By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 1, 2008
It's easy to miss Amanda Place. The unassuming Vienna subdivision is a single street, ending in two cul-de-sacs, with about 40 houses.
Residents seem to like that about their six-year-old neighborhood. For one thing, with little through traffic, it's easy for children to play. There may be as many as 60 children in the neighborhood, residents say. "We joke that we are one of the few couples who hasn't had children since moving in," said Claudia Day, whose husband, Carl Prieser, serves on the homeowners association board.
Amy Waldron, the vice president of the homeowners association and a resident since 2002, has two of the older children in the neighborhood, in fourth and eighth grades.
"We walk to the pool. You could not be closer to the bike path. All of the nannies stroller the kids everywhere," Waldron said.
The houses, all built in 2001 and 2002, are brick Colonials, with as many as five bedrooms and four baths on three levels, including the basement. They have two-car garages, Corian counters in the kitchens and decks over the small back yards. They sit on lots of a little more than a tenth of an acre. Finishing options in basements include media rooms, home offices, recreation rooms and additional storage rooms.
Day and her husband bought their 2,400-square-foot house in 2002. "I was amazed they were building something this big this close in," she said. The neighborhood is less than two miles outside the Beltway, near Interstate 66 and about a mile from both the Dunn Loring and Vienna Metro stations. "What appealed to us was that it was very little land" and the interior design had an "openness."
"I like the floor plan a lot," Day said. Their small yard backs up to a large, wooded lot. "We enjoy the benefits of that without having the yard to take care of," she said. "A bonus is that all of the neighbors are very nice, very friendly," she said.
The neighborhood strives for tidiness, with strict association rules about home color and exterior improvements.
"This area has a certain uniformity. The homes are similar styles, but not all the same, so you don't feel like you're living in a cookie-cutter" community, said John Sweet. He and his wife, Mary Vohringer, have lived in Amanda Place for about three years.
"It's a low-key association because it's a group of 41 neighbors who know each other," he said.
The most recent home on the market, a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath model, was originally listed at $899,000 but went for $720,000. In 2006, a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath house sold for $975,000. In 2007, the same model sold for $955,000. The difference between these prices and the current sale is steep.
"Over the course of a one-year spread, it's over $200,000 down. That's bigger than most other communities are experiencing," said John Purvis Sr., an agent with Re/Max Xecutex.
Homeowners association fees are $732 a year and cover services including landscaping and trash removal. Administration of the neighborhood is handled by a volunteer board of six members, along with Quantum Real Estate Management, a Bethesda company.
"It's a very diverse neighborhood, but mainly professionals," Sweet said. He and his wife had wanted to live in a neighborhood relatively convenient to the District for cultural and sports events, but also close to big-box stores and with plenty of parking. "You get the feeling of being away from everything when you come in because [the developer] left a fair amount of trees," Sweet said.
It's a 10-minute, pedestrian-friendly walk to a strip shopping center across Cedar Lane from the entrance to the neighborhood. There's a florist, drug store, drycleaner, fast food, bank, market, pet salon, barber and some low-rise office space there.
Compared with other homes they saw in the area, Sweet said, they found the space and breadth of the house appealing. "Some of the other ones we saw in similar price points were very vertical," he said.
The location is a major draw for many residents. "We're a stone's throw from 66 and 495, so if you're having company, it's easy to get to -- we're not far from the highway exits," Sweet said.
"We can drive a mile, get on the Metro and not have to worry about parking," he said.
The Amanda Place subdivision was built on land that five generations of the Brooks family have called home. Rosetta Brooks moved there with her late husband, Arthur Brooks, in 1980. His great-uncle sold him nearly an acre for a dollar, she said. That great-uncle originally had about 21 acres, she said.
Brooks doesn't know who Amanda was, although she's often wondered. "I don't know of any Amanda in the family," she said.
The family parceled out the land to children and grandchildren until there were eight homes of relatives and one household of non-relatives, Brooks said.
Brooks said growing up among family was peaceful and secure. People tended to mind their own business, but "when it came time for help, everyone was there -- everyone pitched in," she said.
When a developer approached residents to sell their homes, the other households decided to take the offer. Rosetta Brooks decided to stay.
"I could have gotten a lot of money, but I couldn't have what I have here -- the peace I have," she said.
The new neighbors have been friendly. "Everyone sort of knows one another," she said.
She has a swimming pool and garden. Her son and his wife built their own home behind hers five years ago, and her grandson is growing up there. "It was better that I keep this legacy for my son and grandson. And I'm glad I have," she said.