Alexandrias West End: Gateway to the city

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Twenty-five years ago, the West End of Alexandria seemed like uncharted territory to Donna Cramer, a local Realtor with McEnearney Associates. I had always heard about Old Town. But when I moved to Alexandria from Arlington in 1980, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the West End. I found some really nice older neighborhoods off of Seminary Road, west of Quaker Lane – like Seminary Ridge, Vauxclause and Bellewood, Seminary Valley and Varsity Park. These neighborhoods had a wonderful mix of home sizes with nice yards and lots of mature trees. It was a perfect area for new home-buyers to purchase their first detached house

These same features still hold true today. In fact, Alexandrias West End continues to be popular among new home-buyers. With the building of the Beatley Central Library and the redesigning of Cameron Station as a residential development, the area has experienced substantial growth, both residentially and commercially.

Cameron Station has been a phenomenal success, far greater than I ever dreamed, said Cramer. The people to whom I have sold houses there love living there. Theyre attracted to the conveniences that the development offers.

Janice McLaury, a Cameron Station resident agrees. My husband and I looked extensively in both Arlington and Alexandria. Once we discovered Cameron Station, we stopped looking because it offered us a neighborhood inside the Beltway unlike any other home seemed to provide. There is always something going on in Cameron Station. It was designed to be a complete neighborhood.

Cameron Station is adjacent to Ben Brenman Park which includes soccer fields, baseball diamonds, a large pond with a walking trail, a dog park, a bike path, a stage for outdoor community concerts and events and plenty of open space. There is also a main street within the community that offers a market, a dry-cleaner, a coffee house, a florist, a large lap pool, a neighborhood gym, a daycare center and a spa. Several other businesses have been slated to join Cameron Stations main street within the next year. There is also a public elementary school, Samuel L. Tucker, located within the Cameron Station neighborhood.

McLaury mentioned that what she likes best about living in Cameron Station is the sense of community it provides my family and me. Whether we are trick-or-treating with our boys, walking to the gym in the morning or coming home from work on the community shuttle, we always cross paths and chat for a while with our neighbors.

Appealing

The West End has appealed to many people over the years. Joe Bennett, immediate past president of the Cameron Station Civic Association, said, Weve lived a total of 14 years in Alexandria, all in the West End. We like the variety that we see here – in ethnic groups, architectural styles, income levels, etc. It is convenient to a much broader array of shopping choices. There seems to be a good system of bus routes to D.C., during rush hours. There are several nice suburban neighborhoods in the West End for those that appreciate that lifestyle.  Also, several of the best restaurants in the city are here.

Thats good news for Wendy Albert, a West End resident and owner of Tempo Restaurant on Duke Street. Albert is also President of the West End Business Association (WEBA). Because the West End is so spread out, we have many destination businesses here. We dont have the walking traffic that some of the other areas of Alexandria have. Thats why we formed WEBA to give our West End businesses a sense of unity and support.

WEBA boasts a web site for newcomers, http://www.alexandriaweba.com thats filled with information about the City of Alexandria and living and working in the West End. We wanted to have a go-to web site for anyone interested in getting more information about the city and about our West End neighborhoods, said Albert. I truly believe that the West End is the gateway to Alexandria. We have access to all the major transportation arteries, making it a sought after area for anyone who is commuting to and from work.

Historic
Many will agree that the proximity to I-395 and I-495 has always made the West End a desirable place for people who work at the Pentagon, Crystal City, and Washington, D.C. With the addition of the Van Dorn and Hoffman Metro Stations, the area is a popular choice for home-buyers who use public transportation.

For most real estate agents, the boundaries of the West End encompass a large area – from the west side of Quaker Lane along Duke Street to the city line – to the west of Braddock Road from Quaker Lane toward Beauregard to the city line – and south on Van Dorn Street between Duke and Pickett to the city line along Eisenhower Avenue.

Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site is also located within the boundaries of the West End. Its the best preserved of the system of Union forts and batteries built to protect Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Fort Ward Museum interprets the sites history and offers exhibits on Civil War topics, education and interpretive programs, tours, lecture and video series, bus tours, and living history activities throughout the year. Located off of West Braddock Road, its an ideal place for any history buff or anyone looking for peace and tranquility on the trails of the 45-acre park.

According to Donna Cramer of McEnearney Associates, housing prices have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. High rise condos are selling in the low $200,000s as compared to $60,000 in 1995. Townhouses along Duke Street are now selling in the mid-to-upper $400,000s versus the high $100,000s 10 years ago. Detached houses in Seminary Ridge and Marlboro Estates that sold from $300,000 to the mid-to-high $400,000s in 1995 are now selling in the $800,000 price range and above. And houses in Seminary Valley that sold a decade ago for $190,000, are now selling in the $400,000-$500,000 range.

Changes
Another area of anticipation for West End residents is the projected redevelopment of Landmark Shopping Center. Gwen Sigda, a West End resident and local Realtor with Beau Realty said, I am looking forward to the revitalization of the West End through the citys redevelopment plan and Landmark Malls efforts to update the community. The changes in the Landmark area will only improve the draw for business and residential housing in the West End. Many are eager to watch this projected town center evolve. It will include a mixture of residential, commercial and open space.

With all the changes planned for the West End, prospective homeowners will continue to have a wide variety of choices – from high rise condos to reasonably priced suburban homes to more expensive homes and townhouses.

This is a good place for busy people to live, particularly if they work in D.C., because of the overall convenience and the abundance of low maintenance housing choices, said Joe Bennett.

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