Where to live in Baltimore?
July 28, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving from the Midwest to Baltimore in about a month, likely into an apartment sight unseen. Baltimore MeFites - I need your advice on where to live that is safe, in my price range, and would fit my lifestyle!

I will be starting a new job in Baltimore the first week of September. I've never done a cross-country move and have spent a total of 17 hours in Baltimore to date. I'm caught up in a whirlwind of old Metafilter posts and Google results about neighborhoods, apartments, etc and I feel more confused than I was before starting this endeavor! Help me Metafilter!

Since Sept 1 rentals probably go pretty quickly, I'll likely wind up needing to sign a lease sight unseen. Thus, I need some help from the locals!

I'm in my late 20s and will be working at JHU-Homewood. For neighborhoods, safety is my primary concern, then cost, then convenience to shops/transit/etc. I like having groceries, a park or place to wander, and a coffeeshop nearby, but don't need a ton of nightlife. I tend to spend most evenings at home, but like to wander around town on the weekends. For my first year, I'm probably looking for a more modern apartment complex until I get a better feel for the city, and I can probably go up to $1,000 in rent for a studio or 1-bed, maybe a bit higher.

From what I've dug up online, it sounds like Charles Village, Tuscany/Canterbury, Canton, Federal Hill or Mt Washington might be where I want to look. I'd love any thoughts on those neighborhoods, or particular properties within them that I should look into. Or, if I'm missing neighborhoods that you think would be a good fit, tell me all about it!

posted by JannaK to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were you, I'd avoid Fed Hill as it will not be terribly convenient for working at JHU, parking sucks and it will be on the higher end in terms of price.

You might want to consider Hampden (I live there.) It's safe, fairly cheap, close to your work and good parking. There good bars, shops and places to eat on the Avenue, and (via Falls Rd.) you can be in Mt. Vernon/Station North area very quickly. There's a Giant in Hampden, and a short drive north of Falls Rd. will take you past the Cross Keys shops and then Mt. Washington, which has a Whole Foods.
posted by spaltavian at 11:00 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

("Giant" is a Mid-Atlantic grocery chain.)
posted by spaltavian at 11:05 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would second Hampden. It pretty easily satisfies your criteria and is close to JHU-Homewood.
posted by Dalton at 11:30 AM on July 28, 2012

It is possible for you to live somewhere temporarily (via VRBO or AirBnB or even a hotel) while you look for a place?
posted by k8t at 11:44 AM on July 28, 2012

I would like to 2nd avoiding Federal Hill and add Canton to that list - while both are nice spot for grabbing drinks, they are aggro hotspots on the weekends and the parking during that time is bad enough that most of my friends avoid driving anywhere just to avoid the hassle of trying to find another spot.

Hamden is rich with a culture and has relatively easy access to the light rail - Hopkins U has a barnes and noble as the school bookstore to meet your basic coffee needs. Mt. Washington is also very cool as well.

The City recently rolled out the Charm City Circulator which is a free bus with various routes that takes you through the majority of the city.

Feel free to reach out with any questions, welcome to charm city.
posted by ACEness at 11:53 AM on July 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys! This is exactly the type of help I'm looking for. Will have to look into Hampden more for sure! Any building recommendations in the neighborhood?

As for AirBnB or VRBO, I do love those and should think about that too as a short-term option.

Keep the ideas coming! Thanks!
posted by JannaK at 12:17 PM on July 28, 2012

Hampden and Mount Vernon are good choices. There are more one bed rooms and more apartment complexes in Vernon and better access to other parts of the city. It has a slightly more urban feel than Hampden and is much prettier. There's a lot more nightlife in Vernon than the other neighborhoods that you're floating around (if you're trying to avoid nightlife), but it's not perniciously bro-filled like Fells Point or Federal Hill. I find it a charming aspect of the neighborhood. There's a free Hopkins bus line that runs to Homewood from early morning to 11:30 at night and later on weekends.

The lower part of Roland Park is also a possibility you might want to check on.
posted by vathek at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2012

Nthing Hampden. Look on Craigslist for a place, there aren't really any big buildings that I can recommend, but I've always had good luck with individual landlords. You should find a great place in your price range pretty easily in walking distance to the Avenue (36th St) and JHU. You can also look over near the Remington area as well, which is sort of between Hampden and Charles Village. (On a map, the area around The Dizz and Charm City Cakes.) Remington is a little sketchier than Hampden proper, though.
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:34 PM on July 28, 2012

Hampden or Mount Washington.

Also, I just got a rental sight unseen, and my recommendation is to have the person showing/renting the place to make you a short video and either attach it to an email or put it on YouTube. Most people seemed able to manage this level of technical ability. Make sure they also give you a video impression of the street outside the place.

But if you, can, strongly consider the temporary hotel housing etc. while you look for a place, because in Baltimore one block in either direction can make a huge difference safety-wise, and you really want to be able to see what the neighborhood is like.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2012

Best answer: Remington isn't much of a neighborhood, although it is next door to Homewood. It is pretty sketchy, but it's very, very small. There are no apartment buildings there, as far as I know.

There are no apartments, really, in Hampden either. It's all shared and rental housing. It used to be a very working-class neighborhood (a couple decades ago) and is now overrun by yuppies. It's got coffee and comic books and crazy apparel and so on. You might like it.

There are some apartment towers around Charles Village (specifically, along University Boulevard): the Marylander, the Carlyle, the Blackstone, etc. They're full of Hopkins undergrads and get pretty noisy and unpleasant, although you might be OK with them. There's also lots of shared and rental housing in Charles Village itself, mostly three-story walkups.

Parking is pretty dire in all of these places, but you're never more than a 20-minute walk from anything.

East of Charles Village you find Waverley, which has fewer students but is also sketchier and has fewer available rooms.

Going south, Charles Village fades into Station North, which is starting to gentrify. There's great Korean food, and an artisanal pizza place, and some nightlife. And you're very close to Mount Vernon! Hopkins students refuse to set foot in Station North (or anywhere near North Ave) because they think they'll get killed. It's not the prettiest area, but it's OK.

North of Charles Village is Tuscany-Canterbury and Guilford, both pretty posh. Tuscany-Canterbury probably has more rental options, but it's also full of Hopkins students and is substantially more expensive.

Farther south into the city you find the aforementioned Mount Vernon, which is a parking disaster, although I imagine it's a pretty nice place to live. West of that you find Bolton Hill, which is where MICA students live. It's less busy, but within easy reach of Mt. Vernon's amenities.

Mount Washington is about 10 minutes to the north by car. It's quaint and very provincial. The supermarket is a Whole Foods.

A more accessible neighborhood is Roland Park. It's an old-money neighborhood, but there's some stuff for rent there. Think shade trees, private schools, old French restaurants. They have an Eddie's, a little upscale mart.

Check into Woodberry. It's the west end of Hampden, although less chic. They have a new-ish upscale condo complex there, but it's otherwise all rowhouses. It's a weird little pocket of small-town life in the middle of the city.

If you don't mind a 20-minute commute, look into Towson! Yes, it's full of students too, but you'll have every imaginable amenity there. Also: more apartment complexes.
posted by Nomyte at 2:13 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something like this might work or this.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2012

Feel free to MeMail me if you need advice about specific addresses or anything else. I've lived in Baltimore on and off for my whole life so I know the city pretty well.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:24 PM on July 28, 2012

Thirding (or fourthing, I forget) Hampden. I don't live there but I used to. Safe and lots of character.
posted by brownrd at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have friends who lived in this building. I spent a lot of time there and it was really nice. It's very quiet and well-maintained. It's close enough to walk to Hampden and Charles Village/JHU, but is in a quiet, family oriented neighborhood near the park.

I also recommend Hampden. Roland Park is nice too.

My husband lived in Remington. I wouldn't recommend it! It's noisy and a little dodgy. I wouldn't want to live there as a woman alone.
posted by apricot at 3:18 PM on July 28, 2012

There actually are apartments in Hampden; I live in a two bedroom for $1,100. Union Mill on Union Ave. is a 19th century mill that has been renovated in apartments and offices. Worth a peek. There is a also a apartment building on Keswick.

OP, memail me if you want for details on the 8-unit apartment building I live in.
posted by spaltavian at 4:37 PM on July 28, 2012

I lived in Hampden for three years, moved out to Baltimore into an apartment sight-unseen so I know where you're coming from. As far as specific buildings or property management companies, I can recommend Preller Properties who own/manage many renovated/repurposed buildings in the neighborhood. They're fair and responsive in terms of tenant requests. I've been a previous tenant, but has no affilitation currently. There's currently a Studio listed on their website for ~ $1,000 in a great part of lower Roland Park that borders Hampden and is walkable or a short bike ride from JHU Homewood. Of course you can find a rental for less but amenities can vary. Keep in mind that relatively few new apartment communities have been constructed and most are renovated buildings or historic row homes.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Hampden as a neighborhood in terms of what you're looking for. If you choose anywhere near Hampden/Charles Village you'll have access to a large park, and a lot of independent businesses on The Avenue , the whole area is very walkable. I survived in Baltimore for year without a car, using the JHU free shuttle and the MTA bus/light rail (which can be frustrating, but workable with patience).
posted by Asherah at 5:29 PM on July 28, 2012

Best answer: I moved to Baltimore a year ago and after visiting all the neighborhoods around town I opted for Mt. Vernon. My criteria were the same as yours. It's safe, you can walk to anywhere you need to go, proximate to all of Baltimore's public transportation options (including the light rail, subway, buses, and for you the free Hopkins shuttle), and affordable. In my opinion, it's the most architecturally interesting of all the neighborhoods you mentioned. I also opted for Mt. Vernon because, like you, I like to wander on the weekends and I enjoy walking from Mt. Vernon to downtown and the harbor.

Since you will be picking a spot without looking beforehand, you should really take a Google Street View tour of all the neighborhoods and picture yourself walking through that environment on a daily basis. Mt. Vernon and Hampden, which many people above have mentioned, have very different feels. I'm not a huge fan of Hampden, but I know other people are and many of my own friends live there.
posted by saltwater at 8:00 AM on July 29, 2012

Hampden is fine, but it doesn't really fit your criteria. It's got it's spots, but it's hipster-y cool and pretty "Baltimore." I wouldn't rent a place sight unseen here. It's definitely a vist first, look around, word of mouth neighborhood.

For you (evenings at home, primary concern safety, a coffeshop nearby) and no time to look, I would suggest Tuscany-Canterbury, specifically the buildings named the Ambassador and the Broadview.

Nice, comfortable, clean, safe, predictable. Across the street from JHU Homewood. Yes, it's boring. But I think it's far less Baltimore and more neutral - think grad students, international students, visiting profs. You could go pretty wrong in Hampden. You can't really go wrong in Tuscany-Canterbury.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:41 AM on July 29, 2012

Agreeing with Tuscany-Canterbury, especially if safety is your priority and you'll be renting sight unseen. I live there for a year--rented a 1200sf apartment up in the trees in a historic building. Most people are either grad students or older than 40. It's very very quiet, safe, and pretty. You can't go wrong for a one-year rental.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:12 PM on July 29, 2012

Best answer: Coming back to add more now that I'm not on my phone.

There are very few modern apartment complexes in the neighborhoods you list, because they're all historic neighborhoods in the city, and because Baltimore's multi housing unit of choice is the rowhouse. Mt. Washington does have some outside the pretty, walkable, historic area. That neighborhood is the safest of the ones you mention. As mentioned, it has a Whole Foods and a handful of restaurants in the historic area. Parking would be plentiful here, but the cost of living is generally higher (except if you're in a complex closer to Pikesville). One thing of interest in case you rent sight unseen in Mt. Washington/Pikesville: It's home to one of the largest orthodox Jewish communities in the US. Pikesville has lots of wonderful delis in addition to other commercial shopping options. There are lots of synagogues and community gathering places that generate much pedestrian traffic to watch out for on Friday afternoons, and it's really common to see orthodox families everywhere around you.

Charles Village is almost exclusively 3-story rowhouses, many of which have been split into apartments. I have dear friends who live there in a single family home, but they do have to deal with undergrad noise from time to time. Then again, they also live 3 houses down from Clarke Peters' Baltimore home and they're well connected to the cultural scene; they love Charles Village for its walkability to the handful of restaurants and the Barnes & Noble (they have kids who need urban entertainment). You're like to find the most choices in CV in your price range. There's a fair amount of property crime in the form of car break-ins in CV, generated by people stealing to support their drug habit.

I live just north of Hampden and love it here, but you need to know that it has an endemic problem with meth. If I'd had more coffee I might be able to more eloquently explain the genesis, but in short the area has a large population of people who historically worked blue-collar jobs in mills, manufacturing here and everywhere went bust, the culture here still remains, but the work does not. Some bars are still following their old overnight shift hours, meaning that when I'm on my way to work at 8:30am, I see the same handful of drunk people hanging out outside smoking. The next generation of these families are the ones you see and hear most in Hampden: young white girls pushing baby strollers, yelling at boyfriends on the phone or in person. Hampden is fairly gentrified, but the neighborhood refused to allow a Starbucks to land here; it was first "gentrified" by artists, as is common, and independence here rules. Although you'll have to walk through the near daily argument between the aforementioned couples/groups, it's very safe.

Feel free to memail me for more info if needed. I still think Tuscany-Canterbury is your best bet given your criteria. Federal Hill and Canton are to be completely avoided unless you're a big fan of Mardi Gras all around you each weekend.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:47 AM on July 30, 2012

I haven't lived in Baltimore for years, so I'll let the current locals discuss the situation as it is. For a modern building close to campus, there's the not-university-affiliated Hopkins House.
posted by knile at 5:33 AM on July 30, 2012

Oh, and apricot linked to the Wyman Park Apartments. I rented through Real Estate Dimensions and give them a thumbs-up.
posted by knile at 5:51 AM on July 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all! This has been incredibly helpful. I ran some of your suggestions past my future colleagues today to get some additional opinions, and I've been calling a lot of the places you've mentioned to check availability.

As of right now, I'm leaning towards Tuscany/Canterbury, and the Broadview has apartments in my price range available Sept 1, so I'll likely land there.

Really appreciate all your help, and perhaps I'll see you all at a Baltimore meet up later this year!
posted by JannaK at 7:29 PM on July 30, 2012

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