Wide diversity creates friendly togetherness


January 01, 1995|By Charlotte Sommers | Charlotte Sommers,Special to The Sun

The real estate agent was running late the day Bruce and Kelly Brown planned to meet her in Riverside. The couple had already seen the trendy Harford County developments, and they weren't expecting to like this obscure, moderately priced little community.

But a funny thing happened as they sat waiting in their car at the Riverside Community Center.

"It was early spring," recalls Mr. Brown, "and the place was really buzzing. People were walking and jogging, there were kids playing on the jungle gym. Everyone smiled and said, 'Hello' to each other. There was such a sense of community here."

Coming from a Baltimore apartment complex with its insular living, the camaraderie they witnessed that morning amazed and delighted the Browns. They were sold on Riverside before the agent even showed up.

Since moving into their single-family home in Riverside two years ago, the Browns have gotten into the spirit. They walk their cocker spaniel along the miles of tree-studded paths and fish along the river in the summer. They even enjoy the industrial park. "That's where we strap on our Roller Blades," says Mr. Brown, an electrician with Bethlehem Steel Corp., "and hit those huge parking lots."

Situated along the Bush River in southern Harford County, Riverside owes its recent growth spurt in part to the construction of its own entrance to Interstate 95. According to real estate agent Donna Roloff of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, residents rave about the good housing value, lack of congestion, convenient location and beautiful scenery.

"Riverside has attracted about a 50-50 mix of blue-collar workers and professionals," she adds, "with some working at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and many commuting to Baltimore. Over the past three years, with the building of more executive-type single-family homes, there's been a swing toward the upscale."

New single-family homes in the Arborview subdivision are in the $130,000 to $200,000 range, but there are houses available for resale at $110,000 to $120,000. New townhouses are selling at $88,000 to $120,000, and condominiums start at $88,500.

The condominiums are home to quite a diversified group. Typical of the younger set is Kyle Russell, a 25-year-old farm equipment salesman from Ohio who wanted housing with security and little need for maintenance.

The Lowmans are an older couple from Baltimore who were ready to move out to the quieter country life. When asked why they chose Riverside, Irene Lowman was quick to respond, "Price had a lot to do with it. We got a lot more for our money here, and our neighbors are very nice."

It's an invigorating jaunt through the neighborhoods of Riverside on a blustery fall day. A power-walking mother smiles as she breezes by. Autumn wreaths grace doors and cornstalks decorate porches where a few scarecrows stand sentinel. A cyclist whizzes past a group of girls gathering pine cones on a grassy knoll.

At the Riverside Community Center, the pool is covered now for the season, but a few lanky boys are playing basketball. In the distance looms a hulking factory and spindly white tower bearing the red-lettered name "Bata."

The community of Riverside was supposed to be a company town for the workers at the shoe factory. The Batas were Czechs who fled their homeland in the 1930s for fear the family company, Bata Shoes, would be lost in the impending Nazi invasion. They bought 1,475 acres along the shores of the Bush River, where they dreamed of creating their international headquarters.

The manufacturing plant was built and went immediately into peak production of boots for the Allies' war effort. The Bata shoe factory is still in operation today, but the headquarters was built in Canada and the remaining acreage remained undeveloped until 1976.

At the time, Bata Land Co. Inc., later renamed BLC Properties Inc., was formed to develop the property. Construction began in 1981. The concept remained close to that of the company town originally envisioned -- a planned community where people could live, work, shop and go to school.

According to John Dixon, president of BLC Properties Inc., approximately 2,100 residential units, including apartments, condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes have been built, with a total of 3,000 planned. An integral part of the planning was the integration of about 600 acres of active and passive open space, including ball fields, jogging trails and state protected forest and wetland areas.

"We tried to cluster homes so that they'd be surrounded by open space," explains Mr. Dixon. "Instead of the typical cul-de-sac, each court has about an acre of land in the center for common use."

In 1992, the Riverside Shopping Center opened, providing basic community needs, such as a grocery store, drugstore, medical center, fast-food restaurants and a bank.

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