Where have they been

Judy Reilly

November 20, 1992|By Judy Reilly

AT LAST the city of Baltimore and its Board of Realtors are "hitting the bull's eye," as Ross Perot would say, and looking hard at possibilities and incentives to get people to buy houses in the city. As someone who has recently sold a city property, I ask, "Where have they been?"

When we put our house on the market last spring, we had no less than three Realtors tell us it would be next to impossible to sell a city property. Price it low, they said. Don't expect too much, they said. Take any offer, they said. Do whatever the buyers want, they said.

We said, "Look at our beautiful, renovated house. Look at the mature sycamores that line the street.

"Look at the kids playing together every day.

"And most important, look at this wonderful neighborhood."

It was, and still is, a neighborhood where people really are neighbors, not just side-by-side inhabitants. We had not known each other before, but within months formed block-watching efforts, shoveled the snow off the street when the city crew couldn't, got together for last-minute picnics, helped each other mulch flower beds and sat around a portable radio on warm summer evenings listening to the Orioles. It was straight out of Norman Rockwell. The Realtors didn't care.

The Realtors didn't care that the neighborhood was safe and that it was safe because we were all watchdogs. The stay-at-home moms and retirees and self-appointed "mayor" of the alley kept watch by day; everyone kept a look-out at night. Not much got by us.

We were black and white, young and old, newcomers and old-timers. Everyone came to the block parties that started in the afternoon and lasted well into the night; no one wanted to leave. And our neighborhood was not unique in the city. We heard tales of the same kind of neighboring from people we knew in all parts of town. It's the kind of feeling the former City Fair used to celebrate. We told the Realtors this, but it didn't seem to matter.

I loved my neighbors, our low mortgage payments, the convenience to everything interesting and useful. Yet we had to go. We were evicted. There was no safe public school for our children to attend, and we simply couldn't afford the private school alternatives. It's the same story you hear all over the city. Tell that to the mayor, the council, the business leaders until they hear it.

When we left the neighborhood, in pursuit of country air, less congestion and better schools, we cried like babies. We live in Maryland's version of the Garden of Eden now, northwest Carroll county, with trees for the kids to climb and a school where they feel safe. Yet from time to time our 7-year-old says that when he grows up he wants to buy a house on Nottingham Road in Baltimore.

Tell that to the Realtors.

To attract buyers to Baltimore City properties, Realtors need to sell important intangibles like community, neighborhood and charm.

Then the mayor and City Council have to work their hardest to keep people in town.

The Reillys moved to Uniontown.

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