If you go hunting for a lake in the Lake Walker neighborhood of Baltimore, you're going to be disappointed.
(Lake Walker refers to Lake and Walker avenues, two streets that define the neighborhood.)
However, if what you're looking for is a tucked-away enclave of affordable homes in various styles, then search no more.
"We've lived here for 30 years and we love it," said June Bond, who lives in Lake Walker with her husband, Terry.
"This was our first home. When we moved here the neighbors came and welcomed us with a cake and flowers and made us really feel welcomed."
What made the house and community special back then has prevailed, say the Bonds. In fact the little-known neighborhood has remained just that - a neighborhood.
"We love our house, but the neighborhood is what we really love," she said. "Everyone here is warm and friendly. It's comfortable and it's a neighborhood in the truest sense of the word."
The couple said the neighborhood hasn't changed much in 30 years, though it undergoes the usual cycle of older residents moving out and young couples moving in.
Although the Bonds thought once or twice about moving, the convenience and friendliness of the area kept them there.
"Everyone around here gets along," said Terry Bond. "If someone isn't doing well then everyone jumps in to help. It's also close to everything we need."
Driving along York Road north from Northern Parkway one might never notice the community of Lake Walker, just east of York Road on the northern boundary of Baltimore.
Defined by Walker Avenue, Lake Avenue, Northwood Drive and York Road, the neighborhood boasts a full array of housing: spacious Tudor-style townhouses, two- and three-story frame cottages, bungalows, large turn-of-the-century homes, brick townhouses, a few ranchers and modern homes as well as apartments.
Residents of the neighborhood enjoy all the conveniences of urban living, such as being able to walk to public transportation, stores, parks and the Senator Theatre. Yet minutes away by car are Towson, the Jones Falls Expressway and the Baltimore Beltway.
But ask any of its residents and one thing that always comes up is the country charm of the neighborhood.
"We can walk to anything we need, but when we sit out on our big, front porch it's like you are out in the middle of nowhere. All you hear are the crickets," said June Bond.
Anxiously awaited is the opening of the revitalized Belvedere Square shopping center. The $16 million project is refurbishing the existing shopping center.
This comes on the heels of other improvements occurring along the York Road corridor, including Baltimore County's recently opened Drumcastle Government Center in the 6400 block of York Road in Anneslie.
"The opening of Belvedere Square will be a huge thing for the neighborhood," said Jason Canapp, president of the Lake Walker Community Association.
While the revitalization of local shopping centers is a good thing for the neighborhood, Canapp said it has put pressure on the surrounding communities to make sure the new stores are what are wanted and needed.
Canapp is also president of the York Road Partnership, an umbrella organization of 24 community associations working to steer revitalization efforts in the right direction.
Canapp, who has lived in Lake Walker since 1997, says the neighborhood of about 750 homes has a lot to offer its residents.
"I think one of the things that is unique to Baltimore City is you have these really great little neighborhoods," said Canapp.
"Lake Walker has that old-style neighborhood feel where the houses are close to the street and the streets are tree-lined. It's the type of neighborhood where people feel safe to play outside with their kids and walk their dogs at night."
While Lake Walker is not as well known as its neighbors Cedarcroft, Anneslie and Pine Hurst, some residents have decided not having an easily recognized name can make for a good bargain.
"I've seen in the last few years the prices for homes skyrocket," said Paul Quintilian, a real estate agent with Long and Foster in Timonium and a Lake Walker resident.
"[Homes for sale] used to languish on the market for a while. And now they are moving rather quickly. Most homes will sell in less than two months and many sell quicker. A few years back it would take six to eight months to sell a house here."
A typical single-family house in Lake Walker sells in the $120,000 to $160,000 range. The townhouses bring $80,000 to $140,000.
`Creating price spike'
"It's a nice neighborhood, and people love it here. So rather than leave, they are refurbishing their homes and that's creating the price spike," said Quintilian.
"The location of the neighborhood is a big draw, but so is the affordability. You cross over into Baltimore County or across York Road into Cedarcroft and prices jump considerably."
Affordability is one of the reasons Matthew and Kristina Bayne decided to buy a house in the neighborhood four years ago.