Rowhouse community is close-knit, convenient

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When showing rowhouses in Rodgers Forge to clients, Kit Clark, a Re/Max agent and longtime neighborhood resident, plays up the convenience factor.

"I tell them, your kids can go from kindergarten through graduate school here and you'll never have to give them a ride," she says.

For parents weary of driving children all over town, the convenience of "the Forge" -- as it is known by residents -- may well be a top selling point.

Just north of the city line and just south of Towson State University, the Baltimore County community is within walking distance of just about everything -- schools, churches, restaurants, banks, shopping centers and playgrounds.

Built from the early 1930s to about 1960, less than two dozen streets make up the neighborhood, each lined with large trees and neat brick rowhouses.

Residents speak of a close-knit neighborhood, where community activities abound, crime is low and housing values have remained strong for decades.

"It's thought of as a safe, clean, convenient neighborhood. . . . We're very happy here. Our children love it and we have great neighbors," says Flo Falatko, who has lived in Rodgers Forge for four years with her husband, Skip, and now their two children, ages 3 1/2 and 2. "The neighbors are very close [physically], but they're caring. So it works out well."

The community is bordered on the west by Bellona Avenue, on the east by York Road and to the north by property owned by Greater Baltimore Medical Center, St. Joseph Medical Center and Towson State University. To the south lies the Pinehurst community.

The proximity to Charles Street and York Road makes traveling into Towson, just over a mile away, a breeze, residents say. In Towson, residents make use of two shopping malls, a huge county library, movie theaters, numerous restaurants and other services.

"You have all the advantages of living in the county with all the advantages of living in the city at the same time. And all the fun of both," said Re/Max agent Chris Raborn, also a local resident.

Annual activities

The community plans activities year-round. Children look forward the annual Halloween and Christmas parties, house-to-house visits from Santa Claus and the Easter egg hunt. Adults turn out for the annual garden tour in June and art show in the fall. And the whole community supports the annual summer picnic.

"I think we had about 1,200 people last year," says Jean Duvall, a 25-year resident who is a member of the community association's board of governors.

Residents on the 23-member board of governors, which has numerous subgroups and committees that meet monthly at Rodgers Forge Elementary School, say there's never a lack of volunteers to work on community events. Dues for the community association, established in 1939, are $10 a year. Payment is voluntary.

"I think you get an awful lot for the money," says Honey Holston, president of the association board. "For $10, we do a lot of events. We put out a monthly newsletter and a community directory. It's a bargain."

Over the years, the association has fought unwanted zoning changes in the area, organized a neighborhood watch program, enforced the community's architectural covenants, sponsored community events, and replaced and upgraded equipment in the tot lot.

Set in the southwest corner of the neighborhood, the oversized playground draws families from miles around. Many residents say it's the best place to meet people.

"During the warmer weather, there are literally hundreds of kids out there. People travel from as far away as Hunt Valley for this tot lot," says Kevin Roddy, a five-year resident whose wife is a Rodgers Forge native. The couple have two children and are expecting a third in August.

In Rodgers Forge, alleys also become centers of activity during the spring and summer, as hordes of children pull plastic cars, tricycles and bicycles out of garages and basements and hit the pavement.

There are 1,770 rowhouses in the neighborhood, 505 apartments, about 25 detached single-family houses and a dozen duplexes. All the buildings are brick and many have interesting architectural details, such as gabled roofs, bay windows, dormers, side porches and arched entrance ways.

Most of the oldest homes -- those built in the southeastern section -- are three stories and many have four and five bedrooms. The largest houses, usually end-of-group units with side entrances, exceed 3,000 square feet.

Prices range from about $100,000 for three-bedroom, two-story models to more than $170,000 for the largest homes.

'Upwardly mobile'

Many of the area's newest residents are "upwardly mobile" families who buy their first home in the neighborhood and move on to larger houses after five or 10 years, says Ms. Raborn. But the neighborhood also has plenty of "original residents," who have been in their homes for 30 to 40 years.

Part of the reason Rodgers Forge has maintained its value over the years, real estate agents say, is because surrounding areas are prestigious, sought-after neighborhoods. Single-family homes in Pinehurst, for example, sell for $200,000 to $350,000, says Ms. Raborn.

The condition of houses in Rodgers Forge is guarded by the architectural review committee, which enforces a lengthy list of covenants and must approve exterior changes, including decks, fences and patios.

Additions generally are frowned upon unless done in the same materials as the original houses, which means brick facades and slate roofs -- too expensive for many residents.

RODGERS FORGE

Population: 4,657 (estimate for 1994, Baltimore County Office of Planning & Zoning)

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes

Commuting time to Washington: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Public schools: Rodgers Forge Elementary School, Dumbarton Middle School, Towson High School

Shopping: York Road Plaza, with Giant and Super Fresh food stores next door; Belvedere Square with Pier One Imports, The Gap, Belvedere Market, restaurants and other services.

Nearest mall: Towson Town Center and Towson Commons, 1.5 miles north

Points of interest: Towson State University, less than 1 mile north; Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center just to the north; downtown Towson just to the north; Forge Park and WMAR-TV station to the south

Zip code: 21212

Average price of single-family home*: $120,280 (67 sales)

* Average price of homes sold through the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies multiple listing service over the past 12 months.

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