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Briarwood is a close-knit community surrounded by nature

The Fairfax County, Va., neighborhood has nearly seven acres of forested common land, and a nearby lake offers fishing and water activities

Briarwood, four miles west of the Capital Beltway, off Braddock Road, was developed in the mid-1970s. It has 202 single-family homes. (Craig Hudson for the Washington Post)

Briarwood is a community in Fairfax County, Va., where folks ranging from young families to retirees want to settle, return — and stay.

When Wendy Hellmann, who grew up in Briarwood, left to study music in Europe in January 2017, she didn’t expect to come back in 2018 to teach students out of her childhood home. But visa problems amid the tumult after Britain’s Brexit vote prompted her homecoming.

Hellmann, 32, said the neighborhood rallied around her, helping her grow her studio from six students to 18 within months. They are mostly neighbors who attend the schools and orchestra classes she once did.

“It was really kind of difficult to stay” in Europe, Hellmann said. “So I ended up coming back home. Then my mom had health problems, and so I just kind of stayed here and I rebuilt my studio.”

Briarwood, which is four miles west of the Capital Beltway, off Braddock Road, was developed in the mid-1970s and grew to 202 single-family homes. The houses — in a mix of styles including split-levels and Dutch colonials — are on quarter-acre lots surrounded by mature trees and shrubs. The community has nearly seven acres of forested common land, and nearby Lake Royal offers fishing and water activities. Restaurants and grocery stores are only minutes away. Hellmann said you have to travel a bit farther for nightlife. She recommends having a car, rather than relying on public transportation.

Craig Roblyer, who has lived in Briarwood since 2013, has three sons who graduated from Robinson Secondary School, the same high school Hellmann attended. When his sons competed in rowing competitions, Roblyer’s neighbors would join him on the Occoquan River to watch the race from the water.

“I could bring people onto a pontoon boat and show them a regatta,” he said. “I’d have neighbors that would come out and they’d get on the pontoon boat with me, and we could chase the race for the whole two kilometers.”

And when the pandemic hit, Briarwood’s community spirit didn’t falter, even as events and gatherings were called off.

After Robinson Secondary’s graduation was canceled, a resident suggested on the Briarwood Facebook page that the graduates parade through the neighborhood instead. Neighbors gathered outside their homes to wave and cheer for the students as they drove through the community.

“During covid, the neighborhood association got this food truck to come once a week,” Hellmann said. “And then it was like this little socializing thing. … All the neighbors were going, and you can distance there and you’re outside, so you’re waiting for your food and you’re able to chat.”

Before the pandemic, Briarwood held several gatherings each year. Every Fourth of July, firetrucks and children on decorated bikes paraded through the neighborhood. At Halloween, one neighbor threw a party, complete with food, fun and decorations, Hellmann said.

Roblyer, who served in the Air Force until retiring three years ago, said Briarwood reminds him of the best things about base housing. He isn’t the only one. Briarwood has several military families living there.

“​​Right away [this neighborhood] had all of the positive things I would associate with living on base,” he said. “It’s a community that cares about itself, and the people within it.”

Roblyer and his family initially rented a house in Briarwood. But after spending time in the neighborhood, he said, he and his wife knew it was where they wanted to settle and eventually retire. Their experience once they bought a home reaffirmed their decision.

“People came out of the woodwork to help us move — we didn’t need a moving company,” he said. “We did the move all in one day. People in the neighborhood came out in droves and helped us move a lifetime’s worth of stuff from one house to another. That’s humbling.”

Living there: Briarwood is off Braddock Road and near the Beltway, Route 123, Little River Turnpike and Interstate 66. The neighborhood runs along Dequincey and Maury drives and has several cul-de-sacs.

Matthew Lama, with Jacobs and Co. Real Estate, said prices in Briarwood are increasing. The average sales price in 2021 was $737,440, up 9 percent from the year before.

“While we had only one home in the area sell recently, that particular home sold for over $100,000 more than last year’s average,” he said. “I would predict that homes will appreciate 10 percent compared to last year.”

Four homes were rented during the last two years, he said. Rents for a single-family house in 2021 were $2,750 to $2,850 per month. Lama expects rents to “go up 10 to 17 percent this year with the rise of inflation.”

Homeowners association fees are $80 per year. One house is on the market. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom house is listed for $749,900.

Transit: The closest Metro station, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU on the Orange Line, is about eight miles away. Fairfax Connector buses serve the area. The Virginia Railway Express Rolling Road and Burke Centre stations are both a 10-minute drive away.

Schools: Laurel Ridge Elementary (grades K-6) and Robinson Secondary (grades 7-12).

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