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Super Bowl 51 special: An insider’s guide to Boston

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Parsing the Patriots’ hometown

A view of Boston where the scum-sucking Patriots play football.
Boston. Just don’t call it “Beantown.”
John Feinberg/Flickr

In honor of the big game this Sunday, we’ve teamed with Curbed Boston’s editor to provide the following insights about the Patriots’ home market. Consider it a friendly peek behind enemy lines.

The post-recession years have been particularly kind and cruel to Hub residents, depending on their perspective. (And “Hub” is a nickname going back to the 1800s, when some in Boston considered the city the nexus of the known universe.)

If you’re a prospective buyer or tenant, it’s been a waking nightmare—the region is one of the three or four most expensive nationwide in terms of prices and rents. A $2,500/month, one-bedroom apartment is not unheard of, nor is $600,000 for a studio condo. If you’re a seller or a landlord, then, it’s Valhalla.

But people do love living here. The City of Boston is headed toward 700,000 residents for the first time since the early 1950s and regional cities such as Somerville and Cambridge are among the most densely populated in the U.S.

Plus, there’s tons to do here, not least because of the approximately gazillion universities and colleges in the area.


1. Sample properties from Boston’s hottest neighborhood:

It’s hard to pick a hottest neighborhood in the Boston area, but Back Bay is a pretty good candidate. The fruit of a mid-1800s urban infill, the neighborhood brims with federal-style townhouses and modern condos.

Here are two examples of what buyers might find in Boston’s Back Bay right now:

^ $18.9 million buys this gorgeous five-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse right near the Public Garden, one of Boston’s premier parks. Square footage: 7,554.

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Estately

^ At the less astronomical end of Back Bay’s market, $635,000 buys this one-bedroom, one-bathroom in the neighborhood’s southern reaches. Square footage: 646.

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2. Surprising things about Boston that every Bostonian knows:

  • Saying you’re from “Boston” can mean you’re from any one of a number of cities and towns, and not necessarily the City of Boston itself. It all goes back to colonial times, when dozens of independent squares, villages, towns, etc., sprang up under the British crown. They fiercely guarded their own independence after American independence, and, despite efforts over the centuries to unite the region under one governmental rubric, the region remains a municipal patchwork. That said, Boston proper is the biggest square on the quilt, with a population of about 645,000.
  • While popular culture holds that Boston is heavily Irish and Irish-American (think the Kennedys and every other Ben Affleck movie), the city and its surrounding region is remarkably diverse, even by American standards. One in three Bostonians speaks a language other than English at home, for instance.
  • No one here calls it “Beantown.” Ever.

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3. These stereotypes are true:

  • How to put this: There really is a confrontational-ness about the Boston character. People aren’t necessarily in-your-face and rude like the typical New Yorker, but, whether on the Mass. Turnpike, in the check-out line of the grocery store, or down at the corner local, you will encounter a certain no-holds-barred directness.
  • Speaking of New York, Bostonians really do loathe Gotham—its sports teams in particular, but also its status as America’s It City.
  • A lot of people do pronounce their “r’s” as “h’s” as in “smaht,” “pahk,” and “chowdah.”

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4. Editor’s pick — a quintessential Boston home:

Estately

Home: brand-new condo

Price: $839,000

Bedrooms: 1

Bathrooms: 1

Square footage: 710

There’s a ton of new development in Boston, most of it apartments and condos. This new development is providing starter-home options for plenty of newcomers and longtime residents, albeit at often steep prices. This condo in Boston’s popular South End is an example.