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Community snapshot

Medford

The Brooks Estate is 50 acres of preserved parks, woods, and two historical buildings. The Brooks Estate is 50 acres of preserved parks, woods, and two historical buildings. (Tom Landers/Globe Staff/File 1999)
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April 27, 2008

THE GOODS There was a time in recent decades when a reference to Medford - or 'Meffa,' as the locals called it - was likely to spur a round of snickering and bad jokes. The town was notorious, after all, for a few unfortunate incidents involving bank heists and Mafia induction ceremonies.

But that was then, and this is now. It's become a cosmopolitan burg. Medford and West Medford squares - with their tiny restaurants and independently owned businesses - have retained an old-fashioned sensibility. Largely urban in character, it does have two key natural resources: the Mystic River, where kayakers, canoeists, and fishermen ply the waters in temperate months, and a portion of Middlesex Fells Reservation, a 2,000-acre wooded preserve.

Expanded cultural attractions include Springstep, a nonprofit that offers dance and music classes, and the historic Chavelier Theatre, which hosts concerts, dance troupes, and other shows.

PROS Home of Tufts University, Medford has gained a reputation as an affordable community for young professionals and families. Modest single- and two-family homes dominate the town's housing stock. Its location on rail lines and near Interstate 93 gives it excellent access to Boston.

It's also the site of one of the region's newest Smart Growth developments: Station Landing, alongside the Mystic River. With housing for 1,000, the project encompasses 1 million square feet of condos, apartments, shops, office space, and restaurants, including a hip sushi bar and national chains like Starbucks.

That might not sound overly impressive to big-city folks, but it wasn't so long ago that pizza and spaghetti were mainstays of Medford's food scene. There's still plenty of red sauce and fettuccine for those who crave it - tiny Bella Ravioli has been hand-making pasta for nearly 30 years, and Modern Pastry in Medford Square serves delectable cannoli - but the town now boasts a Zagat-rated restaurant, too - Bistro 5 in West Medford Square.

CONS Parts of Medford remain a bit gritty, and the student-heavy areas around Tufts can have a run-down, transient feel. Houses, though relatively reasonably priced, generally don't offer much in the way of a yard or land; expect to live in cheek-to-jowl proximity to your neighbors. And it's generally agreed the Mystic, while pretty to look at, isn't clean enough for swimming.

SACHA PFEIFFER

Median home price: Single family, $350,000; condominium, $310,000
Residential tax rate: $9.12
Average tax bill: $3,651
Choice location: The Brooks Estate, a 50-acre preserve of parks, woods, and pond, and two historical buildings being restored.
Cocktail party nugget: West Medford hosts one of the nation’s oldest African-American communities.

SOURCES: Warren Group, Mass. Department of Revenue, Medford Historical Society

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