When Ken White moved to Charlottesville and bought his home in Dunlora three years ago, he says he had few other options. He saw, maybe, five or six houses in his price range that fit his requirements. He wasn’t necessarily looking for a subdivision with a pool and clubhouse—just enough space for each of his three daughters to have her own room and a home convenient to Darden, where he was taking on the position of vice president of communication and marketing.
A neighborhood of cul-de-sacs, Dunlora is a somewhat self-contained world off Rio Road.
Still, specs like that proved quite challenging to find. "The market was so tight," White says of the summer of 2004. That was back in the good ol’ sellers’ market days, when buyer bidding wars yielded sales over list price. White avoided that debacle with this home, because he was lucky enough to learn about the listing and jump on it only three days after the house hit the market.
Despite the lack of viable alternatives and the quick decision-making on Dunlora, White’s wife, Christa, did fall in love with this particular home’s spacious back yard on 0.3 acres and its open foyer, and White says he was attracted to the mature, wooded landscaping around the home, which was built in 1998 on one of Dunlora’s older streets. Still, the Whites didn’t realize just how lucky they’d been to land in the neighborhood until they started living there. Now, White says he can’t imagine living anywhere else. Even now, with a glut of homes on the market and buyers running the show, he says, "I’d pick the same house on the same street in the same neighborhood."
Just what makes their Dunlora digs a dream? First and foremost, for the Rio Road perched neighborhood, that’s location, location, location—literally. Dunlora has a triple threat of convenience to Downtown Charlottesville, UVA and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. The Whites also discovered their home was convenient to a number of churches—less than one mile from the Methodist congregation they ultimately joined—and also to a number of senior-living options. The Whites brought Ken’s elderly mother to Charlottesville with them and found an apartment for her in the retirement housing behind Kroger on Route 29N.
And then there’s the pool and the clubhouse and the tennis courts, which are great of course—convenience breeds interest, and White says he spends many a lazy summer afternoon hitting the ball around with his kids even though none of them actually "plays tennis." And for the $770 annual dues Dunlora residents pay for such amenities, it makes sense to periodically get out your racket and splash around in the pool a few times a year. But for White, the best amenity, by far, is Dunlora’s hiking trails—approximately five miles of secluded, wooded bliss that meanders around the neighborhood and all the way to Pen Park. "It feels like you could be in Appalachia and yet, you’re 100 yards from someone’s back yard," says White, who estimates he walks the trail system at least 180 days out of the year with his dog and daughters.
Courtney (on the swing) and Ingrid Horn enjoy kid-friendly living in Dunlora.
Having a convenient escape route to his own private and therapeutic wilderness is proving increasingly important for White. His already hectic schedule at Darden has been compounded by his one-year-old gig as the public service announcer at UVA basketball games. White says a friend and colleague has already jokingly referred to him as a "C’villebrity" for often being recognized in public. As the voice of Harris Teeter sponsorship spots and the sometime MC of the halftime free-throw contest at the JPJ, his mug is often flashed on the jumbotron.
Can’t get there from here
Even a C’villebrity like Ken White need not worry that the Charlottesville paparazzi will follow him to his residential retreat in Dunlora, however. That’s because if you don’t already know exactly where you’re going in Dunlora, you probably won’t get there. The neighborhood of approximately 400 homes built between 1992 and 2006 is a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs, dead-end streets and circles that easily can frustrate the inexperienced visitor or UPS driver. Dunlora don’t know nothing about "through traffic."
And if it’s not the meandering streets that deter the would-be speeder, it’s the gaggles of roving residents traipsing down the middle of the street with pedestrian bravado on their way to the pool, the tennis courts or the hiking trails—or the herds of deer who roam the wooded neighborhood and cross its streets with at least as much brazenness.
Plenty of neighborhood amenities—including this pool, plus tennis courts and hiking trails—attract residents and, of course, cost a little extra.
And Dunlora novices take note: "Watch Children" takes on a fever pitch in this neck of the woods. In just one section of Dunlora—a newer area in and around Loring Run where resident and Real Estate III agent Steve Taylor lives—"there are approximately 60 kids under the age of 6," he says.
But the toddler-phobic also take note: There are also plenty of retirees and young, childless professionals who make their home in amenity-rich Dunlora, says Taylor.
And just as there are residents of every size, shape and age, Dunlora comprises houses of every persuasion. Compared to many other planned subdivisions composed of row after row of identical-looking homes, Dunlora is downright diverse. The older, front section of Dunlora includes 3,000-5,000-square-foot custom-built homes of every variation of neo-colonial, Cape Cod and federal style, as well as a few neo-Mediterranean style stuccos and at least one with a tin roof and Victorian-style gingerbread detailing. And even the newer sections of the neighborhood, which comprise several streets of slightly more modest-sized homes built by the same builders (folks like Van Der Linde and Hauser Homes) and have a limited number of floorplans, don’t appear cookie cutter. That’s because the Dunlora Architectural Review Board, on which Taylor sits, saw to it that any similar floorplans within eyesight of each other were made to look "substantially different."
In addition to spacious detached homes, Dunlora also includes attached homes and smaller, "executive-style" homes with maintenance packages, meaning that for an annual fee, someone else takes care of your lawn.
Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, the downside to Dunlora is that it doesn’t cater to the most diverse of budgets. With most listings well over half a million dollars, it’s out of reach of many homebuyers. As for those lucky enough to afford it, Dunlora’s downside is that someone else figured out its convenient location. Stonehaus recently broke ground on a new 676-plus-unit, mixed-use development called Belvedere that will abut Dunlora on Rio Road East. That development along with the perpetually imminent Meadowcreek Parkway construction, which will force a redesign of Dunlora’s entrance, undoubtedly will increase traffic headaches for Dunlora residents. But thankfully for them, when times get tough, they can just join Ken White for a long, relaxing walk in the wilds of hiking trails in their own back yards.
At a glance
Distance from Downtown: 3 miles
Distance from UVA Hospital: 4.5 miles
Distance from Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport: 6.5 miles
Elementary School: Agnor-Hurt
Middle School: Burley
High School: Albemarle
Median price of homes sold last year: $526,000
Median price of homes currently on market: $649,900