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Our Town: Bowie

Bowie, which grew up around a 19th-century railroad station, is one of Maryland’s biggest cities, with 55,000 people.

Who lives here: This is a racially and economically diverse town, with African-Americans making up nearly a third of residents. Most people work outside Bowie; some couples split the distance between DC and Annapolis or Baltimore.

The vibe: 60s suburbia. “If a baby’s born, you take over a casserole,” says Lisa Chesnick, who grew up in Bowie and moved back in 1991. “You can still run across the street and borrow a cup of milk.”

Homefront: Nicknamed “Levitt Bowie” for the developer who built thousands of houses here in the 1960s, the city’s heart features ranches, Cape Cods, and Colonials set on small lots. Newer developments of luxury homes (mainly Colonials) are filling surrounding areas. There’s also a scattering of 19th-century farmhouses and cottages in Old Town Bowie, around the original train station.

For sale: Old Town homes range from $250,000 to $600,000. Homes in Levitt Bowie cost between $325,000 for a small rancher and $450,000 for an updated Colonial. Sprawling new houses in Fairwood, a former sod farm, start at around $700,000 and can go for more than $1 million. Realtors say the market is picking up, but on average properties take around 75 days to sell.

Biggest draw: The 85-acre Allen Pond Park is the site of July 4 fireworks and the annual Bowiefest celebration. It has a stocked pond and a year-round skating rink.

Drawbacks: Low test scores in Prince George’s County schools. Some residents say Bowie doesn’t feel as safe as it used to; crime has risen slightly since 2000.

The commute: There’s a MARC station at the north end of town. The drive to downtown DC takes at least 45 minutes during rush hour. Some residents travel 15 miles to Annapolis or 20 to Baltimore.

Makeover: The city is encouraging makeovers of its 15 shopping centers, drawing mostly national retailers and chain restaurants. Bowie Town Center—which houses Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, other shops, a food court, and a few sit-down restaurants—opened in 2001.

What Fairfax can’t match: Levitt Bowie is broken into smaller sections, most with their own parks and elementary schools. There are also several community swimming pools.

On the Web: City of Bowie (cityofbowie.org); Prince George’s schools (pgcps.org); Bowie Blade-News (bowieblade.com).

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