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Friday, October 14, 2011

Neighborhood Spotlight: Ravensworth-Bristow

Claire Grumbly's house
The Ravensworth-Bristow community in Annandale has gone through a lot of changes since it was developed in the early 1960s—the population is more diverse, the trees have matured, and many houses have been renovated and a few replaced by mcmansions—but some things have not changed.

It’s still a great place to raise a family, said Claire Grumbly, age 86, who moved into her split level on Erie Street 51 years ago when it was brand new and surrounded by farmland.

Most of the 710 homes in the neighborhood were built in 1959 and 1960, and the developer apparently was a baseball fan as several of the street names—Killebrew Drive, Maris Court, and Yeatman Drive, for example—are named for famous ballplayers. The community is generally bordered by Heritage Drive, Americana Drive, Braddock Road, Ravensworth Road, and McWhorter Place.

A mcmansion on Heritage Drive
Among the issues the Ravensworth-Bristow Civic Association (RBCA) dealt with recently was the splitting up of the neighborhood due to redistricting within Fairfax County. The plan approved by the Board of Supervisors moved the area north of Heritage Drive to the Mason District, while the rest remains remain in Braddock.

The RBCA had opposed the split. “It wasn’t logical,” said President Barry Newman, who moved to the neighborhood in 1995. “We thought it would result in less services from the county,” but after Mason Supervisor Penny Gross and Braddock Supervisor John Cook reassured the community, he said, “I don’t think that will be the case.”

A blight house will be demolished
“Now we’ll have two supervisors looking out for us,” Newman said. “They were both very positive.”

The RBCA has an active Neighborhood Watch group and hosts several social events, including an annual Halloween parade Oct. 22, an Easter egg roll, and National Night Out gathering. There’s also an annual block party, yard sale, and plant sale, which will be combined into a “blockbuster” on May 19.

Like many civic associations in Annandale, RBCA finds it challenging to recruit members and volunteers, said Newman, who found more time for civic involvement after retiring from the Department of Homeland Security.

Claire Grumbly
Other challenges are homeowners who keep boats and trailers in their yards, fail to keep their grass mowed, and violate other zoning codes, he said.

After many months of work, the RBCA has finally gotten the county to do something about a blighted property on the corner of Royston Street and Bristow Drive that had been damaged in a fire, Newman said. The county is supposed to tear down the house and maintain the yard. The owner will be charged for the demolition, and the county will sell the property.

Grumbly, RBCA corresponding secretary and former treasurer, also mentioned an increase in homes occupied by more than one family. “You see all these cars, you begin to wonder,” she said. She misses the early days in the neighborhood when people knew all their neighbors. Nowadays, people are less friendly, she said, noting that “some don’t speak English well, so it’s harder to communicate.”

Medford Drive
Traffic is also a concern. Ravensworth Road is already congested, and the traffic is only going to get worse when the Beltway construction is completed, as Braddock will be a major access point for the HOT lanes, Newman said. And that means it’s going to get harder to make left turns onto Ravensworth from Kalorama Road and Heritage Drive. There has been some discussion about traffic lights and speed bumps, but there’s no formal proposal.

The RBCA recently endorsed a petition from the Braddock Elementary School PTA calling for stripes to better mark the intersection of Heritage and Yeatman Drive.

The recent revitalization of Ossian Park has been a boon to the community, and many residents go to football games at Annandale HighSchool. The community doesn’t have a swimming pool, so many residents go the Annandale Swim and Tennis Club on the other side of Little River Turnpike.

Heritage Mall

The community’s main shopping area is Heritage Mall, which has an Hmart grocery store and several eateries and small shops. A new Subway is slated to open soon in a spot that used to house the Pink Posy flower shop. Two or three years ago, Newman said, there was criminal activity there—graffiti and gang members harassing people—but that has subsided.

Grumbly avoids nearby shopping areas after dark, but said “but I feel safe in my neighborhood.” She has fond memories of her early years in the neighborhood when she used to shop at Michelbach’s Furniture on the corner of Ravensworth and Little River Turnpike and a dress shop on Annandale Road—both of them long gone.She still gets together for dinner every weekday evening with a group of other long time residents at local restaurants like Silverado’s, Kilroy’s, or the Foxfire Grill.

The public schools that serve Ravensworth-Bristow are Annandale Terrace and Braddock elementary schools, Poe Middle School, and Annandale High School. Grumbly’s children went to St. Michaels, the Catholic school on Ravensworth Road, and she remembers when that school was so crowded, first and second-graders only went half a day.

Grumbly said she’s happy to see growing numbers of young children in the neighborhood. “I’ve been very happy here,” she said.

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