The resort life in Montgomery County


Residents of Avenel, a golf-course-centered community situated where Bethesda meets Potomac, enjoy easy access to the shops and restaurants of Potomac Village. (Photo by Amy Reinink)
September 1, 2012

From its well maintained Georgian mansions to the PGA Tour-owned golf course that forms its center, Avenel in Montgomery County oozes luxury.

The neighborhood’s private landscaping crew carefully grooms its many two-acre lots, removing leaves in the fall and snow in the winter before residents even know they’re there. Riding and walking trails abound, and they lead to amenities such as an equestrian center and a swim and tennis club. Even the roads leading to the neighborhood are free of billboards and strip malls.

But it’s more than the luxury that draws residents to the neighborhood, which consists of roughly 900 homes that straddle Bethesda and Potomac off MacArthur Boulevard and Persimmon Tree Road.

“I don’t like strip malls and I don’t like suburbia,” said Hilary Fordwich, 50, who moved to Avenel four years ago. “This is technically suburbia, and yet this little area is serene and bucolic. I’m from England, and I tell people that Avenel is like England with better weather.”

Avenel was built in the 1980s and 1990s around the golf course, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. Fordwich is one of many residents who were initially attracted to the neighborhood’s proximity to world-class golf.


Avenel (Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

“I’m an avid golfer and so are my children, so to be able to walk to the TPC course and Congressional Country Club is just wonderful,” she said.

Even residents who aren’t members of the golf course say they benefit from the neighborhood’s proximity to it.

“I liked the idea of the golf course, because you know no one’s going to build something on that space,” said George Schonholtz, 82, a retired physician who moved to Avenel 14 years ago. “Even if you don’t play golf, it’s nice to have that attractive, wide-open space.”

Fordwich, senior vice president of AOC Key Solutions Inc. in Chantilly, said living in Avenel also means she has a quicker commute to work than most of her co-workers who live in Northern Virginia.

“I’m only 15 minutes from Tysons, and I’m 30 minutes from every single one of the clients I have in Northern Virginia, because I have the benefit of a reverse commute,” Fordwich said. “I’m 20 minutes from downtown D.C., and you just can’t beat the proximity to all three airports. If you travel for business, this is a perfect location.”

In addition, Avenel is close to shops and restaurants in Potomac Village.

“Anything you really need, you can quickly run into Potomac Village and get,” Schonholtz said.

The neighborhood is professionally managed by the Avenel Community Association, which staffs an office in the community and handles the maintenance of common areas and other issues of community concern.

The neighborhood is separated into roughly a dozen “villages,” each with a different character, from the tony, mansion-filled Eagle Ridge to Pleasant Gate, composed of modest Cape Cod-style houses built to fulfill county requirements for affordable housing.

Nancy Shahin Itteilag, a Long & Foster agent who lives in Avenel, said homes there include townhouses and smaller “courtyard homes,” which go for roughly $1 million to $2 million, and single-family detached houses that range from $1 million to $8 million. Itteilag said Avenel sees very little turnover, with only 5 to 10 percent of the community’s houses going up for sale in any given year.

“It’s quite a lovely place, aesthetically, with lot of green space and lots of trees,” Itteilag said. “The main drive through the neighborhood is lined with a beautiful white picket fence. There’s an architectural control committee, and all the homes are kept up well.”

Residents said the neighborhood’s strict design covenants can be a blessing or a burden, depending on your perspective.

“If you’re a free spirit and want a polka-dot house, this is not the place for you,” Schonholtz said. “The houses aren’t cookie-cutter, but there are high standards for design.”

Doug Poretz, 66, a communications consultant who moved to the neighborhood 14 years ago, said he views the covenants as a downside, though he noted they weren’t a deal-breaker.

“From my perspective, one of the downsides of living here is the fact that there are limits on architectural uniqueness,” Poretz said. “If you want to change the color of your shutters, and think, ‘Okay, let’s go get the paint and do it,’ that’s not going to happen here.”

Poretz was one of many Avenel residents to rave about the neighborhood’s private landscaping and maintenance crews, in addition to the private security crew that patrols the neighborhood.

“Not only do I not have to do the lawn, I don’t even have to call the guy to come do the lawn,” Poretz said. “It’s really easy.”

Fordwich recalled that when the streets were covered with nearly a dozen inches of snow in 2010, she woke to the sound of maintenance workers shoveling her front steps at 6 a.m.

“Everything looks perfect, and I don’t have to do anything,” Fordwich said. “When I leave the house before a vacation, I just turn the key and leave.”

Itteilag said the professional maintenance and landscaping, plus the proximity to the golf course, make living in Avenel feel like being on vacation all the time.

“Having the golf course right in the center of the community makes it feel like you’re living in a resort,” Itteilag said.

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.

ZIP CODE: Avenel encompasses two Zip codes — 20854 in Potomac and 20817 in Bethesda.

BOUNDARIES: Persimmon Tree Road to the north, the Capital Beltway to the east, MacArthur Boulevard to the south and Falls Road to the west.

SCHOOLS: Seven Locks Elementary School, Cabin John and Hoover middle schools, and Winston Churchill High School.

HOME SALES: In the past 12 months, according to Nancy Shahin Itteilag of Long & Foster, 12 single-family houses sold in Avenel, at prices ranging from $1.1 million to $2.3 million. Also sold were seven “courtyard homes” ($950,000 to $1.6 million) and three townhouses ($1.1 million to $1.2 million. Four houses are under contract, from $1.275 million to $1.98 million; as are one “courtyard home,” for $1.275 million; and one townhouse, for $1.1 million. On the market are 20 houses, from $1.35 million to $5.995 million; five courtyard homes, from $995,000 to $1.695 million; and five townhouses, from $1.05 million to $1.2 million.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, Congressional Country Club.

WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Downtown Bethesda, Potomac Village, C&O Canal, Tysons Corner (traffic permitting).

TRANSIT: Medical Center, Bethesda and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro stations (Red Line).

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