Phoenix keeps 'rural feel' as it gains amenities

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

Growth blurring borders of former mill town

March 21, 2004|By James Gallo | James Gallo,SUN STAFF

Residents of Phoenix, in northern Baltimore County, have watched the area change during recent years as homeowners who can afford it move to this picturesque setting of horse farms and open land.

Though still considered a rural suburb of Baltimore, the area is growing.

Steuart Hihn of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.'s Phoenix office, an area resident, says the community has become a mix of old and new homes during the past few years. As more people seek the peace and quiet of a rural community and can afford the spiraling prices of the large homes there, Phoenix continues to grow.

"It's really just a nice blend of agricultural homes and suburban subdivisions," says Monty McCausland of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage's Phoenix office. "People like the rural feel, and they like the fact that there is convenience nearby."

The "Four Corners" of Jacksonville - the intersection of Jarrettsville Pike, Paper Mill Road and Sweet Air Road- offers banks, supermarkets, fast food and other convenience shops.

The average sales price during the past year for a home in the area was $$528,801. Some of the new developments have homes priced between $760,000 and $889,000, McCausland says.

The Phoenix area began as a mill town during the early 1800s. The original houses and businesses in Phoenix probably were built to serve the workers of the mill community, says Neal Brooks, a Baltimore County historian. According to Baltimore County Panorama by Brooks and Richard Parsons, milling activity in Phoenix dates to about 1839.

It is unclear how Phoenix got its name, but Brooks says the town was home to Phoenix Cotton Manufacturing Co. in the 1840s. Government leaders in Baltimore purchased the factory, which had closed, in 1922 to make way for Loch Raven Reservoir, Brooks says.

The borders of Phoenix have become blurred in recent years because of residential expansion and the relocation of Phoenix's post office from the center of the mill town to a location in nearby Jacksonville as that town grew. All of Jacksonville shares the Phoenix ZIP code, and it is hard to tell where the old town limits were and where expansion took over.

Phoenix was one of the original stops on the Northern Central Railroad until the railroad it was deemed useless in 1972 after Tropical Storm Agnes, Brooks says.

Today, the rail bed is a biking, walking and horseback riding trail that runs through Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Brooks says it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that people began to build houses along the outskirts of Phoenix. As the area expanded, it became less rural and more residential, particularly around Jacksonville, he says.

According to the U.S. Census, the Phoenix area had 6,126 residents in 2000, up from 5,483 in 1990.

Stephen Kirsch, president of the Greater Jacksonville Association and a Phoenix resident, says many neighbors are fighting to retain the area's rural flavor. The association is opposing a planned 61-house development on the Umerley property off Blenheim Road.

"I've lived here for about 21 years now," Kirsch says, "and we're just starting to wake up and get a handle on the growth."

Phoenix

ZIP code: 21131

Commute time to downtown: 30 minutes

Public schools: Jacksonville Elementary, Cockeysville Middle, Dulaney High

Shopping: Strip malls at Jacksonville's Four Corners

Homes on the market: 31

Average list price: $540,158 *

Average sales price: $528,801 *

Average days on the market: 86 *

Sales price as a percentage of list price: 98% *

* Based on 110 properties sold during the past 12 months as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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