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Sycamore Gardens has staying power

Residents of Sycamore Gardens say they enjoy the walkability and convenient location of the neighborhood. (Photos by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)

For many residents of Sycamore Gardens in Arlington, Va., the neighborhood is a place where they came to stay.

“There have been many opportunities to move from here, but I don’t intend to,” said Ruth Shearer, a resident since 1998 and longtime president of the Williamsburg Civic Association. “This is absolutely my home. It’s in my heart, and I plan to age in place.”

Sycamore Gardens is an enclave of single-family houses in western Arlington County that’s part of the Williamsburg Civic Association, which has a voluntary annual fee of $10.

There’s no official entrance to Sycamore Gardens. But the numerous two-story red-brick Colonials built in 1950 and 1951, located just east of Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School, signal that you have arrived. Over time, some residents have renovated, often with an addition. Other owners have torn down existing houses and rebuilt.

Shearer looked at 39 properties before she visited the one she now calls home. “As soon as I walked in the door, I knew this was it,” said Shearer, who moved from Hawaii to the D.C. area for work. The red-brick Colonial she bought needed renovating, she said, but “it felt absolutely right.”

Within the neighborhood, there’s more than a community feel; there’s a sense of family, Shearer said. “We can knock on someone’s door, and they’ll tell you to come in.”

Sycamore Gardens is a multigenerational community. It used to have a “snow brigade,” which connected older residents with younger ones who shoveled snow for them. After one snowstorm, Shearer drove a neighbor and their sick baby to the hospital, because the neighbor’s cul-de-sac was snowed in, she said. “That’s what living here is like.”

Coral Gundlach shares that affection for Sycamore Gardens, having lived in three houses in the area since 2001.

Gundlach, a real estate agent and vice president at Compass, described Sycamore Gardens as a vibrant and beautiful neighborhood with many sidewalks, mature trees, tidy yards and plenty of walkers with dogs or children in tow.

The two-story Colonials are “a lovely size,” Gundlach said, that “a lot of people have raised three teenagers in.”

North Somerset Street, where her former home is located, is one that Gundlach and her husband always loved, she said. “It’s really cute, and we wanted a quieter street as our kids got older.”

Although she’s now living outside of Sycamore Gardens — but just “a stone’s throw away” — she’s still invited to the annual block party on 28th Street North. Residents have a potluck, and middle-schoolers lead games for the younger children, she said.

Children walk or ride bikes to nearby Tuckahoe Elementary, and residents gather at 12-acre Tuckahoe Park, which includes a playground, two baseball fields, two tennis courts, nature trails, picnic tables and an amphitheater.

Sycamore Gardens is a short walk to the Williamsburg Shopping Center. Over the years, the Williamsburg Civic Association has helped brighten the shopping area for the holiday season by adding colorful lights on a neighborhood tree in the center of the busy Williamsburg traffic circle, Gundlach said.

The walkability and the convenient location of Sycamore Gardens are what brought Kate Waters to the neighborhood in 1985 — and what continue to keep her there.

Now that she and her husband are retired, Waters tends to walk or bike. There are numerous bike lanes and nearby trails, including the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

To help protect pedestrians such as Waters, Shearer established the Williamsburg Civic Association Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee in 2011, and residents have continued traffic-calming efforts in this bustling Arlington area.

An example is the Sycamore Street median project, completed in 2017. It added a median on North Sycamore Street, between the Williamsburg circle and 26th Street North, and changed the four-lane road to two lanes, with a bike lane in both directions.

East Falls Church Metro station, within about a mile, makes for easy day trips to the nation’s capital, Waters said. Also about a mile away: the Falls Church Farmers Market at Falls Church City Hall; the Lee Harrison Shopping Center, which has a Harris Teeter; and the Westover Shopping Center, which features Westover Market.

The neighborhood has easy access to Interstate 66 to get to Tysons, about five miles away, and Washington, about nine miles away. The Capital Beltway (I-495) and Dulles Toll Road are also nearby.

“I want to stay here as long as we’re able to. It’s a very friendly place, and everybody watches out for each other,” Waters said. “We’re like a big family.”

Living there: Sycamore Gardens is bordered by Williamsburg Boulevard to the north, North Sycamore Street to the east, North Trinidad Street and Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School to the west, and 26th Street North and Tuckahoe Elementary to the south.

Gundlach said there are no homes currently on the market. Within the past year, five homes have sold, and the average price was $957,000. The lowest-priced was a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,470-square-foot rambler for $825,000. The highest-priced was a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,396-square-foot Colonial with an addition for $1,155,000. Gundlach said she’s aware of one rental in Sycamore Gardens: a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,016-square-foot Colonial rented for $3,950/month.

Schools: Tuckahoe Elementary, Williamsburg Middle, Yorktown High.

Transit: Arlington Transit has numerous nearby bus stops along North Sycamore Street and North Trinidad Street, which provide transit to the East Falls Church Metro station less than a mile away and the Ballston Metro station roughly three miles away, both serving the Orange and Silver lines. Reagan National Airport is roughly 10 miles away.

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