There has been an evolution in American community design over the past 20 years, and one community in the DC Metro region has been a trendsetter. That trend is for urban-style communities in more relaxed, suburban locations, and Brambleton in eastern Loudoun County, Virginia, is a nation-leading example of how this new way of living is changing the American landscape – and Americans’ lifestyles.
Starting in the 1950s, the American suburbs became the ideal way to live for growing families in the prosperous second half of the 20th century. The template was simple. Tidy homes on lots that were large enough for playtime and gardening, but small enough to not monopolize weekend time with yard work, were set on meandering streets that often ended in cul-de-sacs where neighborhood kids played basketball or roller skated. Shopping and daily needs moved off of Main Street and into suburban strip malls. America’s car culture flourished, and everyone drove to buy or do anything, whether Wednesday afternoon grocery shopping, an after-school trip to the public library, or to the movie theater for the teenagers’ Friday night dates. But after a few decades, the allure of driving everywhere for everything faded. People started to feel disconnected. Grandparents reminisced about strolling to the corner store for groceries or to a café up the street, and parents and children started to yearn for that kind of connected, “old fashioned” life, too.
Which brings us to today. People still want the relative tranquility of the suburbs – too much city density can still feel like, well, too much – but they want to leave their cars in the garage on evenings and weekends, and walk to stores, restaurants, parks and community events where they can connect with their neighbors. Just as it did in the late 20th century, community design has evolved to match what people want in the new century, and has given rise to a new community style that pairs the best of the suburbs with the best of urban town plans. Some may call it “city lite,” but a more accurate term has emerged: Surban.
Surban community design may sound like a contrived term, but its definition is actually very straightforward. It places more emphasis on the “urban” side of things, in which communities have more compact, dense, city-styled design that mixes residential and commercial zoning, allowing people to walk or bike to everything instead of driving. While these communities are still located in the suburbs, away from the congestion and pollution of inner cities and surrounded by natural vistas, they still feel like hometowns – because they are, just in a new way. Town centers feature grocery stores, coffee shops, clothing stores, restaurants, parks and community pavilions, all within walking distance of residential streets.
Technology has become interwoven into today’s surban community designs, too…after all, as we approach the third decade of the new millennium, who doesn’t want to surf the Internet on their laptop at a sidewalk café, or be in touch with friends on a smartphone to pin down what time to meet at the farmer’s market? That’s just modern life, right?
Since 2001, one community in the DC Metro region has defined the surban design trend: Brambleton, in eastern Loudoun County, Virginia. Here, Brambleton Town Center boasts acclaimed eateries, coffee houses, a microbrewery, a movie multiplex, a spectacular public library and stores that can fulfill shopping needs for any occasion or holiday. Community events draw crowds year-round. Loudoun County public schools are integrated into the community, letting kids walk or bike to school if they want, and trails connect neighborhoods, parks, swimming pools and natural green spaces. Housing designs fit the lifestyles of people of all ages.
Brambleton’s location amid Loudoun County’s rolling hills west of Washington, DC hardly means that it isn’t connected to the Nation’s Capital, thanks to its proximity to key commuter routes like the Dulles Toll Road, major employment centers in Reston and Tysons, and with the expansion of Metro light rail service on the Silver Line straight into downtown DC. The entire planet itself easily accessible, with Dulles International Airport just minutes down the road. And with Virginia Piedmont views on the horizon and the Potomac River just minutes away, nature nurtures Brambletonians in ways that an inside-the-Beltway city setting can’t really match.
All in all, Brambleton isn’t the future of urban-style community design in the National Capital area. It’s the present. If you’re looking for a rewarding, connected way to live, the present is the perfect time to discover Brambleton.