A friendly place to call home

Found just minutes from major thoroughfares such as Interstate 95 and U.S. 40 is Belcamp, a tucked-away, quiet retreat in Harford County.

Within Belcamp is the large planned community of Riverside, a neighborhood that Chris Henn said she moved to almost 25 years ago because at the time it offered affordable housing in a pleasant, family-friendly setting.

"It still does," said Henn, the president of the Riverside Community Association. "It's a great place to raise a family. I know a lot of my neighbors. We socialize with one another, and you don't get that with a lot of other communities."

The names of Belcamp and Riverside are often used interchangeably, but generally Belcamp refers to the overall ZIP code and Riverside to the community within Belcamp along Route 543.

Perhaps the area is best known as the former home of the Bata Shoe Co., on the Bush River along U.S. 40. The site once included a company town with hotel. The Clark Turner Cos. and Manekin LLC are now developing the property into office, retail and residential use. A 200-room hotel is also planned.

The area has a rich history, with the village and post office of Belcamp dating to as early as 1900. According to the Harford County Historical Society's Harford County Place Names, Belcamp either refers to "good camp" or "good field," or is named for a tract on the Bush River that was surveyed for Capt. Ninian Bell (or Beall) in 1683.

The area is also home to the historic Sophia's Dairy. Dating to 1768, the Georgian mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is privately owned and in the process of being restored, but during the 1930s it was owned by the Bata Shoe Co. and served as the private residence for the company's chief executive officer.

Today, Belcamp boasts a good mix of residents, making for a friendly place to call home.

"It's a nice, affordable community," Henn said. "A lot of people move here and they don't ever move out."

Developed in the early 1980s, the large Riverside community includes about 2,500 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments, as well as office, retail and industrial space. There are 17 sub-associations and a property manager, Trenton Property Services, which oversees the community.

Housing stock The vast majority of homes in Belcamp were built after 1980, giving the area relatively new housing stock that includes single-family homes, villas, townhouses and condominiums.

Housing prices in the area start in the high $100,000s and go up to the $300,000 range and above, according to Pam Mones, a real estate agent with the Aberdeen/Belcamp office of Long and Foster Real Estate.

"The area is positioned very nicely on the [U.S.] 40 corridor," Mones said. "You can find just about anything you're looking for in Belcamp."

She said the convenient location allows easy access to Bel Air, but with very little traffic.

"You're located between Aberdeen and Baltimore County. It's just easy to get to. It's a real plus," Mones said.

The three communities of Riverside, the Shores at Water's Edge and Eagles Landing at Water's Edge make up most of the housing choices in Belcamp.

Houses at the Shores at Water's Edge, part of the Clark Turner and Manekin development, start at the high end of the price range for the area and include 24 waterfront villas and 108 waterfront condominiums. A gated entrance, clubhouse and walking trails along the Bush River are part of the amenities.

Rentals Traditional one- and two-bedroom units are available, starting at about $800 a month. Houses, townhouses and condominiums are also available, with monthly rents between $1,000 and $3,000.

Crime During 2008, there were 148 calls for service in the Riverside/Belcamp area. The calls included 25 burglaries, 62 reported thefts and 11 thefts from automobiles, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

Schools Students in the community are served by Church Creek Elementary School, Aberdeen Middle School and Aberdeen High School.

The elementary school surpassed Maryland State Assessment marks with fourth-graders scoring 88.4 percent proficient in math and 90.1 percent proficient in reading.

Middle-school students as a whole fared better in reading than in math. Seventh-graders at the school scored 58.9 percent proficient in math and 78.3 percent proficient in reading.

Aberdeen High School has a graduation rate of 82.8 percent.

Shopping Harford Mall is an easy trek, but shopping options in Aberdeen and White Marsh are also close by.

Dining in Klein's Family Market in the Riverside Shopping Center is the closest grocery store.

Dining out Residents enjoy a mix of quick and casual restaurants including fast food, pizza, seafood, American and Chinese. The Bliss Coffee and Wine Bar is a newer option, with a full lunch and dinner menu.

Nightlife The restaurants and bars in Bel Air are close, but residents can also hop on Interstate 95 for an easy drive to downtown Baltimore.

Recreation Belcamp Park offers 10 acres of baseball diamonds and fields with a pavilion and picnic tables.

The Riverside Community Center has its own recreational facility including tennis courts, tot lot and outdoor pool. Throughout the community are walking paths, open space and tot lots.

Residents also have access to park property along the Bush River within the Water's Edge development.

Community Website tpsi.net (click on the community link to find information on Riverside)

riverside/belcamp by the numbers
ZIP code: 21017

Homes on the market: 58

Average sale price: $218,384*

Average days on the market: 84*

*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Pam Mones with the Aberdeen/Belcamp office of Long and Foster Real Estate and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.