Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brambleton is on a roll by Ann Cameron Siegal

In 2010 it was the eighth fastest-growing planned community in the U.S. So far this year, bucking current housing trends, over 382 new homes have sold.

As Brambleton celebrates its 10th Anniversary, it’s a good time to pause and reflect. What brings people here? More importantly, what keeps them here? And, what is ahead for this award-winning community?

Beginnings
It all started in 2001 with a group of green-roofed trailers at the corner of Ryan and Belmont Ridge Roads. One hundred homes sold before the first model opened. Those who stepped up to become Brambleton’s pioneer residents had faith the vision presented of a dynamic multi-faceted community would eventually become reality.

“It was flat emptiness, with no model homes,” said David Pavlik, whose wife was expecting their second son at the time. On December 31, 2002, the Pavliks joined twenty other pioneer families outside on a muddy street to herald the New Year. Many of those first-comers, including the Pavliks, are still Brambletonians.

As the community began taking shape, dirt wasn’t hauled away, but was put to good use forming berms to provide pleasing elevation changes to the landscape. Bye-bye flat emptiness!

Michele Kontaxes Naurock recalls her first days, “I was basically surrounded by a big construction zone. I had just turned 30 and purchased my townhouse as a birthday gift to myself. I envisioned the Town Center and daily conveniences, as well as a ten minute commute to my job at AOL. It was amazing to watch the development and eagerly anticipate the next shop or restaurant opening.”

Her original goal was to stay for five years, then move. “Brambleton has really become my home and I can’t imagine leaving now. I got married last year and my husband and I are buying our first single family home . . . in Brambleton!”

Location
Location, location, location. Residents of the community come from all over, eventually settling in Brambleton because of its proximity to everything the metro area has to offer.

Thirty-two miles west of Washington D.C., Brambleton is right in the midst of eastern Loudoun County’s high-tech corridor. Additionally, the close proximity to nature, cultural sites and good schools is a major draw. Within minutes of Brambleton, residents can be dining in fine restaurants, exploring boutiques and big box stores, or catching flights from Dulles International Airport.

Amenities
Brambleton has many of its own perks within. “We’re almost like a country club without the gates,” said Stephanie Lee, Marketing Coordinator for the Brambleton Group. “We’re all about fun.”

Brambleton’s developer, Soave Enterprises, places a high priority on pedestrian-friendly living. A well-planned network of sidewalks and trails enhances the small town atmosphere and makes many day-to-day destinations easily accessible.

While most planned communities wait until 50 percent of housing units are sold to commence with retail construction, Brambleton Town Center began flourishing within four years of the first home sales.

With Harris Teeter, the 38,000 square-foot Sport & Health Club, dining establishments, a 16-screen movie theater (with IMAX on the way) and specialty shops, a true gathering place atmosphere exists. Here is where key celebrations and festivals are held. It’s an old-fashioned village square setting where teens can feel as comfortable as stroller-pushing parents, where retirees can enjoy casual camaraderie and where busy office workers can savor a momentary pause in their day.

Kelly Fallon, a resident since 2005, listed several of the Town Center’s casual restaurants among her favorite places, saying “Yes, it’s true, sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name.”

Maria and Matthew Hughes moved into their condo four years ago. “I love the walkability of the community,” Maria says. “We can go to Caribou in the morning for coffee, to dinner and a movie in the evening, and to the farmers’ market on Sunday.” She said that the ease of meeting other residents is part of Brambleton’s charm. “Suddenly it becomes so much more than just a place to live.”

Outdoor enthusiasts connect through community garden plots, pools, tennis courts, multi-purpose courts and tot lots sprinkled throughout the community. “Children are always playing outside,” said Dr. Haress Rahim, a resident whose family dental practice is in the Town Center. “It’s a true community.”

And of course, family involvement thrives at each of the three county schools within Brambleton – Legacy Elementary, Creighton’s Corner Elementary and Briar Woods High.

Open space
Brambleton’s developer understood from the beginning that the key to an attractive, welcoming community was restraint – leaving abundant greenery and undeveloped areas where sights and sounds beckon residents to step out and explore.

Take a walk and you’ll invariably come across the soothing sound of water cascading over artfully placed rocks with several water features peppering the landscape. Community ponds offer catch-and-release fishing and attract a variety of wildlife including blue herons. Some areas seem crafted for those who want a slower pace, where shaded meandering paths dotted with benches provide serene contemplative settings. The community’s Legacy Park has a variety of amenities for all ages and is the setting for Brambleton’s annual fall family campout.

As the southern part of Brambleton is developed, additional green space will wind through residential areas, enticing residents to come out and play.

Housing
Traditional colonials, cute European-inspired Tudor cottages, spacious condos and contemporary townhouses are among the wide array of housing available in Brambleton. Six different builders, each with their own architectural styles, combine to ensure a pleasing visual result rather than a cookie-cutter appearance.

Exteriors tout stone, brick, siding, or some combination thereof. Interior styles are tweaked as popular tastes change. Currently, the trend is away from formal living areas toward more open and casual floorplans. Front porches are an integral part of Brambleton’s design – intended to foster neighborliness between residents.

Brambleton offers residents options for upgrading or downsizing as their family grows or needs change, allowing residents to stay within the community and to maintain established relationships while growing new ones

Resident involvement
Karla and Peter Etten moved to Brambleton five years ago because of its “all-in-one” inclusive atmosphere. As parents of a four-year-old, they’ve formed numerous friendships through Bramble Babies – a support group comprised of about 45 families.

Karla says, “The developer is very accommodating and willing to listen. They keep nature front and center.”

As a former master gardener in Fairfax County, Karla puts her talents to work volunteering with Brambleton’s Grounds Committee and bluebird trail started by resident John White several years ago.

White’s family of five, which now includes two teens, moved to Brambleton seven years ago. As an avid gardener, John began posting inquiries on the community’s message board, asking where to buy plants, mulch, etc. That was the beginning of Brambleton’s Garden Club which now hosts several projects a year. They’ve reined in Japanese beetles, started community garden plots, and now oversee activity in 20 bluebird boxes.

Often resident-generated and volunteer-run, Brambleton’s traditions enrich community interaction. An annual community campout brings residents together to share s’mores, entertainment and good conversation under the stars. A July 4th celebration finds the whole community swathed in red, white and blue – enjoying a down home parade, challenging contests, outdoor games, bountiful food and of course, spectacular fireworks. The Youth Fest brings young enthusiasts to the Town Center.

Brambleton is a giving community as evidenced each year by the tens of thousands of dollars raised for local schools and a variety of other worthy charities.

In September 2010, the night before school started, parents wrote supportive messages such as “Have a great year!” in chalk on sidewalks leading to each school. There were smiles from all sides on that first morning’s walk. Sounds like a tradition in the making.

As the banner outside Brambleton’s Welcome Center says, “If you like it dull, you’ll hate it here.”

Technology
Fifty percent of the world’s Internet traffic comes through Loudoun County, so Brambleton – the first community in the nation to include Verizon FiOS TV and Internet as part of its HOA fees – is ideally situated to harness new technologies as they develop. Coming soon is the option of Verizon’s new Home Monitoring and Control program.

Keeping residents abreast of community events is always a challenge to any large community, but Brambleton ensures efficient communication via heavy use of social media. An active community Facebook page provides notices of upcoming activities, new development and projects under consideration.

Posted Friday Flashback photos bring back fond memories for long-time residents while pulling newcomers into the fold on Brambleton’s history, and giggles arise with weekly photo caption contests. Prospective residents can also check out the Facebook page to see what current residents love best about the community.

A password-protected community Intranet spurs communication between residents seeking contractor recommendations, baby-sitting or pet care assistance, or just sharing family news.

Future
What lies ahead for this well landscaped, vibrant, 2,300-acre unincorporated community – now over one-third complete? There are nearly 6,000 housing units still to come, but Soave Real Estate has thought through to the end product, adjusting plans along the way so the solid foundation and embracing atmosphere now present will continue with future development.

“Green Community” status is being sought and a wetlands protection program is underway.

The eventual arrival of Metrorail’s Silver Line to the area will offer a key commuting option. For now, residents have multiple routes to choose from, including Routes 50, 7 and the Dulles Greenway.

Nikki and Josh Flory originally moved to Brambleton in 2003. Friendships and foundations were laid as their family grew, so when a move to Texas was necessary in 2009, the Florys rented their house just in case they decided to return. While in Texas, their children kept asking, “When are we going home?”

Now, the homeschooling family of six is back in Brambleton. Nikki says, “This neighborhood is absolutely perfect for where we are in our lives and, I believe, as we grow and change.”

Michele Kontaxes Naurock says, “I think future growth will only encourage more and more people to move to Brambleton. It’s really beautifully landscaped, all conveniences are at your fingertips and it has a wonderful sense of community! People seem to be flocking to this neighborhood.”

As Brambleton’s motto says, “The only thing missing is you!”

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