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Where We Live: Dunleigh, a family-friendly corner of Burke, Va.

By Amy Reinink,

If it takes a village to raise a child, say residents of Dunleigh, a community of 147 houses in Fairfax County, their neighborhood could be considered that village.

Young families abound in the Burke subdivision, which sits just off Braddock Road, and residents take a communal attitude to all the kids in the neighborhood.

“A few days ago, one of my kids’ friends rang the doorbell, then walked right in when I opened the door,” said Leslie Robillard, 46, a musician who moved to Dunleigh with her husband, Mark, in 1999. “I said, ‘So, I guess you want to play today?’ We treat each other’s kids like our own here. It really is a village mentality.”

Dunleigh was built in two phases in the early 1980s and is made up mostly of two-story Colonials and split-levels.

It sits just a few miles from the Capital Beltway and a short drive from the Pentagon and Tysons Corner, which attracted Beth Jones, 69, an agent with Long & Foster, to the neighborhood in 1980.

“It’s a central location for almost anywhere someone would need to travel,” Jones said. “On a good day, you can be at the Pentagon or in Tysons in 20 minutes.”

Though the neighborhood has good access to major employment and entertainment centers, residents said it possesses a quiet, suburban atmosphere.

“The location is close to what you need, but not too close,” Robillard said. “The Beltway is three miles east, so it’s far enough that you’re not right on top of it, but close enough that you can get to it easily.”

Jones said the neighborhood is convenient for walkers, too, with a library, several small parks, and a shopping center with a Giant Food and other shops within walking distance.

Jaye and Reena Bawa found Burke to be a perfect place to raise a family when they moved from Arlington when their son, Caiyl, now 24, was 5.

“There was more recreation and less traffic than the urban setting we had in Arlington,” said Jaye Bawa, who is in his 50s and manages a vending company.

The Bawa family actually lived in a neighborhood adjacent to Dunleigh until about two years ago, when Dunleigh’s relative quiet and sense of community enticed them to move again. They now live in a brick rambler considered the “original” Dunleigh house, the first one built in the neighborhood in 1963. 

“There’s a warmth and friendliness to this neighborhood that’s very unique, and very refreshing,” Jaye Bawa said. “And with only one entrance, it’s like a huge cul-de-sac. There’s no through traffic.”

Examples of the neighborhood’s warmth and friendliness abound. Residents organize meal-cooking campaigns for neighbors going through rough times, and they shovel elderly residents’ sidewalks when there’s snow, Jones said.

Although many young families call the neighborhood home, Dunleigh’s residents are diverse both generationally and ethnically, Robillard said.

“I come from a place that’s not as diverse, so for my kids to be exposed to this kind of diversity is really wonderful,” said Robillard, referring to daughters Sophia, 10, and Camille, 8. “Their friends are black, white, Asian — you name it, we’ve got it here.”

Residents frequently gather for informal potluck dinners and other get-togethers, Jones said. That’s in addition to annual events sponsored by the Dunleigh Homeowners Association, such as a cookout in the summer and community cleanups in the spring and fall.

“Everyone comes together for things like the Halloween parade for kids, or when Santa Claus comes through on a firetruck around Christmas,” Robillard said. “It’s exciting for my kids, and it’s fun for the parents to get together, too.”

The youngest residents enjoy easy access to Lake Braddock Secondary School, adjacent to the neighborhood.

“Having the secondary school there is a great benefit for this neighborhood,” Jones said. “Parents don’t have to worry about driving kids to after-school activities, football games and other activities. In the fall, it’s really neat to hear the sounds of the football game, especially the award-winning marching band.”

The neighborhood also boasts a recently refurbished playground and plenty of open space, including a buffer of trees between Braddock Road and the community, Jones said.

Though the buffer shields Dunleigh from Braddock Road’s noise, its traffic is unavoidable.

“Braddock Road at rush hour can be a challenge,” Jones said. “That’s just something you have to deal with around here.”

Some residents also bemoan the lack of commercial development nearby. Others said the small shopping center and handful of restaurants are sufficient — and help maintain the neighborhood’s suburban character.

“Some would like it to be a little more New York-y, but I find the neighborhood extremely convenient, even though it doesn’t have a lot of commercial things,” Robillard said. “It helps keep that smaller community feel intact.”

Reinink is a special correspondent.

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