I’d like to wow you with more interesting historic tidbits, like that Lowell was the first U.S. city to have phone numbers, or that it’s the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, but that isn’t terribly useful information for someone who’s looking to relocate. Instead, here are some things that may be more of interest to you.
The Atmosphere: Historic architecture is something you’ll find a lot of here. Many old buildings, houses, and factories dating back to the early 1900s are still standing today and many have been converted into small businesses, offices, or apartments. The city also lies at the converging point of two rivers, allowing for bridges, canals, and nice riverside views.
The People: Lowell is sometimes described as a city of young people in old houses: its population is mostly families with children and young married couples. With the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus in town, you should expect to see college students lurking around, as well. Its manufacturing past means Lowell has also had a number of different immigrant populations, and is, today, a very diverse city. It may be interesting to know that it has the second highest percentage of Cambodian immigrants in the United States.
The Transit: Since Lowell is often considered a suburb of Boston, it stands to reason that many commuters live there. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority operates the Lowell Line between Lowell and downtown Boston. In addition, Lowell has its own regional bus system around the city and surrounding cities, as well as free streetcar shuttles between areas of interest downtown.
Apartment Hunting in Lowell
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. You’re lucky to be looking in a place where over half the population rents, so there will be many options to choose from. Trends in pricing and quality become apparent as you look at places, but how do you even get started? While it’s easy to hire a broker, it can often be a pricey option and is best avoided unless absolutely necessary. Locals recommend Lowell’s free monthly apartment guides, as well as Internet resources, to be your best bet for hunting.
Prices: One of the city’s biggest draws is its low housing prices, compared to Boston and surrounding cities. Depending on type and quality, a standard two bedroom apartment can be anywhere in the low 1000s per month, while smaller places, like studio apartments, can generally get down to 600 or 700 a month.
Types: Apartments are much more common than rental homes or houses, so expect to find a lot of medium-sized complexes and many older houses that have been converted into 2 to 4-flat buildings and condos. These all come with standard kitchen appliances and usually have building laundry facilities or in-unit laundry. Decks, yards, and balconies are not uncommon, especially in pricier places.
Utilities and Fees: Finding a utilities-included apartment in Lowell is not unheard of, but may require some deeper searching. You’re most likely to find heat or gas (for heat, hot water, and stove) included, if anything, and that’s often because the apartment is an older one with landlord-controlled radiator heating. Having pets is a similar situation: many allow them, many don’t, some have breed restrictions and fees, so always make sure to ask!
Neighborhoods in Lowell
Lowell has eight official neighborhoods within city limits. Here’s a brief overview of each one’s character, general feel, and housing.
Downtown: Lowell was one of the fist planned industrial towns, and downtown was at its center with textile factories, warehouses, and canals for shipping materials. Now that all that’s long gone, the downtown area is a historic district and the city’s cultural center. Some things you’ll find here: a younger population, luxury loft apartments, historic houses, local shopping, cultural events and festivals. This area is easily walkable and near the train station, if you’re a commuter.
The Highlands: On the southwest side of the city lies its largest residential neighborhood. The Highlands is commonly split into the Upper and Lower Highlands, with the Lower having a larger Cambodian population. The Highlands has a very suburban feeling to it. Winding streets lined with single-family homes take up the majority of the area, with the occasional park or shopping plaza. Expect to find more spacious apartments, rental homes and some town houses here, as the area is full of families.
Centralville: Once a slow-growing area of independent housing for mill workers, Centralville lies across the river on the northeast side. It’s another residential area with a more diverse population, and old vintage houses. Owning is more popular than renting here, and the available apartments are mostly 2 to 4-flat buildings and small complexes.
Back Central/South End: Just south of downtown lies the Back Central/South End neighborhood, one of the city’s first residential areas planned for civic workers and those who weren’t employed by the factories. There’s more of an urban feel here, with lots of historic architecture and vintage residences, as well as older and larger apartment complexes. The train station is close by for commuters.
Belvidere: Historically a more affluent and desirable neighborhood, east of downtown. Belvidere is known for its architecture and large, Victorian houses, some of which are now converted into apartments. A high-income community, rentals aren’t as common, but still around.
South Lowell: Another quiet, residential area of the city a little further from downtown. The historic and beautifully landscaped Lowell Cemetery is in this neighborhood. A little sparser, a little woodsier, but still plentiful with apartment complexes, both large and small, as well as some rental homes.
Pawtucketville: A very large area northwest of downtown, across the river. Pawtucketville contains the north campus of UMass Lowell, and a tightly packed area of neighborhoods on the south, with the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest to the north. Many different types of apartments available here, for the student, the family, or those who prefer a little more nature nearby.
The Acre: This neighborhood close to the downtown area originally sprung up surrounding Lowell’s first church. Over the years it’s transformed into many things, including a very large immigrant community in the late 1800s, especially for Greeks (earning it the nickname Greektown). It’s still a very diverse neighborhood, with slightly lower income and smaller buildings of two or three apartments each.
Lowell has been a great many things over the years, and is widely known for its history and culture, as well as its proximity to Boston. Now that you’ve got the down-low on Lowell, it’s time to get down and check it out!
-By Kera Zacuto