Friday, June 13, 2014

At home in Brambleton

Where “home” extends beyond your front door.
By Ann Cameron Siegal

In 2001, when the first pioneer residents put deposits on a then vast emptiness called Brambleton, it was to stake their claim on an enticing vision.  Anthony Soave’s vision to be precise. As president and CEO of Soave Enterprises, he was determined to create an inviting, environmentally and pedestrian-friendly community committed to a healthy work/life balance.

Now, entering its 14th year, Brambleton, 50% complete, is one of the fastest selling master planned communities in the nation.  Soave Real Estate and Brambletonians continue to guide this award-winning community toward its full multi-faceted potential, successfully blending a vibrant mix of housing, nature, social, entertainment, and retail components within a beautifully landscaped setting.

For Aaron McManus, it was that all-in-one atmosphere that prompted a closer look at Brambleton. “I had driven by the community for years,” he said. “I knew about the Town Center, but I didn’t know about the concert series, the wide range of small parks, the fun runs and the free live performances.”

In 2012, he purchased a three-bedroom townhouse with a large garage, perfect for his young family. “I don’t have to drive anywhere except to work, twelve miles away in Chantilly,” said Aaron, who also coaches for Loudoun Soccer. In his downtime, he particularly loves walking his young daughters to ballet lessons in the Town Center, or taking a Sunday morning stroll to Brambleton’s Farmers’ Market for “gigantic eggs and fresh veggies.” 

Residents often say it’s that sense of being connected to the broader community that brings them here and keeps them here.

Connecting Through Location
“‘Live, work and play’ is a perfect definition for Brambleton!” says Tracey Parent, a happy first-year Brambletonian who manages her own organic tanning business in the community. “I worked in real estate and I wouldn’t live anywhere but Brambleton – it’s smack in the middle of everything!”

Soave Real Estate made an incredible investment by choosing to build right in the heart of Loudoun County’s high tech corridor, thirty two miles west of Washington, D.C.  Brambleton offers superb convenience with its close proximity to Dulles International Airport, nature parks, sports venues, cultural sites, great schools, abundant shopping, and fine dining.  

The eventual opening of Metrorail’s Silver Line station nearby will offer another welcomed commuting option.  For now, residents have multiple routes to choose from, including Routes 50, 7, and the Dulles Greenway.

Connecting With Housing
Brambleton offers an array of attractive architectural styles and sizes for just about any taste, need or budget.  Traditional colonials, cute Tudor-style cottages, solid Brownstones, contemporary townhomes, sprawling manor homes and spacious condos are all here.  Five well-known builders, each with well thought out products, combine to ensure Brambleton’s impressive look.

A smorgasbord of appealing features adds to the variety available. Depending on the builder, popular options include front porches, first-floor master suites, upstairs laundry rooms, open-concept kitchens, outdoor terraces, dual-sided fireplaces, built-in bookcases and more. 

One of Shawn Gaillard’s must-haves was a three-car, side-load garage. She found it in a 4,100 square-foot single-family home that met her husband Rus’ demand for function and Shawn’s focus on aesthetics. “It was meant to be!” exclaimed Rus.

When Rob and Jin Chen moved from Falls Church to Brambleton in 2006, they knew they didn’t want to spend time on yard work, so they selected a 3,000 square-foot townhome facing the beautifully shaded Legacy Park. From their front door, this dog-loving family has easy walkable access to Brambleton’s recreational and entertainment amenities.  

Kim and Brandon Gauthier grew up in Sterling and after college were looking for an up-and-coming community nearby. For seven years they lived in Brambleton’s Summerfield condo community, across the street from the Town Center.  In 2013, when a growing family found them needing more room, the Gauthiers rented out their condo and moved to a 3,600 square-foot villa-style home, which Brandon describes as “striking a nice balance between a townhouse and single-family home.

“We’re thrilled with how it’s all turned out,” Brandon said.  “Brambleton is the perfect place as a young couple to start a family and develop with the community.”

The ability to upsize or downsize within the community is one of Brambleton’s biggest draws. Residents can maintain connections to friends, schools and activities when circumstances change.  

Matt and Karen Partlow watched Brambleton develop from the beginning and when it came time to seek a larger house eight years ago, they knew where they wanted to be. “Regardless of whether you are young or old, there’s a great family atmosphere here.”

The availability of a house with a sizable basement for their then teenaged son who played the drums brought them to the community, but Matt noted, “We’re now empty nesters, and we’re still here.”

Retired from the county fire and rescue department, you’ll frequently catch Matt working at the front desk of the Sport and Health Club, a five-minute walk from his home. 

Connecting Outdoors
Brambleton’s developer understands that the key to an attractive, welcoming community is restraint – leaving greenery and undeveloped areas where sights and sounds beckon residents to get out, explore, and connect. Whether savoring s’mores at the annual fall family campout or enjoying the community’s ten mile network of paved trails, the sense of “home” extends beyond your front door.

Peaceful pockets of green space dot Brambleton’s gently rolling landscape, peppered with benches and meandering paths perfect for contemplation.  Nature lovers savor watching blue herons fish in community ponds, while some residents practice their own catch-and-release skills.

Active residents of all ages enjoy Brambleton’s swimming pools, tot lots, tennis courts, ball fields and community garden plots.  The Road Runners Club of America recently designated Brambleton as a runner-friendly community. Whether it’s kids participating in the non-competitive “Brambleton Kids Run the Nation” or adults enjoying numerous annual 5K and 10K events, Brambletonians are on the move.

Connecting Through the Town Center
The Town Center offers a very welcoming 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.
With Harris Teeter, the 38,000 square-foot Sport and Health Club, dining establishments, distinctive specialty shops, and a 16-screen movie theater with IMAX, a true gathering place atmosphere exists.

Pleasant evenings and weekends find lively conversationalists and book readers alike occupying benches and outdoor café seating areas. Children romp around with their ice cream creations, and  canine members of the community enjoy water and doggie treats set out by several shop owners.

Connecting Through Technology
Included in Brambleton’s modest homeowner association fees are Verizon FiOS high speed Internet and HD Extreme Package TV services. 

The Brambleton TV (BTV), on air since November 2013 is all Brambleton, all the time. Designed to mesh with the busy lives of residents, information is succinctly presented and easy to find.  Need local traffic and weather updates?  Want details about the next community or school event?  Tune in briefly, then get on with your day.

Want to give a cheerful BTV public shout-out to someone?  Pop into the Welcome Center to record a short Bram Gram acknowledging that special mailman, local business, thoughtful neighbor or milestone celebration. Since Bram Grams are produced in-house, your message can be distributed immediately. BTV’s possibilities are endless.

Brambleton also ensures efficient community-wide communication through social media, Friday Flash emails, community newsletters and multiple Brambleton Facebook groups. It’s a network that ensures the diverse voices of residents are heard and keeps them informed of upcoming activities, new developments and projects under consideration.  

Connecting Through Community Involvement
Often resident-generated and volunteer-run, Brambleton’s unique and growing traditions enrich community interaction beyond the lively holiday celebrations and special interest clubs.  

When Kathy and Tom Turley moved from Virginia Beach to Brambleton in 2009, they brought along an idea for a Roving Dinner with a twist.  Residents, gathering in small groups at host homes for each of three yummy courses, find out at the end of each course where the next stop will be and where they join a completely different group of folks.  The last course, dessert, is held at the Community Center where participants come together, sharing renewed and burgeoning friendships.  Kathy said, “I remember so vividly that first year at dessert, people were literally RUNNING into the Community Center to share the details of their night and tell me how much fun they had.”

Another real smile-maker happens the night before school starts each year, as parents write encouraging, cheerful messages on the sidewalks leading to each of Brambleton’s elementary schools.  Little faces glow as they arrive the first day for a new year of learning.
The community’s volunteerism extends to charitable giving. Whether in donated time or money, Brambleton is very generous, raising thousands of dollars for local schools and other worthy causes.

Ashley and Dario Campolattaro were buying a promise when they moved to Brambleton ten years ago. The couple grew up in Columbia, MD and wanted that sense of community for their children who are now 8, 11 and 14. At first it was, “Oh yay! There’s a festival,” Ashley said, referring to frequent, enticing community events, but they quickly developed a deeper connection through volunteering.

In 2005, Ashley and a group of friends (now “The Step Sisters”) began fundraising for the Avon Breast Cancer walk.  Soon, she spearheaded Brambleton’s annual spring Step Sisters’ Ribbon Run, which just completed its 7th year. Drawing thousands of participants, this event now helps fund programs that improve the quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer in Loudoun County and the surrounding area.

That’s one vital key to Brambleton’s success - the contribution many talented residents and staff make to the greater Loudoun County community. “It’s not just about Brambleton,” says Kim Adams, Director of Marketing.  “It’s about making a better county.” Toward that end, Brambleton volunteers serve on numerous county commissions and committees, including those dealing with recreation, aging, zoning, schools, transportation and historic preservation.

Connecting Through the HOA
Tony Buffington says he’s the last guy you’d expect to find on Brambleton’s homeowner’s association board.  “I was scared of HOAs!”  However, he and his wife Claire weren’t pleased with how properties were kept in their former no-rules community, where a well-digging truck was parked in one front yard and a large dilapidated trampoline in another.
“We drove into Brambleton and saw how beautiful it was, then talked to existing residents about living with an HOA.  After multiple visits, the comments we heard gave us the warm fuzzies.”

Shortly after becoming a Brambletonian in 2011, Tony, realizing that HOAs can help maintain property values, volunteered for the Grounds and Facilities committee “The rules here are basically all common sense,” he said. “Maintain your home in a reasonable manner, take care of lawns, lights and trash cans, and be considerate of others.”

A year ago, Tony became one of three resident members on the HOA Board of Directors – still developer controlled. “We work well with the developer because we all have the same goals.  The better the community, the more homes sell and the more we like it here.”
“Communication is key,” Tony says. “Without that we wouldn’t be effective.”  

It’s that constant communication between all parties involved that makes Brambleton’s emergence from design to reality so successful. 

Anthony Soave, the first true Brambletonian, continues to see his original vision growing deeper roots and living up to the community’s motto, “The future is now, and it lives with unlimited potential in Brambleton.”

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