“I think when people find out about it, they’re always surprised — like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was back here,’ ” said longtime resident Lynn Smith. “Then the second comment will be, ‘Wow, these are really nice.’ ”
Smith, who moved into Lenox Place in 2001, was looking for a home with a garage, green space and easy access to the District. “But really, what drew it to me was, to be honest, just the architecture,” she said.
The tall brick townhouses were constructed between the late 1980s and early 2000s, and each home looks slightly different from the next. “They’re very unique layouts,” said Smith. “My particular unit is 2,500 square feet. It’s actually five levels.”
The vertical space allows for soaring ceilings, and many homes have two stories of windows — a feature that greatly appealed to Frank Purcell, president of the neighborhood’s Homeowners Association Board of Directors. Purcell, who is about 6-foot-1, said that when his adult sons are home, he is “the third tallest” in his family.
“We feel like we have ample space,” said Purcell, “but it’s covid times, and the things we used to call bedrooms we now call offices.”
Space might be more in demand these days due to the pandemic, but what Lenox Place lacks in square footage, it makes up for in location.
“It’s so close to the Pentagon,” said Smith. “It’s two exits to D.C. You can go Route One a couple of miles to get on the Beltway to get into Maryland. You have more shopping, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters — all of that is within, you know, a two- or three-mile radius.”
Property values up: The neighborhood is also within walking distance of the quickly expanding Potomac Yard development, where Virginia Tech is building its billion-dollar Innovation Campus and expects to welcome students in 2024. The city is also constructing a Metro station in the area, slated to be completed by 2022.
Lenox Place homeowners say property values have risen since Amazon announced it was moving its second headquarters into Crystal City, just few miles down the road. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
But not all Arlandrians are as receptive to their new neighbors. Known as “Chirilagua” after a town in El Salvador, Arlandria is a diverse community with a sizable Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran and Mexican population. “It is like the world in microcosm,” said Krystyn Moon, professor of history and American studies at University of Mary Washington.
But residents have long felt the eyes of developers trained on Arlandria’s modest garden apartments and local businesses. And now, as Amazon prepares to bring thousands more to the area, questions about affordable housing are top of mind.
Although Lenox Place residents generally see the development around them as a positive, Purcell said they are a civically minded bunch with shared concerns about the “availability of affordable housing, quality of schools and transportation opportunities in the community.”
Lots of children: The name Sunnyside traces its origins to the Watson family — among the first African American landowners in Alexandria. Charles Watson and his wife, Laura, whose house stood on West Glebe Road, purchased and subdivided 10 acres in the 1870s, said Moon.
Census records show that by the 1940s, Sunnyside had attracted around a dozen African American families to the area. Streets in Lenox Place, such as Charles and Elbert avenues, remain named for Watson family members — a vestige of the original subdivision.
Sherwin Lee, whose grandparents lived in the original Sunnyside neighborhood, purchased a townhouse in Lenox Place about 30 years ago when the development first came on the market. The location not only offered an easier commute, said Lee, but also a connection to his paternal grandmother, whose house still stands on Elbert Avenue, although his family has since sold it.
Lee said he remembers playing in the woods here as a child, a dense stand of trees that is now Lenox Place. “That idyllic neighborhood that I remember — my grandparents’ neighborhood — is no more,” he said. “Lenox Place changed everything.”
Still, Lee describes the neighborhood as an oasis, and looks favorably on its development.
Lenox Place is not a gated community, but a low masonry wall traces its perimeter. Inside, you’ll find a variety of ages, cultures and professions.
“It’s a diverse community,” said Purcell. “We have folks from a whole wide variety of walks of life and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and we love that.”
Recently, the number of children has also exploded there. Kids are often seen playing in driveways or crowding dead-ends. “There are children everywhere,” said Smith.
Residents are quick to mention the neighborhood’s annual National Night Out event that draws city council members, state senators, police officers and other community members. The main attraction: Carolina barbecue served up by a retired caterer named Olga Dupre.
“We are not messing around,” said Purcell of the feast.
Beyond the barbecue, residents share drinks on their driveways, participation in book clubs and a strong sense of community. The homeowners association maintains the common areas, and residents pay $113 monthly fees for landscaping, tree and community property maintenance, and administrative services.
“I don’t think there’s another townhouse community like Lenox Place in the city of Alexandria that could boast what we have in the location that we’re in,” said Smith.
Living there: Lenox Place is generally bounded by Old Dominion Boulevard and Four Mile Run Road to the northwest and north, West Glebe Road to the south and Elbert Avenue on the east.
There are no active listings in Lenox Place, but three home sales closed in the past month, according to McEnearney Associates. In 2019, there were eight sales, including a three-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse listed at $685,000 and a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse for $610,000. The average price of homes sold last year was $655,000.
Schools: Lenox Place is served by Mount Vernon Elementary, George Washington Middle and T.C. Williams High.
Transportation: Multiple bus lines serve Lenox Place, including the DASH bus, the Metroway bus rapid transit system and the Fairfax Connector. Lenox Place is about 2½ miles from the Braddock Road Metro station, and Interstate 395 and Route 1 are easily accessible from the neighborhood. The Four Mile Run bike trail and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail are also nearby.