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Community Snapshot

Newton

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June 3, 2008

THE GOODS: Newton is the complete package: great schools, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, rich housing stock and a powerful sense of community in each of the city's 13 villages. Throw in public transit and easy highway access, with Boston just a few miles away, and it's easy to understand why so homes here are usually in great demand. Youth sports are very strong, the city has two symphonies that perform regularly and the large restaurant scene will keep a gourmand busy all year. The commercial districts of the villages each seem to have a distinct flavor. West Newton has a classic old-style cinema that plays foreign and independent films and is widely acclaimed for its popcorn. It's surrounded by an array of Japanese, Chinese, French and barbecue restaurants. Civic involvement is very high.

PROS: They built big houses in this city. From the castle-like Tudors of Chestnut Hill, to the Victorians of Newton Centre, to the sprawling Colonials, gambrels, and capes of West Newton and Farlow hills, there is a trophy house for every taste – but not for every budget. Most of the housing is of older period vintages. The younger – and less expensive – housing stock is mostly south of Route 9, but even here the ranches around the high school come with plenty of room, inside or out. Entry-level housing is mostly small condos, typically in complexes.

CONS: It's darn expensive to live here - both in home prices and taxes. Residents' finally balked at some of these costs when they refused to approve an override that would have meant an average of an additional $1,000 in property taxes. Now the high level of services expected of Newton will be tested as city officials must make do with less.

FRANCI RICHARDSON ELLEMENT

Median house value: single-family $728,000; condo: $460,000
Tax Rate: $9.70
Average tax bill: $7,767
Choice location: The Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead in Newton Corner was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Cocktail party nugget: Yes, Fig Newtons really are named after this city. Maker Kennedy Biscuits had a tradition of naming products after communities near Boston.
SOURCES: The Warren Group, city of Newton, Mass. Department of Revenue

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