For residents and neighbors in the Ruxton/Riderwood area, reopening of the Robert E. Lee Park, 454 acres of beautiful wooded land with Lake Roland as it’s heart, is a long-awaited event. The park has been officially closed since fall of 2009, to allow work on the main bridge that crosses the dam. But behind the scenes, a lot of people have been working hard to restore Robert E. Lee Park (one of the largest parks in Baltimore County) to its former glory and rightful place among the most beautiful open spaces in the area.
Interestingly, the most significant aspect of the park reopening will take place only on paper. In 2009, Baltimore County took over management of the park from Baltimore City in a no-cost 50 year lease, automatically renewable for another 50 years. Similar successful arrangements already exist, including a lease between Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County for Fort Smallwood Park, and between Baltimore City and Baltimore County for Cromwell Bridge Park.
Beahta Davis is the area coordinator of nature and recreation resources for the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks Department. She explained the county’s reasons for the takeover of the Robert E. Lee Park and the much needed improvements. “We saw it as a hidden gem that was underutilized” she said in an interview with the Baltimore Daily Record last fall. Our “mission is to revitalize what exists and to add to it in terms of recreational activities”.
A bit of history
While the Robert E. Lee Park is located entirely within Baltimore County, it was until recently owned and operated by the City of Baltimore. Originally constructed in 1861 by damming the Jones Falls, the park served as a water source not only for city residents, but for Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel county residents for 53 years, until it was determined that the water quantity was insufficient. Since 1914, the park has been used as a recreational facility managed by Baltimore City. By the 1990’s City budgets were simply too stretched to pay for proper oversight and maintenance, and in recent years, the property was allowed to deteriorate to the point where people were found actually living in the park. In addition, soil samples revealed dangerously toxic levels of e-coli bacteria due to dog feces.
As a result of the takeover by Baltimore County, $6.1 million in state and county funding was obtained for improvements determined to be necessary for the safety and preservation of the park. These improvements include rebuilding of the bridge, improving parking and Light Rail access to the park, restoration of walking and biking trails, and shoring up the banks of the reservoir, which had severely eroded. In addition, a one-acre, enclosed, off-leash dog walking facility is planned. Security will be provided by Baltimore County police. While the $6.1 million will cover the cost of all of the initial improvements, is hoped that voluntary contributions by residents and neighbors, as well as monthly event programming, will help to offset costs of park maintenance and stewardship.
In October of 2010, members of the already existing Riderwood/Ruxton/ Lake Roland Area Improvement Association and other volunteers formed the Robert E. Lee Park Nature Center (RELPNC), and began monthly meetings under the leadership of Peter Maloney, President. A Community Plan for the park was officially adopted by the Baltimore County Council, reinforcing the commitment on both sides to working closely together to run the park. Volunteers at the Nature Council will work closely with the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks on improving and maintaining key areas of the park, and will begin a membership drive in Fall 2011 through Spring 2012.
Jeff Budnitz, Treasurer of the Nature Council, and an early supporter of the Robert E. Lee Park revitalization efforts, credits the hard work of many individuals for the success of the park take over, including Baltimore County councilman (now County Executive) Kevin Kamentetz, for his “tremendous advocacy of the park, including the establishment of new RC7 zoning” to prevent the selling of park land for development. “The county put together the budget” says Budnitz, “and everything that was committed to is being done. A long term Master Plan is being developed, to be accomplished in multiple phases. We are completing phase I now, and there will have to be public input going forward”.
What’s on the table? Very likely, a multiple-use facility with easy access from the Baltimore Light Rail, that will include boating, biking, trail-walking, educational programming, a child’s play area and dog walking. Robert E. Lee is a “passive” park, which typically means no lighted athletic fields, no swimming pool, and no tennis courts, among other things. While the definition of “passive park” often includes no dog walking, there are plans to include an enclosed off-leash dog walking area at Robert E. Lee, possibly open only to members, for a nominal annual fee. Eventually, playing fields may be added. Overall, the park improvements promise a big leap forward in quality of life in the Baltimore area.
Local reactions? Surprisingly positive
We questioned local residents and park neighbors about the changes, and got a uniformly enthusiastic response – even on the potentially touchy issue of voluntary private funding to supplement the initial Baltimore County investment.
“If you care about your community, you need to be willing to get behind it” says Chris Feiss. “I can see bald eagles flying over the lake from my backyard, and that’s got to be worth something to me”. Cheryl Finney, another park neighbor, agrees. Although the park has generally been a good neighbor, Finney cites occasional problems in past years of trash and off-leashed dogs making the northwestern peninsula occasionally unpleasant. “I am a believer in private involvement and ownership of issues relating to community” Finney states. Asked how much she would be willing to contribute, she says “I’m not sure, but I’m willing to listen. I’d love to see the public use the park more, and it definitely deserves stewardship”.
The specific financial goals of the Nature Council are still being determined. Jeff Budnitz points out, “You have to have a pretty solid plan before you ask for the money. We are almost there”. According to Beahta Davis, “the Nature Council is in the driver’s seat with this,” referring to both the fundraising and planning for park programming and maintenance . The hope, everyone agrees, is to eventually be largely self-sufficient.
The official reopening of Robert E. Lee Park is tentatively scheduled for September, 2011. Stay tuned for further updates and opening day activities.
Hot House: 1022 Saint Georges Road, Baltimore, 21210
Storybook stone lodge/compound on 3.5 acres in North Roland Park: $2,195,000
What: Built in 1900, a Tudor style estate home, a hunting lodge in the city. Owned by recently deceased prominent attorney H. Morton “Mort” Rosen, who clearly loved to entertain. Formal living and dining rooms on the first floor are impressive — masculine but still warm-feeling, with a wood-paneled library, sun room and eat-in kitchen. Downstairs, a second catering kitchen and giant oak-paneled, timber-ceilinged great room, with huge fireplace and French doors out to the garden. Awesome gathering space for big groups of family/friends. Five bedrooms, four full baths. Could use a little updating, mainly cosmetic, as the place has been scrupulously cared for. The grounds are landscaped and lovely, private and partly wooded. Surprising that there’s no pool, although plenty of space for one.
Where: at the end of a long private lane on St. Georges Road–one of north Baltimore’s most beautiful streets. Nice for walking, and good access to Roland Park amenities, private schools, post office, grocery and Starbucks.
Why: One of a kind, extremely private home in the city. Masterful stonework outside and no-expense-spared details inside all done with great taste.
Why not: House is a little dark, although views of the sunny, landscaped grounds are nice.
Would suit: City lovers who need their own space. Don Corleone.
Hot House: 117 Beechdale Road, Baltimore, 21210
Classic Victorian, all systems go, in the heart of Roland Park:
What: A beautifully renovated Victorian, circa 1905 — that rare Roland Park house with everything in perfect working order –no peeling paint, no clanking radiators, and insulation! A recent and total makeover, which included central air as well as all new windows and doors, has transformed this house into a high quality home with major curb appeal. From the welcoming porch, a gracious foyer leads to a generously proportioned living and dining rooms, both with wood burning fireplaces (think winter dinner parties in front of a glowing fire). Sunny windows draw you straight through to the back of the house, where a brand new custom cook’s kitchen promises a lifetime of great eating and big windows look up towards the big back yard, complete with big old trees and tasteful play area. Sleek but practical mudroom is a bonus. Upstairs, luxurious master bed and bath, walk-in closets and additional pretty bedrooms offer period touches like built in cupboards and polished wood floors. A nicely finished basement is now and would be, perfect for kids. Side driveway with parking pad a plus, as is easy access to Rt. 83.
Where: Between Falls Road and Roland Avenue, near the old Baltimore Country Club golf course. Walk to Eddie’s, walk to schools, walk to Petit Louis. Roland Park is in northwest Baltimore, a historic neighborhood designed by the Olmstead architectural firm (NY Central Park) – a ten minute drive to downtown.
Why: A wide wraparound porch, great landscaping with a show-stopping planting of hostas in front, and modern, south-facing kitchen overlooking the terraced back yard – and all above-mentioned mod cons.
Why not: House sits up off the street, so requires some stair taking unless you’re first to the parking pad.
Would suit: Old house family who (heart) City Life, but not the hassles of city living.
Along Bellona Avenue this week signs objecting to the Sheppard Pratt mental health residential treatment home sprouted along the road. The signs direct readers to the website for Neighbors Against the Sheppard Pratt Hotel which has over 230 Facebook likes. While opposition is mounting, the hospital completed the sale last week and plans to go forward with opening the six-bedroom home on LaBelle Avenue. Like it or not, there is little residents can do: Sheppard Pratt’s proposal is protected by federal and state housing laws.
So what does $350,000 buy you in Baltimore? Well, it depends where you’re looking. We chose seven of our favorite neighborhoods and a $350,000 ballpark – a respectable, but not luxurious amount to play with. If a house is listed higher than $350,000, it means we think you could make an offer. The ‘Zestimate,’ as most of you will know, is the Zillow real estate website’s take on what a house is really worth. This is what we found:
Mt. Washington – median listing price: $295,000
Ahhh ….the charm of village life –cafes, bars, cute shops, Whole Foods, (a pottery studio!) — together with rolling hills and generous wooded lots. Mt. Washington has a lot of diversity for a high-end suburban-feeling neighborhood. Maybe it’s the super public school or maybe it’s the easy access to the light rail stop, but that diversity is a big selling point when it comes to raising a family. It takes a village…
5911 Bonnie View Drive, 21209
3,090 sq. ft.
.62 acre lot
Architectually intriguing with a ‘60’s vibe, a classic modernist house in the woods. 5 bedrooms and 3 baths, with custom cabinetry, built-ins, and shelving throughout. Wood burning fireplace, hardwood floors. Walls of glass overlook a private wooded (re:low maintenance) lot. Pretty cool. Near Mt. Washington Village.
Hampden – median listing price $169,600
Trendy Hampden, with its blue collar attitude and relatively inexpensive real estate, is a mecca for artists and hipsters. The kitschy storefronts on it’s bustling Avenue (36th Street) reflect this, but look a little closer and you’ll find some seriously good food, wine and fun shopping. This is Baltimore’s fastest-growing retail district. Your public elementary school here is five star Medfield, and it’s just minutes to Wyman and Druid Hill parks.
3669 Ash Street, 21211
Price: $205,000 (with $$$ to spare – this place could be a little dream home)
1,853 sq. ft.
.07 acre lot
Built in 1880
Lovely stone mill house with charm to spare, situated on a quiet hillside street. House has been completely renovated within the past 10 years and is technically in move-in condition, but has potential for much more. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths. Large kitchen and master suite with attached full bath. Wood floors and tons of closet space, unusual for an older home. Downstairs mudroom. Walk over to the Avenue, or up to the light rail and Woodberry Kitchen.
Federal Hill — median listing price $325,600
‘Historically hip’ and ‘eternally stylish’ according to Baltimore Magazine’s Neighborhood Guide, Federal Hill has more history than you can shake a stick at, from the Hill to the Cross Street Market. Cobblestone streets and period homes are a visual treat, and so are views across the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill Park. There is a real neighborhood feeling here, with book clubs, dog walking groups and life-long residents. But there’s new energy and spark in the eclectic art and ongoing events at the American Visionary Art Museum and the culinary delights of Light Street. Federal Hill in 2011 is pure urban joy.
208 East Cross Street
1,285 sq. ft.
small courtyard garden
A Federal style attached row house, with a bright and sunny aspect, in historic Federal Hill. Three bedrooms and two baths over four stories, and a three level atrium. It’s the flood of light and generous room size that distinguishes this house, with landscaped courtyard, full basement with great storage and nice, updated features. Walk to downtown Baltimore, Orioles Park, light rail and MARC train to DC.
Patterson Park – median listing price $109,900
A little more gritty than Federal Hill, and way more ethnically diverse, Patterson Park is tucked between Canton and Johns Hopkins Hospital, a former landing-point for generations of Eastern European immigrants. But real-estate here is well priced, and the wide-open space of Patterson Park (155 acres in the heart of the city, with ice rink and swimming pool) is all yours. Patterson Park was recently included in Southern Living’s list of 10 Best Comeback Neighborhoods, and is home to several popular restaurants, including Salt.
8 Milton Avenue North, 21224
Zestimate: none available
1,960 sq. ft.
no lot: but Patterson Park is your front yard …
Right on the park, this 3 bedroom townhouse has 3 full baths and a deluxe master bedroom suite with balcony and views. A total recent rehab has left it still with plenty of charm, plus custom finishes, modern appliances, hardwood floors, granite countertops and finished family room. Maybe not a ‘forever’ house, but great for a young Hopkins doc.
Private parking, too.
Harbor East – median listing price $418,000
Harbor East is not a neighborhood in the traditional sense, but it is home to some of the best Baltimore has to offer. Centered around several luxurious waterfront condominiums, it’s all here — sushi and shoes, Charleston and Whole Foods, Landmark Cinema, South Moon Under and an ever-changing landscape of pop-up shops. For the young, or not-so-young Baltimore urban professional, this is as close as it gets to Manhattan.
250 President Street #602, 21202
1858 sq. ft.
Inner Harbor high-rise living, complete with the amenities of fitness center, indoor pool, parking and a 24 hour front desk. This 2 bedroom, 2 bath, open-plan condo has wood floors, a fireplace, granite countertops and modern kitchen, as well as storage room and a stunning balcony. 250 President Street is in the heart of the Harbor, Little Italy, Fells Point and all the excitement of the city.
Rodgers Forge – median listing price $210,000
Exactly 9.5 miles from the towers of the Inner Harbor, leafy Rodgers Forge might be the next stop for that now married-with-kids urban professional. On offer are great public schools, a communal children’s playground known as the Tot Lot, and the quiet, intergenerational aspect of a long-established neighborhood. There’s no fine dining in these parts, but the comforts of Bill Bateman’s, Chipotle and Panera await on nearby York Road. Real estate values here tend to climb slowly and steadily, and the houses’ solid curb appeal will convince your parents you’ve finally grown up.
416 Hopkins Road, 21212
2,310 sq. ft.
.05 acre lot
A well maintained Tudor-style townhouse with an impressive stone exterior, a nice brick patio in the back and a detached garage. It has 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths, as well as a finished third floor. Your dad will say ‘they don’t build ‘em like this anymore’ noting the solid paneled doors, nice hardware and gleaming hardwood floors.. The windows have been recently replaced. Ditto the roof, and the kitchen has been nicely renovated – so you should be good for the next 50 years or so.
Bolton Hill – median listing price $298,700
Less historic, but more swank than the downtown city neighborhoods, Bolton Hill is rich in aesthetics — church steeples, marble staircases, huge trees – and stylish art students from nearby MICA. It’s a small collection of architectural gems, urban mansions and townhouses – very congenial, if a little short on street life. The expanding presence of MICA seems to be changing that, and there are a good handful of coffee and sandwich shops, but for now you still need a car to get your groceries. Five hundred dollars buys a resident membership in the Bolton Swim and Tennis Club, a huge draw for families with kids.
1615 Park Avenue #2, 21217
2,188 sq. ft.
Built in 1903
Huge! The condo takes up the entire second floor of one of Baltimore’s finest old turn-of-the-century mansions (think Mary Tyler Moore). This is living on a grand and elegant scale, with high ceilings and oversized windows that look out onto Park Avenue gardens and fountain. Hardwood floors, two wood-burning fireplaces (never mind how you get the wood up there) and deep ceiling moldings are some of the historic details. There’s a chef’s kitchen with a big granite island for nights when you can’t face the two minute walk to b bistro as well as 2 good size bedrooms and 2 full baths –all new and in top condition.
Hot House: 1201 Western Run Road, Cockeysville, 21030
19th century farmhouse, updated, with 61+ acres on the Western Run:
What: A circa 1800 stone house that sits at the top of a long driveway, winding through the woods and over a private bridge. The original two room structure has had several additions and a major expansion in 1994 by architect Walter Ramburg to get to its current incarnation — a rambling, three bedroom, three ½ bath home with state of the art appliances, heating and cooling systems. Large master suite on the second floor features a balcony overlooking the pool and gently rolling woods. Downstairs, a modern timbered kitchen (lots of wood trim here) and family room have similar views and an irresistibly cozy, dark, beam-ceilinged den with large Colonial fireplace and hand-hewn cupboards — the main room of the original farmhouse. Lovely wooded property features a 50’ pool as well as a 1850’s timber barn — built for cattle, but suitable for horses or renovation as a studio. Adjoining guesthouse has two bedrooms and a kitchen, ideal for visiting family or friends with children.
Where: Western Run Road – the lone old-fashioned charmer in a development of new mansions in the hills behind the Hunt Valley Mall.
Why: The woods, fields and mile of river frontage along the Western Run (a tributary of the Gunpowder River) are protected from development by the Maryland Environmental Trust, and a haven for native birds and wildlife.
Why Not: Long driveway and old trees give a rural impression, but over-scale neighboring properties are a little too close. Limited views of the beautiful countryside from the house.
Would Suit: bird -watching Wegmans shopper.
Hot House: 2217 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, 21153
Greenspring Punch — country manor house and estate, circa 1885, with 98 acres and gardens: $4,995,000
What: The Real Deal. English country house, in cream stucco, with major views, stables, barns and tenant houses in the heart of the Greenspring Valley. Owned since the 1920’s by several generations of the Baetjer family, this is a house you could lose your heart to. Stunning spiral staircase leads to an oval skylight, nine fireplaces, five, six or seven bedrooms (who can count?) , seven full baths, a servant’s wing (!) and every window has a view. Ancient trees, wonderful gardens, vistas, not another house in sight. Best of all ….”potential for horses, sheep, poultry and other”!
Where: Greenspring Valley Road – just five minutes from the shops at Greenspring Station and Rt.83– twenty minutes to downtown, but feels like you’re deep in horse country.
Why: Grand but not grandiose. Your friends will give you credit for more taste than you actually possess. Also, perfect place to channel the ghost of Harvey LaDew.
Why not: Don’t order the racehorses unless you’ve got another million or so to spend. It all needs updating. Kitchen, bathrooms, pool, systems, everything. Once that’s done, the house is a dream.
Would suit: George Washington, or similar.
HOT HOUSE: 435 Ginn Lane in Pasadena, Md.
At auction: a one-of-a kind modern glass house and 3.51 acres with total privacy and views of Magothy River near the Chesapeake Bay. Suggested opening price: $3.5 million. Sold to the highest bidder.
What: A beautiful, custom-designed glass house, built in 1997 for the late Leroy Merritt, developer and founder of Merritt Athletic Clubs. An initial listing price of $7.9 million attracted no offers, and the house is being auctioned off on June 3 by Merritt’s estate. With high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass, the river views are spectacular from every room. At the top on the house is an observatory with 225 degree views. Sleek design and multiple levels of open living offer modern aesthetic appeal in a four-story, four bedroom home with four full and two half baths. Sunken living room and marble floors. The grounds include a lovely pool, putting green, volleyball court and caretaker’s cottage. Private, waterfront land has a deep water pier with multiple boat slips and your own beach. This house was recently a Wall Street Journal “House of the Day.”
Where: A small rise on a private peninsula overlooking the Magothy River, Broad Creek and Sillery Bay. Pasadena, pop. 12,000, is on the western shore of the Chesapeake, near both Annapolis and Severna Park, about forty minutes from Baltimore.
Why: A good chance to redecorate–even your mother-in-law will realize that her Victorian sofa won’t work here. Seriously, stunning views of sky and water puts the world in a different perspective.
Why Not: Visitors will be almost pathologically unable to resist comic observations about people who live in glass houses…
Would suit: Water-loving millionaire with no urge to throw stones.
Hot House: 6400 Old Harford Road, Baltimore 21214
Sweet farmhouse Victorian in the young and trendy neighborhood of Lauraville/Hamilton: $225,000
What: Sunny, charming and recently updated, this three bedroom, two-bath Victorian was built in 1920, when Hamilton was a making the transition from farmland to suburbs. After years of decline from its working class roots, Hamilton is now one of the city’s great comeback neighborhoods, ethnically diverse and authentically Baltimore. Restaurants, art galleries, yoga centers, natural food and nightlife abound (checkout the Hamilton/Lauraville Main Street blogspot). And 6400 Old Harford Road is an easy walk to everything. The house features 9 foot ceilings, big windows, crown moldings and a wraparound porch. At 2,902 square feet and .3 acres, it’s one of the largest houses around–you’ll be the envy of the neighbors, always a plus, and the large attic gives you potential for an easy 6 bedrooms. Updated kitchen with breakfast nook, modern baths, new siding in’06, new roof in ’08.
Where: Hamilton/Lauraville is in the northwest corner of Baltimore City, bisected by Harford Road, and west of Northern Parkway. 10 minutes to Herring Run Park .
Why: young community, a real house in an up-and -coming hood with fun shops and great restaurants–walk to Hamilton Street Tavern!
Why not: Great public schools? Not so much. Young families will need to check it out.
Would suit: yoga teacher, college professor, hipsters with a heart.