Tracy and Jeremy Penfield bought their first house in Donaldson Run in Arlington County because they liked the location and the price. After living close to Metro for almost a decade, they welcomed the hilly, wooded neighborhood, which is largely car-oriented.
Since they both work in the District, they liked the “quick and easy commute,” said Tracy, an attorney. “We wanted a more tranquil environment.”
They used Redfin and Zillow to search for houses, then turned to their real estate agent when they found something in their price range. They made an offer, and it was accepted before the open house was scheduled.
The two drive together most days to their jobs in the District. Sometimes, Jeremy rides his bike.
The Penfields, both 32, had lived in Arlington for close to a decade. “We lived along the Metro corridor,” said Tracy. Meanwhile, they searched on and off for several years for a house they could call home. Though they preferred a bungalow or Cape Cod style, they decided to buy the bi-level home in Donaldson Run after looking at 20 to 30 homes. “We were drawn to Donaldson Run because of its proximity to D.C.,” she said. “There is not a lot of new construction in the neighborhood. There are houses with character and mature trees. We wanted to be outside the city but within arm’s reach of it.”
Their son, Oliver, was born last summer, and the family has enjoyed the open land in Donaldson Run, including Potomac Overlook Regional Park. They took Oliver there on his first hike, Tracy said.
Diversity in housing styles: Kathy Richardson has known Donaldson Run since childhood. Her parents moved there from Ohio in the late 1940s when her father took a job with the Agriculture Department.
She and her husband, Bill, a lawyer with the Federal Communications Commission, have lived in their home in Donaldson Run since 1986. They raised their two sons, who are now in their 30s, in the neighborhood. She recalls her sons riding bikes to Taylor Elementary School, though these days, she said, many parents drive their children to school.
According to the Donaldson Run Neighborhood Conservation Plan of 2000, from the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, “most of the houses in the neighborhood were built between 1941 and 1960 with the most common house style being the rambler, followed by the colonial. Many people like the fact that there are varied architectural styles in the neighborhood, including townhouses, split levels, farm houses, contemporaries and Cape Cods.”
Over the past 15 years or more, some houses have been demolished and replaced by new, larger ones, as has happened in other parts of Arlington County and throughout the Washington area.
Preserving green space: Among the goals of the Donaldson Run Civic Association is to preserve green space and “high quality of the environment,” said Bill Richardson, who is president of the association. Donaldson Run has two tributaries that are part of a stream restoration project that aims to prevent erosion of the stream and its banks as well as pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.
Potomac Overlook Regional Park is part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, known as NOVA Parks, which oversees more than 10,000 acres of woodlands, streams, parks, trails, nature reserves, countryside and historic sites in Northern Virginia.
The 67-acre Potomac Overlook Regional Park offers a variety of activities but does not produce a lot of revenue, as other regional parks do. “We want to preserve it as a green space,” Richardson said.
In the spring of 2013, approximately 200 area residents protested the development of the park. NOVA Parks scrapped plans for a zip line, a rock climbing wall and other commercial amenities after citizen opposition.
The park has nature trails, garden demonstrations, an outdoor concert series and activities for children, including Camp Overlook for those in kindergarten through 10th grade.
“It’s a wonderful asset for the neighborhood,” said Paul Ferguson, a member of the board of NOVA Parks. “It’s a very peaceful place to go and walk and be with nature.”
Donaldson Run Recreation Association operates a private pool and recreation center next to the Potomac Overlook Regional Park. There is a waiting list to become a member.
The neighborhood also has three county-owned parks: Zachary Taylor Park, about 15 acres; Lee Heights Park, 2½ acres; and Marcey Park, three acres that are surrounded by Potomac Overlook Regional Park.
Among the issues for residents is aircraft noise from Reagan National Airport, Richardson said. According to the Donald Run Neighborhood Conservation Plan of 2000, 61 percent of residents cited the noise as a problem.
Living there: Donaldson Run in North Arlington is roughly bounded by the Potomac River and Beechwood Circle on the north and east; Vacation Lane, N. 25th Street and N. 26th Street on the south; Vernon Street, Old Dominion Drive on the south and west; and Washington Golf and Country Club on the north and west.
According to Patricia Teck Seggerman, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Falls Church, in the past 12 months, 42 houses sold in Donaldson Run, ranging from an estate sale of a condemned three-bedroom, one-bath Colonial for $580,000 to a Colonial with seven bedrooms and seven baths, built in 2009, that sold for $2.365 million. It was built on a lot where a 1920 Tudor-style house once stood.
Ten houses are listed for sale, ranging from a three-bedroom, four-bath rambler for $869,500 to a five-bedroom, five-bath Colonial for $1.895 million.
Shopping: The closest shopping center is Lee Heights at 4500 Lee Hwy. (Route 29). Residents also drive to the Lee Harrison Shopping Center at 2425 N. Harrison St., Market Common at 2800 Clarendon Blvd., and the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in Clarendon. As Lee Highway undergoes change, Richardson said the hope is that more shopping areas like the Lee Heights Shops would be built rather than towering structures that are closer to the Orange and Silver Metro stations.
Schools: Taylor Elementary, Williamsburg Middle, Yorktown High and Washington Lee High.
Transit: This is a car-oriented community, although it can be reached from the Ballston Metro stop on the Orange and Silver lines. Arlington Transit buses, including the 53A and 53B, connect to the neighborhood.
Crime: According to Arlington County Police, in the past year no homicides, (aggravated) assaults, robberies or burglaries have been reported in Donaldson Run.