Cape St. Claire puts residents in the swim of things

Water-oriented Arundel community has small-town appeal

April 27, 2010|By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Surrounded on three sides by water with breathtaking views, it's easy to see why residents cherish the neighborhood of Cape St. Claire.

Located in Anne Arundel County on the shores of the Little Magothy River, the Magothy River, the Chesapeake Bay and Deep Creek, the community is called home by almost 8,000 residents giving it the feel of a small town.

"One of the things I love is once you get off the freeway and you go back into Cape St. Claire you could be living in a small town anywhere. You forget you're living in this big metropolitan area," said Sam Gallagher, president of the Cape St. Claire Improvement Association.

Once farmland, the community of Cape St. Claire was founded in 1949 and developed as a summer cottage community for families from Baltimore and Washington looking for waterfront recreation.

"I love the fact that it's an older established neighborhood with all the old trees," Gallagher said. "I like that it doesn't have that cookie-cutter look."

The community is only minutes to Annapolis, situated just off Route 50. Still, it's the water that remains the primary attraction.

And while you don't have to own a waterfront house to enjoy the water amenities in this neighborhood, you do need to be a resident. Within the community – and for use by its residents only – are three private beaches, a community-fishing pier, three community piers with about 200 boat slips and a boat launch.

Gallagher said he's only about a half-mile from one of the community piers where he keeps his boat for a modest annual fee. He tries to get out on the water once a week. "It's a great place," he said.

Josephine Gardner moved to the area 35 years ago from Baltimore and raised four children in Cape St. Claire. Two of her children, now adults, also live in the neighborhood.

"You watch your grandchildren go to the same schools your children went to," said Gardner. "It's a very hometown, small-town type of feel to it."

She said she enjoys the mix of houses and residents. "That's what makes the Cape what it is, the people," said Gardner.

There are many activities and clubs in Cape St. Claire, including a youth sailing program, yacht club and garden club. Cape St. Claire hosts a community-wide Strawberry Festival in June - this year it is June 12 - with parade, festival princess, contests and entertainment.

Housing stock: Very few of the original summer cottages still exist within Cape St. Claire. Many split-level foyers mostly built in the 1970s are located throughout the neighborhood, but there's also an eclectic mix of houses including million-dollar waterfronts, colonials, ranchers and contemporaries.

"I think it's the best kept secret in Anne Arundel County," said Mona LaCovey, a real estate agent with Re/Max Advantage Realty in Annapolis and Severna Park. "It's a family oriented, water privileged community."

The neighborhood attracts everyone from buyers looking for their first homes to those spending millions of dollars on a waterfront property, she said. Prices start in the low $200,000 range and go up to more than $3 million. A colonial with three-bedrooms and two full bathrooms, built in 1990, recently sold for $350,000.

"There are just beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay. Everything is so community-oriented," added LaCovey. "The biggest favor we can do for [clients] is to introduce them to the community."

Schools: Cape St. Claire is served by Cape St. Claire Elementary, Wiley H. Bates Middle and Broadneck High schools. The elementary school scored well in state standardized testing with third, fourth and fifth graders scoring in the mid-90 percent proficient range. Middle school students didn't fare as well, with eighth graders scoring 78 percent proficient in reading. Students at Broadneck High School scored well, with proficiency levels for the most part in the mid-90 percent range and a 95 percent graduation rate.

Crime: The Cape St. Claire Improvement Association hires off-duty police officers to help patrol the area and have recently launched a community watch group. Lt. Herbert Hasenpusch of the Anne Arundel County Police Department said most common calls for service include thefts from automobiles and occasionally homes.

"But it's not any different than most communities in the county," he said. "It is certainly not one of our chronic problem areas." The department is using a new communication tool, Nile Community Information Service, to keep in touch with community associations by using real-time text alerts.

Shopping: Residents are lucky enough to be only a short drive from major shopping areas, including Westfield-Annapolis Mall and downtown Annapolis. The neighborhood shopping center provides a gas station, hardware store and general store.

Transportation: There's no public transportation in Cape St. Claire.

Dining in: Graul's Market is located at the Cape St. Claire Shopping Center.

Dining out: Although residents are a quick drive or pleasant boat ride away from downtown Annapolis and its restaurants, they also have several eateries located in the neighborhood shopping center, including the Broadneck Grill, Rita's Water Ice, Subway, Pizza Hut and others.

Recreation and parks: In addition to the many waterfront activities available to residents there's also the Cape St. Claire Swim Club, playgrounds, picnic areas and a clubhouse that is available for special events.

Cape St. Claire
by the numbers
ZIP code:
Homes on the market:
Average sales price:
Average days on the market:
*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, complied by
Mona LaCovey with Re/Max Advantage Realty and Metropolitan Regional
Information Systems Inc.
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