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Archive for October, 2009

Halloween on Lee Street in Old Town Alexandria, 2009


Just like folks have destination weddings, trick or treat hopefuls have destination Halloween locations.  And in Old Town Alexandria that means only one thing – Lee Street.

An old fashioned block party in the best sense of the word, the Lee Street Halloween extravaganza stretches for six blocks between Gibbon and King.

With cooperation from the Alexandria police, the street is open only to foot traffic.  The party starts as early as 5:00pm, for the little ones, and goes as late as 10:00pm.

What makes Halloween on Lee Street so much fun is that every one gets in on the act.  Houses are decorated, costumed homeowners are waiting on the doorstep (no having to ring the doorbell here) and adults, children and dogs join in on the party.

Of course some of the adults have secret liquid “potions” that they only share with other adults!

No small venture, one Old Town resident told us they have to buy so much candy – some 3000+ pieces – that they order it online to get the best price!

Like we said, Halloween on Lee Street in Old Town Alexandria is a destination spot and folks come from miles around.

See you next year.


P.S. – just double click on each picture to “supersize” them.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

The 2009 Del Ray Chili Cook Off Brings Smiles to A Very Special Group of Alexandria Residents

Let me tell you right off the bat that this is a feel good kind of story.  The kind of story that makes you think about being kinder, a bit more patient, and perhaps seeing your neighbors in a whole new light.  This is how the 2009 Del Ray Chili Cook Off brought smiles to a very special group of Alexandria residents.

Our block in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood hosts a chili “cook off” every year. It is very informal, open to all and operates primarily by word of mouth.  Some years it’s a grand, busting at the seams affair, other times, it’s small and just an excuse to get together.

But let me have neighbor and uber chili organizer, Laura Fries tell you more:

“Yesterday was the Chili Cook-Off.  Yes, the day with the driving rain and wind coming down hardest just when the cook-off was supposed to start.  The host families were talking of canceling – we had given it a good shot but the weather, for a second weekend in a row, wasn’t cooperating.

The we looked out into the yard and there, huddled under the tent, were at least half a dozen residents of the group home from the next block.  They had made a pot of chili.  They weren’t leaving.  Some had walkers, others were in wheelchairs and, despite trying to stay under the tent, they were getting soaked.

It was clear the show had to go on.  We put on rain coats and boots, grabbed some umbrellas and brought out our pot of chili.  We figured that even if there were just two or three entries to taste, it would make the group home people happy. Then something really amazing happened.

People started showing up.  Lots of them.  They came with different umbrellas, pots of chili and corn bread, cakes and pies.  People went from tent to tent tasting eight different kinds of chili – two vegetarian and one with duck and rabbit!  Nobody seemed to care about the rain and a few neighbors new to the experience couldn’t stop raving.

There was something happening here.  As he does every year, the Sheriff of Alexandria, Dana Lawhorne, came by to count the ballots.  (Yes, we have official ballots and everything.)  It had stopped raining by then and we lit a fire and sat around on hay bales waiting for the announcement, the moment of truth had come.

Turns out, the Wicked Wizards, the group home contestants who ran their wheelchairs through the mud and hung out all day in the rain, won first prize for their pot of chili.  I cannot adequately express their joy.

The supervisor of the group home accepted the homemade award on their behalf and it almost brought the whole crowd to tears.  He talked about how people with physical and mental challenges always feel on the outside of everything and that today they were winners and a true part of the neighborhood.  It was one of the best cook off’s ever.”

And that my friends, is how the 2009 Del Ray Chili Cook Off brought smiles to a very special group of Alexandria residents.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

City of Alexandria Receives $7.7 Million in Funding for Home Buyer Assistance

The City of Alexandria will receive $7.7 million from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) for home buyer assistance.  The grant will help make home ownership more affordable for individuals who live or work in the City of Alexandria.


Funding is being provided through VHDA’s Sponsoring Partnerships and Revitalizing Communities (SPARC) Program.  Households with annual incomes of up to $102,700 for a family of four will benefit most directly.


This is a significant step towards ensuring the continued turn in the housing market while making housing affordable for City workers.  For more, click here.







Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

The 2009 Del Ray Halloween Parade – Funky, Friendly and Fun!

With the Mayor, most of Alexandria’s City Council and U.S. Representative Jim Moran in attendance, the 2009 Del Ray Halloween Parade showed off under crisp blue skies only slightly behind schedule and with a record crowd.

A true home grown event, the Del Ray Halloween Parade is a chance for everyone  – dogs, parents, babies, etc.  – to put on a costume, or at least a funny hat, and make their way down Mt. Vernon Avenue.

And if you didn’t want to “parade” it was perfectly acceptable to simply observe.

The really smart folks grabbed every available table at outdoor dining spots along the parade route which made it a great day for all of Del Ray‘s businesses.

Capping the night off – the Spooky Bean Halloween sponsored by Bean Creative on Mt. Vernon Avenue.

A special shout out to Gayle Reuter, the driving force behind the Del Ray Halloween Parade.  It wouldn’t get done without you!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Not Even Halloween is Recession Proof in Alexandria’s Del Ray Neighborhood

One of our regular subscribers alerted us to this great display at 210 Monroe Ave.  Proof perfect that not even Halloween is recession proof in our Del Ray neighborhoodAlexandria has always taken to Halloween decorating but we think this is just the best yet.


Stay tuned for pictures of today’s Del Ray Halloween Parade



Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

The BERGIN BOOK REPORT – Who’s Your City?

Welcome to my new series – The BERGIN BOOK REPORT.  My goal is to highlight books of interest to anyone involved in the wide world of real estate.  It may be the latest “how to” written by a fellow agent; a city guide for transplanted newcomers; or a general discourse on investing in real estate.  In all cases, my hope is that you will be enlightened, entertained and engaged.

The second entry*** in the BERGIN BOOK REPORT archive is Who’s Your City? by best selling author Richard Florida. Florida is a regular columnist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada and founder of the Creative Class Group located in Washington, DC, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Europe.

Although Who’s Your City? is classified as Economics/Current Events,  I think it is essential reading for understanding how people are making decisions about where to live and why.

The basic idea is that certain qualities in a town or city actually make people happy and that individuals can use these ideas to make choices about where to live.  It is also a great ‘heads up’ in looking for that next great neighborhood or city.

Who’s Your City?  is chocked full of meaty  information  – all backed by tables, graphs, survey results, and opinion polls.  From the Place and Happiness Survey, the key factors that “underpin our happiness with place”:

The survey also collected a wide range of demographic data and looked at how value in places is affected by income, education, occupation, age, race and ethnicity.  What then were the things that mattered most?  Aesthetics and basic services!

But beautiful beaches, sidewalk cafes, and bicycle trails are not the only indicators of a real estate hotspot.  This next revelation is undoubtedly what gained the most attention for Who’s Your City? – and a guest appearance for Florida on the Colbert Report.

Florida asserts that two major factors combine to shape housing values.  The first is obvious – wealth.  The wealthier the residents, the pricier the housing.

The second, and much larger factor, is what Florida refers to as the “Bohemian-Gay Index” which combines the “concentration of artists, musicians, and designers with the concentration of gays and lesbians in a region.”

“Regardless of which variables we applied, what version of the model we used, or which regions we looked at, the concentration of bohemians and gays consistently had a substantial correlation with housing values.”

Does your experience correspond with Florida’s data?  Are you seeing neighborhoods/cities reinvented because of the “Bohemian-Gay Index“?

Locally, I definitely think the BG Index has played out in my neighborhood – Del Ray –  in Alexandria, VA.  What was once a run down/working class area is now one of the most sought after neighborhoods in Northern Virginia and prides itself on it’s diversity and bohemian chic.

Whether you agree with Florida or not, Who’s Your City? is a must read for understanding what is happening in the market place.

And that’s a wrap for this edition of the BERGIN BOOK REPORT.


***I jumped the gun a bit last week with :  Exit Now and Next Exit

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Virginia Ranked as Top State for Business for Fourth Straight Year

Virginia has just been ranked as the top state for business for the fourth straight year by Forbes Magazine.  According to reporter Kurt Badenhausen, the Best States ranking measures six vital categories for businesses:

Thirty three different points of data determine the ranks in the six main areas. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes are weighted the most heavily. Nine different providers supply data with Moody’s Economy.com being the most utilized resource.

Badenhausen goes on to say:  Relative to the rest of the country, Virginia is booming. Its 6.5% unemployment rate is fifth lowest in the country with the four states ahead of it all having dramatically smaller economies and employment bases.

Virginia is the only state ranked in the top 20 in each of the six broad categories we examined. The state finished in the top three in half of those categories (labor supply, regulatory environment and quality of life). Virginia’s $325 billion economy is expected to be the 10th largest in the U.S. in 2009.

The state benefits from a highly educated workforce that is expected to expand over the next five years. Energy costs are 30% below the national average.  The state government’s finances are in good shape–it’s held on to a top AAA rating from Moody’s since 1971.

Eleven public companies with more than $10 billion in revenues call it home and smart incentives help, too. Each year Park Ridge, Ill.-based Pollina Corporate Real Estate does a study that compares states’ economic development departments and programs. This year Virginia topped the Pollina study after finishing second last year.

“Virginia’s economic development department truly understands what global competition is all about,” says Brent Pollina, who authored the study. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program, for example, is open to both new and existing companies and offers flexible and customized employee recruiting and job training for businesses. The program has helped more than 2,400 companies over the past five years recruit and train 75,000 Virginians.

On the downside, Badenhausen did note that Virginia’s economy has deteriorated, with the number of unemployed soaring 60%, while gross state product is flat and household incomes are expected to fall 4 percent.

All in all, Virginia’s rank as the top state for business in the US is continued good news for the housing market.


Related story: Northern Virginia Ranks at #3 for Nation’s Healthiest Housing Markets

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Northern Virginia Pro’s Offer Smart Choices for Versatile Nursery Design

There was a great article in last week’s Washington Post about making smart choices for a really versatile nursery design that goes way beyond blue or pink.  The author, newly pregnant, was inspired to search out answers when confronted with adding color to her home’s neutral palate.

Check out these tips that she collected from several design pros in the Northern Virginia area and Maryland:

Although each of the designers the writer consulted had a different approach, they all agreed on one thing – Spend money on the things that will last the longest and pick the paint color last.  The idea being that picking the color first backs you into a color.

For the complete article on making smart choices for your nursery, sample colors  and great pictures, click here.  For a related article on color, click here.

Moving because you need a nursery?  Give me a call at 703.927.4554 and  let’s find that new house.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Twelve Northern Virginia Restaurants Take Top Honors from Washington Post Critic Tom Sietsman

Twelve Northern Virginia restaurants have taken top honors on this year’s Washington Post list of best restaurants. 

Noted by restaurant critic Tom Sietsman are:

Using one to four stars, this is Sietseman’s rating system:

*Satisfactory – restaurants that are useful to know about if you are nearby; they may have only a few dishes or a single quality, such as a view or atmosphere, to distinguish them.

**Good – restaurants with generally appealing cooking, service and settings, they tend to be worth driving across town for.

***Excellent – rewarding destinations, no matter where you’re coming from; they typically blend high-quality cooking with the environs.

****Superlative – an unsurpassed dining experience ; these restaurants do what they do extraordinarily well.

Look’s like we have some new places to try –


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Scenic Sunday at Historic Christ Church Alexandria

This week’s offering is a bit different than our normal “Scenic Sundays” but it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.  Yesterday some 40  members of the World Association of Flower Arrangers, gathered at historic Christ Church Alexandria for a hands on course in “How to Decorate a Colonial Church.”

After a morning spent building wreaths, swags, candle rings, roping and more, the group moved to  the main church to put their pieces in place.  The result?  Beauty worthy of any interior design magazine and a glorious tribute to a church that has stood for more than 250 years.

Double click on each photo to bring it to full size.  Enjoy –




Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

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