BJE

Thinking of moving to the East Bay?

31 posts in this topic

I don't think I've ever formally introduced myself to this forum, although I've posted here a couple of times and lurked for about a year or so...

I'm a CT native, and lived the last 5 years or so in Hartford (had a condo downtown at Bushnell Tower). By trade, an architect (not licensed -- yet). Then I got married, had a son, and after much soul searching and debating with my wife about where to live, went looking for a small town to raise a family in. I moved to Westerly, RI about eight months ago, and it seemed like a good choice at the time. My office is Hartford based but has a branch office here in Westerly, so (in theory) that should mean a minimal commute, one of my requisites. Unfortunately, the long term prospects for the branch office are not so good, and the short term situtation finds me driving to Hartford one or two times a week, which is just not acceptable to me.

At present, my wife and I are expecting our second child, and our first turned two this January. I'm somewhat disappointed that Westerly is not working out, and feel pressure to put together the pieces of my life (work - home - family) and get settled somewhere soon. I thought I might ask the forumers here, most of whom are more familiar with RI than I am, for some opinions on where to live.

What I'm looking for is:

1) First and foremost, a community with good public schools. They don't have to necessarily be the highest performing, but can't be at the bottom of the list, either. Unfotunately, this need is at odds with almost everything else I want in a town.

2) Almost as important, my wife and I both want a walkable community, with a true downtown with actual destinations worth walking to. This requisite is what drove me away from CT, which is almost entirely comprised of dull suburbs (West Hartford is an exception but my wife isn't comfortable with its elitist reputation). Westerly is quite nice in this regard, with a great park downtown and several restaurtants plus town hall, bank, some stores, and the post office. I currently live about 3/4 mile from the center of town.

3) I want as short a commute as possible, but need to be close enough to a decent sized pool of jobs. My mistake in Westerly is that I have few alternatives to my current job locally, and I don't want to make a long commute to New Haven, Hartford, or Providence. This is important to me philosophically, not just because gas recently got expensive. I am coming off almsot a decade of walking to work and / or school in the last three places I've lived (Portland, ME; Boston; Hartford), so just driving to work at all is painful for me. I want to live locally, as much as possible.

4) My wife insists upon a backyard. Eventually, she wants a single-family house (right now, we'll rent -- maybe in abother 4 or 5 years we'll buy again) Given our preference for dense, walkable neighborhoods, this one is hard to come by. Myself, I'd be perfectly happy with another condo, but it's just not in the cards. For right now, we're talking a unit in a duplex / three-family / townhouse etc. For the future, it's probably got to be a house.

So, with those as general guidelines, what would you recommend in the Providence metro area? Providence is my preferred city, I believe; good selections of jobs (architect) and lots of good work going on (I'm mostly interested in urban mixed-use, high density commercial and residential, that type of work). So far, I'm leaning towards Bristol -- historic and lively downtown, good selection of apartments within walking distance of downtown, relatively short commute to Providence (about 30 min, maybe?), schools seem pretty good but it's hard for me to know.

Other than Bristol, Warren is the same school district, closer to Providence but seems a little more run down, and the downtown looks a little thin. Barrington has high-performing schools but no discernible downtown -- just some dressed-up strip malls and fancy streetlights along Rt. 114. East Prov? East Side?

I'm very interested in what people have to say...

Thanks,

BJE

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Bristol or Warren are good bets. School district is supposed to be pretty good. Warren is up and coming. Barrington is definitely suburban in character and boring. You might also consider Edgewood in Cranston, Pawtuxet in Warwick.

As far as Providence or Pawtucket, you can get a backyard in places like Summit (Prov.), Elmhurst (Prov.) or Oak Hill (Pawt.). Problem with Providence or Pawtucket is the school situation. My kids go to public school in Providence (Martin Luther King), which is a good school (which unfortunately may close). I don't think that the outlook for public education in either Providence or Pawtucket is particularly good so, if I were you, I would look at Bristol/Warren/Edgewood. Good luck.

I don't think I've ever formally introduced myself to this forum, although I've posted here a couple of times and lurked for about a year or so...

I'm a CT native, and lived the last 5 years or so in Hartford (had a condo downtown at Bushnell Tower). By trade, an architect (not licensed -- yet). Then I got married, had a son, and after much soul searching and debating with my wife about where to live, went looking for a small town to raise a family in. I moved to Westerly, RI about eight months ago, and it seemed like a good choice at the time. My office is Hartford based but has a branch office here in Westerly, so (in theory) that should mean a minimal commute, one of my requisites. Unfortunately, the long term prospects for the branch office are not so good, and the short term situtation finds me driving to Hartford one or two times a week, which is just not acceptable to me.

At present, my wife and I are expecting our second child, and our first turned two this January. I'm somewhat disappointed that Westerly is not working out, and feel pressure to put together the pieces of my life (work - home - family) and get settled somewhere soon. I thought I might ask the forumers here, most of whom are more familiar with RI than I am, for some opinions on where to live.

What I'm looking for is:

1) First and foremost, a community with good public schools. They don't have to necessarily be the highest performing, but can't be at the bottom of the list, either. Unfotunately, this need is at odds with almost everything else I want in a town.

2) Almost as important, my wife and I both want a walkable community, with a true downtown with actual destinations worth walking to. This requisite is what drove me away from CT, which is almost entirely comprised of dull suburbs (West Hartford is an exception but my wife isn't comfortable with its elitist reputation). Westerly is quite nice in this regard, with a great park downtown and several restaurtants plus town hall, bank, some stores, and the post office. I currently live about 3/4 mile from the center of town.

3) I want as short a commute as possible, but need to be close enough to a decent sized pool of jobs. My mistake in Westerly is that I have few alternatives to my current job locally, and I don't want to make a long commute to New Haven, Hartford, or Providence. This is important to me philosophically, not just because gas recently got expensive. I am coming off almsot a decade of walking to work and / or school in the last three places I've lived (Portland, ME; Boston; Hartford), so just driving to work at all is painful for me. I want to live locally, as much as possible.

4) My wife insists upon a backyard. Eventually, she wants a single-family house (right now, we'll rent -- maybe in abother 4 or 5 years we'll buy again) Given our preference for dense, walkable neighborhoods, this one is hard to come by. Myself, I'd be perfectly happy with another condo, but it's just not in the cards. For right now, we're talking a unit in a duplex / three-family / townhouse etc. For the future, it's probably got to be a house.

So, with those as general guidelines, what would you recommend in the Providence metro area? Providence is my preferred city, I believe; good selections of jobs (architect) and lots of good work going on (I'm mostly interested in urban mixed-use, high density commercial and residential, that type of work). So far, I'm leaning towards Bristol -- historic and lively downtown, good selection of apartments within walking distance of downtown, relatively short commute to Providence (about 30 min, maybe?), schools seem pretty good but it's hard for me to know.

Other than Bristol, Warren is the same school district, closer to Providence but seems a little more run down, and the downtown looks a little thin. Barrington has high-performing schools but no discernible downtown -- just some dressed-up strip malls and fancy streetlights along Rt. 114. East Prov? East Side?

I'm very interested in what people have to say...

Thanks,

BJE

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BJE -

Based on your comments, Bristol is you best bet. I live in Tiverton and I take the family there often - to the town square behind the old courthouse (good playground) as well as downtown and Independence Park by the harbor. If you land in the historic downtown area, most everything is in walking distance, and the sidewalks are wide and smooth. Note that the Bristol-Warren school district ranks lower than other school districts in East Bay. If good schools are more important to you, you may be better off in Barrington even though the downtown is spread out on County St.

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OK - I only Kent county but here goes:

Warwick: fair schools, walkable but meaningless city center (sorry to any Apponaug lovers), some excitement. Traffic is a disaster but mass transit and overall potential is good. Some very nice neighborhoods, some terrible (sorry to any Oakland Beach lovers). I'd give it a 6 out of 10 based on your requirements.

West Warwick: fair to average schools, walkable but very tired downtown, little to no excitement. Limited RIPTA bus service. Like Warwick, some very nice areas and some crappy ones. I grew up here and lived in Cowesset (just a bit behind the Station fire site), which was a great location (nice neighborhood, close to route 3 and route 2 'amenities' and at the corner of Warwick, East Greenwich, and Coventry. I'd give it a 6 as well.

Coventry: very good schools, walkable in many areas, but no true 'downtown' - more like areas or villages. Typical bedroom suburb but overall pretty nice. 7 out of 10 (we moved here for the schools and the neighborhood we live in).

North Kingstown: good schools, very nice and walkable 'dopwntown' (Wickford village) with things to do. Close to the Bay. Very nice neighborhoods. 9 out of 10.

East Greenwich: same as North Kinstown.

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As far as Providence or Pawtucket, you can get a backyard in places like Summit (Prov.), Elmhurst (Prov.) or Oak Hill (Pawt.).

All good suggestions, although none of these areas really have any retail "downtown" or Main St strips per se...

If you're willing to try the Providence public schools, definitely look at Wayland Square (I walk to everything from the supermarket to the pharmacy to my vet to my doctor to restaurants, all within three blocks, one of the few places in RI to be able to do this) and Hope Village. Both neigborhoods have rentals (with back yards), although they are going to be on the spendy end of the spectrum.

Otherwise, don't count out Barrington. I know its Main Street is upscale up strip plazas (although some are built to the street), but it is the kind of place where you can live in/rent a SFH within walking distance of everything from supermarkets to pharmacies to cleaners to restaurants.

East Greenwich might also be worth considering. It too has a "Main Street" of sorts and if you live close to it, it could be quite walkable.

- Garris

Edited by Garris

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If you like any sort of decent "urbanity" I'd stay away from Kent County as a whole, except for eastern Cranston. Warwick tries to be urban in places like Oakland Beach but even these areas lack walkable practical destinations. Downtown East Greenwich is nice and walkable but it's more upscale shops and restaurants than anything practical. Nonetheless, it is urban and quite nice and the schools are good. Good luck affording it though, and I hope you like to have no cultural interactions at all.

North Kingstown I've lived in and it really sucks. Wickford, the "downtown" is stupid tourist shops though it does have one local grocery store that is practical (Ryan's Market). Northern NK has some isolated dense low income streets but no centers and limited walkability. Then you also have ridiculously huge McMansions thrown into the mix, leading to an odd cultural divide that is quite odd for a suburb like itself.

On the East Bay, I'd go with Warren. It's got a dense downtown (though few shops) and is close enough to Riverside and Providence so it wouldn't be a bad commute. Eastern Pawtucket (Darlington) can offer you a backyard as well and is very walkable.

Edited by Recchia

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the other problem with Bristol is actually getting anywhere to work. Honestly, unless you work in Newport or one of the East Bay towns the commute is a little much, especially in the summer when 136 is clogged everyday. 114 is clogged everyday regardless of the time of year. I don't know that I would commute from Bristol to Providence if commuting is a big deal to you. Barrington is much more amenable commute-wise.

How old is your son? PPS will be fine for elementary education. Most of the problem areas are when kids reach middle school.

I personally think you should take Garris's advice and take a good hard look at Wayland Square. How much are you willing/prepared pay?

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Thanks for all of the replys so far.

I really would like to try living in Providence; I don't know that I can get my wife to agree though. Still, I'd like to take a closer look at Wayland Square; I've never been through that neighborhood before. What is the main commercial street through there? Angell / South Angell, or Waterman?

My target budget (renting) is $1200 - $1600 / month. That is more than I'm paying now in Westerly, but less than I was paying on my mortgage + condo fees when I owned.

The thing with PPS is that the school system seems to be going through a tough time right now. I have read about buildings closing, a possible switch to K-8 from ES / MS organization...so who knows what the situation will be when my son starts school (right now, he's 2).

Hey, I really appreciate the input everybody. I'll try and get over to Wayland tomorrow, I'll let you know what I think...

BJE

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I really would like to try living in Providence; I don't know that I can get my wife to agree though. Still, I'd like to take a closer look at Wayland Square; I've never been through that neighborhood before. What is the main commercial street through there? Angell / South Angell, or Waterman?

the main commercial street is probably Wayland Ave. itself but the whole little area counded by Pitman St. (including the Whole Foods Plaza), Hunter Ave., Angell St., and Gano St. probably falls into the commerical area. The center of Wayland Sq. is the corner of Wayland and Angell.

The best place to live given your requirement is I think the area a little west of Wayland Square between Gano and Hope Sts, which would also give you better access to Thayer St. and is closer to downtown. However, it will be harder to find a yard here, and it is a little noisier due to college students. You might want to try going North along Elmgrove and checking out between elmgrove and Hunter/Blackstone Blvd.

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Thanks for all of the replys so far.

I really would like to try living in Providence; I don't know that I can get my wife to agree though. Still, I'd like to take a closer look at Wayland Square; I've never been through that neighborhood before. What is the main commercial street through there? Angell / South Angell, or Waterman?

My target budget (renting) is $1200 - $1600 / month. That is more than I'm paying now in Westerly, but less than I was paying on my mortgage + condo fees when I owned.

The thing with PPS is that the school system seems to be going through a tough time right now. I have read about buildings closing, a possible switch to K-8 from ES / MS organization...so who knows what the situation will be when my son starts school (right now, he's 2).

Hey, I really appreciate the input everybody. I'll try and get over to Wayland tomorrow, I'll let you know what I think...

BJE

providence has a couple neighborhoods with backyards. check out the northern part of the east side (summit). also check out elmhurst (the area surrounded by admiral, gentian, smith, and river). while there's not quite as much around (shops and restaurants and stuff), the neighborhood is quiet and within walking distance to the intersection of admiral and douglas where there are some small restaurants. it's also walkable to the shopping plaza with shaws in north providence, where therea re other stores and stuff (people actually walk to the plaza all the time). there's no real downtown like atmosphere though.

also check out the mount pleasant neighborhood and along woonasquatucket ave and fruit hill... by RIC.

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Wickford, the "downtown" is stupid tourist shops though it does have one local grocery store that is practical (Ryan's Market).

C'mon - Wilson's of Wickford isn't practical - where else will I get my 'Rhode Island' neckties??? JK :D

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The school situation in Providence is really up in the air right now. There's talk about closing Martin Luther King (along with Vartan Gregorian one of the best elementary schools) but there's already a lot of opposition to this so the closing may not be carried out. (Check out www.eastsideed.org) In addition to regular public schools, there are also a number of good charter schools (Cuffee, International, CVS Highlander). The problem is that they have limited space and can be hard to get into. Among the more affordable privates, you might consider Henry Barnard (about 4K/year) and Community Prep. Catholic or Jewish parochial are around 8K. Moses Brown, Wheeler, Lincoln are about, gulp, 16-18K.

Your price range should get you something decent in Providence.

Thanks for all of the replys so far.

I really would like to try living in Providence; I don't know that I can get my wife to agree though. Still, I'd like to take a closer look at Wayland Square; I've never been through that neighborhood before. What is the main commercial street through there? Angell / South Angell, or Waterman?

My target budget (renting) is $1200 - $1600 / month. That is more than I'm paying now in Westerly, but less than I was paying on my mortgage + condo fees when I owned.

The thing with PPS is that the school system seems to be going through a tough time right now. I have read about buildings closing, a possible switch to K-8 from ES / MS organization...so who knows what the situation will be when my son starts school (right now, he's 2).

Hey, I really appreciate the input everybody. I'll try and get over to Wayland tomorrow, I'll let you know what I think...

BJE

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I forgot to add in my post that I have lived in both Wayland Sq. and Summit. Both are great neighborhoods but Summit has way more kids than Wayland Sq. which might make it a better bet if you're starting a family.

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I forgot to add in my post that I have lived in both Wayland Sq. and Summit. Both are great neighborhoods but Summit has way more kids than Wayland Sq. which might make it a better bet if you're starting a family.

I live in Summit too (no kids yet though), and would definitely recommend checking it out.

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Among the more affordable privates, you might consider Henry Barnard (about 4K/year)

That price sounded so reasonable I checked out their website. They list tuition at about $5400 actually, which is still not bad at all. They also say that kindagarten classes are picked by lotter in January. Does this mean they have more people wanting to enroll than they have slots?

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That price sounded so reasonable I checked out their website. They list tuition at about $5400 actually, which is still not bad at all. They also say that kindagarten classes are picked by lotter in January. Does this mean they have more people wanting to enroll than they have slots?

The lottery system has been going on for years. My 3 children were fortunate enough to get in. Two from kindergarten and one from 2nd grade. And, no joke, parents put their kids names in right after birth! I can't see it being any different than 25-30 years ago.

Mark

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I just looked at the Henry Barnard site too, it does look quite reasonable. So, if there's a lottery, any idea how many applicants and how many available slots? And even if an older child gets in, the younger one still needs to get through the lottery? I know at some magnet schools, younger siblings are automatically admitted so that the kids can all go to the same school...

At any rate, a somewhat affordable alternative to the public schools sounds like a good option to have.

BJE

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i'm surprised that a commute from westerly is too long but a commute from bristol is not....I most certainly would not want to deal with the bristol commute; at least Westerly is a straight shot up 95...

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Based on what I'm reading here, I may have underestimated the Bristol - Providence commute. Westerly to Providence is 45 miles, but it's almost all highway (I-95). My guess is that the trip would typically take 45min to an hour, based on traffic, and that's more time than I want to spend in the car. Bristol to Providence is about 16 miles, about 50 / 50 surface roads and highway. I was thinking that the commute would be 20min to 30min...and a half hour is about as long as I think I can stand on a daily basis. But maybe the surface roads are so slow that it will take more? And I-195 into Providence will probably be a mess for the next 5 or 6 years while the interchange with I-95 is being reworked...

So, back to PPS...What determines which school a child goes to? Is it strictly geography (i.e. district boundaries) It seems there are other options, like the Advanced Acedmic programs for ES / MS kids, and Classical High School also appears to be a more demanding (and selective) school...

Lots to think about.

BJE

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Supposedly it's geography but parents have quite a bit of choice as to where their kids go.

So, back to PPS...What determines which school a child goes to? Is it strictly geography (i.e. district boundaries) It seems there are other options, like the Advanced Acedmic programs for ES / MS kids, and Classical High School also appears to be a more demanding (and selective) school...

Lots to think about.

BJE

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Based on what I'm reading here, I may have underestimated the Bristol - Providence commute.

BJE

It's not that bad if you know how to get around it. Most Bristol commuters go across Gooding Ave to Metacom Ave and then take Rt. 136 to the end and jump on I-195 via Exit 2 in Swansea. I've detoured that way before and it's not that terrible. Also, some East Bay commuters sneak through Hampton Meadows in Barrington to avoid downtown traffic and jump on the Wampanoag Trail by the High school after crossing the bridge near Hundred Acre Cove.

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So, back to PPS...What determines which school a child goes to? Is it strictly geography (i.e. district boundaries) It seems there are other options, like the Advanced Acedmic programs for ES / MS kids, and Classical High School also appears to be a more demanding (and selective) school...

Lots to think about.

BJE

Classical is a city-wide exam school and its students score as well those of affluent suburbs like Barrington on statewide standardized "acheivement" tests. There is also a gifted and talented program at one of Providence's middle schools, but I cannot recall which one. The elementary schools are generally neighborhood dependent. I live in Elmhurst. If I had kids they would go to RFK, which is supposed to be pretty well regarded. There are also a number of parochial schools with relatively modest tuitions.

Since you are reconsidering Providence, I'll put in my 2 cents for Elmhurst. Based on your requirements the Cons would be lack of walkability to destinations. From where I live, I can walk to a number of errand type places - there is a corner market, dry cleaner, liqour store, lunch spot, a bakery/cafe, a park. But that's it. There aren't any sit down restaurants or bars within an easy walk (i.e. sub ten minutes). There is no city center or downtown to speak of. The places I mentioned are located on very small commercial strips along Smith St. at a few intersections.

On the plus side you are a 5-10 minute drive from downtown providence depeding on traffic, and therefore 5-10 minutes from plenty of great restaurants and bars. The neighborhood is quiet and safe; much less crime than the east side. It is also, and I use this in the relative sense, affordable. Houses range from mid 200s and to the low 300s. Dowtown is also easily accessible by public transit. Finally, there is a strong sense of community, with lots of folks with very deep roots in the neighborhood.

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Classical is a city-wide exam school and its students score as well those of affluent suburbs like Barrington on statewide standardized "acheivement" tests. There is also a gifted and talented program at one of Providence's middle schools, but I cannot recall which one. The elementary schools are generally neighborhood dependent. I live in Elmhurst. If I had kids they would go to RFK, which is supposed to be pretty well regarded. There are also a number of parochial schools with relatively modest tuitions.

Since you are reconsidering Providence, I'll put in my 2 cents for Elmhurst. Based on your requirements the Cons would be lack of walkability to destinations. From where I live, I can walk to a number of errand type places - there is a corner market, dry cleaner, liqour store, lunch spot, a bakery/cafe, a park. But that's it. There aren't any sit down restaurants or bars within an easy walk (i.e. sub ten minutes). There is no city center or downtown to speak of. The places I mentioned are located on very small commercial strips along Smith St. at a few intersections.

On the plus side you are a 5-10 minute drive from downtown providence depeding on traffic, and therefore 5-10 minutes from plenty of great restaurants and bars. The neighborhood is quiet and safe; much less crime than the east side. It is also, and I use this in the relative sense, affordable. Houses range from mid 200s and to the low 300s. Dowtown is also easily accessible by public transit. Finally, there is a strong sense of community, with lots of folks with very deep roots in the neighborhood.

i'll second elmhurst. there's actually a bit more if you're willing to walk a bit farther (it'll be rare for you to be able to step outof your door and be right next to something, but a 10-15 min walk will land you with a lot of options). there's not much centrally in elmhurst, but on either side of it you've got liquor stores, bakeries (good ones too), bars, places for lunch, pizza, corner stores, delis. you walk a little farther and you've got a little more in the wanskuck area at the intersection of admiral and douglas (looks run down, but it's not a bad area), including a bigger park, the best frozen lemonade, cvs and walgreens, more pizza, chinese, another corner store, a rub n tug spa... :whistling:

seriously though, elmhurst feels like suburbia in the city, but the yards are small, so the neighborhood is fairly dense. there are a lot of kids and families in the neighborhood too.

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So, I got the chance to check out Wayland Square and Fox Point a little bit last week, and then spent some more time in and around the East Side today.

I came away quite impressed with the East Side in general, and both my wife and I liked the Wayland Square area and could see us living there. Looking at rental listings, there are definitely places that fit most of our needs, and although owning a SFH seems out of reach in the near future, that's not any different than Bristol or Barrington, I guess. Hopefully house prices will moderate and I will make more money in the coming years...

Reading up on PPS, I'm encouraged that at least there are options; Classical HS, especially, seems to be a standout. In fact, it's quite refreshing to find a public school that is urban, racially diverse and high performing.

By the way, Garris, by any chance you were in Minerva's (restaurant in Wayland Square) today? Sometime around 1:30pm, I was eating there with my wife and son and I noticed someone get up to leave, who appeared to be a doctor, and I thought to myself...who was it on UP that lived in Wayland Square? And he's a doctor, right?

Anyway, thanks for the input, everybody!

BJE

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So, I got the chance to check out Wayland Square and Fox Point a little bit last week, and then spent some more time in and around the East Side today.

I came away quite impressed with the East Side in general, and both my wife and I liked the Wayland Square area and could see us living there. Looking at rental listings, there are definitely places that fit most of our needs, and although owning a SFH seems out of reach in the near future, that's not any different than Bristol or Barrington, I guess. Hopefully house prices will moderate and I will make more money in the coming years...

Reading up on PPS, I'm encouraged that at least there are options; Classical HS, especially, seems to be a standout. In fact, it's quite refreshing to find a public school that is urban, racially diverse and high performing.

By the way, Garris, by any chance you were in Minerva's (restaurant in Wayland Square) today? Sometime around 1:30pm, I was eating there with my wife and son and I noticed someone get up to leave, who appeared to be a doctor, and I thought to myself...who was it on UP that lived in Wayland Square? And he's a doctor, right?

Anyway, thanks for the input, everybody!

BJE

The Wayland Square area is full of doctors and medical professionals.Anyways, it's too bad you didn't get to check out Elmhurst. Jim was actually right on this one. It is definitely more affordable and safer for a new family starting fresh. The East Side is nice, but because of the immediate wealth in the area, it attracts crime.

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