What a difference a new road makes

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

Route 100 transforms East Ellicott City

January 28, 2001|By Diane Mikulis | Diane Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When plans for Route 100 in Howard County were being devised, a controversy simmered among many residents in eastern Ellicott City as to exactly which back yards would be affected by the highway.

How quickly the memory fades.

With the road completed, the residents of East Ellicott City are reaping the benefits with easy accessibility to major highways that lead to Baltimore and Washington and increased property values as others flock to this convenient place to live.

"What's made the area really valuable is Route 100," said Jim Bim, an associate broker for Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. "You can get to downtown Baltimore in 20 minutes."

Bim added that the highway also has made the area more accessible to Washington, which helps many two-career couples.

In the past 10 years, hundreds of homes have been built in eastern Ellicott City, the area roughly bounded by Interstate 95 to the east, routes 100 and 104 on the west and the Patapsco River on the north. Montgomery Road (Route 103) is the main road that runs through the area, which comprises more than a dozen subdivisions.

Before Route 100 was completed, people had other reasons to make the eastern part of Ellicott City a destination.

"We moved for the land," said Beth Roberts, a seven-year resident. She and her husband moved to Howard County from Burtonsville because of the open space and the reputation of the school system. "It was affordable and the lot was perfect," she said.

During the seven years the Roberts family has lived there, eastern Ellicott City has changed considerably. Much of the open space the Robertses came for has been developed into homes, schools and shopping centers.

"When we first moved out here, there was nothing; it was inconvenient to shop," Roberts recalled. "I'm sorry to see the land go, but I'm benefiting from it."

Roberts now has a choice of two new shopping centers, and her children attend a new elementary school, which is already overcrowded. Despite the portable classrooms, Roberts is still pleased with the education her children are receiving.

Schools also were the major reason that Tara Watts and her husband moved to the area from Annapolis. She researched many neighborhoods and the schools serving each. "I really did my homework," she said.

She also wanted a neighborhood with lots of children so her youngsters wouldn't have far to go to meet up with playmates. As she drove around, she counted swing sets.

Watts acknowledged that the opening of Route 100 has made the location even more convenient to her husband's job near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and to her parents' home in Glen Burnie.

For the past three years, NVHomes has been building its Crestwood subdivision of nearly 100 homes off Ilchester Road. With an average size of 3,000 square feet and an average price tag in the low- to mid-$400,000s, Vice President Tim Naughton said, the development appeals to people who are looking for a large home, but not a large lot. Most lots are about one-third acre.

NVHomes has just a few lots left, but Naughton said, "We will be doing more building right around the area."

Not all homes in the area are new and large. Montgomery Road is lined with older, smaller ranchers and Cape Cods. A variety of housing - differing in age, size and style - can be found on Bonnie Branch and Ilchester roads as they wind down to the Patapsco River.

About 150 years ago, the only concentration of homes in the area was in the town of Ilchester, which was located at the river's edge. As one of the original villages in Howard County, Ilchester was known for having one of the earliest post offices.

In 1842, George Ellicott Jr., grandson of one of the founders of Ellicott City, was named the first postmaster in Ilchester. He lived in a large stone house and operated a gristmill there.

Ellicott sold his property in 1866 to the Redemptorists order of the Roman Catholic Church. A large wooden addition was made to the home and it became part of St. Mary's College. The modified stone house was converted to a preparatory school for young men studying to become priests. Because of a fire, only the stone steps remain.

Ilchester also became the point at which the B&O Railroad first crossed into Howard County from Baltimore County in the 1800s. A single arch from the first bridge, the Patterson Viaduct, remains today.

The area along Bonnie Branch and Ilchester roads from the river to Montgomery Road is still known as Ilchester. As the surrounding farms have been sold and developed, the larger region has taken on a different character. What were lightly traveled country roads just 20 years ago have become suburban thoroughfares.

But even with increased traffic and disappearing open fields, most residents are quite content to stay put. Homes don't come on the market very often, and those that do are sold sometimes before the signs go up, and they fetch top dollar.

Even so, that doesn't tempt Tara Watts, who said her family is staying put.

"It's been a wonderful move," she said. "We've never looked back on leaving the Annapolis area and the water."

East Ellicott City

ZIP code: 21043

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes

Public schools: Ilchester, Rockburn and Worthington elementary schools; Bonnie Branch and Ellicott middle schools; Howard and Mount Hebron high schools

Shopping: Long Gate Center, Lyndwood Square, Elkridge Corner Shopping Center, The Mall in Columbia

Homes currently on market: 4

Average listing price: $283,463 *

Average sale price: $281,977 *

Average days on market: 19 *

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 99.48% ** Based on 37 sales in the past 12 months as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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