October 17, 2004
Keith O. Williams doesn't worry about going home again, because he never left the Roxbury neighborhood where he grew up."I'm a Grove Hall guy," said Williams, referring to one of Roxbury's main neighborhoods. "I've lived in Grove Hall for almost 30 years, and I've seen things change in a big way. . . . If I had a chance to live in another part of the city, I'd prefer to stay where I grew up." Williams is Roxbury neighborhood coordinator for the Menino administration, and his affection for Grove Hall spills over with equal fervor into two other neighborhoods in Roxbury, Dudley Square and Fort Hill. In both, private properties are being renovated, homes are being built, and commercial strips are flourishing. "We have a little bit of everything in the neighborhood in terms of restaurants," Williams said, citing Caribbean, Latin, and Southern foods. Roxbury is also home to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center and has its own Boys and Girls Club, the Franklin Park Zoo, Franklin Park golf course, and MBTA bus and rail service. Roxbury's positive outlook has driven up housing prices, said Thomas M. O'Connor, a broker with Prudential Prime Properties in Boston. O'Connor is also something of an amateur historian, able to rattle off details about the waves of migration through Roxbury, which affected the types of housing available today. "I believe that Roxbury has a more interesting housing stock" than Jamaica Plain, he said. Roxbury, settled in the 1630s, remained largely a farming community until the early 19th century, when railroads helped to industrialize the area. It joined Boston in 1868, the Boston Redevelopment Authority said. O'Connor said prices are highest in Fort Hill -- "the Beacon Hill of Roxbury" -- followed by Dudley and then Grove Hall. His company recently sold a single-family home on Beech Glen Road for $575,000; he said high-quality single-family homes in Dudley Square have sold for $415,000, while Grove Hall prices can easily reach $300,000. In the future, O'Connor expects a strong condominium market, too, noting that in recent weeks a condo was sold every 7.2 days in Roxbury, with an average price of $288,000. "JP and the South End have reached a pricing point that is forcing those who want to live in the city to make a decision about what they need to do," O'Connor said. "What they need to do is find a place where the prices are cheaper. And if you want to live in the city, you are left with Roxbury." On Realtor.com in a recent week, 27 single-family homes in Roxbury were available, priced $259,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bath, home to $998,000 for a seven-bedroom, 3-bath home. JOHN ELLEMENT © Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.