Other Colonial Village residents say the community, with more than 50 acres of red-brick buildings linked by paths that wind among plentiful trees and landscaped lawns, is “parklike,” “serene” and an “oasis” in Arlington’s busy and increasingly high-rise Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
“The location can’t be beat: It’s closer to downtown than parts of Northwest [Washington], and you can walk to two Metros,” says Bob Somers, 54, a government attorney who has lived there since 1992. “But what makes it so nice is the parklike setting. They would never build like that now.”
As it turns out, people have always clamored to live in Colonial Village. The community was built as a rental complex by developer Gustave Ring between 1935 and 1940 to help house the federal workers who descended on Washington under the New Deal. It was the first apartment complex backed by a loan from the new Federal Housing Authority, and with its sturdy buildings, green space and proximity to the District, it was an instant hit. When the first phase was completed in 1935, 10,000 people added their names to the waiting list for one of 276 apartments, according James M. Goode’s book “
,” a history of Washington apartment buildings.
Mobil Land Development bought the property in 1977 and eventually converted most of the buildings to condominiums. Today, it is split into three condo association areas (118 buildings that make up Colonial Village I, II and III), 10 co-op and 22 rental buildings. Altogether it comprises about 1,000 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
Many of the Colonial Village buildings are part of a county historic district, and the county is now considering including the Colonial Village Shopping Center in a historic district as well. The strip shopping center was built at the same time as the apartments and houses the popular Ray’s Hell Burger eatery, a Mexican restaurant, an ABC store and several other businesses.
Eighty years ago, many of the residents of Colonial Village were families. But today the relatively small apartments — none with more than one bathroom — appeal mainly to singles and couples, residents say. On a weekday evening, the grounds do, in fact, feel a bit like a college campus, as 20- and 30-somethings jog, walk their dogs or head out to one of the dozens of bars and restaurants within walking distance in nearby Rosslyn, Courthouse or Clarendon.
“It’s a mixture of older residents who have been here for years and young working professionals,” says Kurt Baumgardner, 30, a government consultant who moved to Colonial Village from just down the road in Virginia Square two months ago. “There aren’t a lot of people in between.”
Baumgardner and his girlfriend moved to Colonial Village because their previous building didn’t allow dogs. Desire for a dog seems to bring many residents to Colonial Village; Bob Somers moved there 20 years ago for the same reason. And, he says, dogs can provide social glue in a community that can be somewhat transient.