The balance between cultures within Clarendon isn’t the result of any absolute dichotomy. With George Mason’s law school just a half mile from Clarendon Station, and K Street just four Metro stops away, the nightlife atmosphere blends professional and academic to great success. Commuters litter the residential pockets that line the commercial ‘downtown’ of Clarendon, with condo buildings and apartment complexes providing a sort of transitional skin into a more settled environment. Small businesses cohabitate easily with a subliminal corporate presence, which appears to be tamed by the fact that Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, the Apple Store, etc. are all located at close quarters in Clarendon Plaza. This makes the Plaza a sort of financial nucleus, drawing residents from DC and further south in Arlington to the area. (And of course Whole Foods, the organic grocery Mecca is a Prius magnet, and 9 out of 10 that make the drive have District plates.) It’s also a clever sleight of hand that sort of tricks people into noticing the rest of the neighborhood, whether they came for it or not.
And there’s the charm. Clarendon’s small businesses aren’t so much allowed to exist as they are encouraged to thrive. The farmers market right off the metro on Wednesday afternoons is always well attended, and independent restaurants are clustered and crowded with customers. Nightlife booms toward the West, with the Clarendon Ballroom, Mr. Days, and Clarendon Grill all hosting happy hours conscious of their customers. Some bars try to go higher end, and succeed in pleasing the folks that bother to show up and deal with the pretty shoulda-woulda crowd that couldn’t bother with a short cab or metro ride into DC. (I’m looking at you, Eleventh.) Dinner outside in the spring and summer is unavoidable, it seems, as sidewalks are full of people enjoying Faccia Luna, 3, Harry’s Taproom, or Rien Tong.
Commerce aside, living in Clarendon is as easy as it is enticing. On the high end, established streets like Franklin Road and Key Boulevard present some of Arlington’s finer fare, with single family homes ranging anywhere from $700,000 to just over $1 million. Given that everything in the area seems to be on top of everything else, location is less a determining factor in price than, say, age or square footage. Garfield Street stretches back into an expansive neighborhood shaded by oak and pine, with sleight hills traced in well-kept sidewalks. Emerge from Garfield onto Wilson and find yourself in the shadow of commercial construction (to be completed in 2010) and shouldered by bars and restaurants. Further down, on the other side of Clarendon Boulevard, apartments are stacked over popular nightlife to the tune of $1900 a month to $4000, depending on, again, size and age. The neighborhoods down 10th Street across Lombard, toward Courthouse and Rosslyn, are a mixed bag of old Virginia ranchers, brick colonials, townhomes and apartment buildings with slightly more reasonable prices, whether you’re buying or renting.
Ten minutes from DC by Metro, maybe even ten with a car (we know how that goes), Clarendon enjoys island-like qualities, even though it’s one of the most connected neighborhoods to the District. In the end, it’s the odd mix of the urbane yet surrounding modest suburbia that draws its residents in and urges them to stay. Or at least it was for me.
And for those of you who somehow never saw it, the Arlington Rap...
James Mitchell is a resident of Clarendon and a brave soul for contributing to our series of neighborhood features.
Arlington and Clarendon Real Estate News