News & Politics

2006 Great Places to Live: Montgomery County

Now you can leave your cares—and car—behind in Montgomery County.

The convenience of walking to dinner, to the movies, or to school is hard to beat. So it’s not surprising that neighborhoods surrounding lively retail centers like downtown Silver Spring are very popular.

The area loosely bounded by Colesville Road, Dale Drive, and Wayne Avenue has flourished. This area, within walking distance of downtown, includes parts of established neighborhoods like Woodside and Woodside Park; it’s commonly referred to as close-in Silver Spring.

John Talone says he loves the area because it offers the best of both the suburbs and the city. Mature trees line the streets and provide shade for the variety of homes: 1930s and ’40s brick Colonials, 1940s ramblers, and 1960s contemporary homes as well as one-level cottages, bungalows, and houses dating to the turn of the century. Just a short walk away are dozens of restaurants, bookstores, shops, and movie theaters.

Talone, an independent contractor, has lived in the Woodside area for 40 years. He bought his childhood home from his parents about five years ago, a common practice in the area.

Ten-year area resident Liz Brent says her ten-year-old son and his friends have “the run of the neighborhood.”

Sligo Creek Park and its trails are popular with joggers and bikers. Families with young children appreciate the area’s three playgrounds and public library.

It’s also a convenient spot for commuters—close to the Silver Spring Metro and a short distance to the Beltway.

Home prices in this area range from $415,000 for a two-bedroom Colonial to $1,150,000 for a new three-level house.

When Hilary and Billy Bednarz were house hunting last summer before their wedding, they knew what they wanted: an older house with character, big enough for raising a family; a community with young professionals and families; and a location convenient for her commute to DC and his to Bethesda. The 60-year-old three-bedroom brick Colonial they found in Silver Spring’s Woodmoor neighborhood was the perfect fit.

Most homes in Woodmoor date from the late 1930s and 1940s. There are Cape Cods, Colonials, and ramblers priced from about $475,000 to the mid-$600,000s.

The historic district in Takoma Park, bounded by Piney Branch Road, Philadelphia Avenue, Carroll Avenue, and Eastern Avenue, is marked by tall trees, hilly streets, and about 425 homes. Residents are just a short walk from downtown Takoma Park’s charming restaurants, shops, and farmers market.

Known for its artsy flavor, Takoma Park is home to Takoma Station Tavern, a favorite for live jazz, and the House of Musical Traditions, a store that sells exotic musical instruments, books, and records. The town has a folk festival in September, a jazz festival every spring, and a series of summer concerts.

Most neighborhood houses—Victorians and bungalows—were built in the 1920s or earlier. They vary from the $200,000s to more than a million, averaging $600,000.

Another neighborhood where residents can go all weekend without using a car is Chevy Chase West. Located between Bethesda and Friendship Heights, the neighborhood is near two Metro stations plus both the ritzy retail of Washington’s new “Rodeo Drive” block of Wisconsin Avenue and Bethesda’s lively downtown.

Through traffic is limited, and nearby Norwood Park offers playgrounds, a lighted baseball field, and five tennis courts.

The neighborhood is made up of about 470 Colonials, Sears mail-order houses, ramblers, and split-levels, with a smattering of newer houses, the product of teardowns, mixed in. Prices range from the high $700,000s to just under $2 million.

Less than a mile to the north, East Bethesda, between Jones Bridge Road and East-West Highway, has many of the same advantages.

Lynnbrook Park—with its playground, softball field, and tennis courts—is a neigh­borhood gathering spot, and residents can easily hop on the Capital Crescent Trail for a bike ride or jog all the way to Georgetown.

Although most of the 1,200 area homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s, about 15 percent are brand-new, the result of teardowns. There are also new townhouses and apartment buildings. Prices for single-family homes begin around $600,000 and go to $1.7 million for new construction.

Residents in Bethesda’s Wildwood Estates neighborhood made an informal agreement not to put fences between their homes. Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon says such friendliness is typical of the neighborhood he and his wife, Sheryl, have lived in since 1999. “It’s a lot like how I would picture the 1950s to be,” he says.

While many of their neighbors have become close friends, it was the area’s location that attracted them. The development, part of Wildwood Manor, is located less than a mile from the Beltway and the I-270 spur and within walking distance of Wildwood Shopping Center. It’s also a short drive to the Music Center at Strathmore, the Bethesda–Chevy Chase YMCA, and both Montgomery Mall and White Flint.

Wildwood Manor is made up of about 375 split-levels, ramblers, Colonials, and contemporary houses. Most were built in the 1950s and 1960s and sell in the high $600,000s; the 45 homes in Wildwood Estates were built in the late 1990s. Prices for these newer homes can go as high as about $1.3 million.









3 BEDROOMS $640,000

Where Prices Have Climbed most in Montgomery County

Neighborhood Zip Code Avg Price 2005 Avg Price 2004 % Change 2005 Sales 2004 Sales
Brinklow 20862 $1,234,714 $685,000 80% 7 4
Spencerville 20868 $910,163 $520,500 75% 12 8
Cabin John 20818 $878,310 $667,621 32% 30 35
Poolesville 20837 $452,833 $365,729 24% 92 116
Gaithersburg 20877 $358,102 $293,338 22% 537 605