Carolyn Alturner was living in a small apartment in Germantown in the early 2000s when friends, who’d recently purchased an investment property, couldn’t stop raving about a fast-developing, unincorporated community about a 20-minute car ride away.

Alturner said that she liked living in Montgomery County, despite knowing that her budget wouldn’t take her far there.

“Montgomery County was definitely more on the pricey end,” Alturner said.

A trip to Urbana in Frederick County changed her mind, she said.

“The neighborhood was definitely affordable, but more than that, the real surprise was in finding a truly welcoming, diverse and extremely friendly community,” said Alturner, who for 14 years has happily lived in a 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse in Urbana.

“You know the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a family,’ ” she said on a recent Saturday as a light rain fell and she cheered on her middle school-aged son during a baseball game at Urbana Community Park. “A lot of us don’t have family around, so we all band together and support one another.”

“Real bang for your buck”: Urbana, described by some residents as the epitome of small-town America, is a planned community of townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes situated on what was once sprawling farmland in Frederick County, said Kassandra Cardozo, an agent with Spring Hill Real Estate.

Cardozo, who has sold property in the area for years, said that most potential buyers are attracted by the fact that Urbana’s housing stock is relatively new and offers a “real bang for your buck.”

“I’ve had potential buyers who live outside of D.C. that at first think it’s too far out,” Cardozo said. “But after visiting the community and researching the area, they quickly discover it’s the only option for them. It’s well planned with everything in one area, and it’s continuing to grow. People want something newer, and Urbana offers that option.”

When Jason Mahaney moved to Urbana nine years ago, his four children — ages 10 to 15 — required less space. As they grew older, and Mahaney’s family outgrew their townhouse, he never considered leaving the neighborhood to find larger digs.

“I just upgraded and found a bigger house nearby,” said Mahaney, who lives in a 4,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial. “Urbana has an old-school feel that you can’t find everywhere. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and people were quick to help each other out.”

When Kim Allen and her family needed to relocate from Raleigh, N.C., to the Frederick area for her husband’s job, they weren’t sure they would find a neighborhood that met many of the items on their housing checklist.

Finding a location that had good access to stores was key, but so were decent public schools and large lot sizes.

A drive through Urbana, she said, seemed to hit just about everything on the list.

“I just love it,” said Allen, who settled three years ago on a 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial in Urbana.

“It means a lot that my son can easily walk to see his friends.”


“The neighborhood was definitely affordable, but more than that the real surprise was in finding a truly welcoming, diverse, and extremely friendly community,” said Carolyn Alturner, who for 14 years has happily lived in a townhouse in Urbana. (Justin T. Gellerson/For The Washington Post)

Living there: Urbana, an unincorporated community with loosely defined boundaries, is generally bordered by Ball Road to the north, Ijamsville Road and Big Woods Road to the east, the Montgomery County line to the south, and Interstate 270, Urbana Pike and Reels Mill Road to the west, according to Tim Goodfellow, a planner with the Frederick County government.

In the past 12 months, 210 properties have sold in Urbana, ranging from a 1,356-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial for $131,000 to a 6,153-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial for $840,000, said Cardozo, the real estate agent with Spring Hill Real Estate.

There are 87 homes for sale in Urbana, ranging from a 2,894-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial for $309,900 to a 3,434-square-foot, six-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial for $734,400.

Schools: Because Urbana is an unincorporated community, it crosses a number of school zones. Many houses feed into Urbana Elementary, Centerville Elementary, Urbana Middle and Urbana High.

Transit: Frederick County operates a public bus system that primarily serves routes along the city of Frederick that are linked to retail and employment centers. There is also a MARC rail station in Frederick.