"Catonsville has this sort of unique blend. There is sort of an old character, it's a historic community and people come and they stay," he said. "And then everybody's little kids become middle schoolers and high schoolers and there's not a lot of young people."

The 2010 Census data shows Catonsville's age demographic almost parallels that of Baltimore County. American FactFinder shows that 44.9 percent of Catonsville's population is younger than 34. According to the most recent census data, of Catonsville's total population of more than 47,500, nearly 8,000 are younger than 14.

"I think a couple of things are involved here," Orser said. "One is that Catonsville is an attractive place for families, and there are good school options, and the other is that Howard County is still so expensive by comparison."

Catonsville's elementary schools have consistently made good marks on the Maryland State Assessment tests, with several scoring the highest possible score in both math and reading. 

Catonsville schools might be crowded, but that doesn't diminsh the area's appeal, George Brookhart, owner of Maryland Residential Realty, said.

"The homeyness of Catonsville, people like — especially the younger generations," said Brookhart, a former president of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce.

He said he has also seen a generational shift.

"What you've got is an older generation which is retiring and either going to Charlestown to live or putting their homes up for sale," Brookhart said. "That's when (younger families) want to come in to fix it up, to improve it, to make it really nice."

He said Catonsville's proximity to Baltimore combined with its neighborly character provides the perfect place for families to move in and stay for good.

"We're close enough to the city that it's easy to get in and out of Baltimore quickly," he said. "They can walk to places like Atwater's (coffee shop). You have Frederick Road Fridays (free concert series) every Friday during the summer. You have the Lurman Woodland Theatre (free concert series)."

"Those are all the kind of things that happen here that make it great," Brookhart said.

"It brings the community together," he said. "There is a strong family atmosphere."