On Sat­urday nights, Davis Square bus­tles with the young and fash­ion­able. They’re seeing an inde­pen­dent film at the restored movie palace or taking in a comedy show down the street. They’re slurping ramen at a Japanese restau­rant, sip­ping a beer at a side­walk table, or people-​​watching on the busy cen­tral plaza. Tucked into a corner of Somerville, a city of 77,000 just north­west of Boston, Davis Square is a pro­to­type vision of urbanism — dense, transit-​​oriented, walk­able, and a real estate agent’s dream. A typ­ical one-​​bedroom apart­ment rents for as much as $2,000, and single-​​family homes now sell for upwards of $1 million.

Van Hardy lived here in the mid-​​1980s. When he looks back on the last three decades, he’s amazed at how things have changed. “Davis Square was kind of a depressed area, a lot of crime,” the 64-​​year-​​old says. The neigh­bor­hood began to trans­form after metro Boston’s light rail and subway system — known as the “T” — extended into Somerville in 1984. The new Davis Sta­tion offered an easy com­mute to Har­vard, MIT, or down­town Boston via the T’s Red Line. “As soon as the Red Line came in, there were more col­lege kids, young pro­fes­sionals,” Hardy recalls. And as the neigh­bor­hood grew more desir­able, Hardy’s rent went up, forcing him and many of his neigh­bors to move across town.

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