“We were the first large condominium complex out here,” Treger said. “And when we opened in 1975, we were the largest piece of private property on the East Coast.”
Landmark-Van Dorn is named in part for Confederate general Earl Van Dorn, a great-nephew of Andrew Jackson. According to Pam Cressey, an archaeologist for the city of Alexandria, research has been unable to determine the origins of the name/term “Landmark.”
The neighborhood, tucked into the southwest corner of the city, has long had a reputation as “Condo Canyon.” Condo complexes and apartment buildings dominate the housing stock, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the city. Forty percent of Alexandria’s condo units are in Landmark-Van Dorn and 14 percent of its population resides there, according to data from Alexandria’s Department of Planning and Zoning.
“The west end of Alexandria is the cheap end of Alexandria,” said A.J. Heidmann, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates. “The majority of condos were built in the 1960s to 1970s, with just a few more recent exceptions.”
But Landmark-Van Dorn is not entirely multifamily housing.
“Townhouses were mainly built in mid-1990s to the late 2000s, with the Cameron Station development coming out of the [Base Realignment and Closure] process providing the vast majority,” Heidmann said. “Detached homes were mainly built in mid- to late 1950s, with a few also built around 2000 as part of Cameron Station.”
A smattering of single-family detached houses can be found near Holmes Run just south of Interstate 395 in Brookville Seminary Valley.
“That’s actually a very popular neighborhood in the sense that for this area, it’s a reasonably priced, detached, single-family home,” Heidmann said.
Before buying their 1952 split-level house in 2008, Katy Matthews and her husband had been looking to buy in Arlington. They didn’t even know Brookville Seminary Valley existed.
“Actually, [Heidmann] picked the neighborhood for us,” she said. “We couldn’t find anything that was really what we wanted [in Arlington].”
Although the Department of Planning and Zoning’s boundaries for the Landmark-Van Dorn neighborhood put Brookville Seminary Valley just outside the borders, Matthews insists her community belongs in the Landmark-Van Dorn neighborhood.
“No, Seminary Hill is totally different,” she said. “We’re the valley.”
It is perhaps because she is near Landmark Mall that Matthews more readily identifies with the Landmark-Van Dorn neighborhood. Landmark Mall opened in 1965 and, according to city documents, was the first mall in the Washington area to feature three anchor department stores, Hecht Co., Sears & Roebuck, and Woodward & Lothrop. For many years, it has been in decline as stores closed.
Alexandria has been trying to redevelop the mall for decades. The first redevelopment plan dates back to 1992. The 2009 plan that was amended in 2019 states “This Plan expresses a vision for the transformation of the Landmark/Van Dorn Corridor into one of the finest mixed-use communities in the Washington Region — a lively, urban place that is an important focus of community life for Alexandria’s West End.”
This ambitious plan, which encompasses only the middle swath of the neighborhood, has had many false starts. But in December, it was announced that Inova Alexandria Hospital would anchor the new development at Landmark Mall, breathing new life into the project.
Matthews, who remembers going to Landmark Mall when she was a college intern, is encouraged by the news.
“I was jaded for a while years ago,” she said. “The nail in the coffin was I thought we were just going to have this horrible concrete eyesore as Sears was going out of business. Honestly, with the new hospital, I’m like, okay, this is going to happen. I think it’s going to be slow, especially now because of the economy.”
Matthews, Heidmann and Treger would like to see restaurants, shops and a movie theater added. They all say they tended to drive to Shirlington to dine out, catch a movie or shop in pre-pandemic times.
“There is definitely some apprehension of what will be approved,” Heidmann said. “I think it’s fair to say that the residents surrounding Landmark Mall strongly want it to become their proverbial main street or town square.”
One of the biggest concerns is how the redevelopment will impact traffic. The three of them said they mostly avoid going to Old Town to dine or shop for that reason.
“The roads are going to get just more and more and more congested,” Treger said. “If you talk to West End civic association, that’s everybody’s concern — density and drivability.”
The redevelopment is unlikely to affect the housing market in Landmark-Van Dorn for some time, if at all.
“I don’t think people are moving here or more attracted to this area than they were before because this is coming, because, like I said, you want to talk about the boy who cried wolf too many times,” Heidmann said.
Living there: Landmark-Van Dorn’s boundaries are the Alexandria-Fairfax County border on the west, Shirley Highway on the north, Holmes Run Parkway on the east and Duke and South Pickett streets on the south.
The median price of condos sold in 2020 was $251,500, ranging from a studio for $138,000 to a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit for $525,000. The median price of townhouses was $695,000, ranging from a three-bedroom, four-bathroom home for $525,000 to a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home for $910,000. The median price of single-family detached houses was $657,100, ranging from a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $525,000 to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house for just over $1.2 million.
Houses on the market include a three-bedroom, three-bathroom rambler built in 1956 in Brookville Seminary Valley for $649,900 and a four-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial built in 1999 in Cameron Station for just under $1.2 million.
Schools: James K. Polk, Patrick Henry and Samuel W. Tucker elementary schools; Francis Hammond Middle and T.C. Williams High.
Transit: The closest Metro station is Van Dorn Street, which is just outside the neighborhood. Several Metro and Dash bus routes run through the neighborhood to the Metro station. Bus Rapid Transit, part of the West End Transitway that is expected to begin operating in 2028, will also run through the neighborhood.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Bus Rapid Transit, part of the West End Transitway, has a route through the neighborhood. West End Transitway is not expected to begin operating until 2028. The story has been updated.