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In suburbs, boring is beautiful!

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis April 6, 2012 07:05 AM

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Hip urban or boring suburban - where would you rather live?

What started as a comparison of the merits and demerits of affordable but lunch bucket Quincy with Davis Square, the hipster capital of Greater Boston, has mushroomed into a debate over urban versus suburban living.

After hearing about the delights of living in Davis Square from Franksmartin, frustrated suburbanites are having their say - and then some - on the comment board.

Living out here in Natick, the capital of supposed suburban dreariness, I know which side of the argument I fall on. Yes, we are not hip, but we like it that way. After all, if you have small children, you are not out bar hopping or trying out a different restaurant each night, unless it's a diner or an IHOP.

OK, so here's what other suburbanites had to say after hearing that life in hip urban neighborhoods like Davis Square is infinitely superior to humdrum Natick, Needham or Medway.


Franksmartin doesn't understand that some people have almost ZERO interest in restaurants/nightclubs/shopping. I would rather spend a couple hours in the garden -- and it is hard to find 15000 sq ft properties (lot size not interior space) in urban areas, especially at a price that normal people can afford.

Besides, if we lived in Quincy, or Back Bay, or Somerville, it would be a LONG trek out to the various Audubon sanctuaries that we visit weekly. That's not "walkable".


How often does the average person/family go out to eat? Get ice cream? Hit bars? If you're lifestyle leads you to those places several times a week then have at it. If you're on the high end, then having those sorts of things within walking distance is nice but...

Most people I know knock out 8-10 hours out of their day at work and spend most of their time at home (whether they live in the city or in suburbia). I went to an ice cream shop exactly once last year. Is it worth my $$ to live within walking distance of JP Licks?

I'm in the process of buying on the 495 loop (the hinterlands according to most on here.) The lot borders several hundred acres of conservation land that has numerous trails for both walking and bike riding. I could jump on the rail-trail and ride my bike all the way into Cambridge if I choose to (Hey! No car! That must mean it's walkable, right?).

But I can also park my boat and RV on my own property. I'll have my own pool in my own back yard. It has a 2-car garage for vehicles and toys (Gotta keep the ATV somewhere.). There's plenty of room for both lawn and garden areas on the 2 acres. Setting up a bocce ball game along side the turnips won't be a problem when we have family gatherings and the kids will still have enough room for baseball or football.

Now where can I find a similar 3,400 sq, ft house (that needs zero work) for under $450K in Davis Square?


I live out on 495. I can easily walking to town, catch music on the common, movies on the common, have an Italian meal, pizza, and ice cream. There is a market and pharmacy/gift shop for basic needs. The library is there too along with antique shops. There are plenty of sidewalks to walk and run. It is a short bike ride to the playground and skate park. Schools are also close. There is an arts And music center along with a local theater. A five minute drive gets me to bike trails. Yet, I also live in a typical suburban home on a nice size lot that is private, I can garden in, and a culdesac neighborhood for the kids to play in. As I see it, we have the best of both worlds plus a great school system and no crime. Lots of gen x and gen y out here with good jobs that aren't necessarily in Boston. Don't knock it until you try it. But to each his own.


I've said it before- it's public amenities vs. private amenities.

If you want parks and bars, and stores, and walkability. You are going to have to trade privacy, open private space and property rights (condo or apartment regs/ covenants). So take your pick.

Having had a kid though- now that I'm a parent- you immediately think about schools, convenience (do I want to lug all the baby stuff up to the top level of a triple decker?) Parking- do I want to have to walk with baby or child 10-15 minutes to my parking spot? Etc. etc.

And I'll echo that I don't know many people other than the young, single and fabulous who go out to eat or drink regularly. Most of us have to pay for daycare- which is usually about as much as rent- goodbye spending money.

I still assert that everything Davis has, other communities do as well in one form or another. The Davis premium is because of the red line, students and Cambridge "runoff"- people wish they could live there but can't so they live in Davis, Ball Square, Medford Hillside, etc.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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