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Beauty and charm in the heart of the city

The Baltimore Sun

With the well-known neighborhoods of Guilford, Charles Village and Waverly surrounding it, one would think the tucked-away and lesser-known community of Oakenshawe could get lost in the shuffle.

But residents of the neighborhood would never let that happen.

They treasure it too much.

"It has beautiful trees, gorgeous gardens and people who are out and about," said Becky Bridger, co-president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association. "I love the beauty, the diversity and the caring neighbors."

Located between University Parkway, Greenmount Avenue, Southway and Calvert Street, Oakenshawe is directly across the street from Union Memorial Hospital and only steps away from the Johns Hopkins University and Charles Village.

The neighborhood is an example of an early 20th-century streetcar suburb, according to a historical profile put together by community leaders. The name dates back to an estate that was once located in the area and belonged to Henry Wilson. In 2003, Oakenshawe became a designated National Register Historic District.

Residents' love for their neighborhood was recently put on paper in the form of a community map for the exhibit Maps on Purpose, held at the Walters Art Gallery and sponsored by the community arts organization Art on Purpose.

With small streets, mature trees, front porches and well-landscaped front yards, Oakenshawe has the feel of an English garden community with the convenience of being located in the heart of the city.

"People care about each other. They take pride in their neighborhood and maintain it," said Bridger.

Perry and Becky Bridger, who together serve as co-presidents of the improvement association, are raising three small children in Oakenshawe. Becky Bridger says the neighborhood includes several young families and serves as a fabulous place to bring up children.

Housing stock "It's really just an idyllic setting in the heart of the city," said Wayne Curtis, a real estate agent with the Fells Point office of Long & Foster and an Oakenshawe resident for the past 11 years. "It's a place where people tend to come, they like it and they tend to stay."

Most of the residences that make up Oakenshawe were built between 1916 and 1925 and include three-story brick rowhouses in the Georgian Revival style. The houses are spacious with five bedrooms and two full baths. The neighborhood also includes semidetached, single-family and smaller rowhouses.

The convenient location is a popular feature.

"We really have a lot of wonderful things to walk to," said Curtis.

Christine Dahdah, a realtor with Hill & Co. Realtors, calls the neighborhood "charming" with features that include tree-lined streets and homes with the "feel of an English garden cottage while still maintaining its urban appeal."

The average price for a home in Oakenshawe is in the upper $300,000 range.

"Oakenshawe is another small, tucked-away city gem of attached and semi-attached brick townhomes in the heart of the Guilford area," added Dahdah.

Schools Children in Oakenshawe attend a variety of private and public schools. Waverly Elementary/Middle is a close public school choice. Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Waverly fared well in state proficiency testing for reading and math, scoring in the 60 percent and above range. Sixth through eighth graders scored slightly lower.

Some children attend nearby Roland Park Elementary/Middle, which has surpassed state proficiency levels. Others find the Green School, a Baltimore City environmental charter school in the nearby Remington neighborhood, a great option. The school's first-ever third grade class made high marks on the 2008 assessments, with 87.5 percent of students scoring proficient or above in math and 93.8 percent in reading.

Baltimore City College is one of the closest public high school options. The school's graduation rate is 97.5 percent and students scored 91 percent proficient in reading and 78 percent in math, according to 2007 online data.

Crime There's very little violent crime in Oakenshawe, according to Doug Gibson, a community affairs officer with the Baltimore City Police Department's Northern District.

"It's a pretty low-crime area," said Gibson. Instead, the most prevalent problem is nuisance type crimes with an occasional burglary or robbery.

Shopping The Rotunda is the closest shopping mall. The center is scheduled to undergo renovations with a mix of retail, office and housing planned. There's also local shopping within walking distance, including a Barnes & Noble.

Transportation Currently, Oakenshawe is accessible by bus, but is also close to Penn Station. If the proposed Charles Street trolley goes through, the neighborhood would be within walking distance of its northernmost stop near the Johns Hopkins University, offering residents an easy way to get downtown.

Dining in The venerable Waverly Farmers' Market, open year-round, is located only steps away from the neighborhood. There's also Giant Food with two nearby locations, one on 33rd Street in Waverly and another at the nearby Rotunda shopping center.

Dining out Oakenshawe is walking distance to a variety of restaurants, coffee shops and informal eateries in Charles Village and along University Parkway, St. Paul Street and Greenmount Avenue.

Nightlife There's not much in the way of nightlife within the boundaries of Oakenshawe, but the neighborhood is close to all the happening city hangouts.

Recreation and parks Residents enjoy walking to the Johns Hopkins University for sports, concerts and performing arts events. They're also within walking distance of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The neighborhood includes a small triangular open space, called the Oakenshawe green space. This is a common spot for yard sales, picnics and other gatherings. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg YMCA at Stadium Place and Waverly Library are also within walking distance.


Oakenshawe by the numbers

ZIP code: 21218

Homes on the market: 4

Average sales price: $377,292*

Average days on market: 89*

*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, complied by Christine Dahdah of Hill & Co. Realtors and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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