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Army Base Becomes Hot New Neighborhood

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis July 9, 2014 10:12 AM

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Looking for green space galore? Miles of hiking trails, ponds, playing fields, and a couple of championship golf courses thrown in for good measure?

Well as it turns out, you can find all that, and more, at Devens, the old Army-base-turned corporate park just off Route 2, next door to Harvard, Ayer and Shirley, I discovered in this story I wrote for the Globe West.

Devens may be best known for the prominent role it played as a mustering center for soldiers across the country during various 20th century conflicts, starting with World War I, when it was carved out of farmland by the federal government.

After decommissioning in the 1990s, the old base got a new lease on life as a corporate park, with Bristol-Myers Squibb building a giant drug plant and numerous other companies moving into new digs on the old military campus.

But the town-sized Devens also has a small but growing residential community. The first wave of residents bought up the graceful old brick colonials and other homes that once housed the officers on the base. A cluster of modern, energy efficient homes was built a few years ago.

Now Lexington developer Evergreen Village Collaborative is moving ahead with plans for 120 homes and apartment. The 35-acre development will feature clusters of homes surrounded by woods and other green space.

But if you think the townsfolk of Devens are staring out at smokestacks and parking lots, well then you would be wrong.

All those decades as a military training center has meant that a roughly a third of Devens' 4,400 acres are currently protected or slated to be protected from future development.

That number includes 1,500 acres of forest, nine miles of hiking trails and a 44-acre complex of soccer, lacrosse, ruby and ultimate Frisbee fields, all created out of Devens' old parade grounds.

Among those attracted to Devens' surprisingly rural feel is Betsy Thiel, a retiree from Concord who trains hunting dogs and who bought a townhouse at the old base a couple years ago.

"It's going back to a bygone era when you can walk anytime day or night and you are not worried about traffic," Thiel told me when I interviewed her for my Globe West piece. "You feel like you are living in a village - it is a village."

Sounds good to me, but finding a house to buy at Devens could be a problem given the total residential population tops out at 300. Also, Evergreen hasn't started work yet on its planned, 120-home development.

I did find a couple listings on homesnap, including this rambling, three bedroom, two bath, brick ranch listed for $379,000. It was built in 1931, presumably as officers' housing. If the walls could speak, they certainly would have some interesting tales to tell.

Devens ranch.jpg

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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

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