Twelve years ago, when Masha and Jony Sharma were looking for a home with an easy commute to their jobs in the District, Masha’s mom found a place for them in Shirlington.
At first they rented, but they liked the neighborhood so much they decided to buy a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium in 2007.
“I like the urban development,” said Masha Sharma, who started a software company, Citrusworks, a couple of years ago. “I like the walkability factor.”
Shirlington has a softball field, tennis courts, basketball courts and a dog park. A toy store, a health club, a hair salon, a supermarket, boutiques and a range of restaurants dot the main street. “You don’t need to drive anywhere,” she said.
Her husband commutes by Metro, taking the bus from Shirlington one stop to the Pentagon Metro station to catch the Yellow Line to L’Enfant Plaza, while she works from home. Shirlington has “a neighborhood feel and parks and not a lot of heavy traffic,” Masha Sharma said. It has been a good place to raise a family, she added.
The Sharmas’ older son is 14; their other son is 1.
Midday on a recent rainy Wednesday, Busboys and Poets was packed with diners who lingered into the afternoon. And during the January snowstorm, Shirlington Village “never closed,” said Edith Wilson, president of the newly formed Shirlington Civic Association. The Arlington County depot for trucks and plows is located nearby, and many who work in the area stayed overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Wilson was among those who saw the need for a civic association, and she helped start it.
More retail and housing: Shirlington, originally developed in the 1940s, has grown and changed through the years but maintains a village vibe that appeals to young families and empty nesters alike.
“It was pedestrian-oriented, and that’s what we wanted to build on,” said Thomas H. Miller, planning supervisor in the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development in Arlington County.
One residential rental building was built in the late 1980s, but it took “almost 20 years for the other residential to come along,” Miller said.
The goal was to “enhance the retail and provide some residential” development to the cozy enclave of shops situated off Interstate 395, approximately five miles from the District. “It took us 20 years to get a grocery store there,” Miller said. Harris Teeter signed on in 2005.
Today’s Shirlington includes the original Village at Shirlington, now owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust, an AMC movie theater with seven screens, the 57,000-square-foot, high-tech Shirlington branch of Arlington Public Library, a post office and the Signature Theatre as well as retail that strives for individual businesses rather than chain restaurants and boutiques. A Hilton Garden Inn opened in Shirlington in 2009.
Revitalizing Shirlington: How was Shirlington transformed? Among the first steps was doubling the length of what is now Campbell Avenue, ending at the public plaza where the library and theater are located. More retail space and on-street parking were added.
Shirlington, a 27-acre former shopping center, experienced its most significant transformation in the past 10 years as the result of cooperation between its owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, and Arlington County and the participation of its residents.
The goal has been “to revitalize and make an aging community center relevant today,” Miller said. Mixed-use development including condos, the addition of the bus terminal, and restaurants and shops that draw people from throughout the area have made Shirlington a “place people want to be,” he said.
In addition to the Signature Theatre, movie theater, shops and restaurants, Busboys and Poets features an “open mic” night Mondays at 8 as well as a “poetry slam” on the last Friday of the month at 10 p.m.
The original 28th Street was renamed Campbell Avenue in 2007 for Elizabeth and Edmund D. Campbell. She was a founder of public television and radio station WETA, which is located in Shirlington along with the offices for “PBS NewsHour.” He spearheaded the effort of the Arlington School Board to become one of the first integrated school systems in Virginia.
The name Shirlington comes from Shirley Memorial Highway — Interstate 395 — which connects Virginia to the District.
Living there: Shirlington has expanded beyond the original village. The civic association boundaries are South Arlington Mill Drive roughly to the north, South Walter Reed Drive roughly to the west, South Woodrow Street and 29th Street South roughly to the south, and South Quincy Street roughly to the east.
During the past 12 months, 89 properties have sold. The highest priced was a two-bedroom, two-bath 1,252-square-foot condo for $591,000, according to Rob Allen, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in Reston. The lowest priced was a one-bedroom, one-bath garden-style, 622-square-foot unit for $235,000. Fifteen properties are on the market. The highest priced is a two-bedroom, two-bath 1,303-square-foot condo listed at $669,000. The lowest is a garden-style, 660-square-foot unit listed at $254,900.
Schools: Abingdon Elementary, Drew Model Elementary, Gunston Middle and Wakefield High.
Transit: Shirlington can be reached by car and by Metrobus from the Pentagon or Pentagon City Metro stops on the Blue and Yellow lines or by ART buses from the Orange Line.
Crime: For the 12 months ending Feb. 1, there were three aggravated assaults, one burglary and two robberies in Shirlington, according to the Arlington County police.