Twenty years ago, when it came to finding a home for the next stage of life, Charlie McGovern learned that bipartisanship has a place in real estate as in politics.

McGovern, 89, a retired property manager for the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission, was a Democratic precinct judge at the time. He mentioned to his Republican counterpart that he and his wife, Walli, 80, a retired seamstress, were considering a move to Hickory Crest in Columbia, Md., Howard County’s first active-adult community, open to residents 55 and older.

At the time, demand for homesites at Hickory Crest was so high that the developer used a lottery to determine buyers. The McGoverns entered, hoping to be chosen for a house that backed up to a wooded area. When their name wasn’t drawn, they suspended their search temporarily.

Not long after, Charlie’s colleague, who worked for the developer, crossed the aisle to clue him in to another house that was available in the community. This time, they didn’t need to go through a lottery. The McGoverns toured it and immediately cast their vote “yes,” becoming one of Hickory Crest’s original residents.

“We liked this even more,” McGovern said. “The other house had no basement and a very short driveway so no one could park in it.”

They appreciate the house’s layout, in which the main living areas and primary bedroom are on one level. The outdoor patio looks out onto a wooded area, and their street adjoins the rest of the neighborhood by green space and a footpath. The roomy basement and loft areas are accessible each by two short staircases of six steps and a landing, rather than one long staircase, a plus for aging knees and hips. The couple says that visitors’ first response is often, “wow, this is bigger than it looks.”

Hickory Crest, by Patriot Homes, is a community of 88 homes established in 2000. The homes vary from one to three levels, with options such as porches, sunrooms and fireplaces. It is located in the Hickory Ridge area of Columbia, one of 10 villages of the planned community, founded in 1967 by developer James Rouse.

“I like the people,” said Joann Biele, an original owner who moved to Hickory Crest from New York after 9/11 to be near her daughter, who was pregnant at the time. “The residents are very friendly and welcoming and supportive of one another.”

Nancy Whitelock, one of a group who gathered in the clubhouse on a recent morning to share reflections on the neighborhood, was the recipient of some of that neighborly vibe. For her 90th birthday, Biele and about 20 neighbors serenaded her outdoors with birthday greetings.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “In a way, I’ve met more of my neighbors in the pandemic, because everyone’s always out walking around.”

In addition to her neighbors, Whitelock also appreciated downsizing to a one-story house from her previous two-story house on a half-acre lot about three miles away. As a fourth-generation resident of the region, she has deep roots in the community and wanted to maintain her routines.

“I watched it being built from the ground up,” she said. “It’s so near my church, stores and doctors. It’s so convenient.”

Harry Hamilton and his wife moved to Hickory Crest from Wilde Lake, another Columbia village, where they had lived since 2015. He noted that the greater Columbia region’s 94 miles of pathways were another appealing factor in his choice.

“I had read about Columbia as a teenager and knew it was a planned community,” he said. “Columbia and Hickory Crest pay attention to quality of life, to the original goals and intentions. Hickory Crest has been a shining example of that.”

Living there: Hickory Crest is bounded by Owen Brown Road to the north, Cardinal Lane to the east, Freetown Road to the south and southwest, and Cedar Lane to the west. It was built in two sections connected by a footpath, so there’s no through traffic. In the past 12 months, two homes have sold, according to Vincent Orlando of Long & Foster Real Estate, a Hickory Crest resident since 2005. The highest price was $437,000 for a three-level, three-bedroom, three-bathroom house built in 2001. The lowest price was $430,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house built in 2002. No houses are on the market.

Hickory Crest homeowners association dues are $229 monthly, which support a clubhouse and events such as a poker club, a book club, Bible study, a Monday coffee, speakers and happy hours. Many of the activities have either been held in a pandemic-friendly outdoor settings or on Zoom. The neighborhood is about two miles from the Merriweather Post Pavilion, 4½ miles from the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area & Foundation and 9½ miles from historic Old Ellicott City.

Schools: Clemens Crossing Elementary, Wilde Lake Middle, Atholton High.

Transit: Regional Transportation Agency (RTA) buses have routes through the community, providing access to the Metro system and the Dorsey MARC train station. The Greenbelt and Shady Grove Metro stations are each about a half-hour drive away.

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