/28/2002

    More information on Roslindale from Boston.com's Your Town section.
 AT A GLANCE

Incorporated: 1870, annexed as part of Boston in 1874
Population: 34,618
Area: 3.8 square miles
Tax rate: $11.01 residential, $30.33 commercial
Government: mayor, city council
Median house price: $341,000
Schools: six elementary, one middle
Hospital: Faulkner Hospital
 
When Lee Blasi was growing up in Roslindale it was still a farming community.

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"I'm 56 years old so it wasn't all that long ago that there were dairy farms here. We had woods, fields and cows in my neighborhood," said Blasi, a lifelong resident and legislative aid to City Councilor Robert Consalvo. "There have been changes over the years, but basically, it's still the community I remember as a kid."

At one time a garden suburb of Boston, Roslindale became more accessible when streetcars were extended to Roslindale Square in the late 1800s. The Boston neighborhood has traditionally been a working-class section of the city and a popular destination for immigrants. Today, Roslindale, one of the city's most ethnically and economically diverse areas, is also attracting professionals, artists, and young families.

Roslindale is home to Americans of Irish, Italian, German, Yiddish, Indian, and Latino descent, and Blasi said that recently there has been an influx of people from Albania, Greece, and Kenya.

"Almost everyone here embraces each other's culture," Blasi said.

Mike McGuire, owner of Insight Realty Group in Roslindale, who also grew up in "Rozzie" (as it's known to locals), said the neighborhood was seriously impacted in the mid-1970s by busing for school desegregation. That caused many families to flee to the suburbs.

"Today many of those same people are empty nesters and want to come back to Roslindale because they really loved it here. However, housing prices have risen dramatically, especially over the past five years," he said.

The following years were a period of stagnation for Roslindale. There were many vacancies in Roslindale Square, the business district, and real estate prices were depressed.

"Five years ago you could get a very well maintained two-family house for $200,000 to $225,000. Today that same property will cost over $400,000. A typical center-entrance Colonial home on a 6,000-square-foot lot near the square lists between $375,000 to $500,000," McGuire said.

In 1983, then City Councilor Thomas M. Menino (now mayor of Boston) sought assistance from the National Trust for Historic Properties' "Main Streets" program, which provides the tools to revitalize a community's center.

Three years after Main Streets was brought into Roslindale, there were 33 facade changes, 43 commercial building rehabs, 29 new businesses, and 132 new jobs accounting for a total of $5.1 million in new investments in Roslindale.

"Little by little the village was reborn and today it's much like Jamaica Plain with an eclectic mix of stores and restaurants," said Blasi.

And in the past five years, the lack of affordable housing throughout the city has drawn buyers who are giving Roslindale a second look.

City Councilor Robert Consalvo gives Menino credit for drawing professionals to the neighborhood and to the city by making the improvement of the Boston Public Schools a top priority. Consalvo said Roslindale has begun to show its civic pride.

"People here get involved in absolutely everything: traffic, safety issues, kids, anything that affects their quality of life. That's what makes it work as a community," he said.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 09/28/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company
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