For Sheryl and Michael Wilbon, the decision to move to build a home in the North Bethesda neighborhood of Wildwood Estates was a marital compromise. Michael, a former Washington Post sportswriter who now co-hosts ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” wanted to stay in Virginia, where they had lived in Fairfax; Sheryl, an attorney, wanted to move back home to D.C.
But after seeing a sign in 1998 announcing the construction of the Wildwood Estates development, they decided to take a chance on Maryland, moving in 1999 to their custom-built dream home: five bedrooms and 5½ bathrooms over four levels, a modern floor plan and lots of light.
As it turns out, Sheryl said, the compromise was perfect.
“It’s a perfect location, because you’re close to downtown Bethesda,” she said. “You’re at the Beltway, so you can jump on and get on over to Tysons [Corner] quickly, if you want to do that. We’ve got a Metro stop close by. … It’s very convenient.”
Satisfaction runs deep in Wildwood, where most of the neighborhood’s 44 homes still belong to the original owners. Despite its location inside three major arteries — Interstate 270 to the north, Old Georgetown Road to the west, I-495 to the south — the neighborhood has a tucked-away feel, its loop of roads tree-lined and quiet.
The homes of Wildwood Estates, spacious contemporaries and Colonials with lots of brick and stonework, are conspicuously taller and newer than the capes and bungalows just outside the development. But although the houses are stately, they stand close enough together to create a true community feeling.
Sandy MacCracken, another founding resident who moved from Chevy Chase with her husband, Michael, said she and her neighbors forgo backyard fences in favor of an open, communal green space that they had co-designed by the same landscaper.
“It looks like our own little park,” she said, “and we just walk back and forth in between backyards all the time.”
As the homeowners have aged in place, the neighborhood has changed, too. When many of MacCracken’s neighbors had young children, they used to meet up in the backyard for wine and cheese in the afternoon and watch the children play. Now, those kids have started families of their own, but the neighbors still find opportunities to gather. MacCracken said that she loves giving out homemade cookies on Halloween and that she has warm memories of snowstorms that became ad hoc street parties.
“It’s the best time, because everybody’s out shoveling, so we all chat and have hot chocolate, and I bake cookies,” she said.
One popular neighborhood event is the picnic thrown by the Wildwood Estates Homeowners Association. The event was featured one year in an NBC4 Washington local TV news segment that remains a point of pride for the community.
Michael Villa, president of the association, said annual fees are $1,200. Tree management tends to be the biggest challenge, he said; last year, a storm blew down several, and the HOA had to replace them. MacCracken also mentioned a hailstorm that hit the neighborhood about three years ago, resulting in substantial roof damage. The HOA helped residents to coordinate a palette of colors for replacement roofs as insurance companies conducted repairs.
“You’re doing it because you want to help the community, and so it’s been a pleasure,” Villa said. “I don’t know if I know more people here than anybody else, but I might.”
Another favorite aspect of the neighborhood for Villa is its proximity to two shopping centers that also have dining options. The Shops at Wildwood features a Balducci’s grocery store, a gourmet ice cream shop and a high-intensity workout gym; across Old Georgetown Road is the Georgetown Square shopping center with a DSW shoe store and Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant.
“It’s really, really high on convenience,” he said.
Linda Lizzio, a real estate agent with Long & Foster who has also lived in Wildwood Estates since the development began, said the neighborhood sees very little turnover.
“They say the average time you live in a home is about seven years,” she said. “That’s not the case here. People don’t want to give up that walkability, I think.”
Two homes in the neighborhood have sold since the start of 2021, she said: A five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial with three levels went for $1.6 million, and a four-bedroom, 3½-bathroom Georgetown model sold for $1.325 million. Both received multiple offers and sold within five days, she said. There are no homes on the market.
Lizzio said a favorite feature of hers is the young blooming trees that grow in abundance.
“You see a lot of neighborhoods focused on cherry-blossom time. But our neighborhood is lined with Kwanzan cherry trees, a really beautiful show of pink blossoms,” she said. “And so we don’t even have to drive over to Kenwood or downtown to see it, because we have it here.”
For Sheryl Wilbon, what began as a marital compromise has turned into a forever home.
“As long as we are able to go up and down stairs,” she said, she plans to stay at Wildwood Estates. “I think we are a really great neighborhood.”
Boundaries: Wildwood Estates’ 44 homes are enclosed by Aubinoe Farm Drive to the north, Farnham Drive to the east, Yorkshire Terrace to the south and Berkshire Drive to the west.
Schools: Ashburton Elementary School, North Bethesda Middle School and Walter Johnson High School.
Transit: The 6, 26 and 96 Ride On buses stop just outside the neighborhood, at Rock Spring Drive and Old Georgetown Road; the Red Line’s Grosvenor-Strathmore stop is about two miles east of neighborhood boundaries.