From the Boston Globe

Boston Globe, 3/21/2004


The Historic Dow Building in downtown Stoneham, Mass.

1 Bow Street, Stoneham Mass. (Globe photos)
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More community information
Miles from Boston: 9
Population: 22,219
Median house price: $368,875 [January]
Tax rate: $12.16 per thousand residential, $17.32 commercial
Public transportation: MBTA commuter rail service to North Station from neighboring Winchester, Wakefield, and Melrose.
Best things: Schools, access to Route 128 and I-93, open space, recreational facilities.
Worst thing: Traffic, small commercial tax base
MCAS: Stoneham students ranked 52 of 210 school districts, ahead of Wakefield (76), Woburn (76), Medford (174), and Malden (193), but trailing Winchester (1), Reading (20), and Melrose (49). Among 10th-graders, 89 percent scored advanced or proficient in English; 72 percent scored advanced or proficient in math.
Census facts: Median income is $69,007.
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If a new master plan is adopted, Route 28, the commercial strip through this town, could be transformed with the addition of artists' lofts, apartments, and shops.

Combined with $385,000 from the Ready Resource Fund, a state program that provides technical assistance and revolving loans for small businesses, and a $250,000 donation from two banks, a long-range blueprint would bring all those elements to what has been a congested collection of retailers.

Under an initiative to be unveiled later this year, Stoneham hopes to attract businesses such as architects, photographers, design firms, and others to set up shop in the small spaces along Main Street.

In addition, some buildings could be razed to make way for housing and office space.

"We have the ability to control the future and change the look of badly designed strip malls," said Michael Gallerani, the town's community development director.

"Over the next decade we're looking to recreate the Main Street corridor that will give us a new sense of place."

Many visitors to Stoneham know this suburb at the crossroads of Interstate 93 and Route 128 for the Stone Zoo, where animals like monkeys, cougars, and wolves are on display at the 26-acre site. A current exhibit, "The Treasures of the Sierra Madre," features jaguars from northern Mexico.

Another gem is the town's two-square-mile slice of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, 2,575 acres of state-owned parkland shared by five communities. The rocky, hilly reservation offers recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback riders, rock climbers, cross-country skiers, and picnickers. The meadows, wetlands, ponds, and forests are home to red fox and whitetail deer. A wide variety of common and rare trees, shrubs, wildflowers, birds, and insects also live in the Fells.

A few years ago, a one-mile trail along the Spot Pond shoreline opened, allowing hikers and fishermen to get closer to the water. The trail, from the Botume House Visitors Center, links trails that go by Quarter Mile Pond, the MDC skating rink, and up to Route 28.

Some local officials say the Fells is a mixed blessing, though, noting that the tax-exempt land takes up about one-third of Stoneham.

"It's a regional resource that everyone loves but we are not compensated for it," said David Berry, town administrator. "We're required to provide police and fire protection which is paid by taxpayers, yet we don't get a cent in lieu of taxes from the state.

"That's been a sore spot over the years."


Sales sampler
* 143 Elm St. One family ranch, build 1956, 1,602 square feet, 6 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, 12,632 square-foot lot. $390,000.

* 200 Fellsview Terrace Unit 204. Condominium, built 1979, 1,010 square feet, 5 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1/5 baths. $257,000

315 Franklin St. Unit 103 Condominium, built 1982, 500 square feet, 4 rooms, 1 bedroom, 1 bath. $145,000.

* 1157 Franklin St. One-family Colonial, built 1935, 1,584 square feet, 7 rooms, 8,712 square-foot lot. $397,000.

* 54 Governor Rd. One-family Cape, built 1947, 1,152 square feet, 4 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, 9,148 square-foot lot. $325,000. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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