Since school started, the children line up at 8:15 a.m. at the corner of Williamsburg Boulevard and North Edison Street in North Arlington’s Rock Spring neighborhood. Not at the bus stop. They wait impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other, for a turn on the blue swing hanging from the huge tree next to the bus stop.
“Can you imagine a better tree?” asked Mark Luncher, a neighbor from around the corner, one of two Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee representatives and vice president of the Rock Spring Civic Association. “The schools are great, and they were one of our motivations to buy here.”
He lives with his wife, Julie, and three children, Kait, 17, Adam, 14, and Bryce, 9, in a 1952 red-brick rambler they bought from the original builder and owner in 2006.
Driving is required: Rock Spring is only a few miles from the frenzy of downtown Washington, yet it’s a serene single-family residential community with some houses backing up to woods and others on tree-lined streets.
“There are no apartment houses, no businesses. It’s like a desert island with nothing but homes,” said Carl Cunningham, president of the civic association and a 35-year resident with his wife, Lucy. “Some areas look almost rural. Our access to everything is so easy, even though it depends on the automobile.”
“The fact that we have to go somewhere to get to a store, we like that,” said Lynn Pollock, the other NCAC representative and a resident since 1999 with her husband, Bob, and three sons, ages 17, 20 and 22.
“A lot of people moved here so they could live in a suburban setting, let their kids walk to school and not worry when they’re out playing,” she said.
Calming traffic: Houses stretch along tranquil streets that are curvy, flat and hilly. Many are modest older red-brick ramblers, Colonials and mid-century structures, but renovations and additions are common, including second stories built on rooftops, as are “tear-down” homes — new construction where an outdated, typically much smaller house once stood.
Some houses have front porches and garages, and others don’t. Some remakes meld seamlessly with adjoining properties. Others have decorative features such as columns that seem incongruent with the prevailing style.
Arlington County “only regulates lot coverage — how much of a footprint the house and driveway occupy — it doesn’t regulate taste, so you can put up whatever you want,” said Luncher. “Developers tend to max that out,” which is why new builds are typically larger than older homes, he said.
“I’m hoping that as the county continues its urbanization, which has been good so far with the Metro corridor, it’ll try to preserve the basic character of the neighborhood,” said Cunningham. “That’s what the people love.”
On the bus corner, Luncher pointed out improvement projects shepherded by the civic association. Williamsburg Boulevard is a major thoroughfare especially during weekday rush hours. “It’s as busy as Connecticut or Nebraska avenues in Northwest. We’re trying to manage that traffic and create safer pedestrian crossings,” he said.
“We’ve reduced the number of lanes from four to two, added bike lanes, are working on safety crossings with medians,” he said, pointing to orange cones down the street where construction is in progress, “and we’re creating storm-water retention basins” to retard water runoff.
Living there: The neighborhood is bordered roughly by the Fairfax County line to the northwest; Albemarle and North Glebe roads to the northeast and east; and Rock Spring Road, Little Falls Road and North Kensington Street to the south and west.
According to Betsy Twigg, a realty agent with McEnearney Associates in Arlington, the housing is primarily single-family, owner-occupied plus a few rentals.
Eight properties are on the market, at prices ranging from $749,900 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rambler to $1.895 million for a five-bedroom, 41 / 2-bath Craftsman.
Four properties are under contract, ranging from $875,000 for a four-bedroom, two-bath Colonial to $1.699 million for a five-bedroom, 51 / 2-bath Craftsman.
Over the past year, 21 properties sold, ranging from $625,000 for a four-bedroom, two-bath tear-down to $1.850 million for a five-bedroom, 51 / 2-bath Craftsman.
Shopping: Lee Harrison Shopping Center, with Harris Teeter, Cardinal Bank, Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, Starbucks, H&R Block, Wild Birds Unlimited, Baskin-Robbins and other shops, is three-quarters of a mile away. Development in Clarendon, Rosslyn and Ballston has pushed a lot of small retail to Lee Highway, just a mile away, said Luncher. A FreshFarm Market at the intersection of North Courthouse Road and North 14th Street is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and across from the Ballston Metro station on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m.
Transit: Rock Spring sits between two Metro stations on the Orange and Silver lines, East Falls Church and Ballston. Arlington Transit operates two ART bus routes and Metrobus operates one through the community. Both connect to the two Metro stations.
Downtown Washington is a short drive from the neighborhood. The National Zoo is seven miles away.
Schools: Jamestown and Notthingham elementary schools, Williamsburg Middle, and Yorktown High. A new elementary school is under construction on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and is expected to open for the 2015-2016 school year.
Crime: According to the Arlington County Police Department, the neighborhood had one robbery, five aggravated assaults and 23 burglaries between August 2013 and August 2014.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.