A good number of people claim to live in Boston’s West End. Do not be fooled: outside of 42 Lomasney Way (pictured at right), there is no “West End,” just a disparate collection of concrete condos placed pell-mell a mishmash of cul-du-sacs, parking lots, chain-link fences, and manufactured green space, all capped at its northernmost end with the bitterly ironic phrase “the greatest neighborhood this side of heaven.”
There are doubtlessly some who enjoy this sort of lifestyle, living in a place cut off from the nearest T-stops and gorgeous waterfront parks by two of the city’s biggest and most traffic-choked thoroughfares: Storrow Drive and the Leverett Connector. A place so top-heavy with residential zoning that there isn’t even a Dunkin’ Donuts – just a Mapquest listing error. A place for people who want to live in downtown Boston, without actually interacting or dealing with anyone, like the Nutches of Dr. Seuss fame.
Of course, there was once a real West End, but it was torn down as a “slum” in a fit of self-righteous fury in the 1950s. Back then, the thinking was that no one wanted to live in a neighborhood – just high rises and suburbs. But now the situation has been completely reversed, and it’s the city that’s bleeding out the suburbs. Thankfully, most of Boston’s proposed renewal did not go through, and the city remains home to several centuries-old neighborhoods, each with a distinct flavor and feel.
This isn’t to say that the redevelopment specter is gone – Chinatown continues to be devoured by condo towers, and residents in Somerville are turning to whatever measures they can to deflect local over-development. Fortunately, the historic character and powerful neighborhood associations of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay should keep these places in their present conformation for the foreseeable future.
So whether you crave penthouse luxury, find yourself on more of a shoestring, or land somewhere in between, in terms of smart design, continued stability, and the sensation of living in an actual neighborhood, it’s tough to beat out either of Boston’s gas-lit locales.