Cynthia McIntyre

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Modern Architectural Beauty in a Country Setting

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HOT HOUSE: 10801 Longacre Lane, Stevenson, 21153

An architectural classic, mid-century modern, eight bedroom house. 9,189 square feet on 8.7 acres, with pool and tennis court in Stevenson: $2,950,000

What: A long, sleek, white house in poured concrete, built in 1967, and renovated in 2007. It’s a striking example of the ‘international style’, an early form of modernism pioneered in the 1930’s by designers like Robert Nutria, Philip Johnson and Marcel Breuer–think “The Fountainhead.”  It’s a design sensibility that sets it well apart from its more traditional neighbors in the Greenspring Valley, but that said, it fits perfectly into its setting, and there’s not a neighbor in sight to detract from the view. A two-story, floor-to-ceiling glass wall at the front of the house overlooks a turquoise pool, heated, with diving board (hooray! a rare treat) and terraces. Skylights on the top floor flood the house with light, which pours through the center atrium, glancing off the marble floors and into the humongous (35’x26’) gourmet kitchen.  With fireplace, marble floors and counters, and high-end appliances, this really is the total A.D. dream kitchen. Also on the main floor are a cozy (hey, it’s all relative) family room with fireplace and wet bar, rec room, library and dining room, both with garden terraces. Tons of bedrooms upstairs, the master bedroom is especially big and stylish, with lots of glass, a luxurious bathroom, walk-in closets/dressing room. The house has six full and three half-baths, four wood-burning fireplaces, and at least one gas fireplace. The garage is attached and heated, the pool house and tennis/games court are ready to go.         

Where: Longacre Road is off of Stevenson Road, off of Greenspring Valley Road, not far from Park Heights Avenue.  The closest shopping is the tiny Stevenson Village but basically, it’s the Reisterstown Road corridor (Trader Joes!). McDonough, Garrison Forest, Krieger Schechter and St. Tim’s are the closest private schools.

Why: The aesthetics, for one.  Houses in this style, of this caliber, are hard to come by around here. And if clean, strong, architectural lines, white walls and light filled rooms are what you love, then it’s a very compelling space. Secondly, the aesthetics. It’s the perfect house for an art collection. The Damian Hirst will look spectacular over the atrium. Then again, almost anything would.  

NB:  Kitchen might be a little intimidating unless you’re a darn good cook.

Also, the usual difficulty with modern houses: avoiding clutter. Where to put all your loved ones’ junk?

Would suit: Major art collector, Howard Roark…

Worthington Valley Cottage: City Convenience, Country Charm

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HOT HOUSE: 12923 Dover Road, Reisterstown, MD 21136

New England style salt-box colonial on 3.85 wooded acres in Poplar Ridge, in the Worthington Valley: $1,125,000

What: This could be the place you’ve been waiting to land. 12923 Dover is a comfortable, airy, three-story colonial, built in 1978 along the simple lines of a Nantucket captain’s house. Four bedrooms and four-and-a half baths on a private wooded lot also make it a great family home.  The backyard cries out for kids, soccer goals and lacrosse gear-–it’s a wide-open yet private place to play. The lot is big enough for a pool or tennis court, although lovely just as it is and a keen gardener could create a beautiful wooded garden here. An attractive barn/shed on the property will help store all that gear. Inside, past the entrance foyer, the generously proportioned, new (redone only last year) kitchen is furnished with all mod cons and has a big window overlooking the woods–heaven for the dish do-er. Also on the first floor are formal but relaxed living and dining rooms, family room and a big porch overlooking the woods. Open floor plan means the rooms flow nicely into one another, creating a good flow for entertaining. Family room and living room have wood-burning fireplaces. High-end details like crown molding, built-in bookcases and hardwood flooring add character.  Upstairs, the bedrooms are nice and there’s a good-sized master suite with walk-in closet and luxurious all-white bathroom. A finished basement for the kids when it’s raining, central air, forced air heat–all systems go. 

Where: Dover Road is off of Greenspring Avenue, in the posh Worthington Valley. Think golf, think horses, think trees. Nearby are the shops at Greenspring Station and Stevenson Village. For groceries, the fabulous Wegman’s in Hunt Valley is just a few easy miles away. For being far out, the location is actually a pretty good gig.  

Why: Pretty property near several golf courses.  Also, proximity to Halcyon House, decorator Stiles Colwell’s glamorous little farm house boutique just a mile or two down the road.  

Why Not: It’s dark out here at night, and the roads twist and turn–driving home after a few drinks could present more than the usual challenges…or maybe it’s just me.

Would suit: Young family. People who’ve always wanted to live in the country. Golfers.

Is $30 million Too Much to Ask?

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HOT HOUSE: Tudor Farms, 3675 Decoursey Bridge Road, Cambridge, MD 21613

Spectacular hunting lodge with 6,250 acres of land, indoor riding ring and stables, indoor tennis/sports center, two guest houses, barns, kennels and picking house, in Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: $30 million.

What: Built as a weekend retreat in 1990 for Wall Street hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones–who later pled guilty to federal wetlands violations there–this is a grand, Adirondack-style hunting lodge of turn-of the-century splendor.  Eleven bedrooms, ten and a half baths, and eight fireplaces on three stories make it a natural for large group entertaining (your family reunion!),  and would work really well as a small hotel or private hunting club. Heated and cooled with geothermal energy, the house is supplied with all the custom features you would expect in a $30 million property. Gourmet kitchen? Duh. Yoga room? Yup. Games room? Check.  Walk-in closets, built-in bookcases and hardwood floors? Check. Window treatments all in-place, and included, a nice touch.  In the living room, a breathtaking wall of glass overlooks the water. Even so, the real appeal of the place is at least as much about the property as the house.  Head for the basketball court or the equestrian center, to check out the riding ring and pristine stables.  Then off to the kennels, ready for your pack of hounds.  This is a nature connoisseur’s paradise.  Considered “one of the most important hunting estates in the country” and categorized for tax purposes as a “hunting and fishing reserve,” the land has been carefully managed to insure the widest variety of native wildlife. There are ponds for fishing, wetlands and woodland for hunting duck, goose, turkey, pheasant, deer and more. The peaceful, private atmosphere (broken only by occasional gunfire…) creates a haven for man and beast. Fun fact: The lake on the property has islands in the shape of the owner’s initials PTJ.   

Where: Cambridge (pop.12,326), a pretty town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Its also one of the state’s oldest towns, so guests not out hunting on the reserve can get a little history and shop its galleries and markets. To get there, take Rt. 50 east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Go about 40 more miles and you’ll cross the Choptank River and be in Cambridge. Decoursey Bridge Road is about six miles out Bucktown Road from Cambridge. 

Why: The picking house obviously–how many people do you know who have one?  But really, because this is an over-the-top man cave, a boy’s retreat, where hunting is the main event and every day is Superbowl Sunday. The former owner’s status as a Wall Street celeb gives it extra cachet.  Jones, 56, nickname PTJ, is a Memphis boy and UVA grad/major donor who made a killing in the 1980’s futures market as head of Tudor Investments. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, married an Australian model after dating Bianca Jagger and Christina Onassis, and was involved in a minor scandal when his environmental planner, hired to create ten duck ponds on the property, was convicted of knowingly in-filling wetlands and sentenced to two years in jail. Jones paid $2 million in fines. Interestingly, Jones is also the star of a rogue documentary called “Trader,” (a clip currently shows on the Baltimore Fishbowl video landing) recently released on You Tube after years off the market (rumor is that Jones tried to buy all the copies out there) in which, among other things he predicts the Wall Street crash of 1987.  Current worth, $3.3 billion.  

NB: No swimming pool–possibly due to environmental concerns or restrictions. Also, an ongoing battle with nutria, a small destructive rodent currently infesting North American wetlands.  

Would suit: Teddy Roosevelt…Great White Hunter…Dick Cheney… 


Federal Hill Find Mixes New with Old

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HOT HOUSE: 227 Grindall Street, Baltimore, 21230

Open plan, architect-designed Federal-style townhouse in prime Federal Hill location. Two thousand square feet plus roof-top deck: $485,000

What: Three bedrooms, three baths, on three stories, over 2,000 square feet in all, with a two story atrium that sets a light and airy tone in this 2006 townhouse. Brick and stucco exterior blends surprisingly well with its older neighbors and a big bay window in front with garage doors underneath makes it distinctive, in a good way. Garage is a boon for both parking and storage.

The modern open-concept design means:

1. A sleek eating area. 2. A chef’s kitchen with stainless steel backsplash, large breakfast bar and premium appliances and 3. The atrium, with cool metal railings leading around and up the stairs. Downstairs, a large 13′ x 18′ sunken living room with fireplace opens onto a protected terrace big enough for tables and a grill. Upstairs are three bedrooms–master has a walk in closet–and access to the roof-top terrace, with stellar urban views, especially at night. Hardwood floors downstairs, carpet upstairs, all in pristine condition. 

Where: Grindall Street is two blocks south of Federal Hill Park, and intersects with Riverside Avenue.  Nearby is Digital Harbor High School, among all the other attractions of Federal Hill–the park, the harbor, etc. Your local will be Porter’s, the popular Federal Hill pub. 

Why: This is a pretty good-sized house by Federal Hill standards. The light and space of the modern interior makes a nice change from older townhouses. Roomy enough for a (smallish) family. Also, walkability rating is 98.

Why Not:  Rooftop views: awesome. Views from interior windows: not so much. Third floor also feels like a bit of a let down after the downstairs. 

Would suit:  Chic urbanites of any age.

Elegant Victorian on Large, Secluded Lot in Mt. Washington

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HOT HOUSE: 5603 Roxbury Place, Mt. Washington, 21209

1880 Victorian with eight bedrooms on 2.83 secluded acres in Mt. Washington, with unusually fine period interiors: $749,000

What: A fixer-upper, for sure. But the location is unique, and the house has both character and elegance. A three story, shingle-style Victorian in wood and stone, with a covered, full-length open porch along the back of the house. Porch overlooks a large private backyard that slopes down to the woods, and is supported underneath by grand stone arches and stone walkway. Inside, a huge entrance hall with hardwood floors and fireplace sets the stage (there are seven fireplaces in the house). A wide sweeping staircase rises to the second floor. Ten foot ceilings, carved moldings and amazing woodwork in the large first floor rooms — living room, library and dining room, which is papered in chinoiserie wallpaper. Kitchen has been updated with wood cabinetry and modern appliances. Central air and gas, radiator heat. Upstairs, a double-wide landing and six further bedrooms are airy and full of light. Third floor has two additional bedrooms, house has three and a half bathrooms. Definitely, a lot of house for the price.      

Where: Roxbury Place is a magical-feeling street tucked away in a wooded glen, but an easy walk to Mt. Washington village shops, restaurants, schools, etc.  The village light rail station means easy access to downtown, stadiums, trains, airports. Mt. Washington is a mile or so north of Northern Parkway on Falls Road. Turn left to go over the Kelly Avenue Bridge, bear left onto South Avenue. Roxbury Place is on the left.

Why: Because you love old houses, and you both lost your heart to the place when you walked in the door. Life here will be like living in a 19th century English rectory. 

Why Not: Roxbury Place is a peaceful, wooded lane that badly needs repaving – looks like it might not be a priority for Baltimore City snow removal either.

Would suit: Decorator manqué, someone with an eye for furniture. House can accommodate an almost infinite number of gilt chairs, linen presses, velvet sofas…with great interior vistas and architectural details too.

Gibson Island Stunner To Get Away from it All

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HOT HOUSE: 712 Stillwater Road, Gibson Island, MD 21056

A 1928 English country home on Gibson Island, with a private dock and frontage on freshwater, spring-fed Otter Pond: $3,295,000

What: A five bedroom, three and a half bath house on two stories, with superb views out the back. Beautifully situated, with panoramic views of both the Chesapeake Bay and Otter Pond, this house appeared recently in American Luxury Estates magazine. A screened-in porch and upstairs open porch have wonderful breezes in addition to the water views, and the house has a nice flow – great for entertaining but also for cozy family living. Inside, are the original edgegrain Georgia pine and cherry floors, plus radiant underfloor heat in  kitchen , breakfast room, bathrooms and office. The dining room has gorgeous floor to ceiling palladian windows and living room has a cathedral ceiling. Upstairs landing overlooks living room, and in addition to bedrooms, there is a large professional office with sweeping water views – could be either distracting or inspiring. Also,  skylights, fireplace, picture windows, electric awning, state-of-the-art heat and air conditioning. Separate oversized garage with workroom. The lot is .68 acres –not large, but with the time and money saved on lawn care, you can fish, swim or boat from your private dock. Otter Pond, all 42 acres of it, is your real backyard.  Or, join the Gibson Island Club, (not included with home ownership) and take advantage of world class yachting, pool, golf, tennis (on clay courts) and a popular summer camp for kids.  

Where: Not too close, not too far, Gibson Island is an easy commute-–about an hour from Washington, half-an-hour from BWI airport and Annapolis–but about 55% of the residents are full-time. There is a small elementary school just off the island. 

Why: If security is important to you, Gibson Island is the place. There’s a 24-hour, 365 day-a-year security guard on duty, and no one gets on to the island unless invited. Also, there’s a nice, slow pace here, without actually being “rural.” Feels like stepping back in time. 

Why Not: House is not as pretty from the street as it is from the back.

Would Suit: Tweeting congressman “getting help.” Foreign diplomat under a death threat.  Weekend commuters, or families who want a break from the action.


Water, Water Everywhere

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HOT HOUSE: 622 Ponte Villas N. Baltimore, 21230

Luxury double townhouse, newly built, in brick and  pre-cast concrete, situated at the end of a pier in the Inner Harbor: $8,500,000

What:  Billed as “Baltimore’s most extraordinary property,” it must be said that this is  also Baltimore’s most expensive property. Whatever. This is truly an amazing home. Jutting out from a pier of high-end townhouses in the Inner Harbor, this double-sized home sits like an ocean liner at rest, surrounded on three sides by water. Light pours in from giant windows, boats sail by, and at night skyline and water reflections are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Built in 2007,  622 Ponte Villas really feels more like a large yacht than a house. 9.060 square feet, state of the art systems, smart house technology, home theater, sauna, five-stop elevator, deck upon deck, gorgeous view upon gorgeous view — all culminating in a 75 foot roof deck and spa with hot tub.  Six bedrooms, including a master suite like a Hollywood set.  Seven full baths, three half-baths, gourmet kitchen, the list goes on. The complex has a private marina, indoor and outdoor pools and countless other amenities. 

Where: Ponte Villas is part of a luxury development called Pier Homes at Harbor View. From the Key Highway, it is just past the Visionary Arts Museum, a stone’s throw from Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor.  

Why: Because you’re ready to change your life — and not in a shy way.

Why not:  No helipad.  Seriously, this development was conceived during the go go years of Baltimore real estate, but came to market just as the market started to sour. Take a close look at the asking price, and wonder. 

Would  Suit: Saudi sheik, recovering at Hopkins, sick of the desert. Retirees who haven’t lost their sense of adventure/their fortune…


Sheppard Pratt v. Ruxton: He Said, She Said

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By now, most north Baltimore residents know the basic facts about the controversial group home that Sheppard Pratt Health System has purchased on LaBelle Avenue, a street of small homes and cottages in Ruxton. How developer Jim Carroll purchased, in foreclosure, the shell of an unfinished house to build his 5,000 square foot “dream home.” How some neighbors were concerned about the size of the building, but listened to his genial reassurances. And how a very short time later, when he realized that his children were grown and that a six-bedroom home with a large parking pad on a half-acre behind the Graul’s dumpsters might not be where he wanted to spend the rest of his life, he put it on the market.  Luckily, (arched eyebrow) Sheppard Pratt was there with an offer of $1.4 million for a house that needed no work at all to become a short-term home for wealthy people recovering from depression, anxiety, and/or addiction. This series of events has many La Belle Avenue and other Ruxton residents feeling duped, and wondering about the possibility of a prior agreement between the former homeowner and venerable mental health hospital.

Recently, Baltimore Fishbowl talked with neighbors who had toured the Carroll house before building was finished.  Naturally, no one wants to be named, but they did add a little fuel to the fire of speculation. “I’m not a builder, but even I could see that the interior was very cheaply constructed. I was surprised that Jim didn’t have higher standards for his own house,” said one neighbor.  Another neighbor “thought it was weird that every bedroom had its own bath attached” and that the house had an industrial grade sprinkler system.  Finally, we heard that “he (Mr. Carroll) has flipped houses in the past.” 

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. If Mr. Carroll had planned all along to offload the house to Sheppard Pratt, it would naturally imply that the two parties had had some initial discussion prior to the building. But hospital spokesperson Bonnie Katz firmly denies this, and Jim Carroll is not talking. And another Sheppard Pratt staff member and Ruxton resident also seems doubtful, saying that “it’s just not the way the hospital operates” — that they are neither as far-sighted nor organized as this kind of planning would indicate. 

Where Sheppard Pratt has unquestionably shown foresight is in realizing the financial possibilities of the home.  With eight people (the maximum number of patients in residence) paying approximately $600 per night, the home could gross Sheppard Pratt nearly $150,000 a month.  In the words of a Neighbors Against Sheppard Pratt Facebook post:  “Would you buy a $1.5 million home if you could earn a profit in 11 months?”   

From the point of view of residents, this is doubly irritating. Not only did a developer flip a house under their very noses, not only will Sheppard Pratt be running a hugely profitable ‘not-for-profit’ facility on their street, but they will be paying the price in terms of increased traffic, potential drop in home values and, most importantly from a neighborhood point-of view, an ever-changing roster of strangers on the block. “Kids run around this street on their own,” a resident says. “I don’t want to lose that.”  

Widespread accusations of NIMBY-ism (not in my backyard) ring a little false. Do people in other, less affluent communities welcome these type of residences with open arms?  Not really, according to a local developer who prefers not to be named. “No one really wants them, but it’s usually a matter of how savvy the community is.  By that I mean [it’s how] organized [they are], and how hard they are willing to fight that decides the outcome” (i.e., whether or not the facility is allowed).  

Neighborhoods are occasionally successful in fighting off group houses or assisted living facilities — sometimes through sheer orneriness, when the developer just decides to go away in the face of hostility; more often through appealing to local zoning rulings. In 1997 in neighboring Roland Park, the Civic League successfully fought the development of an assisted living facility at 4803 Roland Avenue by lobbying against the requisite Baltimore City zoning variance.  In another case in 2009, the city ruled against a zoning change that would have allowed the Baltimore Country Club to sell land to the Keswick Group to build a large assisted living facility.  But for the Sheppard Pratt home in Ruxton, a zoning variance is not needed because the building falls within the “single family residence” designation. According to County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who represents Ruxton, “there is nothing in county law to keep the hospital from opening a group home in the neighborhood.”

At an angry and well-publicized community meeting on April 27th, Marion Knott, a Ruxton community leader and a co-director of No Retreat, the Ruxton-based organization fighting the group home,  stated that “the community intends to fight this vigorously.”  On the Dan Rodricks radio show on WYPR recently, Tom Costello, lawyer and co-director of No Retreat, outlined the primary legal objections: 

First is the short-term, transient nature of the home — an argument that focuses on the intention of the Federal Fair Housing Act and the definition of “group home.” Second is the fact that the home will be run for profit, albeit by a non-profit (Sheppard Pratt). As a commercial enterprise, Costello believes that the home does violate land-use and zoning restrictions. “For-profit activity is not protected by the act, and should not supersede local zoning laws.” The first step, according to Mr. Costello, will be to challenge the licensing process, which will begin in a few months.

So far, the outward signs that the battle continues are a plastic bag full of feces thrown onto the porch of LaBelle Avenue , a flurry of anti-retreat signs, and a stream of Facebook posts on the Neighbors Against Sheppard Pratt website — including an interesting suggestion that neighbors combine assets and buy the property away from the hospital. Behind the scenes, Ms. Knott, Mr. Costello and other members of the community are working within the system to deter Sheppard Pratt from its plan to operate the home. And still other — perhaps most other — Ruxton residents are resigned or nonplussed, ready to let it go and hope for the best. “I assume it’s going to be there,” one said. “And I assume it’s going to be fine.” 

 

 

Roland Park Condo Combines elegance and convenience

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HOT HOUSE: 6 Upland Road, Apt. F-3, Baltimore, 21210

Luxury three bedroom condominium, completely renovated in 2007, in a landmark Beaux-Arts building in Roland Park with private courtyard and gardens: $448,500 

What: Nestled deep in the heart of Roland Park, among the big Victorians and summer cottages of old Baltimore, lie the Upland Road condominiums. Silence reigns, except for the hum of dragonflies over the courtyard reflecting pool. Both grounds and property look very well maintained. Apartment F-3 is generously proportioned, at  2,169 sq. ft., with the high ceilings and thick plaster walls of an earlier era. The recent renovation has created an open, modern space, with a 30’ living/dining room and beautiful kitchen/family room with lots of built-in storage and gas fireplace. The master bedroom (15’x16’) has a large walk-in closet with built-ins for storage, as well as a marble bath. Custom lighting, crown molding, hardwood floors, two additional large bedrooms and a second full bath.  The kitchen has a breakfast bar, also plenty of space for a table, and new appliances. Everything is fresh, so you could move in here tomorrow. Elevator access. Parking included in list price.   

Where:  Upland Road leads off of Roland Avenue, number six is at the intersection of Upland and Club Road, diagonally across from the Baltimore Country Club clubhouse. The nearby and picturesque Tudor style shops (“first shopping mall in the country” a plaque reads) on Roland Avenue include not only neighborhood favorite, French bistro Petit Louis, but a planned new ‘neighborhood’ restaurant from the Tony Foreman/Cindy Wolf restaurant group. 

Why:  A great walking neighborhood. Apartments have an unusually gracious and solid feel. Peaceful and safe, just lock the door and leave. 

NB:  No central air. Place has a grown-up feeling, probably not  ideal for raising kids.

Would Suit: Empty nesters, singles, or young couples who’ve outgrown the downtown scene. Also part-time Baltimoreans (six months in Roland Park, six months in the south of France…)


A Steal in Bolton Hill

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HOT HOUSE: 143 West Lanvale Street, Baltimore 21217

Large, Victorian-era townhouse with stone exterior, restored, in Bolton Hill: $524,900  

What: For anyone who loves upscale city living, this elegant, updated 1880’s townhouse is the answer to a dream. Bolton Hill is probably the most beautiful neighborhood in Baltimore, with a nice mix of residents and a true neighborhood feel. Quieter in the summer, when the nearby MICA students leave, it is an immanently walkable, visually-pleasing place to live. The house at 143 West Lanvale Street is spacious and comfortable, with wood floors and crown molding throughout.  Everything recently restored, including all systems. It features a gourmet cooks kitchen with granite breakfast bar and an extraordinary master bedroom suite which comprises the entire third floor and has French doors opening onto a pretty deck with south-facing views of the city.  Amenities include a steam shower, soaking tub, and covered back porch which overlooks a sweet urban garden. Zoned central air, and at least two wood-burning fireplaces, including one in the master suite. In Manhattan, this would be a $10 million house (just with better shopping). 

Where: West Llanvale Street is in the heart of Bolton Hill, with easy access to Penn Station and the MARC train. B bistro is where it’s at restaurant-wise, with a few sandwich and coffee shops within easy reach.  

Why: Because you can feel rich, without being rich.  Bolton Hill, and this house, were built on a grand scale for the wealthy occupants of Baltimore in its heyday. The period details and beautiful, solid construction will be there long after you’re gone–it’s your place in history.

Why Not: The olive-colored bathroom tile, may not be to everyone’s taste. Neighbor points out “leave anything valuable on your car seat, it will get stolen.”

Would Suit: City-oriented couple, old house enthusiasts, urban family who for $500 can join the neighborhood’s beloved Bolton Hill pool and tennis club 


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