A road runs through it Transformation: The new communities of Greene Tree, Cobblestone, Grey Rock and Avalon are transforming Reisterstown Road beyond I-695.

September 27, 1998|By Melinda Rice | Melinda Rice,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The suburbanization of Reisterstown Road outside the Beltway is nearly complete.

With the opening in April of Avalon, a very large planned community that straddles Reisterstown Road between Interstate 695 and McDonogh, the final vestiges of the area's rural past have disappeared.

Single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums sprout from land that once yielded corn and tobacco. Sedans and sport utility vehicles have replaced the tractors that once worked the fields. The Grey Rock Mansion, once surrounded by open space, is a focal point for a growing community.

Derelict homes fronting Reisterstown Road just beyond the Beltway have been bulldozed to make way for a Marriott assisted-living facility as well as a new building for a jewelry and crafts store.

"That all used to be farm out there, and now it's all developed," said Hannah Tabor, a longtime independent real estate broker in Pikesville who has sold properties in that area for more than 40 years. "I think it's exciting."

David Desser, an associate broker who works out of the Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. office at the Festival at Woodholme, just off Exit 20, remembers the area as open space with the lone commercial venture a produce stand at the corner of McDonogh and Reisterstown roads.

"Now it's going gangbusters," he said.

John Reister would not recognize the road that bears his name.

He lived in what is now Reisterstown during the late 1700s, when Reisterstown Road was just a dirt track known as Main Street. He envisioned businesses, homes, schools and churches -- and his dream has been fulfilled with a vengeance.

That former dirt road is a paved jumble of mixed housing, schools and stores of all types.

"There are not a lot of available vacant sites along Reisterstown Road," said William Huey, district planner for Baltimore County's 3rd Planning District.

Along Reisterstown Road between the Beltway and McDonogh Road, there is no undeveloped land left. There are a few abandoned houses on three lots rezoned for commercial use that front Reisterstown Road. Tabor represents them and said there is a high degree of interest. One has recently sold, and she does not expect the others to be on the market long.

Huey said that stretch of Reisterstown Road has "definitely become the commercial corridor for that part of the county." And where there are stores, there are homes.

While no new applications are pending in the county planning department for residential construction along that stretch, there are projects that are drawing a diverse crowd, ranging from young professionals without children to empty-nesters.

Area's many attractions

Desser said the area attracts because of the variety of housing, the reputation of the schools, a perception that the surroundings are safe and, most of all, proximity to major roadways.

People who already live in the area have mixed feelings about the building boom. "I guess it's good for the tax base to have more people here, but the traffic already stinks," said George Wolf, who lives in Owings Mills.

A drive along Reisterstown Road now from Beltway Exit 20 to the intersection where McDonogh Road and Cradock Lane split is a stop-and-go affair that offers as a view two strip centers in a narrow commercial band.

Behind the businesses -- banks, bakeries, dry cleaners, convenience stores and the like -- apartments and condominiums share residential areas with single-family homes and townhouses -- lots of townhouses.

This part of Reisterstown is dominated by four planned housing developments that have taken shape since the beginning of the decade: Cobblestone, Greene Tree, Grey Rock and the newest, Avalon.

Cobblestone, which began in 1990, is a community of single-family patio homes. Talles Homes has been building in the project since 1995 and, of 118 lots, only 12 remain unsold.

Ranchers and two-story homes are available, and each home has at least three bedrooms.

Most have basements and some have four bedrooms. Base prices range from $214,900 to $324,900. Maintenance and yardwork is done by the community for residents, who pay a monthly service fee.

"What people are buying at Cobblestone is a lifestyle," said Marie Pequignot, a spokeswoman for Talles Homes.

She said most community residents are empty-nesters who wanted a home with low maintenance near their children, grandchildren and friends.

Talles also built Greene Tree, a gated community of luxury townhouses off Reisterstown Road begun in 1989.

As is its sister community, Cobblestone, Greene Tree is still building. However, most of the townhouses are already under contract.

Base prices for the homes, which offer two-car garages, range from $299,000 to $380,000.

Pequignot said they appeal to families and empty-nesters who want a safe community that is convenient to shopping and major thoroughfares.

"We have people who sold million-dollar homes to move here; it's a lifestyle choice," she said.

A quarter-mile away is the mixed development of condominiums and townhouses called Grey Rock.

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