If you’re moving to Allston this fall, you’ve probably already heard some rumors about the neighborhood, like there’s a big art scene, quite a few hipster bars, and some sketchy landlords who rent out really crappy apartments to oblivious college students.
“To be frank with you, everything you’ve heard is true,’’ said Adam Mason, the owner of Allston-based real estate agency Preview Properties.
Though it might not be the ideal place to raise a child, Mason said there’s a lot to love about the gritty stretch of land that encompasses parts of Harvard, Commonwealth, and Brighton avenues. “You’re really close to the city for a much more affordable price-point, and there’s a lot of nightlife here,’’ Mason said.
For newcomers, here are 10 things you’ll hear about Allston, plus our breakdown of whether you should believe them.
1. It’s cheap.
Allston is cheaper than other areas in Boston, but it’s still not that cheap. According to Zillow, the median rental price in Allston is $2,314, just slightly cheaper than the $2,506 median rental price for Boston, and $945 more than the median rental price in the U.S. — $1,369.
2. It’s dirty.
Mason said while Allston appears to be cleaner each year, with less trash on the sidewalks and streets, the city has seen a spike in bed bugs in the past decade.
Bed bugs, which live in dark crevices like mattress seams and box spring crevices, are sometimes found on rugs, couches, and bedposts students abandon in the streets when they move in for the fall semester. Luckily, on the Friday before Labor Day Weekend, the city sends someone from the Inspectional Services Department to tag used furniture that’s infested.
3. Only students live there.
There are a lot of college students in Allston because of its proximity to colleges like Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University. It’s even been referred to as a “student ghetto.’’
While it’s true that, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, almost 90 percent of the neighborhood is made up of renters, plenty of those are young professionals. The median age is 25, according to geographic information system Esri.
“We also have brand new housing, historic Victorians, and single-family homes,’’ Alana Olsen, director of Allston Village Main Streets, a community resource for small businesses and residents, told Boston.com last year. “We have very diverse houses. Allston has a little bit of all of it. When we think about the ‘student ghetto’ we’re only talking about certain parts of Allston where students live.’’
If you’re in college, this should be seen as a good thing. You’re among peers. If you’re a young professional, maybe buy some sound-canceling headphones. Idk.
4. There’s a great music and arts scene.
Allston definitely has an artsy vibe, Mason said, and is home to music venues like Great Scott, an indie punk hangout, and Brighton Music Hall, which often hosts local bands.
“Allston has a long-standing tradition of being home to musicians and artists,’’ Olsen told Boston.com. “We have Studio 52, the Allston Sound Museum, and artist studios in 119 Braintree street. Lots of local musicians start out performing in Allston, and if fans want to see them they would see them in Allston.’’
Those bands include Aerosmith, who visited their old Allston apartment building in 2012 to put on a live show.
Allston was even named after painter-poet Washington Allston, who lived in Cambridge and painted the area in a landscape called “Fields West of Boston.’’
5. Landlords are scofflaws
This is only partially true.
In 2014, The Boston Globe wrote a Spotlight series on Boston landlords who rent unlivable apartments to unwitting students. One of Allston’s major landlords, Anwar N. Faisal of Alpha Management Corp., was one of the featured property owners. He and his companies have been defendants in over 22 lawsuits and 11 criminal complaints in the past decade, and his tenants have accused him of everything from mishandling security deposits, to providing apartments strewn with garbage, roaches, and rodents.
So, yeah, that’s pretty bad, but there are plenty of Allston landlords with better track records.
6. It’s ethnically diverse.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority reports that Allston is 60 percent white, but the neighborhood is also home to residents from El Salvador, Korea, Brazil, India, and Guatemala. 15 percent of residents are of Hispanic or Latino descent, and another 17 percent are from Asia.
7. There are tons of hipsters.
See #1, #4, and #9.
If you remain unconvinced, visit Landry’s Bicycles on your way to Buffalo Exchange, a “new and recycled’’ clothing chain on Harvard Avenue.
8. It’s dangerous.
Allston is no worse than other parts of the city, and saw a 27 percent drop in crime in 2014, compared to other neighborhoods. Steven Law, a community service officer for Allston-Brighton, told Boston.com that most crimes in the neighborhood last year were either alcohol-fueled brawls or “crimes of opportunity,’’ like break-ins or stolen property. Lock your doors. Don’t get too drunk.
9. There are great bars.
There are many places to unwind with a cold brew in Allston. Deep Ellum on Cambridge Street is known for its microbrews and classic cocktails, while Sunset Grill & Tap on Brighton Avenue has hundreds of beers on draft (and, I can personally attest, amazing nachos).
10. It has its own holiday, “Allston Christmas.’’
YES! Allston Christmas is an unofficial curbside holiday that occurs at the start of each September. As droves of students move in and out of their Allston apartments, they exchange all manner of sofas, tables, lights, microwaves, and rugs by leaving what they don’t want on the curb, and taking whatever they do want into their new apartment.
Everything is free. Beware of bed bugs.