Hollin Hall revamps to attract younger buyers

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At the end of World War II, scores of homecoming vets made Hollin Hall their home, buying up $4,000 home kits from the Sears & Roebuck Co. and putting up street after street of sturdy albeit affordable houses.

Enter Fort Hunt builders Joe Francone, J.D. Long and McLean Realtor Casey Margenau, who last year began buying up homes in the bedroom community, tearing down the simple and sturdy structures and building in their place 18 luxury homes that younger homebuyer-commuters seem to crave this close to the nations capital.

The Long Company of Virginia is responsible for the current project. Calling himself a lifelong resident of this 22308 zip code, owner Joe Francone proudly said, I left to go to college, came back here and bought the house where I grew up. I have been building in Alexandria for 10 or 12 years. His partner, J.D. Long, is moving back from Fairfax to Alexandria.

Wherever they come from, the younger, newly affluent buyers may also help counter the demographic shift that has taken place in Hollin Hall since the original dwellings were built there more than 60 years ago.

This trend is illustrated by the fact that the Hollin Hall School, which opened in 1949, became as a senior center in 1983. Residents aged 62 and over represent about 22 percent of the Fort Hunt area, compared to 9.9 percent throughout the county.

At the landmark Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, employees Dee Bodkin and Devlin DiBitetto seemed pleased by the prospect of 18 new luxury homes going up in their community.

It is a great idea, said Bodkin, a longtime Hollin Hall resident. It will create more business opportunities for this shopping center, located on Fort Hunt Road. This means more new friends and future customers, too.

As for the new houses themselves, DiBitetto said, I walk the dog past them all the time, and they look very nice.

All along Fort Hunt Road, signs lead to the new homes being built in Hollin Hall, named for the plantation that George Mason gave his son.

With their stylish craftsman slate-and-shingle exteriors, four houses are being built on Washington Road across from some of the older homes. Dating from the post-World War II suburban building boom, these well-maintained brick ramblers and bungalows feature lavish front gardens, reminiscent of English villages, creating an inviting community.

Two of Hollin Halls brick ramblers, built in 1955 and 1951 respectively, are listed for sale at $479,900 and $468,000. The current builder purchased other dwellings as teardowns to make room for his new units, priced from $849,945 to $1,250,000.

Some of these older houses have undergone extensive renovations. Before the new construction even began, one had been redesigned in the same style as its younger neighbors, creating one harmonious row along Washington Road.

An Alexandria couple was the first to purchase one of the new Hollin Hall homes.

They wanted to keep their kids in Waynewood Elementary School, said Margenau, one of the top Realtors in the region, with $170 million in sales last year.

Many of the shoppers feel the same way about keeping their children in Alexandrias most sought-after elementary schools, also including Stratford Landing and Fort Hunt.

This first buyer also works in the District. Many commuters are finding Alexandria and Arlington locations to be even more desirable than ever before in the face of the ever-soaring gas prices and traffic.

The Fairfax County Connector Bus to the Huntington Metro runs along Fort Hunt Road, helping lighten the commuters load. And, said Margenau, they are taking full advantage of it. Nowadays, you see 12 to 15 people waiting at the stop there, he said. It used to be four or six.

Above all, many of his clients seem to feel that, Their lives revolve around Alexandria, Margenau said. Some are moving from Old Town, because they are getting married and need more room. He adds, though, We have some who are relocating, too.

Not all of the younger residents approve of the current changes. While walking her two dogs on Fairfax Drive, Vivian Leven remarked, These houses dont fit in with the neighborhood.

Francone explained that the models were designed to blend with the existing community, following the traditional Colonial-craftsman style. Rather than spreading out, most were built upward with four floors, in the spirit of city houses.

As Margenau put it, We did not want to overpower the neighborhood with a big-box classical Colonial.

Instead, many of the most luxurious features are found inside. These include gourmet kitchens, with upscale appliances and granite counters; adjoining family rooms with fireplaces; master suites featuring spa baths with Jacuzzi tubs and separate showers; high-tech wiring and two-car rear garages.

All these amenities should appeal to what Margenau called the target market for the project, consisting of Alexandria residents seeking to upgrade to new homes with new features, without leaving their historic community.

Readers can tour the model home at 8025 Washington Road during its grand opening on Sunday, June 1, from 1 to 4 p.m. Call 703-827-5777.

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