Frederick: City and small town, too


Maryland's hub thrives, helped by geography and friendly appeal

May 16, 2004|By Daniel Taylor | Daniel Taylor,SUN STAFF

Judy Callanan has lived in Frederick since last July and is enjoying her life in the bustling area with its still-rural feeling.

"[Frederick] has a lot of character; it's like a small town, but it has everything you can find in the city," said the local ReMax Realtor.

Frederick County has grown in popularity during recent years. The population currently stands at about 209,000, up from 150,000 in 1990. The city of Frederick has a population of about 50,000, up from 20,000 during the 1970s.

The city has been called Maryland's "hub" by many people who live there. Its proximity to Baltimore, Washington and Northern Virginia has made it a prime spot for those looking for a more rural place to live while commuting to the area's major cities.

The city has become a booming center for business, and the area has seen an increase of nearly 10,000 jobs during the past few years, according to Marie Keegin, director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.

Interstate 270, the freeway that connects Frederick to Washington, is a corridor of biotech industries. Frederick's proximity to Fort Detrick and the National Cancer Institute has brought many biotech jobs to the area.

Keegin also points out that construction and finance are two other industries thriving in Frederick County, which has kept its "strong agricultural base." In fact, the majority of its 663 square miles (Frederick is Maryland's largest county by land area) is agricultural land.

"There's still a lot of country appeal to the area," said Maria Stolba, administrative office manager at the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Frederick office and a resident of the New Market suburb. "People who live here can get anywhere within 40 minutes, although traffic these days makes it a farther drive."

She calls Frederick "very unique," and even though the city is growing rapidly, it hasn't lost its small-town feel.

Betsy Day, president of the Community Foundation of Frederick County, calls Frederick "tightly knit."

"The sense of community makes it all worthwhile for us to be here," Day said. "When my family and I moved here nine years ago, Frederick welcomed us with open arms. The people here are just friends you haven't made yet."

The county has its share of community events. The Frederick Festival of the Arts takes place during the first weekend of June, the Greater Frederick Fair occurs every September, and in nearby Thurmont, the Colorfest is a fall festival.

Frederick was founded in 1745 by English and German settlers. While serving as a crossroads area for larger cities, it grew to become a bustling city.

But the growth has not been without cost. Like many other areas in the Mid-Atlantic, Frederick has congestion problems. And house prices have been climbing steadily, averaging $258,621 in March. Also, the city of Frederick lifted a building moratorium last year on construction after the area faced water shortages.

Frederick "has grown quicker than it can handle in some areas," Stolba of Coldwell Banker said. "They probably didn't anticipate this congestion when they put the area together, so there's always that growth factor and trying to make room."

Fort Detrick came to the city in the 1930s as an air base called Camp Detrick, and after World War II, it became focused on biological warfare, until 1969 when the focus became strictly biodefense. Today, Fort Detrick employs 7,500 people.

"It's just been unbelievable movement [of jobs] in and out of the area, mostly in," Stolba added. "The military is bringing in quite a bit to the economy."

And because of that, it has become a long-term destination for many.

"I can go downtown, I can go dancing, I can go to the movies," Callanan said. "But I still have something to look at out my front window."


ZIP code: 21701

Average commute time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes

Schools: Hood College, Frederick Community College, Mount St. Mary's.

Shopping: Route 40, Francis Scott Key Mall

Average listing price: $263,842 *

Average sale price: $258,621 *

Average days on market: 46 *

Sales prices as a percentage of listing: 98.02% *

* Based on 355 sales in Frederick County in March as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System Inc.

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