Cheverly: A neighborly niche in Prince George’s County


Cape Cod-style brick homes can be found throughout the older neighborhoods of Cheverly. (Jim Brocker/for The Washington Post)
November 15, 2013

They’ve lived in Cheverly only since February, but Jennifer and Abou Kone already feel as if they belong. For one thing, they have met all their neighbors — something that didn’t happen when they were living in Northern Virginia.

“Here, we saw the people walking around, kids playing,” said Jennifer, 27, who discovered the area while traveling to her information technology sales customers. “We thought it was so pretty.”

Her husband, Abou, enjoys the town’s diversity and welcoming spirit. Cheverly “makes you feel like a part of something, and not just in it,” said Abou Kone, 29.

Residents have found that it’s easy to be a part of this Prince George’s County community of 6,500. Many have chosen to join groups such as the Parent Resource Center and the Cheverly Community Market. There are environmental groups, a garden club, an American Legion post, the Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the swim club, and church, school and civic organizations.

Michael Callahan, the town’s mayor since 2010, said he and his wife, Peggy, were looking for an affordable place within commuting distance when they moved from Arlington County in 1985. “We had no intention of staying. But what we found was it was a community we just couldn’t leave,” said Callahan, 58, who raised his three children in Cheverly and was active in the Boys & Girls Club.


(Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

“Somebody has an idea and people do a tremendous job of supporting it,” Callahan said. “People give back to the community on a very consistent basis.”

Multigenerational: The pull of the community was also strong for Jeanne and John Doherty, who grew up in Cheverly and returned to raise their children. Jeanne, 50, whose father is town historian Raymond Bellamy, is one of several generations of her family to live in Cheverly. The town’s Bellamy Park is named for her grandfather.

“I think it’s a great place to make memories with your family,” she said while her niece, Jenna Bellamy, romped through a playground on a Sunday afternoon in Gast Park, known locally as “Cheese Park” because its yellow play equipment resembles Swiss cheese. John, 51, recalled playing football in the same park as a youngster. He and his wife attended St. Ambrose School in Cheverly.

Brian Callahan, 37, who is not related to the mayor, was busy running after his sons, Shea, 4, and Gavin, 2, at the park. He had high praise for the town’s play group that meets Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. “We’ve met a lot of great friends,” he said.

Nearby attractions: Cheverly’s snug location between major highways just minutes from the D.C. line has long attracted government workers. Commuters gravitate to Chev­erly, says Michael Callahan, because of the inside-the-Beltway location that allows easy access via automobile or the Cheverly Metrorail station. “You can get back at 6 or 6:30 and have a family life,” he said.

In addition to Metrorail and Metrobus, Cheverly is served by Prince George’s County’s transit system, The Bus.

The community also is close to Prince George’s Hospital Center, the Publick Playhouse performing arts center, and several shopping areas along the Route 202 corridor.

Activism is strong: Early development began along a railroad around 1918, according to a history on the town’s Web site. The town’s name came from Cheverly Gardens, a nearby subdivision. The town was incorporated in 1931, and many of the early homes remain, including bungalows, Cape Cods, and a few Sears and McClure “kit” houses. A tree canopy has grown over the years, creating a shady enclave for residents, who are encouraged to add additional trees through a town program that offers free plantings.

Now Cheverly is home to several elected officials, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and members of the Maryland General Assembly. But the spirit of activism goes beyond the elected officials and residents who serve on town committees. Progressive Cheverly, a citizen group, is concerned with social justice as well as environmental and zoning issues, and the Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek, an environmental group, takes on trail maintenance and invasive plants.

Living there: The boundaries are roughly Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the west, Route 50 to the south and east, and Landover Road (Route 202) to the north. Houses with similar floor plans and square footage can vary widely in price depending on the interior, and there can be “a really big swing in prices” depending on upgrades, said Susan Pruden, an agent with Century 21. Most houses range from 1,100 to 1,600 square feet, she said.

In the past 12 months, 63 homes have sold in Cheverly, at prices from $100,000 to $400,000. Seventeen were short sales or foreclosures. Fifteen houses are on the market now, from $210,000 to $445,000. Sixteen are under contract, from $130,000 to $340,000. “I have always believed that houses in Cheverly are undervalued,” said Pruden, a Cheverly resident since 1991. The town has about 1,800 single-family homes and about 500 apartments, said Callahan, the mayor.

Schools: When Jen Eldridge moved to Cheverly from Montgomery County, she said she had “preconceived biases” about Prince George’s County’s public schools. She’s now the PTA president at Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary. She and her neighbors took a proactive approach to the school that serves most of the town’s youngest children. “We wanted our neighborhood public school to be a good option for us,” she said, supporting events such as school-supplies drives and fundraisers. The PTA has also sponsored programs, such as an information session on the Affordable Care Act, to appeal to the broader Cheverly community. “It’s important for families, whether they have students there or not, to see [the school] as a resource,” Eldridge said.

Other public schools serving Cheverly are Bladensburg and Robert R. Gray elementary, William Wirt and G. James Gholson middle, and Bladensburg and Fairmont Heights high schools.

Crime watch: The Cheverly Watch Resident Radio Program allows residents to contact a patrol officer directly by radio over a town channel. Police can then respond immediately, said Chief Buddy Robshaw. “We’ve had over 50 arrests from observation from people in our town,” said Robshaw, estimating that 60 portable radios had been distributed to residents for the program, now in its sixth year. Theft is the most prevalent crime in Cheverly, with 120 in a 12-month period. Twelve robberies and 14 assaults occurred during that time, according to statistics reported by police in the town newsletter.

Jim Brocker is a freelance writer.

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