"It's not an impossible miracle anymore. At one point it seemed to be, but not anymore."
For Virginia "Ginny" Dobry, there's simply no place to live other than the Highlandtown area.
For 43 consecutive years, Dobry has had Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Her next-door neighbor is her sister, and another sister lives across the street.
"I just love the neighborhood and I love the people most of all. They are down-to-earth, practical and kind," Dobry said. "We are a very diversified neighborhood as far as education and background goes, and we just all kind of blend together."
While Highlandtown still has hurdles to overcome, residents feel that this is the beginning of a turnaround.
"The neighborhood has had its stresses, but we really feel that everything is in place for a strong revitalization; Highlandtown has been one of Baltimore's strongest neighborhoods for years and years and years," said Kenneth Strong, executive director of the Southeast Community Organization.
"The Canton revitalization has been flowing north. We are very happy that Canton is thriving, and we want to spread that east."
Don Arnold, a lifelong resident and president of the Highlandtown Community Association, agrees.
"There is a lot of effort right now concentrating in Highlandtown. I think we are turning the corner," he said.
"Highlandtown is the bargain right now. More and more people are starting to buy here, and there is a real, concerted effort to turn it around."
"People are also discovering what I like to call the golden square of green -- Patterson Park," he said. "There are more and more events coming to the park. And the park still remains to be a wonderful resource."
Along with the incentives for homeownership, the neighborhood is bustling with activity. Four of the largest unused buildings in the area are undergoing some sort of renovation.
The city's Southeast Teen Center is taking over the old beauty school building at Eastern Avenue and Clinton Street. Purchased with a community development block grant, the building is expected to get a $300,000 to $500,000 face lift.
The old Irvins Department store is set to be developed into offices, and the Grand Theater is also slated for renovation.
Perhaps the most exciting project is the Patterson Theater, which is to be turned into a cultural center in a partnership between the Southeast Community Organization and the Fells Point Creative Alliance.
Scheduled to open in February 2000, the center will house 3,200 square feet of exhibition space; a theater for film, performance, dance, lectures and conferences; a sidewalk cafe; and 11 studio residences for artists.
Arnold only hopes that, as Canton becomes more popular, Highlandtown doesn't lose its identity.
"Highlandtown was the kind of neighborhood that, if you were a kid and doing something wrong 10 blocks away, even if you didn't have phone, somehow by the time you got home your parents knew about it," said Arnold.
"And I would be doing a disservice if I didn't mention the food and the wonderful smells of the different cuisines as you walk through the neighborhood.
"It's a real feeling of community. Some communities have no heart, no pulse beat. Highlandtown definitely has heart."
ZIP code: 21224
Average commuting time to Baltimore: 10 minutes
Public schools: Highlandtown Elementary, Hampstead Hill Elementary, Canton Middle, Southeast Middle, Highlandtown Middle, Patterson High
Shopping: Eastern Avenue, Eastpoint Mall
Homes on the market: 188*
Average listing price: $43,387*
Average sale price: $41,001*
Average days on market: 189*
Sales price as a percentage of listing: 94.5 percent*
*Based on 244 sales in the past 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.