Cambridge a hub of culture and academia

by Agatha Kereere / Beacon Staff • April 22, 2015

As students begin the annual housing search, the Beacon will feature a different Boston-area neighborhood each week—complete with pros and cons, nightlife prospects, and advice from current residents. Previous installments include Allston, Beacon Hill, Fenway-Kenmore, and downtown Boston.

 There could be a little something for everyone in Cambridge—a city whose diversity presents itself through a combination of history, culture, academics, and arts.

“[Cambridge] is great because it has so much culture and it’s such an academic environment,” said Ellen Parmar, a junior writing, literature and publishing major who lives off the Central Square stop on the Red Line. “It's a very literate and artistic community, and you can meet a lot of talented people that are going great places.”

Located north of the Charles River in eastern Massachusetts, Cambridge is divided into 13 different neighborhoods. The best-known, according to Ed Greable of Keller Williams Realty, are the technologically centered Kendall Square, Central Square and its variety of restaurants, Harvard Square with its historic namesake university, and the small business hub Inman Square.

“It was very convenient living in Central Square—all of the amenities of living in a big city with the charm and appeal of a small town,” said Joshua Waterman, a senior visual and media arts major who is currently studying at Emerson Los Angeles. “You also still have the convenience of being very close to Boston. If I timed the trains right, it would take me 15 minutes door to door to get to school.”

Greable said though the prices might not be ideal for every student, what lures them toward Cambridge’s squares is the way they cater to various groups of people.

“It’s a really happening place,” said Greable “There’s biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, restaurants, and a mix in terms of the population: There are students, young professionals, and families everywhere.”

Williams said the prices in Cambridge may differ depending on where the person is looking, but most of the starting prices in the city are about $2,100 for a studio, $2,300 for a one-bedroom, and $2,800 for a three-bedroom. 

“It’s pretty rare to find an apartment with more than three bedrooms here,” said Greable.

Also, most students tend to live in Central Square, Harvard Square, and Inman Square, said Greable.

“There’s a sense of comfort there,” said Greable. “You see other students [in specific areas] and are more likely to go there.”

Though she said she loves the environment in Central Square, Parmar acknowledged the area can be somewhat costly—its price tag is almost on par with downtown Boston, she said.

“Some of the apartment structures loom like they were built in either the ’60s or the ’70s,” said Parmar. “But many of them have cool designs and, ultimately, you get what you pay for.”

Waterman agrees that Cambridge can be pricy—especially compared to a neighborhood like Allston, where he lived for the summer in 2013.

“I can confidently say that although Cambridge is a bit more expensive, it’s certainly worth it in terms of quality,” said Waterman. “I lived in a three-story, six-unit duplex and a four-story, 18-unit building. Both were historic, with affordable rent.”

On the other hand, said Parmar, the wealth of entertainment and varied venues Cambridge offers can make up for the living expenses. When students go out to look for a good time, many of them—like Waterman and Parmar—said they tend to go to bars like Phoenix Landing, Club Passim, or The Middle East, a bar and restaurant located at 472 Massachusetts Ave.

“Lots of [students] come in for the live music, which we have every night, and to just hang out,” Sean McCarthy, a bartender at The Middle East, said in a phone interview. “You also meet some really interesting people here because there are so many different kinds [of customers]. People usually come in, eat or have a drink with friends, and stay for the music.”

Parmar said having many of the hotspots close to home helps save time and money.

“It’s all within walking distance, so you can stumble home without taking an Uber,” said Parmar.

Cambridge as a whole, said Waterman, is special because it has all of the best aspects of urban living.

“It was everything I wanted about a city without the bad parts of a city, especially with it being close enough that I could get to the real metro city very easily.” Waterman said. “I would recommend any Emerson student live in Cambridge.”

Parmar said Cambridge neighborhoods also tend to be a little closer-knit than what some may experience in downtown Boston.

“It’s a great place to live if you want to meet people from other universities and professions and be a little bit more intimate,” said Parmar. “There’s just a fortune of culture you’ll find here if you hang around long enough to appreciate it.”