The McMansion Isn’t Dead

So, last year I wrote a piece bemoaning the destruction of a forest across the street from my then-apartment building. I had a front row seat to the entire ugly, and somewhat fascinating process of residential development. In that case, 4 1/2 acres of mostly tulip poplar trees were toppled to build an apartment complex.

Oh how quaint my sorrow when compared to the monstrousness I recently stumbled upon two miles from my new neighborhood in Reston. I ended up there by accident – a family had emailed me about tutoring their son and I unsuspectingly followed the directions to their home. When I turned off the main road to their neighborhood, this is what I was met with:

I didn’t know McMansions were being built in Fairfax County (we have plenty of mansions, however, particularly in Great Falls and Vienna). I liked to brag to my family in Michigan that people in the DC Metro region were comfortable with their townhomes, that there was no great cultural need (or land available) for large emerald lawns and tasteless starter castles. Loudoun County is another matter – they’re throwing up cul-de-sacs like crazy out there – but Fairfax seemed to have reached capacity.

Apparently not. This development in Vienna – “Hunting Crest” – is new. You can smell the lumber when you step out of the car and have to swerve around construction debris left in the road. The houses, some of which are still being built, aren’t even visible from Google Maps yet:

Compare the scale to adjacent neighborhoods

You’ll notice the “neighborhood” was plopped down in a luscious bed of green space. Most of that green space happens to be Lake Fairfax Park. The developer, NV Homes, says on their website that “the community backs to scenic Lake Fairfax Park”. Legally, that may be true (the development doesn’t extend to park property as far as I can tell) but from the perspective of the land, the forest has been gouged out. It also begs the question – if NV Homes finds the park “scenic”, why did they raze the trees on their own property? If you zoom out a bit more, the development is still the most visible landmark for miles around.

Some context on Lake Fairfax Park. I’ve been volunteering at the National Wildlife Federation which also “backs to” the park and have had the chance to explore some of the hiking trails there. I wrote this in my journal back in mid-October:

I walked back in the quiet woods listening to the acorns fwapping on the ground and the paper leaves leaping at every blush of wind. The treetops were golden in the sunshine and I could see deep in, thinking of Fowler’s book and the mystery of the wood. Several trees had crashed dramatically in the last storm(?) and were splintered over the path. The ones standing seemed impossibly lanky, and they swayed.

I found a pebbly creek bank covered in shimmering little rocks that broke if you pressed them hard enough. I laid back on my coat and watched the trees move above me and the intermittent leaves falling. One landed in my open hand as I reached out for it. The leaves floating on the creek reminded me of the Poohsticks game played in A. A. Milne’s book. There was even a little waterfall, moss and ferns. I stayed there, so peaceful, the smell of decomposing leaves. I figured if I stayed long enough, I would decompose too.

Back in 2007, even before the housing bubble burst, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer claimed that McMansions were on their way out. Old habits die hard.

One thought on “The McMansion Isn’t Dead

  1. Patricia Greenberg says:

    Awesome article. What dramatic images, really created a tight sense in my chest like I want to scream. Thanks for sharing Erica!


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