Where We Live: Walkable Brambleton offers convenience, community

Small yards and large common green spaces give Brambleton a welcoming look. (Photo by Ann Cameron Siegal FTWP)

The original vision for the planned community of Brambleton, near Ashburn, was to create a place with “connectivity,” where residents could be a part of something more than just a place to live.

From the pioneers who flocked to green-roofed sales trailers in 2001 , purchasing homes sight unseen, to the buyers of the 587 homes sold since this past January, residents laud Brambleton’s small-town atmosphere.

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Celebrating its 10th anniversary this fall, the development is one of the fastest-selling planned areas in the country, yet it still is only one-third built.

Located 34 miles west of the District, close to Leesburg and Dulles International Airport and in the heart of Loudoun’s technology corridor, Brambleton’s 2,300 acres include townhouses, single-family houses and condos in a variety of styles designed by six builders. New-construction prices start at $333,990 for townhouses and $509,990 for single-family houses.

Jason Reinhardt, vice president of sales for Sport & Health, which has a fitness center in the community, moved to Brambleton a year ago. He said he and his wife, Kelly, participated in a 5K run there in March 2010 and fell in love with the family-friendly vibe they found. Now, with their second child joining the family in September, Jason says he’s happy with their choice. “Everyone wants convenience, and everyone wants it at their front door,” he said. “Brambleton has done a pretty good job of piecing it all together.”

“So far. . .” appears to be the unspoken phrase among many who live here. With more than 3,000 existing homes and another 6,000 to come in the next decade or so — culminating in a projected total population of 31,500 — the question looms: Can the cozy atmosphere be maintained?

“I hope so,” said resident Anne Brinker. “When you’re making a 10,000-home community, it’s hard to keep the small-town feel, but [the developers] are really trying.”

Despite the downturn in the real estate market, Brambleton’s 20-to-25-year build-out plan is still on track, according to Kim Adams, marketing director for the Brambleton Group.

The developer designed a network of trails and sidewalks, placing many residents within walking distance of the vibrant town center, well-landscaped parks and ponds, and the three public schools within Brambleton’s boundaries. Landscaping gradually transformed once-flat farmland into a setting with gently rolling berms created from excavated dirt. There is even a dedicated sledding hill for youngsters.

Outdoor concerts, summer camps, holiday celebrations and charity events offer close-in activities where reliance on the family car is minimized.

After five years in Brambleton, Hueminh “Huey” Tsao’s home-schooling family of seven has built a solid network of friends. This year she and a neighbor were inspired to host their first block party. “There are about 25 houses on our street, and we had a 95 percent turnout,” she said. The casual potluck event required minimal preparation and expense, she added, but helped to build a stronger sense of community.

Verizon fiber-optic Internet and cable service are included in homeowners association dues. Those dues, which range from $130 to $179 a month, also pay for common-area maintenance, recreational amenities and services such as snow and trash removal. Soon, residents will have the option of adding a home-monitoring service, which will allow off-site control of lights, locks and other home technology.

You won’t find large yards in Brambleton; the emphasis is on large, common green spaces, including the 15-acre, heavily shaded Legacy Park, which hums on weekends and after school as children enjoy the playground or scramble over boulders while adults chat, walk dogs or relax on benches, taking in the action. At other times, the park can be a serene oasis.

Legacy Park is also the setting for the annual fall camp-out, when families are encouraged to pitch a tent. “It’s a sea of tents here,” said Anne Brinker, who predicts that her three boys, now age 5 and younger, will love the campfires and games of flashlight tag when they are a bit older.

Of course, there are challenges ahead as Brambleton grows. Loudoun County’s school population is the fastest-growing in the state, adding about 3,000 students a year over the past decade. School capacity in Brambleton’s district might need to be addressed in a few years, said Wayde Byard, public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools.

There are waiting lists for two private day-care centers in Brambleton; plans call for the construction of a third center. “There are a lot of pre-K children here,” Brinker said.

Commuting options will increase, too. Metro’s Silver Line’s Phase 2 is projected to open in 2016, with a station about two miles from Brambleton.

Tsao’s husband, Alex, said they moved from South Riding because the reliance on Route 50 made getting around difficult. Brinker, whose husband works in Crystal City, said Brambleton residents have several ways of getting around, including the Dulles Greenway. “There’s good bus service, too,” she said.

Groundbreaking took place recently for the Brambleton Public Safety Center — housing fire, rescue and emergency management services — which is slated to open in spring 2013. This past May, county supervisors approved construction of a new hospital that will be built about five miles from Brambleton and is to open in 2015.

So change is coming. But as the sign outside Brambleton’s welcome center says, “If you like it dull, you’ll hate it here.”

Ann Cameron Siegal is a freelance writer.

 
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