The nation's most desirable neighborhood for seniors - an oasis of calm and sophistication that outscores the popular communities of the Sun Belt - lies just over the Baltimore City line.
America Online has chosen Chestnut Hill in West Towson from among 61,000 neighborhoods as the No. 1 "dream retirement area" in the country. The community topped a list released this week that also included Sedona, Ariz.; Naples, Fla.; and Santa Barbara, Calif.
"It really is the perfect place and now the whole country knows," Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said Thursday at Blakehurst, one of two senior-living complexes in the neighborhood. "I am thrilled that AOL is joining the bandwagon."
NeighborhoodScout, an independent company that analyzes statistics for AOL, based the rankings on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other government and real estate sources. Researchers looked at population demographics, education levels of residents, diversity of housing and crime statistics.
"Once I learned the criteria, this seemed like the perfect choice," said Joanne E. Williams, director of the county Department of Aging. "It has diversity of living options and it is right in our own backyard."
The report described West Towson, bounded by West Joppa Road, Charles Street Avenue and North Charles Street, as "quiet, gentle and sophisticated. This is a fabulous location that will surprise you with its grace, quality and convenience."
Blakehurst resident Dottie Atkinson, 82, who has lived in West Towson since 1974, didn't need any analysis.
"Absolutely, this is a great place to live," she said. "It is close to doctors, the mall and transportation. And it looks good here."
The report said the neighborhood's older homes attracted urban sophisticates and listed "walkable, artsy and funky" among its assets. The community is largely older, wealthier and better educated than average. The median home value is $550,746.
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said she would expand on the dream designation.
"This is a great place to live, not just for seniors to retire but for families to raise their children," she said.
Then she gave a plug for the more than 65 restaurants within a mile, the easy access to cultural events at Goucher College and Towson University, the free summertime concerts in downtown Towson and Gardens Day on April 22.