On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, Hanover resident Myron Brown exited the garage of his three-story brick house. He crossed the front yard and walked around the side to the back with his "landscaper" in tow -- an uncle who drove up from Fort Washington to help the 33-year-old manage the details of his first house.
Brown and his wife, Shadey (pronounced sha-DAY), moved to Hawks Ridge, a subdivision of new houses less than a mile from Hanover's Arundel Mills Mall, last June.
Hawks Ridge typifies new single-home neighborhoods in the Hanover area.
(Dennis Drenner For The Washington Post)
BOUNDARIES: Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the west; Patapsco Valley State Park to the north; Route 195 and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the east; and Fort Meade to the south. A portion of Hanover extends into Howard County.
SCHOOLS: Meade Heights Elementary, Harman Elementary, MacArthur Middle, Meade Middle and Meade Senior High schools.
HOME SALES: Since January 2003, there have been 130 new homes sold in the area, said Victor Furnells, director of the Washington office of the research firm Meyers Group. Prices ranged from $310,000 to $320,000 for townhouses and the mid-$300,000s to $550,000 for single-family houses. There are 60 townhouses for sale starting in the low $300,000s. The 28 single-family houses of Hawks Ridge sold in less than a year and started at $320,000.
WITHIN 10-20 MINUTES BY CAR: Arundel Mills Mall, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Muvico Egyptian 24 movie theater, shops and restaurants.
They are still getting used to homeownership, but say their house and its neighborhood are among the best choices they ever made. It's a quiet area, but close to Anne Arundel County's major highways. Their neighbors have become some of their best friends.
This isn't where they thought they would be at this point. Two years ago, when they were engaged and house-hunting, they didn't believe they would be able to afford a newly built single-family house.
"We were originally thinking of moving into a townhouse or an older fixer-upper," said Myron Brown, a Baltimore lawyer. He and his wife, a Washington lawyer, contracted to buy their house in 2002 for about $320,000. At 2,700 square feet, it's one of the smallest in the neighborhood. "We just came over here to look and we noticed that the homes were selling for only a few thousand more than some of the townhouses we looked at," Myron Brown said.
The Browns, like the 27 other families in the small, two-year-old community of Hawks Ridge, spend warm weekend afternoons putting down mulch, planting perennials and re-seeding their grass.
Their subdivision is one of four upper-middle class communities that have popped up recently in Hanover, a section of Anne Arundel County that, until Arundel Mills opened in 2000, was often referred to simply as the county's "back end."
But developers are tapping into Hanover's marketable resources -- its proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and to major highways such as Interstate 95, as well as its burgeoning business and job development -- and families like the Browns are taking advantage it.
"It's a combination of things that are occurring in that area," said Joe Rutter, an Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning officer. "The economic base, because of the airport and the defense industry, is becoming greater. . . . That area is really going to help support a lot of economic development in Anne Arundel County."
Hanover, nestled between Route 176 to the south and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the north, now has a mega-mall, expensive restaurants, a gourmet Safeway, a Starbucks and a Chevy Chase Bank.
There are also plans to build more industrial complexes near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and retail stores around Arundel Mills, Rutter said. A Hampton Inn and Suites and Residence Inn are already open on Arundel Mills Circle, but developers are pitching more hotels.
Bill Utz, an Arnold-based home builder, is one of eight developers who has proposed a project to the county for the Hanover area. His company wants to build 25 single-family houses on the east side of Arundel Mills.
Baldwin Homes, another Arnold-based company, is hoping to build 15 single-family houses in the area.
"Arundel Mills has certainly raised the bar," said Michael Baldwin, founder of Baldwin Homes. "Route 100 has improved access. It's become a very desirable place to live."