Where We Live: Courthouse is a hot spot getting hotter

When Loria and Michael Porcaro were searching for a house eight years ago, the Courthouse area of Arlington grabbed their attention.

Finding a 1922 farmhouse in Lyon Village, a few minutes from the Court House Metro station, sealed the deal. “This is it,” they said to each other. “Unless we have to get in the car to go somewhere, we walk,” said Loria Porcaro, an electrical engineer in her 40s.

On Saturday mornings, Janel Brattland, 37, is likely to be at the Courthouse farmers market shopping for most everything she needs, including beef, chicken, pork or lamb from local farmers. She’ll head to the Wylie Wagg pet store with her two bulldogs, Ragnar, 3, and Thor, 4, in tow. Later, a friend might join her for a movie at the AMC Courthouse Plaza theaters, where they will stretch out in the comfy leather reclining seats.

“My commute on the Metro may be stressful, but being at home in the neighborhood is not,” said Brattland, who takes Metro to her job at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Court House station is just two stops from Washington.


Diverse housing stock:
Arlington County was originally part of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the national capital in 1791. It was a rural area with a few large plantations and some smaller farms, according to the county government’s Courthouse Briefing Book. It was part of Alexandria County of the District of Columbia before being given back to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 1840s. In 1920, the area was renamed Arlington County, taken from Arlington House, the onetime home of Robert E. Lee. Growth has been a constant. When Metro came in the 1970s, the area developed further.

Single-family houses with white picket fences dot the area within a block or two of the Metro station, including a section of Lyon Village. Other housing includes high-rise condominiums, townhouses, rental apartments and Colonial Village, a complex of garden apartments dating to 1935.

Living in the Courthouse area means convenience, parks, restaurants, hotels and a civic center in the midst of a transformation. “It’s going to be a phased change over time to make it a central gathering place” for Arlington, said Jason Beske, principal planner for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “Courthouse is on the cusp of being reinvented.”

Since last fall, the Envision Courthouse Square study has been analyzing and exploring ways to improve the square — which includes the county-owned Court Square West building and the privately owned AMC theater property as well as the Arlington County Courthouse and Verizon Building plazas.


Parks and eateries:
Rocky Run Park and Barton Park weave green space into the landscape. The two-acre Rocky Run Park has basketball courts, an outdoor turf field, two playgrounds, a picnic shelter and picnic tables.

An array of businesses, many operating out of storefronts, line Wilson and Clarendon boulevards and North Courthouse Road.

Restaurants abound, serving cuisines including Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese. The Java Shack, which opened in 1996, draws locals and visitors for coffee and conversation.


Living there:
The Courthouse area is bordered roughly by Lee Highway to the north; Rhodes Street to the east; 10th Street North to the south; and Danville and Cleveland streets to the west. Some would define the blocks north of Wilson Boulevard as part of Lyon Village.

In the past year, 162 properties sold in the Courthouse area. The highest-priced, at $1.3 million, was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse condominium built in 2006, while the lowest priced was a one-bedroom, one-bath condominium for $247,000, according to Katie Loughney, an agent with Keller Williams Realty.

Twenty-six properties are now on the market, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bath condominium with views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol for $2.15 million to a one-bedroom, one-bath condominium for $239,900.


Transit:
Access is easy via the Court House station on Metrorail’s Orange and Silver lines as well as Metrobus and Arlington Transit bus routes. The area has several Capital Bikeshare stations.


Schools:
Francis Scott Key Elementary, Swanson Middle and Washington-Lee High.


Crime:
In the past 12 months, according to county police, the area had four aggravated assaults, one robbery and three burglaries.

Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.

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