After AvalonBay purchased the Hillwood Square community in Falls Church earlier this year, all the residents met the Aug. 23 move-out deadline—except for one.
The remaining holdout is Jeanne Simmons, a 96-year-old former teacher who has lived in the development for 57 years. On Aug. 28, the developer gave Simmons a five-day notice to vacate her home at 2848 Franklin Walk. She has no plans to move.
On Aug. 24, the Falls Church Department of Public Utilities complied with a request by the developer to cut off water service to Simmons. Since then, she’s had to rely on friends bringing her bottled water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning, reports her son, John Simmons.
“Each time she needs to flush the toilet, she carries two one-gallon jugs of water upstairs, one at a time, then fills a bucket with the two gallons and pours the water into the toilet to force a flush,” he says.AvalonBay plans to tear down the 160-unit townhouse development and build 461 garden-style apartments on the 19-acre site. More than two-thirds of Hillwood Square homeowners voted in favor of the sale, and AvalonBay’s deal to purchase the property for $38 million closed in June.
|Simmons in her younger days.|
The eviction is “frivolous, as she does not owe the developer any rent,” he says, “but she will still have to go to court to contest the eviction proceedings,” which he says could cost over $300,000.”
She claims her two-bedroom home has been valued at $531,000, while AvalonBay is demanding she accept a buyout of $228,000. She is not interested in selling at all, and “is ready to put up the entire value of her home to defend her rights as a homeowner,” John Simmons says.
John says his mother “is still bright, sharp as a tack, still walks and cooks, and holds a great conversation in French with me.”
Jeanne Simmons is of French/Vietnamese heritage and taught French at St. Michael’s School in Annandale and Washington, D.C., public schools, says John, a former student at St. Michael’s.
During World War II she lived with a Russian family in China while working for the U.S. military. After Mao took over, she fled on the last ship out of China, an American merchant marine vessel, and later married an officer on that ship, Robert Simmons.
Hillwood Square was developed during the Roosevelt Administration to house workers at a torpedo factory in Alexandria. It was one of the few developments in Northern Virginia organized as a cooperative.It is in Fairfax County adjacent to the City of Falls Church.
John says his mother is “committed to challenging the sale [of the development] all the way back to round 1. This community was set up to be operating in perpetuity. It was not set up to encourage speculation.”
Residents have gotten $178,000 to $288,000 depending on whether they have one, two, or three bedrooms. Many former residents haven’t been able to find comparable housing for that amount around here and have had to double up with relatives or move out of the area.
According to John, AvalonBay started developing and marketing the new apartment project even before the vote by residents. “It was a very vitriolic campaign” to get residents to agree to the sale, he says. “It was crammed down their throats, with all kinds of strategies to chip away at people’s resolve. It was a campaign of manipulation and deceit to divide people and plain out rig the vote.”
He says people from Fairfax County’s department of Adult Protective Services tried to help his mother explore alternative places to live but she declined to consider them. “They were very understanding. They didn’t want to be used by anyone to bolster the will of a developer,” John says. “They respected her rights to stand up as a homeowner.”