An entire generation of kids, who in the 1990s were playing in grassy backyards in the suburbs, are starting to leave the city in search of greener, cheaper options. But this time, things in the ‘burbs look different.
“Hipsturbia,” a phenomenon identified by the 2020 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report by PwC, is responsible for this change.
Millennials, now in their 20s and 30s, aren’t interested in the suburban lifestyle they grew up with. Instead, they want all the benefits of suburban living mixed with the conveniences of city living—more space, at a lower cost, and a vibrant cultural and social scene.
Greater Boston is no exception. With the city’s rising housing costs, many young renters are looking to settle down not too far from the city, but in a more affordable town with easy commutes to the city. In this series, I’m taking a deep dive into the unique flair of each of Boston’s numerous Hipsturbias and learning why young people are uprooting their city lives for this new kind of suburb.
Welcome to Hipsturbia: Watertown
Once overlooked as simply a stop on the way to the ritzier suburbs outside of Boston, Watertown is a city on the rise. Twenty years ago Watertown was an industrial area home to military armories and rubber factories. New construction in the town has transformed it into a place that in recent years has been attracting young professionals looking to be close to Boston, but with more space at a lower cost.
While new construction abounds in Watertown, the town doesn’t lack history or personality. Mount Auburn Street is lined with long-established family-run businesses. Thanks to the city’s diversity, where over 30 percent of households speak English as a second language, Watertown is a hub for Armenian, Greek, and Irish restaurants and shops.
One of the major developments in Watertown that will be a draw for millennials is Arsenal Yards, which should be completed by Fall 2020. This multi-use development will have shopping, dining, entertainment, fitness, and green outdoor spaces. The complex will also have offices and apartment units when completed. These multi-purpose live-work-play spaces give young professionals the conveniences of a city, in the suburbs.
Another perk of living in Watertown is access to beautiful green spaces. It’s situated right on the Charles River, giving residents easy access to kayaking, sailing, and a walking and biking path along the shore. The Mount Auburn Cemetery is a lush green garden with plenty of walking paths, easily accessible by bus or on foot. The cemetery even has a tower you can climb for incredible views of Boston and the surrounding area.
Just across the river from Watertown are Boston’s westernmost neighborhoods, Allston and Brighton. Downtown Boston is also just a 20-minute drive away. While there isn’t subway access in Watertown, there are a multitude of bus routes that make commuting into the city a breeze.
The Watertown Neighborhood For You
Watertown is a relatively small city, but there are still some distinct neighborhoods that residents can choose from. East Watertown is the neighborhood closest to the city and therefore the most expensive. Homes here are a little more densely-packed but the location does offer residents quick access to amenities like the Mount Auburn Cemetery, Arsenal Yards, and the Watertown Mall. The area around Watertown Square is a hub for small businesses. People who live close to here have easy access to a quintessential New England downtown area with a high walkability score. The further you go from these business hubs, the more options there are for traditional suburban single-family homes.
Kids in Watertown can get a great education at any of the town’s schools. The school district is above average for the state, according to Niche.
The average home price in Watertown may be $629,000, but what buyers are getting for that value is a 1,500 square foot 3 bedroom single-family home with plenty of outdoor space. In Boston or Cambridge, that same value will land you an 800 square foot apartment. The average rent for a two-bedroom in Watertown is $2,347. In Boston or Cambridge, renters would be paying around $700 more.
An Average Saturday in Watertown
Start your morning off with breakfast at the popular Deluxe Town Diner, which is just a short way from Mount Auburn Cemetery, where you can walk around and take in the greenery and the historic monuments while enjoying your morning coffee. Spend your afternoon browsing one of Watertown’s unique museums, which include The Armenian Museum of America and the Plumbing Museum. For dinner, sample some traditional Armenian cuisine at the Jana Grill and Bakery. Finish off your night with a draft from a local Irish pub—Donohue’s Bar and Grill is a popular spot.
Millennials living in Watertown enjoy the perks of suburban and city living. Watertown is not the only affordable and enjoyable option in Greater Boston. Stay tuned for more Hipsturbia profiles on towns like Revere and Malden, and until then, read our articles on Medford and Arlington.
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