Families that like to be close New housing trend: kin as neighbors


When buyers move into a new housing development, they usually start meeting their new neighbors by introducing themselves. But in Baltimore-area developments, families are buying two or three units at once and creating their own instant community.

Take the Cohen family. Two weeks ago, Matthew Cohen and his fiancee, Beth Monaghan, moved into a town house in the Foxridge development in Owings Mills. And Matthew's older sister, Paula, also moved into a new house that weekend -- right next door.

They're not alone. The Mondell family recently bought three houses in the Breton Woods development in Owings Mills. In HarborView, a high-rise condominium under construction at the foot of Federal Hill, one family bought three units. And at the Canton Cove condominiums, built inside the old Tin Decorating Co. annex on Boston Street, another family has bought two units.

Paula and Matthew Cohen grew up in Pikesville, went away to college, had jobs in other cities and found their way back to the Baltimore area.

Even before they moved into Foxridge, they had been living near each other. Paula Cohen had an apartment across the street from her brother's unit in Chase Lea in Owings Mills. "It was convenient. He cooks, I don't," she said.

Ms. Cohen said she often gets together with her brother and his fiancee for meals, and they often go out together. "We are a pretty close family," she said.

The neighbors also often commute to work together. Matthew Cohen works at an accounting firm downtown and Paula Cohen works alongside her future sister-in-law at Curry Copy Centers of Baltimore on North Charles Street, a family business owned by Paula and Matthew's mother.

Ms. Cohen said she hasn't had any major conflicts in working with Beth Monaghan all day, eating dinner together in the evening and socializing together.

"There have been very few problems," she said. But she cautioned others considering a similar arrangement: "You really need to be sure ahead of time that you get along well."

Ms. Monaghan agreed. "We're all very open. When we have problems, we work it out. Paula and I see each other every day, every night and weekend. We stay out of each other's way when it gets too close."

Besides moving into a new house last weekend, Paula Cohen had another event to celebrate -- her engagement. Later this year she plans to marry Patrick Smith of Parkville. The couple will live in her house.

"When I decided to move I wasn't engaged," Ms. Cohen said. "It's comforting to know that Matt and Beth were right next door."

House shopping also turned out to be a group effort for the Mondell family. Daughter Robin Rappazzo first looked for a four-bedroom town house for her husband and children and they settled on the Breton Woods development. Then her brother, Dean Mondell, sold his house in Pikesville and moved into a town house next door to his sister.

Not long after, their parents, Sidney and Greta Mondell, moved into a ranch house at the other end of the block and within sight of their children's houses. Mrs. Mondell said they already had intended to trade their large house in Lochearn for a smaller house.

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