Living in Jamaica Plain

by Asta Schuette

Where can you find community gardens, a coop, a pond, and only a 13 minute commute?  Jamaica Plain!  This Boston neighborhood has a real community feel and tons of amenities, including lots of open green space.  Can you imagine yourself living in a newly renovated Victorian-era building; joining the neighborhood council & coop; exploring the arboretum; and eating scrumptious fresh French pastries?  Well then, Jamaica Plain is the place for you!

Rental Market

Jamaica Plain, referred to by locals as JP, is one of the few neighborhoods left in Boston where you can get a good amount of space, greenery, and fun at a good price.  The streets wind between old Victorian homes and triple-deckers built around the turn of the century. Shared living ranges from $500 up to about $800 per month depending upon the number or roommates, space, and other amenities.

For your own apartment you can expect to pay a bit more.  For a one or two bedroom expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 per month. For $1,500 per month you can score a two bedroom apartment with anywhere from 900 – 1,200 sq ft.  A one bedroom, 750 sq ft, apartment runs about $1,200 per month.  The best locations in JP tend to be near the Stony Brook and Green Street Orange Line T stops.

Jamaica Hill is a local realtor with an office on “the main drag”  that has both regular listings and rentals. Another realtor that has rentals, leases, and property for sale is JP Rentals & Sales.  They were voted  “the Best Realtor” by the residents in the annual neighborhood pole for the last four consecutive years.  You can check out the pole and get a feel for the neighborhood at The Jamaica Plain Gazette.

Transportation

Most students who live in JP get around on public transportation and bikes.  The Orange Line connects students directly with the Boston Tufts campus at the New England Medical Center.  From the Green Street stop on the Orange Line to Jaharis room 118 (the commonly used classroom for 1st year classes) is about 13 minutes. Fearless Friedman cyclists can bike from JP into Boston along the scenic greenway, which is a protected bike path.

Pros of location

The food scene in JP is pretty great.  As far as groceries go, I tend to shop at the Harvest Coop in Central Square or Trader Joe’s in Brookline (which requires a car).  Other options include City Feed and Supply where you will find a beautiful selection of local, gourmet, and organic food.  Unfortunately City Feed and Supply is out of a graduate students price range for everyday groceries.  In season, there are two farmers markets as well.

For a sweet French artesian goodie such as an almond croissant or a custardy cannele, I always go to Canto 6. There are two good study cafes in the neighborhood, JP Licks and Café Ula.  Brunch is a toss-up between my new favorite, Vee Vee (http://www.veeveejp.com/) and the always exceptional, Centre Street Café (http://www.centrestcafe.com/).  For a fun and cheap dinner out, dollar tacos at Tacos El Charro on Wednesdays are a sure bet.  For beers and pizza, Bella Luna (http://www.milkywayjp.com/) is great.  Stick to the pizza, as the dinners tends to be over priced and under-inspired. Jacob’s Gate (http://www.jamessgate.com/), an authentic Irish bar, has a well attended trivia night on Mondays.  For ethnic food there is India at Bukhara (http://www.oneworldcuisine.com/Restaurants/Bukhara/b_index.php), sushi at JP Sea Food Café (http://www.jpseafoodcafe.com/), and Peruvian-French at Bon Savor (http://www.bonsavor.com/).  For truly inspired, amazing, and expensive food 10 Tables (http://www.tentables.net/) is the spot.  Seriously, this list doesn’t even come close to covering all the eateries in the neighborhood.

Jamaica Plain is incredibly green.  Huge old trees line many of the residential streets.  Residents like their green too.  According to the Boston Natural Areas Network, there are 28 community gardens in JP!  Arboretum (http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/) offers wonderful trails for walking and hosts a fragrant lilac festival every spring. Jamaica Pond, the original potable water source for Boston, has boating in the summer and a magical lantern festival around Halloween.  The Forest Hills Cemetery (http://www.foresthillscemetery.com/) has nice running paths and vistas.  And within walking distance of most JP residents is Franklin Park (http://www.franklinparkcoalition.org/) where you will find Boston’s zoo!

There are a number of organizations in the neighborhood that add greatly to the community.  Spontaneous Celebrations (http://www.spontaneouscelebrations.org/) organizes a historic May Day festival and other events that bring together the different cultures, traditions, and arts of the people living in the neighborhood.  Bikes Not Bombs (http://bikesnotbombs.org/) is a great bike shop that also empowers youth in Boston and Ghana through bike mechanic training programs.  The Elliot School (http://www.eliotschool.org/) offers both find an applied art classes in a schoolhouse build in 1676.

Cons of location

Far from Medford: It is quite a trek to get to the Tufts Medford  campus if you don’t have a car.  It’s an hour each way.  I wouldn’t plan on taking any 8 a.m. classes in Medford unless you’re a morning person. This is also a con when you’re invited to get together in Somerville.  It takes some time and planning but it is not impossible!

Petty Crime: Petty crime is a problem in this neighborhood.  You need to be a savvy urban dweller by locking your windows and doors, not walking around late at night on deserted streets by yourself, not leaving valuables in plain site in your car, etc.  This is common sense stuff that you should be vigilant about no matter where you live in Boston.

Less Bar Crawling More Baby Hauling: Lots of young families make JP their home. Because there isn’t a college or university in the neighborhood the residents tend to be young professionals and families.  There is a strong artists and LBGT community here which adds a fun flair but the bars tend to be more low-key than dancy-party.  If you need a neighborhood where you can stumble from bar to bar JP doesn’t have what you need.

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