City house hunters head west

Daylong tour showcases Baltimore neighborhoods `off the beaten track'

May 12, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Tracy Gosson was everywhere yesterday, electronic megaphone in hand as she called out departures for the vans hired to carry prospective homeowners on tours of Baltimore neighborhoods.

"I don't care what the census says. People want to move [into] Baltimore," said Gosson, director of the Live Baltimore Marketing Center. "This is not three years ago. There are very positive attitudes about the city."

Yesterday's "Buying Into Baltimore Fair" gave the nonprofit agency another chance to showcase the city's neighborhoods. Interest was high. About 200 people were lined up outside Polytechnic Institute before the doors opened at 10 a.m. By day's end, about 450 people had dropped by, taken one of the two-hour tours or picked up information about buying a home in Baltimore.

Some came from the other side of town, or from Baltimore County. Oliver Lui, an accountant in Washington, drove from Fairfax County, Va. He was looking for a neighborhood with quick access to the Pennsylvania Station MARC line.

"If there's something of value that I can buy, then I will definitely consider it," he said. "The last time I came up here was about two years ago. I think there was something going on at the harbor."

One of the event's goals is to take people onto the side streets that lead into the city's neighborhoods, rather than stay on the major thoroughfares. Yesterday's fair was designed to showcase neighborhoods west of Charles Street, lesser-known areas such as Medfield, Dickeyville, Hunting Ridge and Seton Hill. More than 80 percent of the people who attended last year's fair said they discovered new city neighborhoods, Gosson said.

"People don't even realize there are four golf courses in the city," Gosson said. "This is all about getting people off the beaten track. We have to let people know there are more than five neighborhoods in the city."

The fairs have generated hundreds of sales and distributed more than $300,000 in grants to homebuyers. This year, the first 50 participants who close on a house within 90 days of the fair will be eligible for a $3,000 city grant that can be put toward their down payment and closing costs. Houses range in price from $50,000 to about $200,000.

Money didn't seem to be the main attraction, yesterday. Those on hand were more interested in seeing houses on a beautiful spring day that seemed perfect for house hunting. They strolled a school hallway lined with lenders, bank representatives and neighborhood boosters.

Angela Greene and Audrey Adams manned a table set up by a residents' group from Ashburton. Both have lived in the neighborhood for years and were ready to tell anyone passing by about the community's feel, the azaleas that bloom in spring and the gorgeous decorations that can be seen at Christmas time.

"This gives us a chance to showcase the beauty of Ashburton," said Greene, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. "It gets us out there and lets people know that we have a pre-eminent community in the city that is African-American."

The two spent several minutes talking to Denise Simmonds, who had come from Laurel with her brother and a friend. They were considering moving, and possibly finding a home for their mother.

Organizers hoped people came away with impressions like the one Larry Morgan had after he toured Northwest Baltimore. His route took him into neighborhoods he didn't know were in the city.

"Personally, I'm looking to buy. I did see one [house] that did spark my interest," said Morgan, who lives in Northeast Baltimore. "Most people don't know that you can get a quality home in the city."

Organizers are planning a similar fair for the east side of town in September.

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