|The interior of the Hillwood Square community is accessible by paths, not roads.|
The new owner of the nearly 20-acre property, AvalonBay Communities Inc., plans to build 461 garden-style apartments for a more affluent population, although a certain percentage of affordable units had been promised. The sale to AvalonBay closed in June for $38 million. The land is zoned R-20, allowing 20 units per acre, which allows by-right development of 20 units per acre.
Residents are getting about $178,000 to $278,000, depending on the size of their unit. “You can’t find a comparable place around here for that,” said David Knapp, a resident of Hillwood Square since 1999. He is downsizing to a condo.
Tran Son, who’s lived at Hillwood Square for 23 years, said he can’t afford to buy another place in Falls Church or Arlington with the $230,000 he’s getting for his two-bedroom unit, so he plans to move in with his son in Bailey’s Crossroads.
Olivia Weiss, a 22-year-old college student who has lived at Hillwood Square since she was born, says her parents are looking for more affordable housing outside the area, possibly in Silver Spring or Fredericksburg.
All three of the residents quoted here opposed the sale, and Weiss’s parents were part of a lawsuit to try to stop it.
But more than the required two-thirds of the 160 homeowners in the Hillwood Square Mutual Association voted in favor of the sale, so everyone has to move out by Aug. 23. The development was organized as a cooperative, with all homeowners given a say in how the community is run.
The community, on Cherry Street close to Route 50, was built during World War II to house workers at the torpedo factory in Old Town, Alexandria, long before that facility was converted to art galleries.
“It’s pretty sad to see it torn down,” Weiss said. “It’s got a lot of historic value.” Hillwood Square was added to the Fairfax County Historic Register in 2009.
The sale was initially planned by Archstone Enterprises, but AvalonBay acquired 40 percent of that company earlier this year. The Hillwood Square residents who opposed the sale were particularly incensed that Lehman Brothers, which they refer to as the “bankrupt symbol of the great recession,” bought a controlling interest in Archstone and was preparing to demolish a housing development for moderate-income households.
Knapp said some residents thought they could have gotten more if they held out longer, while some people were concerned that if they didn’t sell, they would have had to replace the aging water and sewer lines.