Centers And Squares
Welcome to Centers and Squares
As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.
May is Historic Preservation Month and Somerville has a wealth of activities planned throughout the month. Here are some of them:
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 3, 2014, the Somerville and Cambridge historic commissions are teaming up to offer a walking tour of one of my favorite streets – Orchard Street. Somerville and Cambridge are considering nominating the Orchard Street neighborhood for the National Register of Historic Places. The walk starts at 10 am at the Porter Square Plaza on Somerville Ave across from the Porter Square T station
On Sunday, May 18, 2014 from 2 to 4 pm there’ll be a Walking Tour of East Somerville. “Identifying Architectural Gems from Gilman Square to East Somerville will be led by Edward Gordon of the Victorain Society in America. The tour will begin at the Somerville Public Library, 81 Highland Avenue.
Mark your calendars for the Somerville Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony held on Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6:30 to 9 pm at the Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Avenue. A dozen Somerville property owners will be honored for their historic preservation work on the exteriors of their properties. It’s a great opportunity to hear about the transformations people have made with their rehab and restoration work.
On Wednesday, May 28, 2014 from 7 to 8:30 pm there’ll be a talk at the Somerville Public Library, 191 Highland Avenue, on “Researching the History of Your House and Your Family“. If you’re interested in local genealogy or the history of your old Somerville house you don’t want to miss this lecture.
For more information about any of the events you can contact the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission at 617-625-6600 x2532.
It was announced today that the Davis Square bike path will be heading to Boston. Currently scheduled to be extended to Lowell Street soon when construction ends at the Maxwell Green complex, the MBTA will be extending the bike path along the path of the planned Green Line extension.
When finished, the bike path will connect to paths along the Charles River, connecting 11 cities and towns over a 48 mile stretch. It’s an amazing prospect and sounds like the nicest commute possible into the city and beyond.
The announcement from the city of Somerville is well worth reading with interesting details about Somerville’s efforts that have landed it top rankings in bike-friendliness and walkability.
With my new listing at 31 Adams Street in Somerville, I’ve been looking more closely at plans for the Green Line extension. These are exciting prospects for Somerville, too long a very dense city with too few top notch transportation choices. Kudos to the city government and Mayor Curtatone for their extensive efforts to improve the city’s transportation options.
Is Waltham the next Somerville? That’s what a Boston Globe article on Sunday suggested, in the paper’s super new real estate section “Address.”
Waltham the next Somerville? What does that even mean?
The Globe reporter seemed to pose the question in terms of popularity among real estate buyers and price appreciation. Somerville’s been experiencing steep price increases and plenty of bidding wars. With some Somerville one-bedroom condos selling for more than $400,000 and 34% of the condos sold in the last year selling for more than $500,000, including 5 for more than $1 million – bargains are hard to come by in the Somerville real estate market nowadays.
Head over to Waltham, however, and you can still find a two-bedroom condo priced in the $300,000 range. And that condo will be near Moody Street – more about Moody Street to follow. It’s even possible to buy single family houses in Waltham for under $350,000 – 66 houses sold for less than $350,000 in Waltham vs. just 10 in Somerville.
So what’s made Somerville so popular with buyers? Proximity to Boston is certainly part of the city’s draw with the Orange Line at one end and the Red Line at the other. Many buyers are also anticipating that getting to Boston will be easier eventually when the long promised Green Line stations become a reality. Much of Somerville’s popularity is due to the vibrancy of its squares – Davis Square, Union Square, Ball Square, Porter Square, etc. City government is progressive, there’s an active arts scene, and a “hip” quotient of sorts that’s been reported on for years (I thought it was nuts when I read it first in the 1990s in Utne Reader but Somerville has been trending towards hip ever since).
Driving down Moody Street in Waltham the other day I got the sense that Waltham’s well on its way to being the “next Somerville” – a city that will appeal to young residents and visitors alike. The street is lined with restaurants, shops, and bars and there’s a Landmark Theatre (the other’s in Kendall Square Cambridge), the Embassy Cinema, showing independent film right around the corner. If you haven’t been to downtown Waltham in years you’re in for a surprise.
Waltham’s a college town – home to both Brandeis and Babson. The commuter rail station is in the center of town and so’s the Charles River. Waltham’s manufacturing past is celebrated at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation. The museum is located in the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill downtown near the Embassy Cinema (look for the smokestack). The museum is host to the annual Steampunk Festival – Somerville has its Fluff Festival, Waltham has steampunk. Another one of Waltham’s beautiful old mill complexes, the Waltham Watch Factory, on Crescent Street on the Charles River, has been redeveloped as loft apartments and office space.
Whether or not it’s the “next Somerville” Waltham is well worth considering if you’re priced out of Somerville and Cambridge or want to look for a place where your real estate budget goes a bit further. With it’s vibrant downtown, rich history, and easy access to Boston and the 128 corridor, there’s lots to like about Waltham and it’s easy to imagine that there’s room on the up-side for real estate values.
For months the Cambridge real estate community has been buzzing about the mysterious Chinese investor who’s been buying up multi-unit properties around Cambridge at a rapid pace. The investor, “billionaire businessman Gerald L. Chan,” was outed by the Boston Globe on Saturday in a front page article that focused on properties Chan purchased in Harvard Square over the last 18 months.
The Globe article describes how Chan, a leading Hong Kong real estate developer who attended Harvard in the 1970s, spent about $120 million buying properties in Harvard Square including the Veritas Hotel and the building that houses the American Express travel office.
But Chan’s Cambridge purchases extend well beyond Harvard Square. Here are some of the multi-unit buildings in other Cambridge neighborhoods that the investor has recently purchased:
- 20 Marie Ave in Mid Cambridge, a triple-decker for $1,580,000
- 503 Franklin St Cambridge, a triple-decker for $1,550,000
- 566 Green Street in the Riverside neighborhood, a triple-decker for $1,600,00
- 56 Hancock St, a 6-unit building in Mid Cambridge for $1,630,000
- 9 Eustis Street, a multi-unit building in the Agassiz neighborhod for $2,350,000
- 222 Concord Ave, a multi-unit building in Huron Village for $2,400,000
- 10-12 Pleasant Street, a 6-unit building in Central Square for $3,130,000
- 31-33 Portsmouth St, a 12-unit building in Kendall Square for $5,880,000
Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and other financial news outlets have all been reporting on Chinese investments in US real estate. As the Chinese economy booms, many investors are looking to the US to diversify their real estate portfolios. It was good to know some of the details behind the investment boomlet right here in Cambridge.
I was window shopping on Charles Street on Beacon Hill a few days ago and spotted a flyer in a real estate office’s window. Seems that the office is marketing Beacon Hill garden shares for sale. You can purchase a share in the garden, the Putnam Garden Coop, for just $16,000 (or $24,0000 if you’re a business).
For urban dwellers outside space is a coveted amenity but this was a new one for me. It doesn’t appear to be an opportunity to garden similar to community garden plots around the city, but is instead meant to allow access to the garden for “social gatherings” and to “relax, read, and enjoy the garden”.
If you’d just like to look, rather than buy, the Beacon Hill Garden Tour is scheduled for May 15, 2004. You can check out other upcoming tours on our updated Garden Tours page.
Boston magazine’s real estate issue is always a sure sign that the spring market is here. Real estate didn’t make Boston‘s cover this year but there’s plenty inside the March 2014 issue.
This year’s coverage includes an article “You Belong Here” that identifies top communities for various demographic groups. Here are 2014′s winners according to Boston magazine:
- Starting Out – Medford
- Power Couple – Lincoln
- Moving Up – Natick
- Growing Family – Winchester
- Empty Nester – Newburyport
A couple of runner-ups are given in each category, and another town in the heart of Centers and Squares territory, Watertown, made the cut for “starting out”.
I don’t think you need to be an empty nester to consider Newburyport. With its gorgeous housing stock, rich history and fabulous downtown it’s one of my favorite Massachusetts towns. I recently sold the Newburyport house pictured above. Built in 1720, remarkably intact and beautifully restored, it was the most fascinating house I’ve sold.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Boston magazine’s real estate issue. It’s got tips for homebuyers, a fun piece titled “Embracing Plan B” with more affordable suggestions when your homebuying budget won’t suffice in the town you’re dreaming about, and a chart showing the one, five and ten-year change in home values for ~150 Massachusetts towns.
Do you live in an old house? Chances are good that you do since so much of our local real estate was built before 1900. Old house owners should consider a Historic Homeowner membership with Historic New England. It’s one of several special interest membership categories and comes with a long list of member benefits. One that was invaluable for me was a historic paint color consultation done for my house by Historic New England’s Sally Zimmerman. Never would I have been able to choose those colors myself.
One of my favorite Historic Homeowner member benefits is the opportunity to tour vintage houses with fellow members and Historic New England staff. It’s a super opportunity to see very interesting privately owned houses and to get a close-up look at architectural details and restoration work – completed or in progress. There’s nothing like seeing the houses first-hand in the company of fellow old house enthusiasts and old house experts.
Last Fall, as a Historic Homeowner member, I had the opportunity to visit the Alanson Tucker House in Derry, NH, pictured above. It was an unforgettable experience. The house was built for Tucker, a successful merchant, in 1816 and the setting and the house retain an amazing amount of original detail. The owner, a Historic Homeowner member, is in the midst of a years-long painstaking restoration. It’s truly a case of a perfect match between house and homeowner. The owner’s deep knowledge of historic architecture means that he can read the telling details in the house that others might miss and can peel back layers added over the decades to reveal the house as it was almost 200 years ago.
The last two weekends I’ve toured two more properties with fellow Historic Homeowner members – one in Boston and one in Cambridge. Both of the houses are protected by preservation easements held by Historic New England.
Across from the Boston Common we visited the headquarters of the American Meteorological Society on Beacon Street, pictured below. 45 Beacon Street is the third house in Boston that architect Charles Bulfinch designed for Harrison Gray Otis. Built in 1806 it is here that the Otis family lived the longest. The first Harrison Gray Otis house on Cambridge Street is the headquarters for Historic New England. The second, on Mount Vernon Street is a private home and Beacon Hill’s only freestanding single family. Our tour was fascinating on many levels – the house is extraordinary, we learned much about Otis, one of Boston’s early developers, and as the daughter of a lifelong weather buff I appreciated all of the weather-related tidbits too.
Last weekend Historic Homeowner members were invited to tour a house built in North Cambridge in 1853 and restored by its long-time owner. The house is a blend of Greek Revival and Italianate styles and we toured it from top to bottom. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the architectural details up close with all sorts of insights shared by the homeowner and by Sally Zimmerman from Historic New England. My notes from our visit are filled with the names of companies and artisans who do quality restoration work of all sorts.
This coming weekend we’re off to see another house in the stewardship easement program. It’s a very early house in Brookline, built in 1683.
Don’t think that your house isn’t old enough for you to benefit from a Historic Homeowner membership. The program welcomes homeowners with more recently built vintage homes and previous member tours have featured mid-century modern houses.
If you want to do right by your old house the Historic Homeowner program is an invaluable resource – and great fun too for old house enthusiasts.
If value and location are tops on your real estate wish list you’ll want to check out my new listing this weekend.
17A Everett Street in Somerville is a 1-2 bedroom condo in the heart of Union Square Somerville new to the market at $189,000. The condo needs buffing up and elbow grease but a buyer with vision will reap the rewards of a smart real estate buy. It’s the proverbial diamond in rough in a location that’s getting more and more popular as the Green Line extension nears and many new businesses open in the square.
The first-floor, 765 sq.ft. condo has a private entrance and eat-in kitchen. Originally configured with one generously sized bedroom and a living room more than 20 feet in length, the condo is being used as a two-bedroom by dividing that living room. It’s a smart use of the space and with some finishing touches you’ll be able to maximize the condo’s potential.
The association is 100% owner occupied, there’s storage and common laundry in the basement, and the roof was replaced two years ago.
For more info about 17A Everett Street in Somerville call me at 617-504-1737 or email me at [email protected]. Showings will take place at open houses this coming weekend on Saturday, Dec. 7 th from 11:30 to 1:00 and Sunday, Dec. 8th from noon to 1:30.
Liz Bolton, ReMax Destiny, Cambridge 617-504-1737.