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Archive for May, 2010

Rolling Thunder Honors Veterans in 23rd Annual “Ride to the Wall”

Today, as on 22 previous Memorial Day weekends, literally hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists honored veterans of all generations with their “Ride to the Wall” as a part of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington, DC.

Gathering under a cloudless blue sky in the Pentagon parking lot, the ride moved north past the Lincoln Memorial, up Constitution towards the Capitol and back down Independence, to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, or as most veterans know it, The Wall.

Started in 1987 by Ray Manzo, a USMC corporal who wanted to do something to bring attention to military personnel still classified as Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) in the Vietnam conflict, the rally has grown into a Memorial Day tradition as well as a political force for veteran benefits. 

In recent years it has become a place of welcome and refuge for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts.

Riders – men, women, and children – travel from around the world and from all 50 states to pay tribute those who have died in service to their country.

Rather than diminishing over the years as some early detractors hoped, this annual statement of support simply continues to grow.

Roll on . . .


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 9 Comments »

2010 ‘Flags In’ at Arlington National Cemtery Marks Beginning of Memorial Day Weekend

Today, amidst heat and humidity and flying insects, some 1500+ soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment joined forces at Arlington National Cemetery for a mission of utmost importance:

to place an American flag on each and every grave site, leaving no soldier forgotten.

Regardless of rank or length of service or duty station, each soldier buried at Arlington is remembered and honored on Memorial Day for Duty, Honor, Country.

Begun in 1948, the Flags In ceremony traditionally marks the beginning of Memorial Day activities at Arlington and in the Washington, DC area.

The 3rd Infantry Regiment, fondly know as the “Old Guard”, was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit in 1948.  That same year, non-commissioned officers began the practice of placing flags at each grave site on Memorial Day.

Old Guard members also guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, escort deceased service members to their final resting place at Arlington and serve in regular billets around the world.

Still lead and coordinated by 3rd Regiment NCO’s, the soldiers were joined today by representatives from the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine honor guard units.

Command Sergeant Major David Martel noted that it would take his soldiers about 3 hours to place over 250,000 flags.

With due reverence, each flag is centered approximately 12 inches in front of the grave.  Because soldiers use their individual foot gear as a measure, a single service member begins and completes one row in a section to insure uniformity.

The flags will stay in place through Monday, May 31th but will be removed before the cemetery opens on Tuesday, June 1.

I am proud to have served as a member of the Old Guard and proud that my father’s grave bears one of those flags.  Ten-hut!

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Del Ray Central Offers High End Apartments in Alexandria, VA

As much as my livelihood is based on helping folks buy and sell houses, I know that renting is a necessity for many.  Sometimes it’s because of a temporary assignment or the need to save for a down payment. 

In either case, people need a place to live and the recently opened Del Ray Central is a new player in the high end apartment market in Alexandria.

We moseyed down Mt. Vernon Avenue this afternoon to take a look at this new complex.  Formerly the home of a taxi stand and pizza carry out the two buildings, 3051 and 3056 Mt. Vernon, have a very sleek, contemporary feel. 

These are mixed use buildings with commercial offerings on the ground floor and residential spaces on top.

All together there are 141 rental units and 46 different layouts – everything from studios to two bedrooms + den. 

Some of the units have balconies (or patios masquerading as balconies) but for those without outside access there are three large rooftop areas complete with landscaping and furniture.

Each apartment has marble counter tops (kitchen and bath), stainless steel appliances, Berber carpet, good closet space, one assigned parking space in the underground garage, and a stacked washing machine and dryer. 

They also come with a fairly hefty price tag.  The one bedroom model we saw is 691 sq. ft. and goes for $1925.

Del Ray Central has a secure front entry, is handicapped accessible and pet friendly. 

Situated between Del Ray/Warwick Village and Arlandria, with a bus stop directly in front, and across the street from the Bombay Curry Company, Del Merei Grille, Cafe Pizzaiolo and a noodle shop, this development strikes us as a mecca for young singles/couples. 

Of course the leasing agent couldn’t confirm my suspicions (Fair Housing Laws) but it just doesn’t have that family vibe if you know what I mean. 

Still, this is a great addition to the Del Ray/Arlandria area and one day those renters will be buyers! 


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 9 Comments »

New Alexandria Farmer’s Market to Open in Arlandria at 4 Mile Run

The newest farmer’s market in Alexandria will soon be open in Arlandria and will be formally known as the 4 Mile Farmer’s and Artisans Market

The market will be open on Sunday’s from 8am to 1pm, at 4109 Mt. Vernon Avenue in the old Duron building.

The first market day is set for June 20 with a minimum of five vendors.  This will be a nice supplement to the more familiar Saturday markets, especially for Del Ray residents.

The Market mission statement states, “The Market will bring fresh, nutritious food to people of all income levels, provide an opportunity for local artisans and producers of goods to bring their wares to market, strive to reflect the diversity of the community, and improve the quality of life for Arlandria residents and visitors.

If you know a local artisan or a farmer in the region, are an artisan or farmer looking for a place to sell your wares, or are an area resident that wants to get involved with the Farmers and Artisans Market, please contact Travis Hester ([email protected]) or Nick Partee ([email protected]).

A huge amount of credit for this market goes to a core group of Arlandria residents who are pushing hard to keep the continued development of the area front and center   with city council, retailers and property owners. 

Our blogging friends at the Arlandrian are right in the middle of that group – kudos to all of you! 


P.S. photo and information courtesy of the Arlandrian

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Cafe Nicole Opens in Alexandria’s Parker Gray Neighborhood

Cafe Nicole, the newest independent coffee/lunch spot/cafe in Alexandria has opened in the historic Parker Gray neighborhood at the corner of Queen and North Fayette.

Many of you will recognize Nicole Burlimann from her barista years at St. Elmo’s in Del Ray and at Starbucks in Potomac Yards. 

Her father Erwin, is a Swiss trained chef and was one of the original chefs for Bread and Chocolate. 

Both had always wanted a place of their own. 

Add an empty building and a burgeoning neighborhood need and voila – Cafe Nicole.  The building – formerly home to Sarge’s, a soul restaurant that burned and then closed in 2008 – is unpretentious but comfortable with large windows across the front and a variety of table sizes and shapes.

Sarge is still a frequent visitor in the neighborhood and even has a sandwich named after him.  He’s also picked out his favorite table – something I think a lot of folks are going to be doing.

Open just two weeks, Cafe Nicole has already gotten shout out’s on our neighborhood list serv and is drawing attention from the local workers and residents. 

Breakfast offerings include hot egg sandwiches with apple wood smoked bacon, ham or sausage, NY bagels delivered fresh daily, real oatmeal and classic Birchermusli.

Coffee is from the Chesapeake Roasting Company (formerly Expresso Outfitters).  Nicole, who is a self admitted coffee snob, looked long and hard for just the right roasting company. 

A bonus with the Chesapeake Roasters is that they give back two percent of their gross sales to help support the health and welfare of the Chesapeake Bay.

Another “give back” comes with the old-fashioned juke box directly across from the pastry case.  Full of standards from the 60s and 70s as well as some more recent tunes, proceeds (put in those quarters folks!) will benefit our favorite Dunbar Boys and Girls Club located just around the corner on North Payne.

But back to the food. Right now Nicole and her dad are working without a full kitchen so pastries, soups, and quiche are from Bread and Chocolate in Old Town (not a bad thing at all).

Salads, sandwiches, and wraps however are made right on the premises from open to close.

Plates of bite size goodies sit next to the cash register and beg to be tested.  I for one can say that the bread pudding is worth every calorie. 

A full kitchen is on the drawing board, as is the promise of outdoor seating, and a light dinner menu.  We already have visions of Chef Burlimann and a menu of Swiss delicacies dancing in our head.

For now Nicole is getting to know the neighborhood and letting them get to know her.  Just as you walk in the door there is an email sign up sheet and a folder for comments and suggestions.  Don’t be shy.  Stop by and say hello, get a cup of coffee and sit for awhile. The cafe is open Monday – Friday from 7am to 7pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 5pm.  Phone 703.717.9740.

Oh, did I mention the free WiFi and that Cafe Nicole is right on my way to the office?  Or maybe Cafe Nicole will be my new office!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

City of Alexandria in Top Five Mid-Size Cities for “Best Arts Destinations”

AmericanStyle magazine, the nation’s premier arts magazine for collectors and cultural travelers has named the City of Alexandria as one of five “Best Arts Destination” for mid size cities.

This is Alexandria’s first appearance in the top five and the magazine notes that ” the city is making a name for itself with art festivals, events and galleries.” 

The Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria was particularly noted for its contribution to the cities art scape.

 Artist and Art League instructor Fred Markham participated in “Paint” Alexandria 2009.  Credit: Erica Fortwengle

Another notable event was Del Ray’s on Arts on the Avenue.

“We are delighted to see the arts recognized as a major reason to visit Alexandria,” said Pat Miller, Chair, Alexandria Commission for the Arts. “The arts in Alexandria generate $80 million in local economic activity annually. We are proud of our vibrant arts scene and look forward to sharing it with others.”


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

April 2010 Real Estate Market Report for Old Town Alexandria in Zip Code 22314

The April 2010 Real Estate Market Report for Old Town Alexandria in Zip Code 22314 shows huge gains in the number of sales.  April 2009 saw just 14 sales while the 2010 number jumped to 36, more than a 100% increase.

At the same time, the days on the market increased from 42 in 2009 to 84 in 2010 and  the average price dropped by 6.5%.  It’s hard to read any real trend into this report other than the fact that there is activity – and lots of it. 

Folks are willing to play a bit with the numbers and agents are working to make deals happen.  It’s taking  a bit longer for properties to move but just this month strictures on jumbo loans loosened a bit so we may see a decrease in the DOM next month.

Old Town Alexandria 22314
Av. List Price
Av. Sold Price

Low List Price
Low Sold Price

High List Price
High Sold Price

# of Home Sales
Av. Days on Market

For detailed information on any of these transactions or for information on properties in zip code 22314, call me at 703.927.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

2010 Del Ray House and Garden Tour in Alexandria, VA

The 2010 Del Ray House and Garden Tour in Alexandria, VA is coming your way this Saturday, May 22nd.

Sponsored by the Del Ray Citizens Association, the tour is held every other year.  Taking in the full range of Del Ray architecture – Cape Cods, bungalows, row houses, etc.  – the tour is just one of the best ways possible to spend a beautiful spring day.

Start with a visit to the Del Ray Farmer’s Market or grab a quick breakfast at Caboose (the breakfast burritos are our favorites), or a cup of coffee at St. Elmo’s, put on your walking shoes and get ready to explore.  This Google map should help you plot your itinerary.

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A major eight-month renovation turned this unassuming 1925 bungalow into an airy, light-filled home for a growing family.  With four full baths,three bathrooms, hidden away storage in every nook and cranny and a built out basement for guests and kids, this hidden gem is not to be missed.

404 East Del Ray Avenue

“Environmentally friendly” and “eclectic” are the key words here.  Solar roof panels, a certified Wildlife Habitat garden, and a photovoltaic electrical system that supplies almost 95 percent of the electrical needs make this house one of a kind.  Add in several renovations over 18 years, the original kitchen sink and a “bust of Elvis” lamp and you have a very Del Ray experience.

  219 East Mason Avenue

Condemned by the City in 2007, this 1940 English Tudor was home to a 1956 VW bus, a homeless resident and a family of raccoons.  What you’ll see though is a three bedroom, 2 1/2 bath delight with a den and an 800 sq. ft. addition on the back.

       2001 Commonwealth Avenue 

This classic Colonial is distinguished by it’s red door, spacious rooms and outdoor living spaces.  Built in 1918, the house has a new master bathroom, finished basement, completely remodeled kitchen and deck.  Four bedrooms and two and a half baths complete the picture.

319 Windsor Avenue

One of our favorite landmarks, this deep purple (!) Victorian was built in the 1890s as the home for the leader of a non-denominational community church.  More recent tenants enjoy a double sided fireplace, large eat-in kitchen, inviting deck, potting shed and the all important front porch.

106 East Custis Avenue

Home to only two owners, this brick Colonial Revival has been updated with a larger kitchen, upstairs bath, large master suite and walk in closet.  The backyard is home to many plants and flowers cultivated by the original owner and carefully tended by the new.  A new deck, patio and hot tub are welcome additions.

1400 Mt. Vernon Avenue

A surprise!  Although still under construction, tour visitors will get a taste of what is to be Del Ray’s first luxury condominium.  When completed, the “Mosby” will feature three spacious town home style units and a spectacular penthouse with vaulted ceilings.  This is a must see conversion of a 1910 property.

 303 East Howell Avenue

Originally featured on “House Hunters” in 2005, this classic bungalow has been renovated in stages by at least three homeowners.  The latest additions include beautiful Brazilian hardwood flooring, a screened in back porch with fireplace, a new front porch and a custom closet in the master bedroom.

100 East Monroe Avenue 

This 1938 Cape Cod (a repeat guest on the Del Ray House Tour) is home to Barbara Mancini of Mancini’s on Mt. Vernon Avenue.  The newest must see renovations include a screened-in sleeping porch, fully landscaped back yard, outdoor bar and summer kitchen and an urban swimming pool. 

12 East Howell

This 1925 blue and brown, Arts and Crafts style home underwent a complete green renovation in 2007 and 2008. Incorporated elements include Aquatherm Greenpipe for the plumbing, radiant floor heating, reclaimed wood as flooring, and doors and porches made Forest Service Council-certified wood.  Don’t miss the fossils embedded in the stonework in the master bath and shower.

And when you are finished, leave time to visit the many independent shops along Mt. Vernon Avenue.  Three of these very special places – Caboose, Cheestique and Let’s Meat on the Avenue – are (together) vying to win first place in a Chamber of Commerce sponsored contest on free enterprise.  No grass growing under our feet!

Now, about the tickets.  Tickets bought before Friday, May 21, are $15 each. Tickets bought on tour day are $20 each.  Purchase your tickets through the Del Ray Citizens Association, at A Show of Hands, 2301 Mount Vernon Ave. or at the Del Ray Farmers Market.

Proceeds from this year’s tour help fund the Del Ray Citizens Association’s $1000 annual donation to the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, and to fund public art in Del Ray

Virginia and I will be docents again this year and we look forward to seeing all of you.  It’s going to fun and the weather will be great for the 2010 Del Ray House and Garden Tour – I promise!


P.S.  – Multiple thanks to Jen Walker and Mary Karstens for photos and descriptions 

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Scenes from a Shade Garden

Scenes from a shade garden – Our garden, once full of deep dark shade, is readjusting to life without the protective cover of a 60ft. maple tree.  So far, so good.




Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Getting Rid of the Pesky Mosquito

Just as the days grow longer and air turns warmer – and many of us are beginning to spend extended hours outside – along come those pesky flying annoyances – MOSQUITOES

Our local neighborhood list serv, the font of all useful information, has been full of back and forth on the best ways of getting rid of these regular visitors.

One of our neighbors, Eric Graves, technology guru by day and avid gardener by night, had by far the most cogent post on natural ways to eliminate welcoming environments for mosquitoes.  Eric is graciously allowing us to share his thoughts:

So, we each have what I think is an opportunity and a responsibility to make the neighborhood more livable by controlling mosquito breeding in our own yards. We can easily do the following –

1. Keep gutters cleaned out.

2. REPLACE corrugated gutter hoses with lengths of aluminum downspout. I did this and painted it to blend into the garden bed it runs through. Not only do mosquitoes not breed but the gutters clog less because debris isn’t backing up in the hose.

3. Keep the gutters in the street cleaned of debris

4. Be aware of which plants hold water on their leaves. Hosta are the worst for this. The fact that they grow in shade make them prime breeding ground. Water at the base of these plants as opposed to from above. You’ll both save water and deprive the mosquito. It’s a win-win technique.

5. Be very critical and aware of places water can pool. It goes WAY beyond tarps. Empty flower pots? Yup. Kids toys? Yup. The trash can lid? Recycling bin? The list is potentially endless.

6. Keep your lawn cut and the garden weeded.

Simple steps – big results.

Thanks to Eric and our neighborhood list serv for these great tips on getting rid of the pesky mosquito!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

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