Bernard was sold on the community of 174 homes, nestled between Seneca Creek State Park and Great Seneca Highway, from the moment she arrived. “People were walking around, kids were riding bikes and they waved at everybody, whether they knew them or not.”
Homeowners association president Jennifer Brezovec said she and her husband had been looking for “that community where you could borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor.” While they were touring what is now their home, “the next-door neighbor came in the backyard and asked, ‘Hey, are you going to be my neighbor?’ ”
Ami Grace-Tardy experienced a similar Mister Rogers vibe when she moved three years ago from Silver Spring. “We are a biracial family,” said Grace-Tardy, a White attorney with the Energy Department. Her husband, Vince Tardy, is Black and a vice president at a digital experience agency.
“It was really important that we have people of color in our neighborhood,” Grace-Tardy said. “It’s pretty diverse, with African American, Indian and Asian families here.”
The neighborhood has been a place of belonging for their family, with Grace-Tardy becoming active in the schools. “There’s a lot of lawn mowing going on,” said Vince Tardy. “It’s a little slice of pleasant suburbia.”
Orchard Valley was built between 1986 and 1989 by NV Homes and Halle Homes. Homes are traditional and range from 1,000-square-foot townhouses to single-family dwellings of 3,000-plus square feet. Then as now, good schools and the state park attract residents.
‘The Blair Witch Project’: Sidney McNairy, an original homeowner, said he remembers putting down a $100 deposit to hold his lot in 1985. “I figured if we lose the $100, so what? It brought some peace.”
The retired academician and federal grants administrator with the National Institutes of Health and his wife, Bobbie, a mathematician, said they were excited about the construction of Quince Orchard High School, where Bobbie would become one of the original teachers. At the time, Great Seneca Highway was a two-lane road that dead-ended at the entrance to Orchard Valley. “It’s still a drive in the country, but a different kind of country now,” he said.
The neighborhood is bordered by Great Seneca Highway to the north and west; between Bayswater Court and Suffolk Terrace to the east and the park to the south. Fun fact: Most of “The Blair Witch Project” was filmed in the park in 1997.
Its horror movie past notwithstanding, the park is consistently touted by its neighbors. Shilpa and Vipul Sharma and their twin boys can see the neighborhood’s common area, pond, playground and walking trail from their house, and beyond that, the trees in the 6,300-acre park. The family moved to the neighborhood a decade ago when their boys were 2. “It wasn’t crazy crowded and built up like all the affordable areas around the Beltway,” Shilpa Sharma said.
And for John and Emilie Stockel, even moving during the pandemic hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm. The couple, who both work in finance, had been living in Baltimore, and the transition to remote work made it easier for them to move closer to Rochambeau, the French international school in Bethesda where they planned to enroll 4-year-old Zoe. They have yet to invite a new neighbor inside their home, but they have met lots of new friends through walking their dog and socially distanced outdoor gatherings.
“We were on the phone with our real estate agent every day” after they made the offer on the house in early March, Stockel recalled. “We were wondering if it was the right thing to do when the world felt like it was ending. We’re so happy that we did.”
Living there: In the past year, said real estate agent Bernard, two townhouses and four single-family houses have been sold. The average sales price of the single-family homes was $659,750, and for the townhouses, $340,500. The highest-priced home was a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home for $699,999; the lowest-priced home was a two-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse for $330,000. There are no houses currently for sale. The Orchard Valley Homeowners Association fee is $360 annually and supports community improvements and hosts events such as the recent coronavirus-safe “table Halloween,” and in non-pandemic times, a fall picnic and a spring ice cream social.
Schools: Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Ridgeview Middle, Quince Orchard High.
Transit: The Shady Grove Station on Metro’s Red Line is about a 15-minute drive from the neighborhood. Montgomery County Ride-On buses on Route 74 stop along Great Seneca Highway.