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Renter’s Guide to Wakefield, MA Apartments
Nestled at the intersection of I-93 and I-95/128, Wakefield is a picturesque town about ten miles north of Boston, with a half-hour average commute to downtown. Enjoying access to the greater Boston metropolitan area by freeway and MBTA commuter rail, Wakefield is so much more than just another Boston Suburb. It’s a charming lakeside community with an identity all its own.
An Overview of Wakefield, MA
Greater Boston is a fantastic place to be. But with skyrocketing real estate costs, traffic congestion, and the constant hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis, living close to downtown is not for everyone. For those who love the idea of a cozy suburban environment but still want the choice dining and shopping opportunities, and sense of community that comes with a more populous city, Wakefield is the best of both worlds.
Neighborhoods in Wakefield, MA
While Wakefield’s neighborhoods aren’t as vast or varied as nearby Boston’s, there’s still enough variety between them to provide different flavors of the main Wakefield living experience.
Downtown & Wakefield Square
Downtown Wakefield has always been charming. However, with the new Envision Wakefield downtown revitalization project, it is en route to become so much more. The project involves increasing accessibility with new lighting and crosswalks, revamped traffic routing, and more parking all around. Combined with the incoming Wakefield-Lynfield Rail Trail – providing an off-road connection between key areas by converting old, unused railroad tracks into trails – Downtown Wakefield is on the verge of a renaissance.
The East Side
A linguistic oxymoron, the East Side of Wakefield, MA is actually its central neighborhood, west of Woodville. Resting on the northeast shore of Crystal Lake, it also houses the Wakefield Dog Park.
Covering the majority of Southern Wakefield, Greenwood shares borders with Melrose and Stoneham to the south, east, and west. Check an atlas or a map, and you might see Greenwood listed as its own town, rather than a neighborhood of Wakefield. Equipped with a satellite U.S. Post Office, it plays the role of “town within a town” quite well. In addition, the Greenwood Elementary School is a highly regarded K-4 institution, with students’ test scores regularly coming in well above average. Little wonder then, that Greenwood is the highest appreciating Wakefield neighborhood over the past 20 years.
True to its name, Lakeside contains the entire eastern border of Lake Quannapowitt. Comprised of the central northern edge of Wakefield, Lakeside shares its northern border with Reading, and boasts easy access to interstate 95.
Representing the bulk of northeastern Wakefield, and sharing a border with Lynnfield, Montrose likewise boasts easy access to I-95. While other neighborhoods’ waterfront comes from Crystal Lake and Lake Quannapowitt, Montrose contains a number of smaller lakes and ponds – most notably Heron Pond – waiting to be explored by its residents.
The West Side
Encompassing just about every part of Wakefield that lies west of Crystal Lake and Lake Quannapowitt, this residential district is notably popular with dog walkers. Even residents from other neighborhoods make their way to the west side to walk their pets around the shores of Lake Quannapowitt and Crystal Lake.
Comprising most of east central Wakefield, Woodville is home to Wakefield Memorial High School. Even if you don’t have students enrolled, the community comes together to cheer their student athletes, with the basketball and football teams proving especially popular.
Wakefield, MA Apartments by Neighborhood
When looking for Wakefield, MA apartments, it pays to think about what you want in your neighborhood. Is access to the freeway important to you? Lakeside offers two on-ramps to I-95, which makes it attractive to anyone looking at a daily commute. Montrose also has an on-ramp within its borders, but residents of other neighborhoods will find themselves driving a bit to get to the freeway.
Is public transportation a priority? The Wakefield commuter rail station sits on the border of the West Side and Downtown, so either neighborhood grants easy access. If you prefer to rent a bit farther from the fuss of a busy neighborhood, Greenwood has its own MBTA rail station, complementing its “town within a town” appeal. For renters looking at Wakefield, MA apartments, these three neighborhoods provide a variety of options for the public transit-minded. The rest of Wakefield’s neighborhoods have a trickier time when it comes to public transit, so keep location in mind.
There are, of course, other things in life beyond riding the train or access to the interstate. A major draw for all Wakefield, MA apartments is access to the town’s gorgeous lakes. The scenic banks of Crystal Lake and Lake Quannapowitt make a strong case for living in the West Side, East Side, or Lakeside neighborhoods for renters who desire quick access to these natural wonders. Alternatively, if smaller, less crowded lakes and ponds are more your speed, Montrose has that covered.
Each of the neighborhoods in Wakefield, MA has their own unique character, though they all share the same cozy, suburban lakefront charm. So think about what you want to prioritize when looking at different Wakefield, MA apartments, and keep the neighborhood in mind.
As of the 2010 census, 24,932 people called Wakefield home. With a population density of 3,571 people per square mile – about a third of Boston’s 13,841 people per square mile – Wakefield has a distinctly relaxed, scenic vibe compared to its metropolitan neighbors without being so remote that residents need to look outside their borders for shopping, dining, and other conveniences.
Greater Boston is a center of American history, and Wakefield is no different. Originally known as Lynn Village, Europeans first settled the area in 1638. It subsequently separated from Lynn and became part of Reading in 1644, after constructing a mill and the First Parish Congregational Church. The Mill River on Water Street takes its name from the first corn mill built in Wakefield, more than three hundred years ago. It would become South Reading (spelled South Redding at the time), but its current name was still about two centuries away.
With the coming of the railroad in 1844, industry made its way to the region. A furniture company would provide its current moniker. In 1856, Cyrus Wakefield established the Rattan Works, constructing wicker furniture. This venture was so successful that it blossomed into the Wakefield Rattan Company, at one point employing more than a thousand residents. So entwined were Wakefield and the community, that in 1868, when Wakefield donated land for a new town hall and funds to construct it, the town voted to change its name from South Reading to Wakefield in gratitude. That town hall still stands at 1 Lafayette Street, as strong as the day it was built.
Whether they were born here or moved in, Wakefield enjoys its share of representatives on the national – and world – stage.
A graduate of Wakefield Memorial High School, Brown went on to play two years of college basketball for the University of Miami. Selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, 42nd overall, Brown adapted quickly to the fast-paced professional game. Despite his relatively low draft position, Brown has gone on to start over half of the Pistons’ games in his rookie season.
The “Mad Fisherman” himself, host of Charlie Moore: No Offense on NBC Sports, as well as the New England Sports Network’s (NESN) Charlie Moore Outdoors, is a Wakefield native. He also hosted Beat Charlie Moore on ESPN for six years (2004-2010), during which it was the “Worldwide Leader in Sports’” highest-rated outdoors program.
The original Wakefielder, Quannapowitt – also known as James Quonopohit, James Wiser, and James Rumney Marsh – was a member of the Pawtucket tribe of the Nipmuc First nations, and a stalwart friend to the colonists. He worked with settlers during King Philip’s War in the 1670s, acting as a guide, scout, and even a spy. Notably, he was also a signatory on the 1686 deed selling colonists the territory that comprises modern Wakefield. This arguably makes him the region’s first real estate agent, leaving some big shoes to fill! In 1857, residents voted to rename “South Reading Pond” to Lake Quannapowitt, to honor the town’s ancient friend.
Though thousands of people now say his name as a part of daily conversation, its meaning in the Algonquin language is sadly lost to time.
Originally hailing from Middleton, OH, Harrison is one of the most accomplished Judokas in the United States. A two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (in 2012 and 2016), she holds the distinction of being the first American of any gender to bring home Olympic gold in the sport. She is also the youngest American to be awarded the rank of rokudan, or 6th Degree Black Belt, by the United States Judo Association.
Moving to Wakefield at the age of 15 to train with Jimmy Pedro – an Olympic Bronze Medalist, and World Champion in his own right – Harrison took the world of Judo by storm, and hasn’t looked back since. A former training partner of fellow Judoka Ronda Rousey, Harrison has likewise entered the world of Mixed Martial Arts. To no one’s surprise, she is tearing it up in the octagon. As of this writing, she holds a professional record of 5-0, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Paul K. Guillow
A World War I Naval Aviator, Guillow saw a nation fascinated by the notion of flight. He put his aeronautical knowledge to work, creating a line of balsa wood model airplanes that captured the imagination of adults and children alike. During World War II, balsa wood was no longer in ready supply because it the war effort needed the material for the construction of life jackets and rafts. Not only did Guillow move to cardboard, pine, and other alternate materials for his toys, they also moved into building target aircraft for gunners, a low-tech predecessor to training drones.
For years, Paul K. Guillow, Inc. – headquartered in Wakefield – faced fierce competition from Comet Industries/North Pacific out of Chicago. However, in 1998, Guillow purchased their competitor lock, stock, and barrel, making them the largest manufacturer of balsa wood model airplanes in the world.
Real Estate Data for Wakefield, MA
Over the past five years, Wakefield has followed a pattern of steady, incremental growth with the occasional spike. The largest of these occurred in June 2017, where the median list price of homes leaped from $439,900 up to $714,450. The trends quickly stabilized to a tight range around the current median list price of $579,900. The average price per square foot for houses has seen similar peaks and valleys, but averaged out to a slow, steady climb from $281 per square foot in 2016, to an average of $302 per square foot as of this writing. When compared to prices in Boston, the advantages of living in the suburbs become clear. The metropolis’ average cost of $528 per square foot, with the average house selling for $1,294,500, can be prohibitive for many buyers.
In general, while values continue to steadily climb, it is less indicative of a coming explosion in real estate values like those that much of Greater Boston has seen. It is more a factor of a steadily improving community, moving ever so slightly faster than inflation.
Rental Market Information for Wakefield, MA Apartments
Contrasted with the relatively stable housing market, the value of Wakefield, MA apartments grew tremendously over the past year. The average rent of $2,090 represents a 47% increase from the previous average of $1,420. The median price per square foot is a touch more affordable than with properties for sale, coming in at $299. The average apartment is roughly 939 square feet, but as with the rent, this number varies greatly depending on the apartment in question.
Even with the increase, Wakefield, MA apartments still offer tremendous value compared to their neighbors. For example, the average rent in nearby Medford, Somerville, Newton, and Cambridge is approximately $900 – $1,200 higher than in Wakefield. Renters make up roughly 26.5 percent of Wakefield residents.
Notable Wakefield, MA Apartments, Buildings & Complexes
New residential construction is a strong indicator of economic health, and by that measure, Wakefield is looking healthy indeed.
Located in downtown Wakefield, this four story, mixed-use condominium promises gorgeous spaces, all at a fraction of what similar properties would cost elsewhere, without compromising quality. With a street level commercial space, private outdoor patios, and heated garage parking for residences, the pet-friendly 642Main is also located right across the street from a dog park. With one, two, and three bedroom condos available, and Downtown’s 15+ bars and restaurants just a few blocks away, 642Main looks to provide attainable luxury to downtown Wakefield.
Tarrant Lane Development Project
Purchased from the U.S. government in 2017, this former Coast Guard property is in the process of becoming a three building, 190-unit apartment development. Notably, the building will dedicate roughly a quarter of the apartments as affordable units, bringing Wakefield significantly closer to meeting the Massachusetts General Laws 10% standard. As of this writing, the zoning and construction process has yet to complete, but the finished product promises to appeal to a wide range of renters.
Though not specific to Wakefield, MA apartments, the Envision Wakefield programs are nevertheless an exciting new development for the town. As of this writing, there are two initiatives currently underway – Envision Wakefield: Downtown Revitalization and Envision Wakefield Resilient.
Envision Wakefield: Downtown Revitalization
As stated above, the downtown revitalization initiative focuses on improving the different modes of transportation, as well as giving downtown a fresh, new look. Working with civil engineering consulting and design firm, VHB, the project is still in its infancy, though the concepts – what they call “the bones of the project” – are well in place.
The general idea is to install pedestrian scale lighting, additional traffic medians, as well as new areas for outdoor dining, shopping, and the like. Increasing accessibility for all visitors and residents regardless of physical ability is a paramount goal, making street traffic of all kinds an enjoyable experience.
Envision Wakefield Resilient
As climate change increasingly becomes a factor in Wakefield, the town is working to establish real-world resiliency programs to weather the changes. Focusing on the primary hazards of heat, drought, intense storms, and floods, steps are being taken to ensure the comfort and safety of Wakefield citizens, regardless of the changes at hand.
Transportation to and from Wakefield, MA Apartments
With I-93 and I-95 cresting the north edge of town, and the Haverhill commuter rail line running through downtown, Wakefield enjoys convenient access to the greater Boston metropolitan area. However, access is not evenly distributed throughout town. If you favor one mode of transportation over another, that factors heavily into which neighborhood is going to be the best fit for you.
Public Transportation near Wakefield, MA Apartments
Any discussion of public transportation in Wakefield begins and ends with Wakefield Junction. Straddling the border between Downtown and the West Side, this Commuter Rail Station provides quick transport to and from Boston. A favorite for morning commutes, nights out in Boston, or avoiding the traffic congestion that comes with sporting events and concerts, many Greater Boston residents consider access to a T station non-negotiable.
Though the station hosts a 116-space parking garage, it fills up quickly. The MBTA recommends arriving before 7:30 a.m. if you want a parking spot. If you intend to take the rail into work each morning, you will either want to be up bright and early, or find an apartment with quick street travel to the station. Downtown Wakefield, MA apartments make it significantly easier to catch your train. While busing is not as widespread as in other parts of Greater Boston, residents still rely on MBTA buses every day to get around.
Driving and Parking Near Wakefield, MA Apartments
Make no mistake; Wakefield is a driver’s town. Parking is plentiful, and access to I-93 and I-95 opens up travel across New England. Shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and residences are clearly designed with automotive traffic in mind. While the occasional construction and repair is an annoyance to motorists, road crews are an unavoidable part of life in neighborhoods with well-maintained roadways.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Wakefield residents need their own vehicle to get around. While that isn’t strictly true, not all Wakefield, MA apartments have easy access to public transit, or are built with street traffic in mind. For most of the town, you will want your own transportation more often than not.
Street Traffic Around Wakefield, MA Apartments
As stated above, Wakefield is a driver’s town first and foremost. While there are initiatives to improve accessibility for street traffic, biking, and other increased accessibility measures, the town is simply not designed with such short distances in mind. Travel of this sort is generally related to trips around Crystal Lake or Lake Quannapowitt, not to get from point A to point B. Ultimately, if you want to forgo owning a vehicle or using public transportation, Wakefield is probably not the destination for you.
Education near Wakefield, MA Apartments
As a suburb in Greater Boston, Wakefield enjoys a robust education system.
Public Schools near Wakefield, MA Apartments
Greenwood Elementary School
Located in Greenwood, this excellent elementary school routinely boasts test scores 12-15 percentage points higher than the state average, with excellent year-to-year student progress. With a 15:1 student-teacher ratio, residents comment on the friendly staff and teachers who go the extra mile to connect with students.
Wakefield Memorial High School
With a 95% four-year high school graduation rate, an average SAT score 19 points above the state average, test scores solidly above the state average, and 70% of its graduates pursuing a 4-year college or vocational program, Wakefield Memorial stands out among Massachusetts high schools. Boasting a 13:1 student-teacher ratio and a 129:1 student-counselor ratio – more than double the state average – Wakefield Memorial provides students with a robust education.
Private Schools near Wakefield, MA Apartments
Odyssey Day School
An Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE)-affiliated private school in Montrose, Odyssey Day School (ODS) offers a creative, outside-of-the-box private education ranging from preschool to 8th grade. They have an average class size of 13, and a 5:1 student-teacher ratio. From Yoga classes in gym, to computer programming as part of the curriculum, ODS is a progressive, student-focused take on private education.
St. Joseph School
A West Side Catholic elementary school with students from pre-K to 8th grade, a 12:1 student-teacher ratio, this National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)-affiliated school has been serving the Wakefield community since 1925. In 2000, on the 75th anniversary of the school’s founding, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) granted St. Joseph School accreditation, which they renewed in 2016. As of this writing, St. Joseph School is the only such accredited elementary school in Wakefield.
Landmarks and Historic Places
Like much of Greater Boston, Wakefield enjoys an active historical society and numerous historic sites worth checking out.
Lucius Beebe Memorial Library
While the building itself first opened its doors in 1923, the history of Wakefield’s library is much, much older. The first such institute, dubbed the Social Library and consisting primarily of theological texts, never attained widespread support. However, in 1831, the South Reading Franklin Library – with its collection of books on history, science, art, and medicine – fared much better. Then in 1856, the town created a public library, circulating over 4,000 books in its first month of operation. Lucius Beebe, the chair of the library committee, helped the fledgling institution grow to impressive heights. Today, the legacy of his work lives on in this impressive neo-classical library.
The Old Burying Ground
Established in 1689, to take a trip through this cemetery is to move through the history of Wakefield, and indeed, early America. There is an ancient tomb with heavy iron doors. It was meant to house the town’s departed during harsh winters when the frozen ground proved too stubborn to dig graves. The site contains historic, weathered tombstones that have stood in the same place for centuries and others which have been relocated over time, to what is hopefully their final resting place.
The Floral Way
A living memorial to the sacrifice of soldiers from every era, the Floral Way adds a beautiful touch to the historic Old Burying Ground. With the idea for the living memorial dating back to the early 1930’s, the gorgeous blooming walkway quickly became an attraction for the town, garnering a plaque in recognition from Better Homes & Gardens magazine’s 1951 national civic improvement contest.
A pleasant stretch year-round, the Floral Way is exceptionally beautiful each spring, as pink and white blossoms caress the breeze with their gentle fragrance.
Things to do in Wakefield, MA
With everything that Boston has to offer being a short trip away, Wakefield presents a laid-back alternative to the vibrant, big city energy of its neighbor. Plenty of its residents would not have it any other way.
Wakefield’s lake Quannapowitt is a scenic spot that is big enough to inspire awe and small enough to circle over an afternoon. Frequented year round, the lake is a popular spot for joggers, cyclists, and rollerbladers, as well as folks taking a more leisurely pace around the lake’s 3.5-mile perimeter. From family picnics to quiet sunsets, Lake Quannapowitt is a beloved part of many Wakefield residents’ daily lives. And it isn’t hard to see why.
While Crystal Lake and the numerous lakes and ponds in Montrose are each excellent in their own way, Lake Quannapowitt is strongly associated with Wakefield for a reason. Home of the Quannapowitt Yacht Club – the oldest inland boat club in America – there is never a shortage of kayaking, canoeing, pedal-boating, or other types of sailing out on the lake.
Linden Tree Coffeehouse
As much an event as a location, the Linden Tree Coffeehouse holds monthly folk concerts in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church at 326 Main Street. A sweet-sounding, intimate venue, this is the place to see performers that you hear on local folk music radio station, 91.9 WUMB. Volunteer-run and serving up tasty baked goods and fresh coffee, a night out at Linden Tree is a great way to catch some unique music in a relaxed atmosphere.
Life in Wakefield, MA
Home to roughly 25,000 residents, Wakefield still manages to feel like a small town. From relaxing on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt to sampling ice cream flavors at the authentic 1920’s soda fountain Cravings, Wakefield manages the tricky balancing act between scenic small town, and plugged-in suburb with aplomb. Far from the fast-paced city life of Boston – but never so far that an impulse trip to Downtown is out of the question – Wakefield is a perfect fit for renters who fall in love with its charms.