Happiness grows in Piney Orchard


'People love it,' one agent says of Odenton neighborhood

March 16, 2003|By Robert J. Terry | Robert J. Terry,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Catherine and Carl Weber ended up in Odenton's Piney Orchard neighborhood two years ago almost by accident.

They had been looking to downsize from their single-family Dickeyville home in Baltimore and were becoming increasingly frustrated in their real estate search in Catonsville, which was near their jobs.

As they looked in Piney Orchard, the Webers found a third-floor condominium with a loft and a unique environmental oasis in an otherwise typically suburban expanse. It was a 100-acre nature preserve that is home to a wealth of plant and animal life and is accessible by miles of walking and bike paths.

The Webers were hooked, even though, before that day, "I didn't even really know where Odenton was," Catherine Weber said.

The Anne Arundel County suburb, sandwiched between Crofton and Fort Meade, is becoming better and better known. And Piney Orchard, a 12-year-old community, is a big reason why. And while typical in several respects with a mixed housing stock of apartments, condos, town houses and single-family homes - Piney Orchard's amenities are atypical in their quality, residents, real estate agents and builders say.

That and the community's location, within manageable commuting distance of Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis and Columbia, are the prime factors attracting buyers to Piney Orchard.

"People love it," said Lynn Peck-Collins, an agent with ReMax Legend in Odenton. "Sales are phenomenal, beyond what anybody ever could have predicted. Values have really soared the last couple of years."

Piney Orchard's rather humble beginnings are painted by tree-lined streets that highlight the 32 carefully planned neighborhoods. The village center has an anchor grocery store and other merchants.

Residents have access to two outdoor pools and an indoor pool (an Olympic-size outdoor pool should be finished next summer). The area also has a community center, a fitness center and privately owned tennis courts and an ice skating rink.

Residents pay annual fees of $200 or more, depending on the assessed value of their home, and get access to the pools and community and fitness centers. The Odenton MARC commuter station is minutes away.

The Webers bought their condominium for about $165,000; today some are selling for more than $200,000.

The land where the neighborhoods sit was bought during the 1950s by the Winer family, owners of a successful Odenton-based manufacturing company.

The family planned to build houses for employees of its company, Nevamar, a leading supplier of high-pressure laminates that was acquired by International Paper Co. in 1990.

Development did not go ahead, and the land changed hands during the late 1980s before being bought by Constellation Real Estate Group, a division of Constellation Energy Group Inc., parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

The greatest challenge in getting Piney Orchard off the drawing board was designing a housing and infrastructure plan that would best fit with the surrounding environment, according to Steven Koren, Constellation's managing director. He has overseen development since the beginning.

Koren was there in 1991 when Ryan Homes built the development's first town house in The Courts neighborhood. And Koren is there today as the community approaches some key turning points.

About 3,500 housing units have been built to date, and 8,500 residents live there. The community will hold about 4,400 units when construction is complete in five years.

Ryan continues to build in Piney Orchard along with Grayson Homes, Columbia Builders and Patriot Homes. Columbia-based Beazer Homes is building Piney Orchard's first "active adult community," with luxury condominiums marketed to buyers 55 and older.

Scott Smolen, a real estate agent with ReMax Innovations in Gambrills, credits Constellation with executing a well-thought-out development plan that continues to appeal to prospective buyers.

"Constellation made a plan and they stuck to it," said Smolen, who has lived in Piney Orchard for five years. "They delivered what they said they were going to do. ... It's an ideal location for anybody."

Constellation is preparing to turn over the day-to-day management of Piney Orchard to residents in about two years, Koren said.

The move will be a turning point in what kind of community Piney Orchard becomes, according to residents such as Doreen Strothman, who lives in a town house in the West Courts neighborhood and serves on the community association's board.

Issues such as budgeting for pool maintenance, landscaping, security and projects in the nature preserve soon will become the domain of Piney Orchard's residents. It promises to be an exciting and daunting challenge for a young community putting itself on the map.

"There are a lot of people who care not just about their property values but about the community," Strothman said.

"We're going to have to rise to the occasion and make it all work."

Location: In Odenton, Anne Arundel County

ZIP code: 21113

Number of active listings: 10

Average days on market: 24

Average list price: $247,578

Properties sold during the past 12 months: 85

Average list price: $200,225

Average sold price: $200,347

Average days on market: 26

Average property sold for 100.06 percent of the listed price

Schools: Piney Orchard Elementary, Arundel Middle, Arundel High

Shopping: Piney Orchard Marketplace, Villages at Waugh Chapel

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