For many people, the most important aspect of keeping a neighborhood vibrant lies in its ability to attract new residents.
And that's just what Parkville in Baltimore County is doing.
"It's a very stable community, middle-class, neat and clean and very, very friendly," said Grace Kraft of the Harford Park Community Association. "People who have been raised in Parkville sometimes move away [but] end up moving back into the area," Kraft said.
Kraft has noticed an evolution going on as Parkville's older citizens have left their residences, making the move to retirement homes. Now, she says, "it's a younger generation with young children moving in."
"I lived in the city all my life before I moved to Parkville two years ago," said Dennis Branowski, a bar manager in Fells Point. "I think it could be the next Canton. It's a cool place to live."
Kraft typifies the Parkville personality to newcomers; she's friendly and quick to help strangers with questions. But she's not alone. Just drop into Jerry D's, a bar and restaurant on Harford Road, and ask for bartender Mike Gisriel.
Gisriel, or "Gis" as he's known, has been slinging drinks at Jerry D's for 17 years. He loves the neighborhood, and he likes the pace in Parkville. It's a lot like the mood in the bar: laid back and friendly.
"I think this is a nice bedroom community," Gisriel said. "People grow up here, some move away, but people always gravitate back to Parkville."
The people who work in Parkville, from police officers to shopkeepers, are residents as well. They grew up in the neighborhood and stayed to raise their children. Many of the Parkville natives who moved away often come back to find, much to their liking, that little has changed.
Take John Cluster, a retired police officer. While he patrolled the streets of Parkville, he saw the good and the bad. Although he tried to live elsewhere, he decided to settle down with his family in Parkville.
Now he owns the Gorilla Gear custom embroidery shop and is the new president of the Parkville Business and Professional Association.
"I've lived in Parkville for 25 years," Cluster said. "It seems like a lot of people we knew in high school who lived in the area are now raising their kids here. There's a lot of second and third generations here."
Cluster added that the public school system is a main attraction for young families, with Parkville High School serving as the magnet school for mathematics, science and computer science. The Maryland School for the Blind is also in Parkville.
Although the Parkville area can trace its roots to 1735, the modern-day Parkville began in 1874 when Simon Jonas Martenet, a city surveyor, bought 35 acres and named it Parkville.
The original boundaries extended from Linganore Avenue to Linwood Avenue and from Old Harford Road to Harford Road. Martenet donated a plot of ground in the center of Taylor Avenue to the people of Parkville with the stipulation that it always be used as a park.
The first public school for the farming community was built in 1846, and the first church in Parkville, the Hiss Methodist Church, was dedicated in 1842.
As for housing, Lonnie Wiskman of Premiere Realty on East Joppa Road put it simply, Parkville has "everything from soup to nuts."
Wiskman said buyers can find older rowhouses that sell in the $50,000 range or they can go up "to nice individual family homes," selling close to $160,000.
Along with its many schools and neighborhoods, Parkville has developed an eclectic business district along Harford Road - from national chains such as Rite Aid and Radio Shack to mom-and-pop restaurants, liquor stores and even a comic book shop.
Many of the stores and service businesses along the main drag and elsewhere are owned and operated by Parkville natives and residents.
"It kind of reminds me of the old city neighborhoods," Cluster said.
"You've got a business area and local schools, and the people who live in the community work in the community," he said. "There's the sense that you're living in the county, but it's almost like a city atmosphere. People are always trying to improve the area because they live here."
ZIP code: 21234, 21214
Commute to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes
Public schools: Villa Crest, Oakleigh and Hillendale elementaries; Parkville Middle; Parkville High
Shopping: Perring Plaza, Satyr Hill and North Plaza shopping centers; White Marsh Mall
Homes on market: 56
Average listing price: $106,011*
Average sale price: $104,127*
Average days on market: 94*
Sale price as percentage of listing price: 98.22%*Based on 239 sales in the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.