Though some predict that Roslindale will become the next haven of hipness, its distance from the rest of the city may keep it a good place for young adults to put down roots
BY NINA WILLDORF
IN THE NEVER-ENDING hunt for affordable housing, the goal is to aim ahead of the curve.
Step 1) Move into a neighborhood teetering on the cusp of rebirth.
Step 2) Snatch up cheap real estate.
Step 3) Earn the right to gloat about your property’s insane appreciation.
It’s the same tale everywhere. Hello, coffee dens, hipster bars, artistes. Goodbye, ethnic groceries, beeper shops, garbage-strewn back alleys. If Jamaica Plain was in transition seven years ago, Central Square three years ago, and Dorchester last year, consider Roslindale Village the next neighborhood in for a big change.
Roslinwhat? That was one fellow reporter’s reaction when she discovered that an apartment in Rozzie — as it’s affectionately called — was the only place in Greater Boston listed in Harvard’s housing office for under $1000 a month. The only one.
All around town, Roslindale is being dubbed “the next JP” — trendy, cool, hip. But designating it the heir to its Neighbor to the North is, in many ways, selling Roslindale short. Though getting there is something of a trek on public transportation, Roslindale is a small, sleepy, multi-ethnic, suburban-feeling town with lots of outdoor space, great food, and tons of station wagons. The area might more appropriately be hailed as the next Newton.
In front of the Roslindale post office sit three mailboxes: Express Mail, Roslindale Only, and Out of Town. Yet strolling around the village’s green spaces, watching the kids pile off the school bus and loiter on the corner alongside dour old ladies, and listening to neighbors greet each other at Emack and Bolio’s with good-humored verbal jabs, one thing becomes clear: though you’re within city limits, you are already Out of Town.
Still, Rozzie’s cheap rents are luring late twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings who are eager to put down roots but priced out of Cambridge, Boston, and JP. And quaint, mellow Roslindale Square — the area’s commercial center, bounded by Washington, South, and Corinth Streets and Belgrade Avenue — is getting spruced up so they’ll stay happy once they move in.
SIX MILES from downtown Boston — a 10-minute shot on the commuter rail, which stops in the center of town, or just a little longer on the Orange Line, which you can board a mile away at Forest Hills — Roslindale Square will always be on the far end of the public-transit system. But in some ways, the distance adds to the area’s charm. With its relative remoteness, Roslindale is unlike any other neighborhood in Boston. Most noticeably, the village center is not arranged along a strip, but sprawls outward: there is no Centre Street, Newbury Street, or Mass Ave along which the town’s commercial and civic life is arrayed. And despite buzz about the possible opening of a Brooks Pharmacy, to this day Roslindale Square lacks a chain store. The result feels almost like Boston’s version of Leave It to Beaver, only this version of Mayfield — which houses around 35,000 residents, according to the 2000 Census — is home to a nearly equal mix of white, Hispanic, and black people.
Low-slung brick buildings sit a good distance back from the curb. Colorful colonial houses are perched on the small rolling hills that encircle the village center. Little slits of green fill in the places where triangular buildings abut the streets. Ethnic eateries sell two-dollar tacos, bakeries abound, and one block houses places that make authentic Middle Eastern pita and fancy bread. It feels warm. One Thursday afternoon last month, fire trucks honked loudly down the street, stopping a few blocks from the center of town. Gallery owners poured out of their chichi shops on Birch Street. Curious bystanders licked their ice-cream cones, gawking and gossiping about whose house it could possibly be. Is this small-town America?
Issue Date: July 12 - 19, 2001