Planet Wine
Photo: Planet Wine on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, Alexandria.

We had a clear vision of the neighborhood where we wanted to live. After living in great neighborhoods in the past, we knew what works for us. The streets would be walkable, with small, older homes and apartments. Main street would have local shops including a butcher, a cheese shop, a bakery, a wine shop, some cafes—dared we hope for a farmer’s market?

Photo: Evidence of wine tastings.

People would say hi on the streets, assuming you were also a local, and introductions would quickly lead to statements like, “We just bought the place on X Street. You’re on Y?” You could walk almost everywhere, and to where you couldn’t walk you could easily take a bus or the metro.

Mount Vernon Avenue
Photo: Bus stop on Mount Vernon Avenue.

The vibe would be old-fashioned, small town, but in general the people would slant towards progressive values. It wouldn’t be too precious. There would be people who had lived their entire lives in the neighborhood and they would transmit the history.

Mount Vernon Avenue
Photo: On Mount Vernon Avenue.

All of our notions by coincidence follow the principles of “new urbanism.” In contrast to a newly developed suburb, we wanted our neighborhood to have history and to have grown organically. No new development, no matter how well planned according to new urbanist principles, could feel as legitimate, as authentic, as a neighborhood with 100 years or more of history.

We wanted a prewar (as in La Seconda) house with quirky but solid construction. We wanted that house to be located in a neighborhood as old as possible. We wanted the neighborhood to function now; we didn’t want to wait for the promise of better things to come.

We found all this in Del Ray, Alexandria. I’ll let you know how it works out.