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That's So Bmore: Why We Love This Charmed City

Brad McDearman
Brad McDearman

For Brad McDearman, living in Baltimore is the answer to what many people hope to find -- a community in every sense of the word. "When people from other cities visit me, they are always taken by the real sense of community we have here, particularly in our neighborhoods," he says. "They can't believe that we actually know most of our neighbors." And whether in McDearman's Wyman Park neighborhood of classic porch-front rowhouses, or one of the other more than 200 Baltimore neighborhoods, residents agree that Baltimore just might be the biggest small town around.

Missi and Brian Carmen met their newest neighbor who had moved to the area a few weeks earlier while planting flowers in front of their house in the Union Square neighborhood. As they were talking with him, another neighbor drove by and invited them all to a game of croquet and a cookout at a nearby park. "We had a great time playing, socializing, meeting new people, and bringing a little more life to the park," she says. For Carmen, the friendliness of the people -- which she says is a big part of the city's charm -- was a surprise when she and her husband moved there a year and a half ago.

"The homeowners association is one of the most active in the city and seems to always have some kind of social event going on. They welcome many new residents to the neighborhood personally and it's nice to walk down the street, say to Hollins Market, and say hi to your neighbors by their first name."

"What I love about Union Square is that it's very diverse," says Chris Taylor, homeowners' association president. "Lots of races, classes, and lifestyles meet right here in our neighborhood. That's what's great about what we're trying to do here, interact and keep things integrated."

And with Union Square situated less than one mile from Camden Yards, it's not uncommon to see neighbors making the short walk to a baseball game or the Inner Harbor. "I love being able to walk to just about every event in Baltimore," Carmen says.

"The greatest thing is that you can park your car on Friday and never have to use it again the entire weekend," adds McDearman.

Living in a "pedestrian community" is a big plus for many Baltimoreans. Will Runnebaum, a 20-year resident of the Federal Hill neighborhood, says that was a big factor for him when he moved to Baltimore from Washington, DC.

"The best asset of Federal Hill is that you're within blocks of parks, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment." In addition to all the city has to offer, Runnebaum also loves the easy access it provides for visiting other areas. ""

"Baltimore is an authentic place that doesn't try to be something it's not, with great access to the major cities in the Washington-Boston corridor. You can take a five dollar cab to Penn Station and get to Penn Station in New York City in just two-and-a-half hours," says McDearman.

From visiting friends in Annapolis, a quick drive to Gunpowder Falls State Park, a bike ride on the North Central Railroad (NCR) Trail, or going for a day of tubing on the river, he has found a seemingly endless supply of activities easily available from the city. But with cultural events, festivals, sporting events and more right in the city, he says no one has to go that far to have a great experience. "There are a lot of nooks and crannies in this city to explore."

One such nook is the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) on Key Highway where self-taught artists showcase their original works. "It's really unique, funky, eclectic art," says Taylor. "It's one of the coolest museums I've ever been in."

A native of Philadelphia, he says places like AVAM give Baltimore's arts and culture scene a unique flavor.

"It's been really localized here. SoWeBo [Southwest Baltimore] has its own artists group with shows and performances, and festivals, there's Artscape in Bolton Hill, and the Hampden area has its own kitschy kind of art." No matter where in the city, art seems to be at every turn. "The historic architecture is exceptional," says Bryan Canary, a resident of Ridgely's Delight, which makes exploring an interesting venture all by itself.

Canary, moved to Baltimore in 1997 "by chance." He was working in industrial sales and was supposed to move to Seattle. When that fell through, Canary looked at Philadelphia and Baltimore. He chose Baltimore because he liked the city's smaller size.

And just like the Carmens, McDearman, and Runnebaum, city residents shouldn't be surprised if when out exploring they run into someone they know. In "Small-timore," as Runnebaum calls it, whether walking to a museum or walking your dog, expect to see neighbors, business colleagues and former classmates on a very regular basis. "We have couples that we go out with that live right down the street, there's a nice mom's group where mom's get together to take their kids to the science museum, there's something to do for every age."

As a true lover of the city and all it has to offer, everyone should have an urban experience at least once in their life, Runnebaum says. "Anyone who hasn't had the experience of living in a really great city is doing themselves a disservice," he says. "Come have a beer and crab cakes with us and let us treat you like family."

A graduate of Towson University and University of Baltimore, Nicole Jovel lived in the Baltimore area for nine years. She writes for both corporate clients and local and regional publications. Send feedback to [email protected].

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