Real estate, real hype

This is the time of year when over-the-top decorations scream "SEASON'S GREETINGS" along the 700 block of West 34th St. in Hampden.

Along with the usual blinking lights, Santa Clauses and giant candy canes, a more understated sign stood in one yard recently.

It read: "Open House." And it drew potential home-buyers like moths to an overloaded Christmas tree.

"It was probably the biggest open house we ever had - 800, 1,000 people. We absolutely lost count," said real estate agent Mike Sloan.

Sloan opted to hold the open house on a Saturday night, instead of the usual Sunday afternoon, to take advantage of the thousands of people who come to gawk at the famously gaudy block at night.

Sloan wouldn't say whether the open house resulted in any offers on the property - a rehabbed, 100-year-old rowhouse listing for $259,900.

But Sloan's Web site offered a few more details, decked out in a little holiday spin.

"Contract falling through," an electronic flier on the property reads. "Back on market as of 12/29! This is a true miracle on 34th St.!!"

- Laura Vozzella

Give that bank detention

At first glance, the legal notice in the Daily Record looked like more bad financial news for the city school system.

Among the properties up for auction because of delinquent loan payments was the Federal Hill home of city schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland. The condominium, which Copeland bought for $320,000 more than a year ago, was listed in the public notices section in the newspaper Dec. 27.

Could it be evidence of yet another top Baltimore education official having trouble balancing a budget?

Absolutely not, said Copeland, who sounded mortified when asked about the notice.

By early afternoon on the day that the notice appeared, the error had been resolved and the property pulled off the auction block, according to a representative of Harvey West Auctioneers.

Copeland said it was a mix-up at the bank where she is paying off two mortgages on the condo.

"They had been crediting one account rather than giving equally to the two," she said. "That has been taken care of."

- Laura Loh

Form meets function

Baltimoreans might expect a calendar from the Department of Public Works to tell them what days to put out their old newspapers for recycling and when to plunk bottles and cans at the curb.

The 2005 calendar, mailed to more than 170,000 households last week, does that - and then some.

It also offers tidbits about city neighborhoods and history. A blurb on the September page, for example, talks about Bolton Hill, noting its reputation as a Jazz Age "gin belt" and recalling a few famous residents of old: President Woodrow Wilson and author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

That month also features a sepia-toned picture of a modern-day department laborer, Phil Johnson, tending to a fire hydrant.

Residents who do not receive the calendar by Friday should call 311.

- Laura Vozzella

Now hear this: Thanks

The alert came across the police scanner shortly before 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, clearing radio traffic for an important announcement.

A triple homicide? A four-alarm fire?

No, it was time for the mayor and his latest police commissioner to thank the troops.

Neither Mayor Martin O'Malley nor Acting Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm mentioned the rising number of homicides or the pending lawsuit by the previous police commissioner against the mayor. But each one generally referred to the difficulties the department confronted over the last year.

O'Malley expressed his gratitude for the hard work of the men and women of the city's police force, referring to its problems as "hiccups." Hamm, who awaits approval from the City Council, also thanked his officers, adding that he knew that it had been a "hard year" for the department.

- Matthew Dolan

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