The River Towers condominium complex — three high-rise towers with white brick exterior just south of Old Town Alexandria — may look old-school on first glance.
But poke around the property, talk to a couple of residents ambling along the paths and take stock of the location. You’ll find all the features and amenities that new developments strive to include.
“It’s a little gem that surprisingly people haven’t discovered,” said Mike Sieracki, a resident for nearly three years with his wife, Laura Sebastianelli.
“On one hand I want to keep it a secret, but on the other I want people to know about it,” said Bethany Kucia, who has been living there since 2002. Her husband, John Kucia, joined her in 2011 when they got married. “We look at open houses around the metro area from time to time but never see anything we like as much,” she said.
Built in 1963 as rentals and converted to condos in 1981, the towers are nine stories high and comprise 525 units ranging from 428-square-foot efficiencies to 1,362-square-foot three-bedrooms. Some have balconies and a few on the ground floor open to a patio. Condo fees are $265 to $844 per month including utilities. There’s abundant parking.
Stephen Beach, another resident, likes the sturdy construction. “While plaster walls might present a bit of a challenge when hanging pictures, those walls aren’t going anywhere, and you don’t have to hear your neighbors ‘business,’ ” he said.
The apartments have large windows that let in natural light. “For the price, the space is wonderful,” he added, “and I was impressed with the size of my kitchen, especially for an apartment.”
Neighbors to a beaver family: River Towers occupies 26 acres of green open space plus it abuts Dyke Marsh, which is National Park Service land. A chain-link fence separates the property from Dyke Marsh. “We’re working with the county to take down the fence to help with the migratory paths of animals,” said Kucia, a condo board member. “I’ve seen deer, fox, rabbits, hummingbirds and a beaver lodge. In summertime there are frogs, turtles, ducks and geese.”
“From our second-floor windows in the middle tower we look out on the beaver lodge,” Sieracki said. “During a big rainstorm we saw the beaver family out on their roof; six to seven beavers were on top of the lodge. It was pretty amazing.”
A narrow canal flows around the property perimeter. The board and county are exploring the possibility of sharing the cost to retard erosion around the canal. “I look out my bedroom windows onto the canal,” said Beach, which ebbs and flows with the Potomac River tides, and “from the roof-top deck I can see the Potomac winding down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, across into Maryland and into D.C.”
Flower and vegetable gardens: The property is beautifully landscaped. Park benches line paved paths along the grass, picnic tables and grills are scattered among old growth woodland.
Sieracki, who’s on the landscape and grounds committee, said: “We pay lots of attention to the grounds. We plant native trees, which give a more natural look, are more resilient to the local climate and offer the likelihood of thriving better than ornamentals.” The committee also labels flowers and shrubs with taxonomic names, as in a botanical garden.
A community garden offers plots to grow vegetables and flowers; a community shed has tools and hose to borrow. “It’s really nice to have a piece of land that’s all yours,” said Kucia. “We’ve had the most success with grape tomatoes, green beans and peppers.”
The community also supports a pool, playground, dog park, volleyball net and kayak rack. A large clubroom can be rented, and each building has a mini-gym.
Living there: River Towers, Zip code 22307, is on Wakefield Drive, which is its northern border. Dyke Marsh is on the east and south; Westgrove Park is on the west.
According to Heidi Burkhardt, a realty agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, seven properties are for sale ranging from $154,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $300,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. One unit, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, is under contract for $238,000. In the past year, 28 units sold, ranging from $112,000 for an efficiency with one bathroom to $255,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.
Shopping: Belle View Shopping Center, a couple of blocks away, is home to Safeway and many shops and eateries. “Even though getting to more elaborate retailers is easy, when the world feels more complex than you want it to be, you can get to a post office, grocery store, drug store, dry cleaners, and on and on,” Beach said.
Schools: Belle View Elementary, Carl Sandburg Middle and West Potomac High.
Transit: The closest Metro station, Huntington on the Yellow Line, is a short drive, and there’s ample parking. Fairfax Connector buses run to the Metro and stop daily at two locations in River Towers. On Fridays during the summer the Kucias bike to their downtown offices along the Mount Vernon Trail. Old Town Alexandria and Reagan National Airport are five minutes away. National Harbor is a 10-minute drive directly across the river.
Crime: According to the CrimeReports website, no crimes were reported there in the past six months.