It may be fitting that Jessup, an 11-square-mile swath straddling Howard and Anne Arundel counties, got its name in the 1800s from an engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The city remains today at the center of the state's transportation network.
Jessup has a stop on the Maryland Rail Commuter service and is surrounded by some of the busiest thoroughfares in the state, including Interstate 95, U.S. 1 and Route 175.
The location has gotten the attention of homebuilders and county planners, who have been plotting new homes, shops and businesses along the main streets. They aim to take advantage of Jessup's accessibility -- and relative affordability.
The town is probably best known for housing offenders in the state prison complex, but also has long been a less-expensive alternative for middle-income residents to the pricey ZIP codes that surround it.
Much of the new housing and commercial developments are aimed at the influx of people expected in the next few years to nearby Fort Meade as part of the military base realignment.
"This could be the answer to 'Where are they going to live?'" said Howard County Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Richard W. "Dick" Story.
The housing stock --Jessup has a range of housing types, from older single-family homes with porches to mobile homes to brand-new condos.
"A lot of older homes are being marketed as good rehab possibilities, with the real value in the land, which is close to major routes," said Rosa Valenziano, a buyer specialist for Pat Hiban Real Estate Group.
"There are a lot of options for people who want to build, rehab or find an affordable house in the typical Colonial style that they can work on over time. And even the more expensive homes are still less expensive than most surrounding neighborhoods."
Average month's rent --The median rental price is $760, about the same for Howard County as a whole. But two-bedroom apartments can rent for up to $1,800, according to listings.
Howard County and the state have responded to the need for more affordable housing by subsidizing rental projects, including Port Capital Village. The 84-unit complex in Elkridge just south of Jessup opened this summer and rents range from $528 a month for a two-bedroom apartment to $975 for a three-bedroom unit. It will serve families with annual incomes of up to $24,240 for two people and $45,480 for four people.
Crime --Crime in Howard County is relatively low, according to countywide statistics. There were 321 reports of violent crimes last year, up slightly from 297 in 2005, and 3,377 reports of property crime in 2006, down from 3,450 in 2005. In Arundel, there were 2,095 violent crime reports in 2006, about even with the 2,096 reports the year before, and 17,447 reports of property crimes in 2006, up from 15,193 reports in 2005. The counties do not keep city-level statistics.
Kids and schools --According to state data, Jessup Elementary School slightly exceeded statewide averages for students passing math and reading tests this past spring, but fell short of countywide averages in Howard and Arundel. At Meade Middle School, students beat the state averages, nearly matched Arundel but were below Howard. At Meade Senior High School, students didn't meet Arundel and Howard averages last year, nor did they meet state averages in algebra, biology and English. Howard and Arundel also have dozens of private schools.
Shopping --Jessup is close to The Mall in Columbia and other suburban big-box shopping centers. But Jessup is drawing new retail stores within its limits. The abandoned Eastgate Shopping Center, once a magnet for crime, is being redeveloped by Virginia-based Atlantic Realty Cos. It's about a third complete. Now called Columbia East Marketplace, it has a Starbucks, an eBay office and shipping center called ShipOnSite and anchor grocer My Organic Market.
Ingrid J. Hamilton, owner of the shipping store, said she was attracted to Jessup because it was "up and coming" with millions in commercial and government redevelopment money flowing in anticipation of the Fort Meade expansion.
The center already is attracting shoppers from around the region, including Columbia, Savage and Laurel, as well as Jessup. "I saw the market when I was driving past," said Julie Metakes of Laurel, who had 1-year-old son Ben in tow. "I've been three times in two weeks."
Transportation --Jessup has several major thoroughfares running through it or nearby, including I-95, U.S. 1 and Routes 175 and 32. There is a stop on the Camden line of the MARC commuter rail service between Baltimore and Washington. And Jessup is a short drive to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Outdoors/activities --Clubs based in the neighborhood include a philanthropic group, the Women's Club; Meade Area Garden Club; and Jessup Provinces Youth Organization. There is also an indoor soccer arena for league play, lessons and parties.
JESSUP BY THE NUMBERS
Homes on the market
Average sale price
Average days on the market in July
*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.