Updated in August 2023
This is the 10th anniversary of the cover article in Money Magazine that I contributed to which launched the Town of Vienna to the top of the list of places to live in the United States.
There used to be a website called “Help a Reporter Out” (HARO) and I vaguely remember responding to a request for help. Ultimately, I believe that response generated the phone call that landed Vienna, Virginia as a top place to live.
I’m excited to republish this post to give you a snapshot of where I’m coming from… There still is a framed copy of this article in the lobby at Town Hall.
Original blog post…
It was Friday afternoon in mid-July when the reporter called me from Money Magazine.
“I’m doing some research about what makes Vienna a good place to live for our annual Best Places to Live issue, and I found you when I Googled “Vienna Virginia”.
Since I have spoken with reporters before and knowing that getting my town on “the list” was, well, somewhat important, I knew it was time for me to turn on the PR machine.
And having written this blog for four years, I have summarized almost every aspect of living here. Okay, maybe that statement is a reach but I live here and talk with people from all over the country who are considering relocating to Vienna.
It is important that you know that her research was specific to Vienna 22180 ~ the Town of Vienna. Since I live in the Town, I made the point that I was going to give her real local insight.
So we talked for forty-five minutes and I told it like it is… yes, including the bit about the traffic.
The Center of Town:
The Town of Vienna has worked very hard over the last twenty years to create a functional, walkable, destination-worthy center of town. That center is anchored by the Town Green, Church Street, the W&OD Bike Trail, and a hand full of businesses that give the area uniqueness, charm and personality.
When I started in real estate twenty-two years ago in Vienna, my office overlooked a gaudy pink stucco building with a bridal shop and a Cajun-style restaurant , a party rental business, and was located across the street from the Lowes lumber yard where delivery trucks often blocked traffic on Maple Avenue.
Over the last twenty years, Vienna has changed
The Vienna Town Council voted to impose a temporary meals-tax (like in Monopoly) to buy the pink stucco building and adjacent land to create the Vienna Town Green. Personally, the Town Green idea was brilliant and created an authentic center to the town which is used year-round, and is highly appealing to people looking for a place to live with a sense of community.
That Lowes lumber yard was sold to Fresh Fields which introduced us to a revolutionary “organic” market. Whole Foods bought Fresh Fields so they now occupy that spot along the W&OD Bike Trail across from the Town Green.
Other highlights include consolidating power lines, replacing sidewalks, installing attractive street lamps along Maple Avenue plus updating Church Street.
Twenty years ago, Church Street had an industrial vibe. But a group of citizens worked together to develop a plan (a vision) and sidewalks were replaced and street lamps were added.
Today, it is runs along the north side of the Town Green and crosses the W&OD Bike Trail, plus it features The Freemen House which was added to the National Historic Register in 2013. Church Street hosts all sorts of community events from Oktoberfest to Viva Vienna on Memorial Day weekend. The W&OD Trail has organized running, walking and bike races too.
(Can’t you just imagine the reporter typing every word)
One thing that drives me crazy is when a client who is relocating tells me they went to XYZ chain restaurant for dinner which was near their hotel. Vienna has some unique restaurants and I always recommend that out-of-towners have dinner at Bazin’s on Church. To make a long story short, celebrity Washington, D.C. chef Patrick Bazin and his wife Julie moved to Vienna and opened up their own unique contemporary bistro in an attractive new building.
I also mentioned the groovy vibe I get at Caffe Amouri which is my coffee shop of choice (there are two Starbucks almost within site of the place). Old album covers line the walls and customers are treated to coffee roasted in-house by Michael Amouri himself.
Three doors down in Church Street Pizza which, in my opinion, has the best pizza south of New Jersey.
Other spots I mentioned were the Vienna Inn, Bikes@Vienna and Pure Pasty ~ our local hotspot for taste of England.
She knew that I was on a roll so she asked a few questions about the location.
The Super Important Location:
Vienna is close to Washington, D.C. and many people know Vienna because the Metro’s Orange Line ends here. And if you live on the South side of town then you can walk to the Metro. But starting in early 2014, the other side of town will be close to the new Silver Line which runs through Tyson’s heading out to Reston. Plus, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors just approved running a Fairfax Connector bus (Route 432) at rush hour to a station. Essentially another 4,000 homes can now have easy access to the Metro system. (She was impressed)
Although most people think that D.C. is where most people work, I like to point out the nearby employment hubs of Tysons, Reston, or McLean. Plus INOVA Fairfax Hospital is ten minutes away.
I often travel out of Dulles and National airports which are darn close by. Dulles is about fifteen minutes away and has direct flights all over the world which appeals to business people, tourists and our culturally diverse population. You name the destination and there is probably a direct flight there!
Another important mention was the quality of the schools in the area… which is always important in rating scores.
It’s about the people…
The Town of Vienna has an elected town council and mayor. These folks seem to work all the time meeting with citizens, going to the Farmers’ Market and attending fun events like the Fourth of July fireworks, the Halloween Parade, or the Taste of Vienna. They manage a big budget exceptionally well and oversee a professionally run town hall, police department and efficient public works department. Yes, there’s a busy Parks & Rec Department too.
Vienna is filled with a good number of interesting people… okay, there is a high percentage of over-achievers from all over the world who live here. These folks like to get involved, volunteer, go to public meetings, protest, socialize, walk their dogs, ride their bikes, do yoga, go to church, and share their opinions… often political opinions.
I shared a lot of real estate and census data about the town via email with the writer. Sales stats for 22180 came from MRIS and we talked about the competitive real estate market, including tear downs and issues that this year’s home buyers faced. Since I assumed there was an elaborate grading system involved, I felt providing local stats or tips would help make the case in the executive level (secret) decision making at CNNMoney.
In late July when the writer called me back to “fact-check”, I asked if we (Vienna) were on the list… “sorry Doug, I can’t tell you such confidential info.”
As I was checking my email while on vacation in Rhode Island, a client sent me a link to the CNNMoney website announcing Vienna’s ranking. And there it was, #3 with a little blurb about the town.
I knew that there was more to the article and I decided to head out in search of the magazine, but could not find a copy anywhere. Bummer!
My first glimpse of the September issue was in New Jersey. And by the time my wife got to the Giant in Vienna, they were down to their last copy which she promptly snapped up. I’m sure the “we’re #3” t-shirts are already on order.
It is fun to contribute to an article in a well-respected national publication, but I know that next time Vienna probably won’t make the highly competitive top five. Ranking a community is absurd and, personally, I would probably avoid the #1 best place to live because I know communities are defined by the people who live there. If people aren’t involved, community services are lax, or the tax rate gets too high then good people will move away.
The Town of Vienna is doing very well these days and getting recognized by Money is well deserved. There was simply too much to cover since there is so much Civil War history, museums, and entertainment nearby… but she got the picture.
And since I enjoy living and working in Vienna, discussing what I like wasn’t too difficult. Glad I made it easy for you Ismat, thanks!