Alexandria’s Cameron Station is “a ‘wheels’ neighborhood, not a ‘back yard’ neighborhood,” as resident Tracy Thompson describes it.
The planned community of 975 townhouses, 762 condominium apartments and 32 detached homes is small on private yards but big on biking trails, community green spaces and recreational amenities.
The community has so many conveniences that it’s rarely necessary to leave it, Thompson said. “A perfect summer day for my eighth-grader would be biking to get his friends in the neighborhood, then to the fields at the park to play ball,” said Thompson, an at-home mom and former teacher. “Then he’d bike to the clubhouse for indoor basketball and swimming in the pool, then go down to get a sandwich at the local market before going to a friend’s house to hang out. I feel great that it’s so safe and easy, that he never has to leave the neighborhood.”
Cameron Station, which features 18th- and 19th-century style homes, brick sidewalks, and Colonial-style street lamps, rose from the remains of a 164-acre Army installation that closed in 1995. About 101 acres were subsequently sold to a developer; the other 63 acres were transferred to the City of Alexandria, which now maintains city parks in the community. The neighborhood includes a “Main Street”-style boulevard (part of Brenman Park Drive) with rows of condominium apartments topping storefronts that include a cafe, a small market and a dry cleaner.
The community is bordered by three parks. On the east end is 59-acre Ben Brenman Park, offering athletic fields, a pond, picnic pavilion, and dog park; it is also home to the West End Farmers Market. At the neighborhood’s west end is the year-round Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School, which opened in 2000, and the adjoining 11-acre Armistead L. Boothe Park. Running between the two parks, along the back of the neighborhood, is Cameron Station Linear Park, primarily green space along a walking-and-biking trail, part of which parallels still-in-service railroad tracks. Pocket parks, some with benches and pergolas, dot the community, adding to its walkable charm.
The volunteer-run Cameron Station Civic Association represents the neighborhood’s interests in civic and political matters; it recently co-hosted a meet-and-greet between residents and Alexandria’s mayor and City Council. The internal workings of the community, meanwhile, are governed by a homeowners association, the Cameron Station Community Association.
“You get a lot of amenities for the $109-per-month HOA fee, which is inexpensive compared to other places and for what you get,” said resident and real estate agent Mike Lekas, who founded Cameron Station’s annual house and garden tours. (The community’s six condominium developments assess additional fees.) Those amenities include the recently renovated Cameron Club, offering classes, a fitness center, a basketball court and an outdoor pool; snow and trash removal; maintenance of common areas; and a free rush-hour shuttle bus to the Van Dorn Metro station.
The community also boasts a variety of clubs and activities, including the resident- initiated and run “Monday Martini” gatherings. Mark Miller, who works in program management, met his fiancee at a Monday Martini get-together. “It’s a great way to meet people. There are all ages and it’s a very culturally diverse group,” Miller said.
Single mom Alexandra Boos, a model, said one reason she bought a condominium in Cameron Station was the convenience of having a neighborhood day-care center, preschool, elementary school and city park all within walking distance.
“The neighborhood has an old-fashioned feel. In the mornings, kids ride their bikes or parents hold their kid’s hand as they walk them to school,” said Boos. “After school, parents pick up their kids and everyone heads off to the park where the moms chat while the kids play.”
Meghan Britt, an investor relations specialist, and Nick Giannotti, a business owner and president of the HOA, moved to their two-story, townhouse-style condominium in 2006. The couple, who just had their first child, said they plan to stay there at least until they move to a single-family home. “People tend to stay in the neighborhood,” said Giannotti. “They move from a condo to a townhome to a bigger townhome.”
Aaron Podolsky and his wife, Megan, are among those who chose to move up within the neighborhood. They bought their 3,500-square-foot townhome after moving from a smaller condominium townhouse in the neighborhood. “We came close to buying outside Cameron Station but realized how much we would miss it,” said Podolsky, a real estate agent with young children. “There are so many amenities, close friendships. And then there’s the community itself; many residents call it ‘Happyville.’ ”
Podolsky said the majority of residents were “probably between 28 and 45,” and there are many children. Ten-year-old Will Thompson, Tracy’s son, is among them. “I love to ride my bike to the park and see the turtles, the fish and the beavers in the pond,” Will said. “In the winter, you can ride to the coffee shop for hot chocolate.”
A primary issue for the neighborhood is the surge of redevelopment along the South Pickett Street and Van Dorn Street corridors. Several mixed-use projects are in the works, including one that will contain extensive retail space near the community’s back entrance. There are also plans to renovate nearby Landmark Mall.
“The question is, should we have more walkways that connect Cameron Station with the areas being developed just outside the neighborhood, or do we stay private?” said Giannotti. “It’s difficult to answer.”
Miller, a military retiree, said the neighborhood reminds him of being stationed in England. “There were lots of row houses and Cameron Station has a similar feel: neat, clean, a market and public park nearby, so many conveniences.”
“Cameron Station is not a gated community, but it has a gated-community feel,” Miller added. “We all look out for our neighbors.”
Cheryl A. Kenny is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 22304
BOUNDARIES: Duke Street to the north, Ben Brenman Park to the east, Backlick Run to the south and Armistead Boothe Park to the west.
SCHOOLS: Samuel W. Tucker Elementary, Francis C. Hammond Middle and T.C. Williams High.
HOME SALES: Twenty-seven homes are for sale in Cameron Station, with prices ranging from $379,900 for a two-bedroom condominium to $1.125 million for a single-family home, according to Mike Lekas, an agent with with Long & Foster. Twenty-two homes are under contract, with list prices ranging from $275,000 for a one-bedroom condo to $829,000 for a large townhouse. From February 2012 through February 2013, 125 homes sold, for prices ranging from $247,000 to $947,000. Average prices were $413,902 for a condominium, $632,124 for a townhouse and $936,833 for a single-family house.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Cameron Station’s “Main Street” shops; Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library; Brenman, Boothe and Linear parks; and numerous shops and restaurants just outside the neighborhood.
WITHIN 10 MINUTES BY CAR: Interstates 395 and 495, Baileys Crossroads, Kingstowne, Old Town Alexandria, Landmark Mall, Bradlee Shopping Center.
TRANSIT: There is a free shuttle to the Van Dorn Street Metro station, about 1.5 miles away, during rush hours.