The Village of Hickory Ridge may be the second-largest village in Columbia, but it is one of its best-kept secrets.
Tucked in a pocket of Columbia that's bordered by the Little Patuxent Parkway and Routes 32 and 29, Hickory Ridge provides easy access to those major roads and is a stone's throw from Howard County General Hospital, Howard Community College and The Mall in Columbia.
"It's a convenient location," said Jane Parrish, village manager, "but once you're within a neighborhood, you don't feel like you're in the middle of town."
The residential streets and cul-de-sacs are quiet and secluded with little traffic. Families walk or bike together, and children play in the yards. The village is primarily residential with only two commercial areas.
One of the things Parrish likes best about Hickory Ridge is that there is a lot of open space. During development, the old, established woods were preserved. They now provide sanctuary for the pileated woodpecker, a rare bird that can be seen in Hickory Ridge. At the western boundary of the village is the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area with its numerous walking and biking paths.
Linda and Ken Solow have lived in Hickory Ridge for nine years on property that backs up to the environmental area. "I like living near all the paths," Linda Solow said. "You can take a hike [alongside] the river." She frequently does that with her husband, 9-year-old son, Danny, and 6-year-old daughter, Carly.
For eight-year resident Susan Anthony-Jung, the convenience of the area is the most important feature.
"My husband talks about moving," she said, "but I don't want to move. It's so convenient - everything is right here." Anthony-Jung is an avid tennis player and likes being close to all the Columbia Association-operated tennis facilities at Owen Brown, Wilde Lake, Hobbit's Glen and the Athletic Club.
Much of Hickory Ridge sits on property once owned by the Kahler family. The original barns and silos are used for meeting space and a community center.
Like the rest of Columbia, the three neighborhoods of Hickory Ridge take their street names from literature. Streets in Clemens Crossing are named for the works of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Twentieth-century poet and physician William Carlos Williams provided the inspiration for the street names in Clary's Forest. And in Hawthorn the streets take their names from the works of American poet Amy Lowell.
A centrally located village center serves all three neighborhoods. In addition to a grocery store, banks, video store, shoe repair shop and travel agency, there are restaurants offering Italian, Japanese, Chinese and American fare.
The storefronts are oriented along a wide walkway called the Avenue, which is a performing venue for musicians and other artists from spring to fall.
A community center in Hawthorn is operated by the Columbia Association, the governing organization for Columbia. The facility is available for receptions, socials and meetings.
The first residents moved into Hickory Ridge in 1971, and all development on Columbia Association-managed land has since been completed. There are still a few out-parcels - pockets of land that were not sold to the Rouse Company - that are being developed. But for the most part, the number of dwelling units - currently at just under 4,800 - will not change substantially.
Hickory Ridge has a mixture of types of homes ranging from apartments and condominiums to townhouses and detached homes. Prices range from the mid-$100,000s for a townhouse to more than $400,000 for one of the newer single-family detached homes.
Bess Lieberman, a Realtor with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA and a Hickory Ridge resident, has found that real estate moves quickly. "I listed and sold a home there that went in less than a week," she said.
Clemens Crossing Elementary School is one of the area's main draws, according to Lieberman. She said the school "provides a caring environment that makes the children and parents feel confident and proud of their accomplishments."
Lieberman also praises the village for being very family-oriented.
"There are lots of kids and they don't have to go far out of the neighborhood to find their activities," she said, noting the strong presence of Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations.
The pool is close
Each neighborhood also has its own outdoor swimming pool, which each summer offers swim teams for children ages 6 to 18.
With so many children in the area, most are within walking distance of many friends' houses. The parents support each other by keeping an eye out for all the children.
"Our street is a real community," said Linda Solow. "Everyone looks out for each other."
ZIP code: 21044
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 35 minutes
Public schools: Swansfield, Clemens Crossing and Bryant Woods Elementary, Harper's Choice and Wilde Lake Middle, Atholton and Wilde Lake High
Shopping: Hickory Ridge Village Center, Hickory Plaza, The Mall at Columbia
Homes on market: 6
Average listing price: $213,343 *
Average sales price: $199,256 *
Days on market: 59
Sales price as percentage of listing price: 93.4% *
* Based on 23 sales in the past 12 months compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.