Rowhouses with lots to recommend them


Townhouse developers in Southwest community provided spacious yards

January 04, 2004|By Rebecca Boreczky | Rebecca Boreczky,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

During the mid-1950s, builders chose Yale Heights and other Southwest Baltimore areas to construct brick rowhouses on large lots.

Architects designed the neighborhood so that the homes sat on a plain to take advantage of cool breezes during Baltimore's notoriously humid summers. The rowhouses were staggered on each side of the street to maintain green spaces and give residents more room than usual for townhouse communities.

Melvina Moss moved to Yale Heights in the 1970s when several families already called the area home. By 1988, she had grown concerned about a rash of car break-ins and other property crimes and decided Yale Heights needed a community group.

She began knocking on doors and talking with residents about forming a neighborhood-watch program. Her efforts helped start the Yale Heights Community Improvement Corp. the same year. Moss, who is the group's current president, boasts that more than 90 percent of the properties in the neighborhood are maintained well.

U.S. Census data shows that most Yale Heights residents are homeowners in their 30s and 40s. Many of those residents are single or are couples with one child. The area attracts fewer families with several children because most of the homes were built with two bedrooms, some residents say.

Local real estate agents said the neighborhood is attractive to first-time homebuyers since prices range from the mid-$60,000s to the low $70,000s. Sixteen homes have sold in the past 12 months with prices from $68,125 to $71,666.

Richard Goldenburg, a Realtor with Castle Homes Inc. in Baltimore, said Yale Heights has attracted interest from urban professionals who work in Baltimore or Washington. Having rented, these buyers like the prices and the area's proximity to public transportation.

Live Baltimore Home Center, the nonprofit group that promotes the city to homebuyers, has included Yale Heights in recent tours of local homes. The group has advertised Baltimore housing in more expensive areas such as Washington in hopes of luring commuters.

"Its hills and winding streets give a suburban feel but without Baltimore County prices," Goldenburg said of the neighborhood. "I have sold a number of homes there to first-time homebuyers."

Yale Heights is a member of the city's Southwest Seven Neighborhoods, a nonprofit group that helps promote homeownership in Southwest Baltimore and encourages revitalization efforts.

Besides Yale Heights, the group includes eight other neighborhood associations: Allendale, Carroll, Caton Avenue, Irvington, St. Joseph's, South Hilton, Tremont and Uplands. The organization expanded recently to include two more neighborhood associations.

Besides the rowhouses, Yale Heights' northern edge includes a community of townhouse apartments called Maiden Choice Run. The neighborhood also includes a playground and the Frederick E. Leidig Recreation Center.

Evelyn Simmons McCoy and her husband purchased their two-bedroom Yale Heights townhouse in 1985 for $42,000. Besides well-built homes and the green space, Simmons McCoy said, the neighborhood's biggest draw is its location.

"The townhouses are right on the No. 2 bus line and the Inner Harbor is only 15 minutes by car," she said. "I am very satisfied living here. The area is quiet, people are friendly and the key to the neighborhood's desirability is that everyone has an interest in keeping the properties up."

Simmons McCoy is a neighborhood adviser for the Yale Heights Community Improvement group. She said most residents know each other well.

"It's the kind of neighborhood where no one argues over parking spaces, people dig cars out of the snow and you look out for each other," she said.

Simmons McCoy said the area's only drawback is the size of the homes.

"Most of the townhouses here are two-bedroom and the closets are very small," she said. "People back in the '50s only owned one suit and a couple of skirts for work. [But] overall, I find it a comfortable place to live."

Yale Heights

ZIP code: 21229

Public school: Beechfield Elementary School

Private school: Mount St. Joseph High School

Drive time to downtown: 15 minutes

Homes on the market: 16

Average list price: $72,500 *

Average sales price: $69,900 *

Days on market: 45 *

Sales price as a percentage of list price: 96% *

* Based on 16 properties sold during the past 12 months as compiled by the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems

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